Not only is the year drawing to a close, but the end of 2019 also marks the end of a decade.
The last ten years have seen a lot of change in the games industry: PS3s and Xbox 360s gave way to PS4s and Xbox Ones; Nintendo had a swing and a miss with the Wii U, then found success with the Switch; PlayStation’s handheld console Vita was born and died; virtual reality has become very much a normal part of gaming; and game streaming is beginning, in the form of Microsoft’s xCloud and Google’s Stadia.
And that’s just the icing on the cake. Games have evolved so much in the last 10 years. Even though 2010 only feels like a few days ago to us, looking back it’s crazy to see just how much has changed. Of course, it’s also had us thinking about what amazing games have crossed our paths over the last decade. So many.
Trying to choose a definitive list of the 50 best games of the decade has been hard – and in doing so we’re almost certainly forgetting something amazing that deserves a mention. But we’re fairly happy with how our list has turned out: representing a wide selection of the amazing experiences that video game developers have created over the last 10 years.
We’ll be revealing our list over the course of the week. Today, here are GameSpew’s Games of the Decade, #50-#41. Come back at the same time tomorrow for #40-31.
How our top 50 games have been decided: Each member of the GameSpew team (there’s six of us) has chosen their top 20 games, ranked from 1 to 20. Everyone’s highest-ranked game has been given 20 points, down to the lowest-ranked game, which received 1 point. The points have been tallied up, with the games receiving the most points overall making it onto this list. Where multiple games have received the same amount of points, the editors have used their discretion to decide the order of those titles.
Original release date: 15 September 2015
Formats: PC, PS4, PS Vita, Nintendo Switch
Undertale is ultimate proof that a game can be made by a single person, with a resolution so low you can count the pixels, and still blow the vast majority of 50-million-dollar AAA titles out of the water. We can talk about the intuitive integration of traditional turn-based RPG combat and bullet hell mechanics, the superb soundtrack, or the interesting central concept that any enemy can be defeated nonviolently, but it’s Undertale’s writing that really cements its place in gaming history. Hilarious and moving, subversive and heartbreaking; it’s the brilliant and memorable characters that stand strong at the heart of Toby Fox’s indie masterpiece, and this is a game with a very big heart. – Diggy
49. The Evil Within 2
Original release date: 13 October 2017
Formats: PC, Xbox One, PS4
The original The Evil Within was a flawed game, but one that also showed a lot of promise. That was capitalised upon with The Evil Within 2, which is everything a sequel should be. Once again casting players as Sebastian Castellanos, The Evil Within 2 carries on the first game’s eerie surrealness but boasts a number of gameplay improvements. Also, the letterbox presentation of the first game has thankfully been thrown out of the window.
Perhaps the best survival horror game since Silent Hill 2, The Evil Within 2‘s captivating story, open environments, grotesque monsters and epic boss fights keep you hooked from beginning to end. As the credits roll, you’ll just be hoping that The Evil Within 3 gets announced at some point, as it would be a real shame is the series ended here. – Rich
48. A Way Out
Original release date: 23 March 2018
Formats: PC, PS4, Xbox One
From Hazelight Studios, the team behind Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and published by EA’s “indie” publishing arm, EA Originals, A Way Out was truly something special on its release. As I wrote in my feature on Kotaku UK, it set a new gold standard for co-op adventures. Co-op gaming has long since been a bugbear for the second sibling or the person in the relationship who draws the short straw: player two is never as important as player one. A Way Out turns that on its head by making both players as important as each other. You can’t complete the game without two players, and both have an active role in seeing the game through to its end.
But its approach to co-op gameplay is only the beginning. Not only does A Way Out look beautiful, it tells a captivating and moving story that’ll keep you hooked. Rarely do we empathise with convicts, but A Way Out‘s portrayal of Leo and Vincent, the way it introduces us to their families and individual ways of life, makes it impossible not to care for them. It’s also a narrative filled with twists and turns that truly keeps you on the edge of your seat: it’s basically a blockbuster movie that you get to take an active role in. All that, alongside getting to play the game in true co-op makes A Way Out something rather quite special. – Kim
47. Tomb Raider
Original release date: 5 March 2013
Formats: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, Stadia
There are few characters in the gaming world who are as iconic as Lara Croft. So it’s a real accomplishment to refresh the character as well as the reboot trilogy did with 2013’s Tomb Raider. It set a new high bar for the already lofty heights in the Tomb Raider franchise. With a more gritty presentation than ever before, Tomb Raider was an instant hit.
Lara Croft was repackaged from her earlier days. No longer the experienced explorer, she was a much less hardened and willing adventurer; someone who was thrown into a situation she was not ready for. Witnessing the development of Croft’s character was instantly powerful, and few will forget her struggle to kill her first animal, and how she reacted after killing an enemy for the first time.
But it was the setpieces in Tomb Raider that really set it apart. It felt like an action-packed blockbuster film which we were all involved in. From daunting platforming elements, to intense combat, Tomb Raider was revolutionary for the Lara Croft character, and set a new benchmark in the action/adventure genre. – Stan
46. Alien: Isolation
Original release date: 7 October 2014
Formats: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One
The brilliance of Alien: Isolation is that it’s a modern game based in 2137 – but its world looks just as if the technology jumped right out of the original Alien movie from 1979. There are no flatscreen computers or tablets; there are even those birds that tip down and take a sip of water and then sit back up again and do that over and over and over. It’s faithful to the universe Ridley Scott originally created, and it’s brilliant.
Not only that, but it’s utterly terrifying. The game starts out slowly, easing the player into a false sense of security – until the Alien eventually shows up to follow them around for the rest of the game. And it learns your habits: if you find yourself regularly hiding in lockers, the alien is going to figure that out and start looking for you inside lockers. The first time it happens you will no doubt soil yourself. And if that’s not the sign of a fantastic horror game I don’t know what is. – Becca
45. Spec Ops: The Line
Original release date: 26 June 2012
Formats: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
It was easy to overlook Spec Ops: The Line when it came out. A reboot of a mediocre military shooter franchise at a time when the market was already flooded with unremarkable Call of Duty copycats, it ended up a financial failure, despite developing a cult following in the years after its release.
Anyone who did buy the game, however, will have been rewarded with a shockingly dark and intensely captivating journey exploring the horror and psychological impact of war, as well as a ruthless deconstruction of the military shooter genre as a whole. Spec Ops: The Line may not have done anything new with its gameplay, but its groundbreaking and haunting narrative (including a turning point moment that still makes my chest tighten to think about) does enough to make this one of the standout games of the decade, and it’s a must-play for anyone interested in the potential of interactive storytelling. – Diggy
Original release date: March 2016 (episode one)
Formats: PC, PS4, Xbox One
After 2012’s Hitman: Absolution, many thought that there was no way back for IO Interactive’s assassination series. Its reception was mixed, and despite selling about 3.6 million copies in just over three months, it didn’t meet Square Enix’s predicted sales targets.
Four years later, and Hitman got another chance. Released in an episodic format, Hitman took the series back to its roots, foregoing the Hollywood bombast and instead providing a number of sandboxes in which players were free to take down their targets in any way they saw fit. Needless to say, it was brilliant, despite the always-online requirement. It also helped that IO Interactive delivered a near constant stream of additional content and challenges, keeping players going back for more.
The most recent entry in the Hitman series, Hitman 2, does away with the episodic format but carries on the brilliant formula of the first. It allows you to import its predecessor’s levels, too, allowing you access them all with new features. They both should feature in any discerning gamer’s collection. – Rich
43. Dead Rising 3
Original release date: 22 November 2013
Formats: PC, Xbox One
Dead Rising 3 was criticised by some for being too serious, but to those people I say: get over yourselves. The loss of Frank West and Chuck Greene is a bit jarring, but Dead Rising 3 is wonderfully absurd and, thanks its large map sizes, is my go to game for zombie-slaughtering mayhem. It doesn’t have Dying Light’s fear factor, but ploughing through hordes of the undead in an APC is pure, gruesome entertainment.
Anything in Dead Rising 3 is a potential weapon; Dead Rising 4 yanked this aspect of the game but here, anything you can pick up can be pitched at the undead. There’s so much to mess around with, more so than in bigger but more tedious games like Just Cause, that it’s a joy to play. – Chris
42. Bioshock 2
Original release date: 9 February 2010
Formats: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 (and PS4 and Xbox One via BioShock: The Collection)
Bioshock 2 throws you face first back into Rapture, the underwater city that the first Bioshock is based. You step into the shoes of Delta, a big daddy who was tasked with caring for a young girl named Elenor. Ten years after being forced to kill himself by Elenor’s mother, Delta is revived and begins searching for his daughter.
What’s so brilliant about Bioshock 2 is that Rapture is clearly in disarray. Where in the first Bioshock, Rapture is only just beginning to fall apart, in its sequel, Rapture is far gone beyond repair. Exploring the hauntingly broken city and working to find your daughter will so many elements against you is powerful, exciting and wonderfully fun. – Becca
41. Kingdom Come Deliverance
Original release date: 13 February 2018
Formats: PC, PS4, Xbox One
For me, the announcement of Kingdom Come: Deliverance was a dream come true. For years I’d been waning for a realistic open world game set in medieval times, and then one was finally happening. And you know what? It didn’t disappoint.
In Kingdom Come: Deliverance you’re no one special. You’ve not got special powers, nor are you the prophecised saviour of the world. You’re just a blacksmith’s son who’s got a bit of gumption. Eager to avenge your murdered parents, you take on jobs and practice your sword fighting to survive. After all, being a soldier is a dangerous profession, and you’ve got to keep yourself fed.
What propels Kingdom Come: Deliverance into this list are three things: the freedom it offers, its brilliant writing and its gorgeous world. It’s an absolute pleasure to just get on your horse and go for a ride across the countryside and forests, discovering new opportunities as you go. With Kingdom Come: Deliverance, you really feel like you’re being given the opportunity to live another life. – Rich