With the 2010s finally coming to a close, I decided to take a look back at the past decade of games. There were some truly incredible games to have come during the past 10 years and some consoles I have a feeling will be looked back on as legends in the years to come. I traditionally put together a list of my top games I played that year, which is on the way, but I also wanted to give what I consider to be my games of the year, for each year during the 2010s. A lot of these games I did not play the year they actually came out, but I have since played and loved every single one of them.
2010: Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
2010 was the year I started playing the Kingdom Hearts franchise. I had played the first Kingdom Hearts at my piano teacher’s house back in the day and really enjoyed it, but I didn’t own any systems I could play them on until this year. I went to a local game store with 50 bucks and bought a PS2 and all the Kingdom Hearts games I could find. Now, I did not binge all of them in a single year, but it quickly became one of my favorite series of all time. I picked up Birth By Sleep in 2011 after borrowing my friend’s PSP. The combat was so different from any of the others that I was instantly taken by it. The story drove the plot forward greatly, and to date, is my 2nd favorite Kingdom Hearts game, only 2nd to Kingdom Hearts II. I have great memories going through all 4 of the stories, and then again on critical mode, which kicked my butt so much more than I expected it to. It also had the best selection of additional bosses available, which has become one thing I look forward to in this series. Every boss was a character that made me go “This is gonna be awesome,” and indeed, it was. This was the game that made me fall in love with the challenge the series had to offer as well. Critical mode is so unforgiving at the start of the game I considered starting over with an easier difficulty, but I didn’t, and I was glad I stuck with it. If you play on standard difficulty, the game is definitely still fun, but the sense of accomplishment from beating the Mysterious Figure on critical is still one of my proudest gaming moments.
2011: Batman: Arkham City
If it’s not already obvious, I am a 90s baby. I have fond memories of waking up on Saturday morning, running downstairs and turning on the tv for my weekly cartoons. One of them, was Batman The Animated Series. As I’m sure anyone knows now, this series is legendary for it’s cast of characters and the actors who voiced them. Even as I’m writing this, the classic theme is playing in my head. The Batman Arkham series is also legendary for getting back most of those actors to reprise their roles, specifically Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as The Joker.
I sat down to play this with a friend one day and the moment I heard their voices I knew I would love this game. Arkham City is the follow up to Arkham Asylum and is a more open world game than its predecessor. It features many famous villains from Batman’s rogues gallery, but somehow doesn’t feel over saturated. The game play was fun, and as IGN loves to put it, “it really makes you feel like Batman.” You can see the inspirations Spider-Man on PS4 would later take from this series, and if every super hero game used this as a template, I would have no complaints.
2012: Far Cry 3
I didn’t expect to live past this year, so I played a lot of games in 2012. There were a lot of solid titles, but also a lot of smaller titles that didn’t scream Game of the Year.
This also was the year I started watching Arrow, and finding a game that let me become Oliver Queen immediately hooked me. Far Cry 3 was definitely one of the most “Ubisoft” games I had played in a long time, but the combat offered a lot of creative options, which kept me entertained for a long time. The story was solid, and I actually cared a little bit about the characters. But still, nothing really topped the bow combat for me, I used that as much as I could because there haven’t been many games that actually have passable bow and arrow combat like Far Cry 3 did.
2013: Fire Emblem: Awakening
I love and hate Fire Emblem: Awakening. This was the game that Nintendo stated, “If it succeeds, we’ll make more, if it fails, this will be the last of the series,” and man did it succeed beyond anything I expected. I remember being part of publicity campaigns organized on /v/ to give this game the chance it needed. But because it succeeded, that brought it head first into the mainstream. I have been a Fire Emblem fan since playing Sacred Stones on a bus trip out to the Grand Canyon. This brought a whole new breed of fan into the mix, the rabid kind. Fanbase aside, this game was absolutely fantastic. It managed to have an incredible story with great characters that are still some of my favorites to this day. The use of generation mechanics was also something that the series hadn’t seen in a very long time, since before the games actually came to the states. I am very happy that this game managed to save
anime the series, because another game that came out since it also made this list.
2014: Shovel Knight
As much as I hate to admit it, I was late to the party with Shovel Knight. The game is a Mega Man style game, where you go through difficult stages, and fight a boss at the end. It captures the retro aesthetic so perfectly, with the only exception being the game play is actually bearable and fairly challenging instead of being challenging because it’s obsolete like many retro titles. Yacht Club showed this game was a labor of love in every way, and not just in the base game, but in all of the expansions they kept giving us for free up through this year, eventually having enough content that the rebranded the game as Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove.
The game now has 5 modes: Shovel Knight, Plague Knight, Spectre Knight, King Knight, and Showdown (which is basically Shovel Knight Smash Bros). Every single story mode felt unique and fun in their own way. The game is the definition of needing to git gud as well. You will get better at the game by playing the game, and there’s no real way to shortcut it. I’m sad to see King of Cards be the final DLC, but it was a great one to go out on, and I hope we see other great games from Yacht Club in the years to come.
If I have to pick my favorite game from this decade, it’s right here. I recently had the discussion of if you could re-experience one game for the first time, what would it be, and my answer is Undertale without a doubt.
Undertale is a game that I was introduced to by a friend and told not to look up anything about it. So I didn’t, and dove right in. I’m a big fan of RPGs so it was immediately appealing to me, but was unique in the way you have to avoid damage in a bullet hell style. Once I got further and further into the game, I fell in love with the world and its many amazing characters, even enough to make a cosplay for one.
After finishing my first run, I learned that there were other endings I could try for, and immediately proceeded to do so. With each ending I loved this game more and more, even through the ordeal of beating Sans. During Extra Life 2015, I was finishing my Genocide run at 2 AM and managed to beat Sans and screamed so loud out of relief that I scared one of my friends half to death. Even after finishing all of the runs, I kept replaying it, seeing how fast I could finish, doing secret bosses, and just experimenting with the world to see what dialogue options there were, because I became a lore addict. Toby Fox is a brilliant designer, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of Deltarune has in store for me when that releases in 2044.
Ok, I have to be honest here, this game is actually a 2015 release for me, but the rules are I’m going off of official launch year, so 2016 it is. Reason it’s a 2015 release for me is because I was lucky enough to get a closed beta key because I was a TESPA representative in college. I remember the glory days of being able to stack a team with 5 Bastions and just hold a point by brute force. The game has changed so much since then, with rules changing to balance the competitive scene, or adding more and more characters.
Overwatch managed to create a world that told us very little, yet still pulled me into the lore so heavily. The game is responsible for some of my favorite gaming memories in the past few years, as it has constantly gotten updated and balanced with new characters, maps, and game modes. It has a very simple premise of fight the other team and win. I am definitely looking forward to when Overwatch 2 drops and I can play the long awaited story mode.
2017: Persona 5
2017 was probably the hardest year to nail down my game of the year for. This was the year the Switch was released, and I sunk hundreds of hours into Breath of the Wild, but when Persona 5 came out, I did the same for this. I had been waiting years and years for this game, and when it finally came, I was not disappointed. As with every Persona game, the game play got better with each game, and the characters were all great to get to know. I played through this twice, and cannot wait to do it again when Royal comes out in a few months.
Persona 5 managed to pull the biggest twist story wise that entirely blew my mind. Because there will be a new audience when the updated edition comes out, I’ll leave out spoilers, and not just because if I tell you what happens past July, Atlas will send a hit squad to my house. I’ll never forget the week I spent after graduating college before my job started, where I did nothing but wake up and play this game until I was finished. Antisocial? Yes, but entirely worth it.
2018: Monster Hunter: World
I love Monster Hunter. I’ve played the series since Tri on the Wii, and ever since then I loved the franchise. World is almost a soft reboot, in that it is a great entry point for new players, and it introduces us to an entirely new world. As a veteran fan however, it showed Capcom was listening to the fans. The game fixed nearly everything that I considered an annoyance in the past. Removed load times, increased inventory, streamlined armor, among many many other quality of life improvements. The game also as always delivered a menagerie of well designed monsters that I hunted down mercilessly. I was only able to do so however, because of the butter smooth combat. Even though I loved past Monster Hunter titles, I was always the first to admit it was a challenge to get used to the combat style. Capcom also kept a steady stream of interesting and fun events rotating in and out to keep me playing this long after the initial launch. I loved this game so much I bought it twice, and only partially because it was the cheaper option to rebuy it on PC. It was either I buy it for $30 and cheat my way back to where I was on PS4, or spend another $60 for another year of PS+, which I wasn’t going to do. With Iceborne coming to PC very soon, I cannot wait to sink my teeth into this game once again.
2019: Fire Emblem: Three Houses
I gotta say first, if you talked to me last year, I would have without a doubt told you that my game of the year this year would be Kingdom Hearts III. Now while I did enjoy that game, this just stole the show for me mid way through this year. I knew after Fates flopped that this would have to be a great game, because Nintendo does tend to learn from their mistakes. Fates had 3 main paths you could take, but you had to buy each path, while Three Houses has 4 paths all on one cartridge. This game is one of the best games to have been released for the Switch, period. It features 4 branching paths, and many many great characters. The game added a mechanic that is new to the franchise, a calendar system. During the day, you can choose to participate in various activities that can boost your stats, build relationships, or even allow you to recruit characters from other houses. The biggest surprise to me was the absence of a focus on shipping. Awakening and Fates had such a large focus on shipping, it almost took away from the core game play. Now, it still exists, but it is clearly not what you are meant to focus on. You really only have to pick who you want to marry at the tail end of the game, and it just changes the ending scene.
After playing through all the routes, my favorite has to be Blue Lions. The default characters are some of my favorites, and the story from that house’s perspective is incredibly satisfying. I hope with the overwhelming success of this game, Nintendo continues to deliver tactical waifu simulators for many years.
The 2010s were an incredible decade, some of my all time favorite games came out, and we were given a ton of great games to play with friends. I hope that the 2020s continue to deliver amazing titles, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store when the next generation of consoles drop this year.
To get more gaming content from Ryan, follow him on Twitter @midshelfryan and check out Mid Shelf Gaming on YouTube for entertaining looks at video games of all shapes and sizes.