Best games of the decade: Part 1, 2010-2014

It’s the end of an era – but before we hit 2020, let’s see what the 2010’s had to offer.

With a new decade fast approaching, it seems hard to believe we’ve had 10 glorious years of gaming. In this time we’ve seen the end of one generation and the birth of another, the rise and the fall of some franchises and even a move away from traditional ways of creating games.

One thing however has been consistent and that’s the games themselves. So what better way to see off the decade than a look at some of our favourites?

As a quick proviso, we’ve narrowed it done to one game per year – with an honourable mention because sometimes it’s REALLY hard to pick just one.

2010 – Mass Effect 2

2010 hit the ground running with the release of Mass Effect 2, the sequel to 2007 sci-fi roleplaying game by developers Bioware. Telling the story of Commander Shepard, a human soldier forced to assemble an elite squad to fight an invading alien menace, the game allows you to create a tailor-made Shepard or even carry your character over from the previous game.

Mass Effect 2 featured actress Yvonne Strahovski as squad-mate Miranda Lawson and Hollywood legend Martin Sheen as your mysterious benefactor “The Illusive Man.”
Credit: EA & Bioware

What makes Mass Effect 2 so special is that it tells a deeply immersive but ever-evolving story, where, depending on your choices, people you’ve spent hours playing with can live or die. From the terminally-ill, super-assassin Thane to the self-aware machine Legion, each character adds something to the world and this engaging cast allows the game to tell a great story.

Honourable Mention – Red Dead Redemption

Rockstar proved that when it comes to open world games they’re not just a one-trick pony. Red Dead Redemption tells the gripping story of John Marston, a reformed outlaw forced to bring his former gang to justice, in a recreation of the American Wild West. You’ll find plenty to see and do in this fantastic gameplay experience. Taking its cues from Grand Theft Auto, you’ll find yourself lost in side quests and missions – but you won’t care as the world of Red Dead lets you live out your Gunslinger fantasies.

In typical Rockstar fashion, just because you’re meant to be bringing in Outlaws doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun in the meantime.
Credit: Rockstar

2011 – Dark Souls

No other game on this list has a reputation quite like this one. A dark, fantasy-styled action roleplaying game, Dark Souls took the gaming world by storm. Its intense combat, sometimes unforgiving difficulty, intricate level design and flavourful world building create a truly memorable experience.

Playing as the Chosen Undead, you journey through the dark world of Lordran, and fight all sorts of monsters along the way – like this Drake, who may or may not breathe fire on you.
Credit: Namco Bandai & FROMsoftware

Dark Souls is not a game that takes you by the hand. It leaves you to your own devices, assumes you’ll talk to other people about it and even check online if you’re stuck. An inspiration for countless other games, it’s often called one of the most influential video games of all time – and after spending some time in Lordran you’ll come to see why.

Honourable Mention – Portal 2

The original Portal was a cult classic puzzle-platformer known for its amazing writing, clever physic puzzles and a very catchy credits song. Portal 2 takes everything about that and makes it bigger. Featuring some of the funniest writing a game has to offer, Portal 2 takes you back to the labs of Aperture Science, and you (again) attempt to escape the rogue AI overlord GLaDOS – with hilarious results of course.

Portal 2 also featured a fantastic co-op experience where you tried to see how long you could go without trying to kill your partner.
Credit: Valve

2012 – Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2 is a first-person action roleplaying game, where you travel around the world of Pandora shooting enemies in the face, stealing their stuff and getting stronger along the way. Except that this actually isn’t the main draw of Borderlands 2. Its fantastically paced comedic writing, over the top characters and crazy situations is what drags you in – examples include helping a robot become more human through feeling pain; and brainstorming suitable names for the local wildlife (not Bonerfart!)

Picking one of several Vault Hunters, it’s up to you to stop Handsome Jack, self-appointed ruler of Pandora and one of the biggest A-Holes gaming has to offer.
Credit: 2K Games & Gearbox

Borderlands 2 has a frantic pace that takes you on a roller-coaster of explosions and loot and never lets you off. Playable with up to four people, it’s a fantastic multiplayer experience that is just as enjoyable on your own. Even if it does feature Claptrap from time to time.

Honourable Mention – The Walking Dead

It’s hard to believe there was a time where Telltale Games was a relatively unknown entity. The Walking Dead changed all that. An adventure game that focused on the more human aspects of the zombie apocalypse, The Walking Dead told the story of Lee Everett, a man hiding a dark secret, trying to look after Clementine, a child he finds abandoned in a world overrun by the zombies. Along the way, you’ll meet other survivors, be forced to pick who lives and who dies – and be overcome by emotion at just how cruel this world can be. A storytelling tour de force, and one not to be missed. Just remember to bring tissues!

Moral decisions in video games are bad enough without having to explain to a child why you made them.
Credit: Telltale Games

2013 – The Last of Us

Some games are created to feel like a big Hollywood blockbuster full of explosions and over the top effects. Some are keen to go in another direction: the TV drama. One of the latters, The Last of Us feels less like a film and more something you’d find on HBO or BBC.

It puts you into the role of Joel, a man living in a world where society has collapsed following a viral outbreak that turned most of the population into monsters. Joel is tasked with escorting Ellie, a young girl seemingly immune to the virus, to a group attempting to save the world. A pragmatist at heart, Joel does whatever it takes to protect Ellie, and the game explores the depths to which you’ll go in order to survive.

You can keep it together during most of this game, but just you try not to cry a little when Ellie sees a giraffe for the first time. We dare you.
Credit: Naughty Dog & Sony Entertainment

Featuring outstanding vocal performances, an emotionally heavy story, fantastic shooter mechanics and gameplay you’d expect from Naughty Dog, the creators of the Uncharted Series, The Last of Us isn’t so much a game as an experience you have to see for yourself.

Honourable Mention – Grand Theft Auto 5

Rockstar returns to the series that made them a worldwide phenomenon with GTA 5. Telling the story of several career criminals brought together to perform heists, GTA 5 mixes a satirical take on modern America with the chaos and anarchy that goes with giving free reign to the player. The game offers it all: be it performing complicated bankjobs, to trying to steal a tank from the Army Base, to just causing pure havoc. GTA 5 truly has something for everyone.

The world of Los Santos is a stunning take on LA and is as beautiful to drive through as it is to destroy.
Credit: Rockstar

2014 – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

When it was announced there were plans to make an Batman: Arkham City-esqe game set in the world of Lord of the Rings, there was, to put it lightly, mild confusion. The setting didn’t seem like it would suit such a game – however when Shadow of Mordor burst out of the gate it shattered all expectations.

Playing as Talion, a human ranger killed during an Uruk raid, you’re brought back to life to get revenge, launching a one man war against the dark forces of Mordor. The gameplay is best described as a mix of the Batman Arkham series and the Assassin Creed games.

Our archrival is Buth Taskmaster, an Uruk obsessed with getting revenge after we left him horribly scared in a previous encounter. Each Uruk is different, which helps create an amazing personal narrative.
Credit: WB Interactive & Monolith Productions

While the story might at times be lacking, the real draw to Mordor is the Nemesis System. The Uruk leaders constantly evolve, as their AI remembers Talion and adapts to him. You’ll kill commanders only for captains to take their place; you’ll be killed by one lucky shot only to have that archer become your archnemesis. This system allows you to craft your own story – and trust us, you’ll definitely have a story or two to tell about the enemies of Shadow of Mordor.

Honourable Mention – Alien: Isolation

Video games let us accomplish things we wouldn’t be able to do in our normal, everyday lives. They also have the potential to make us hide in a locker hoping that the scary monster from the Alien franchise doesn’t find us.

Alien Isolation is a first-person horror game, where you try to escape a space station currently suffering from a nasty Xenomorph infestation. You’re powerless against the creature, so this isn’t a game about running and gunning. It’s about hiding in vents, lockers and more as you desperately scramble to survive. Perfectly recreating the mood of the original 1979 movie, this isn’t one for the faint of heart but if you can get past that you’ll find a fantastic gaming experience. Just make sure to keep that motion tracker up.

In space no one can hear you scream. Unless you had the Playstation 4 version which could use the microphone in the Controller to alert the Xenomorph to your location!
Credit: 20th Century Fox & Creative Assembly

So there you are, five fantastic games that encapsulate the first half of the 2010s alongside some amazing titles that we just had to mention. As we approach the midway point, what where your gaming highlights for 2010-2014? We know there are dozens of games we didn’t mention so why don’t you leave a comment or tweet us here – and stay tuned for part 2 where we look at 2015 and beyond!

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