Top 50 Games of the Decade - Final 10 - ArticleLee Mehr , posted on 31 January 2020 / 5,890 Views
We’ve finally reached the zenith of the VGChartz staff's Top 50 Games lists. If you’ve missed any of our previous list articles - #50-#41, #40-#31, #30-#21, or #20-#11 - then I’d advise you do so. Beyond just getting “the clicks,” it’s more of an opportunity to have a wider perspective about where & why we ranked certain games. And while our top 10 often harmonizes with enthusiastic gaming communities, here and elsewhere, it’s still an eclectic list with respect to genre and popularity.
As a reminder: our top 50 isn’t a weighted list favored by any one person. Each staff member was given the opportunity to post their top 25 games of the 2010s and each title was given a number value dependent on where they ranked it. The totals were then tallied to produce an overall top 50.
With all of this noted, here’s our overall top 10:
Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto IV was always a weird specimen to me. It showed a writing team looking to ape from cinematic titans like Scorsese, De Palma, and Michael Mann, yet couldn’t go an hour without your ‘comedic’ cousin interrupting the dramatic story beats. Technological improvements aside, story changes was one of the most notable considerations Grand Theft Auto V took into account. Out with Nico Bellic and in with the criminal triumvirate Franklin, Michael, and Trevor. How this was incorporated both within GTAV’s satirical game world and story remains impressive to this day.
And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of what developer Rockstar North accomplished here. Whether it’s the gameplay improvements, the incredible technology, or the online mode added a short time afterwards, there’s no denying Grand Theft Auto V’s value and the indelible mark it’s made on the gaming landscape since 2013.
Batman: Arkham City
Developer Rocksteady proved itself by making a phenomenal licensed video game - and one of the best games of the 2000s decade - in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Sure, it helped turn the “makes you feel like Batman” phrase into a game critic meme, but even now that feels like an appropriate encapsulation of his crime-fighting demeanor and detective skills in this series. Arkham City took that excellent foundation and built upon it in every feasible way: better technology, larger world, more playable characters, and more of The Dark Knight’s venerable rouges’ gallery.
One doesn’t even need to be a superhero fan to appreciate its design. The way Rocksteady utilized rhythm within hand-to-hand combat changed the nebulous ‘action-adventure’ landscape for an entire generation. If your third-person action-adventure game released between 2010 and 2019, betting odds favor you following in the Arkham series' footsteps, though never with the same amount of work put into the animations. It’s been one of the most consistent gameplay staples in its respective genre and Arkham City still hasn’t been topped - by either its competitors or its own respective sequels.
There’s not a single turn-based JPRG more universally praised than Persona 5, in the previous decade at least. I’ve lost count of how many anecdotal instances I've heard from various posters, YouTube content creators, and more who openly dislike turn-based combat but ended up loving this game. The adored Hatsura Hashino and P-Studio hit it out of the park with a strange melding of high-school life and supernatural dungeon-crawling through the Metaverse. Whether it’s the visual design, soundtrack, gameplay, or motley crew of characters, expect to be deluged with reasons why this game spoke to so many people.
It’s currently the best-selling entry in the Megami Tensei franchise and millions believe it handedly deserves that success.
Not since Demon’s Souls had From Software made a PlayStation-exclusive title. As was the case in 2009, Bloodborne became another must-have for any fan of the genre. Transplanting the Souls-like design ethos & world-building into a Lovecraftian atmosphere is something you can't believe no one tried sooner. The world of Yharnam is an absolutely vicious one, filled to the brim with nightmarish creatures that are just as exciting to extinguish as the Souls games’ medieval counterparts.
Bloodborne wasn’t one to strictly rest on its laurels either. Quickly re-attacking an enemy to gain lost health is a deceptively simple idea that brings a new risk/reward strategy into the mix and keeps the action flowing faster than any Souls game before it. A hearty applause to the From Software team for their most beloved title by the VGChartz staff.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
I believe this may be the most surprising entry in the top 10, though by no means less worthy for that reason. If you were to poll any room of handheld gamers, expect to see A Link Between Worlds to be universally considered one of the best games Nintendo has ever made. Whether it’s the wall-merging mechanic or the item rental system, it’s clear this team had inspired ideas of where to take the series next. It’s a follow-up to A Link to the Past and it honors that legacy in every specifiable category: visuals, audio design, dungeon structure, soundtrack, and on and on.
Some may scoff at a handheld game being placed so high, but that’d be unfair. Whether it’s the 3DS, PS Vita, or anything else, those technological limitations can be a crucial way to challenge a team’s creativity. Nintendo passed that test with flying colors here.
Super Mario Odyssey
More Mario! Yes, the story of saving Princess Peach from a forced marriage with Bowser remains the same here, but what sets entries apart is the means by which Mario will save the day. With Super Mario Odyssey, it’s with a sentient hat named “Cappy”, who’s able to possess other objects and characters. What could potentially be a more twisted idea about possession, Odyssey utilizes its unique concept to be one of the most enjoyable platformers ever made. Even with the surfeit of baubles this collect-a-thon is so rewarding to 100% thanks to a reinvigorated take on traversal, level design, and more.
An instant commercial, critical, and fan success across the board. As with A Link Between Worlds before it, Super Mario Odyssey exemplifies Nintendo’s penchant for fashioning nuanced takes on its storied franchises.
The Last of Us
To emphasize how democratized the staff lists were: The Last of Us is the only one from my personal top ten to be included here. It’s no surprise why it’s universally adored: the post-pandemic journey shaping Joel and Ellie’s relationship. This game would’ve sank considerably lower were it not for the character writing and the acting of the two leads. That shouldn’t discount the rewarding gameplay either; the mix of brutal stealth-action combat with real-time crafting kept every encounter tense and worthwhile. And when considering the time it released? It did a better job honoring survival-horror than many of its contemporaries. All of that doesn’t even include what I consider to be Naughty Dog’s best multiplayer component yet.
The Last of Us was one of the most successful new IPs of the seventh generation. Whether it’s considering the attention to detail in the story, acting performances, directing, music, animations, and more, the success is deserved.
One of the few games Valve developed during the 2010s is also one of the best. What started out as a humble supplement to the collection known as The Orange Box, Portal became an instant classic that any puzzle gamer had to try. Its unique concept broke players’ collective minds upon arrival, mine included, by forcing us to reconsider puzzle-solving and linear momentum.
The concept of firing an enter/exit portal was expanded upon in Portal 2 with more witty writing, engaging puzzles, a fitting visual tone, and two-player co-op multiplayer (local or online). For someone who doesn’t have a word of dialogue, Chell’s struggle to escape Aperture Labs (and GLaDOS by extension) feels just as palpable here as in the original. A superb addition that solidified Portal as the best puzzle game series.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Even more Mario! Just when you thought Bowser was defeated in Super Mario Galaxy, he’s at it again - recapturing Princess Peach in the hopes of remaking his empire. Galaxy 2 takes the excellent groundwork laid in the first and builds upon the gravity-defying fun to an unexpected degree. New suits, new planets, greater amount of challenges, and inclusion of Yoshi just show you how excited Nintendo was to keep playing with this galaxy-hopping template. The mere act of watching it is enough to raise one’s pulse. From the colorful design to the exuberant tone, there are few games that can measure up.
After the first’s success, Shigeru Miyamoto approached Nintendo EAD Tokyo about making a follow-up. Super Mario Galaxy 2 isn’t merely an honorable update; it’s credited as the best 3D Mario game by numerous fans.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
C’mon… you probably knew this was coming. One can’t overstate how cosmically planned Breath of the Wild feels. To think of how Skyrim reshaped gamers’ expectations for open-world games towards the beginning of the 2010s and how Nintendo refashioned that structure with their own personality is a sight to behold. The Legend of Zelda series had been getting some criticism for its reserved approach to level design since Ocarina of Time released over two decades ago—discounting the zany follow-up Majora’s Mask; I doubt anyone could’ve thought of a better way to upend that well-worn arrangement.
Whether it’s with fighting a stamina meter while climbing nearly any object or slashing common enemies throughout the vast land of Hyrule, the revolutions to the Zelda formula have been met with hundreds of awards and virtually every word that’s remotely synonymous with ‘groundbreaking’ or ‘fantastic.’ The best part of the story? Having this as one of the launch titles for the brand-new Nintendo Switch console.
I think it’s most fitting to quote Evan’s Overall Game of the Year 2017 article regarding this win: “As with most games in the long-running franchise, Breath of the Wild achieves greatness not via one monumental mechanic, but through several systems and engines communicating with and responding to each other. Physics, chemistry, artificial intelligence, weapon durability, locomotion, and player choice combine to create a gaming experience for the ages.”
On behalf of the VGChartz staff, we’d like to thank you for allowing us to indulge you with our Top 50 list. But what do you think? Have there been any surprises or snubs found here? Please feel free to comment below.