It’s that time of the year, but I haven’t played enough games this year to put up a list of my top ten games for 2019. I’ve been busy with work, commentating for Manila Wrestling Federation, and dealing with life. It hasn’t been the best year for me, but it was also a reflective year. This post continues that theme, letting me look back at the games I enjoyed throughout the outgoing decade that was the 2010s.
For a lot of gamers, this list may seem weird as it doesn’t include many of the crowd favorites. I must admit that I didn’t play as many games as I could (or should) throughout this outgoing decade, and those I got to play were within a limited scope.
I do tend to favor certain genres, and I wish to diversify going forward. Now being in my 30s, I’m not sure if I’ll have the time to do that, but I’ll do my best. As my life situation loosens, so will my ability to game as I want (or should), and I’ll talk about that journey on this blog.
In the meantime, here are the best games I got to play throughout the 2010s.
NOTE: There may be some spoilers. You’ve been warned.
My Top 10 Games of the 2010s
10. The Outer Worlds
It was only released in 2019, but it made such an impact on me during the two weeks I played it almost non-stop that it had to be here. However, the reason why it only comes at number ten is due to not being deep enough to be a true open-world RPG like other titles such as Fallout: New Vegas.
However, it does show what Obsidian Entertainment can do, and I hope they release more content for it and sequels in the future. It’s a fascinating in-game universe, and I want to explore more of it soon.
9. Mass Effect 2
There was a time during the early 2010s when I got enamored by sci-fi aesthetics. Two games provided me with that fill, and this is the first one. The gameplay was alright, but not great. But it made up for that shallowness with its characters and visuals.
While most of the stuff that I was looking at when I first played it was the window dressing, such as the interior of the Normandy. It influenced my aesthetic sensibilities during that time, and I carry a good bit of that to this day.
This game was made by the people behind Thief: The Dark Project—a game from my childhood. Much of my love for stealth gameplay comes from that and the Commandos series, so this game was up my alley. Those videos of people doing insane combo kills also helped.
I also quite like the setting of a fictional 19th century Europe, which sweetens the deal. I’ve yet to play through Dishonored 2, even though I’ve had it in my Steam library for the longest time. I’ll be sure to get to that in the coming year, along with a good chunk of my backlog.
Maybe I’ll write about those experiences here sometime in the near future.
I don’t play this game anymore as of this writing. The whole Blitzchung deal and my souring impression of present-day Blizzard (as covered in this rant/post) just made me not want to play it anymore. While I’m still unable to completely turn away from other Blizzard games, especially the one also present in this list, I don’t yearn to play any more Overwatch for the time being.
However, I greatly enjoyed my time with it, even if my skills didn’t live up to that enthusiasm. Overwatch was my top game of 2016 due to being able to play it with friends on the regular. That kept my 2016 right up to the first half of this year a bit more bearable.
6. Hotline Miami
This game had me hooked from the start with everything in it—the top-down action, the masks, the soundtrack, the messy story, the visual references to 1980s Miami, and the David Lynch-esque story. Hotline Miami and its sequel are still special to me for various reasons and I’ll be playing them again and again for years to come.
Past the visuals, music, and story, what really got me hooked was the gameplay. It doesn’t hold your hand and it doesn’t even have much of a tutorial, yet it doesn’t punish you too hard for failing. You can immediately go back to the last checkpoint and try again.
It can get downright frustrating, but you certainly get better as you go along. Once you get used to the controls, which isn’t that hard to begin with, you’ll find the playstyle that fits you.
5. Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
This is the best game I played in the second half of the 2010s. I say that without any exaggeration. My love for this game is like my love for all things bronze-plated—boundless and all-encompassing. I really like this game.
Having played the Commandos games growing up with little to no sustained success, being able to play this game at some degree of competence as an adult was self-affirming. Throughout my childhood, I thought of myself as dull and stupid, having been told so by family who quickly lost confidence in me due to how my sheltered upbringing molded me.
In Chinese immigrant families, it’s as if competence is seen as both necessary and innate. It’s good to be sharp and competent, but a naive child is seen as cursed to be forever naive. I was dull because I was spoiled, said the mother who had been spoiling me in the first place.
Before reaching adulthood, every attempt at learning new things and gaining new experiences was shot down due to the fear of extracurricular activities getting in the way of my studies. Meanwhile I was becoming increasingly disinterested in school because I couldn’t attain the growth I wanted in that institution.
Yes, I realize that I wrote those sentences with a hint of vitriol as a 33-year-old man because I still do resent it. But I’ve been constantly learning to let go and move on through various means.
Playing games like this and proceeding through life proactively have given me powerful ways to unbind those shackles that kept me from moving on. Games like this, as well as stealth and strategy games that require thought, care, and proper decision-making, are what I gravitate to because they helped me remind myself that I’m actually not stupid.
For me, playing games like Shadow Tactics feels rewarding and validating. The harder the problems I have to solve, the better I feel.
4. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
As you can see from the web design in this blog, I really like the aesthetics of this game. I had fun playing this game the first time. I decided on a no-kill run, which is not recommended for a first playthrough, especially with this game.
Before the Director’s Cut was released, there was no way to get past bosses without using lethal methods. I must have used over 50 stun guns on the first boss before I took him down. Yes, it’s possible to do that.
When it was time to face Yelena Federova, the female boss with the mohawk and stilt legs, I picked up a heavy rifle before going into the boss area and tore her to shreds.
The Mass Effect 3-style endings was disappointing, but almost everything that preceded it makes up for that. I would play Deus Ex: Mankind Divided when it was released and had fun with it as well.
3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
On 10 November 2011, I was dealing with the aftermath of a disastrous StarCraft II tournament that was organized by a short-lived esports team led by a misguided fool. Having been essentially the secretary of the team, I had to deal with a lot of the fallout, and it left me pretty depressed.
I had already been depressed that time as my major episode started at the start of the year after contracting chickenpox. That lasted until the middle of 2015, and I had one game to serve as therapy—The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Its DLCs over the years helped extend that therapy.
It came out buggy and stripped away a lot of RPG elements that Morrowind and Oblivion had, thus putting Bethesda on a path to self-destruction. Its gameplay also compelled most who played it to gravitate towards a stealth archer build, even if players like me tried to do something else in their succeeding runs.
Also, it made dragons look like idiots. Dragons don’t land to get stabbed in the eye.
However, all the mods made for the game made it an incredible experience throughout the 2010s. I was constantly in Nexus Mods, downloading new stuff and playing with them in the game. Then, Enderal came out and Skyrim Special Edition soon after, which gave me another campaign to play with and twice the Skyrim.
It has its flaws, but it’s all about the experience. That’s why Todd Howard keeps shilling it to the ends of the earth on every platform imaginable.
2. Fallout: New Vegas
Adding The Outer Worlds in this list and ignoring Fallout: New Vegas would have been a crime.
Many of the same reasons I indicated for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim applies to this game as well, especially with mods to extend and enhance the experience. But what New Vegas has that Skyrim doesn’t is a cohesive and nuanced plot that’s actually compelling.
While it indeed held me over for a long time, nothing disappointed me more than completing the main quest line of Skyrim. The same goes for when I first finished the last main quest in Oblivion. While that one was spectacular and also had a dragon in it, I was asking myself why I still wanted to stick around after everything significant was already done.
That’s why I played New Vegas a bit more. Exploring that world and getting all the possible endings was fantastic. To this day, while I may not have enough time to immerse myself in this game like I used to, I’d still get into the lore like reading wikis and watching Oxhorn videos.
The one thing I can put Bethesda’s Fallout titles over their Elder Scrolls titles is that the former incentivizes creativity in builds more, at least in my experience. Perhaps it’s the VATS system, which lets you be more tactical in fights, as opposed to just smashing the left mouse button and counting on being higher-leveled to win fights.
I remember hunting cazadors, even if I wasn’t high-leveled enough to win. If I could pick them off one at a time with a good gun, I know I’ll get more experience points that way. Then again, they would just fly straight to you at hypersonic speed, but it would take me almost a hundred quick loads before I would learn my lesson and turn back.
I’ll just drop some of the titles that made my 2010s a bit more colorful. If I write on how I feel about all of them, this blog post will get way too long, so here’s a short list with no particular order:
Hotline Miami 2, FTL: Faster Than Light, Prey, VA-11 HALL-A, Into the Breach, Sunless Sea, Devil May Cry 5, Tekken 7, DOOM, Tropico 4, Call of Duty: Mobile, Guilty Gear Xrd, Tyranny, Pillars of Eternity, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
1. StarCraft II
For similar reasons stated in the entry for Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, I took to StarCraft II in 2010 like I did briefly to chess in 2006—because I wanted to exceed my limitations and be better.
I used to profess to weakness when it came to games that required strategic thought and quickness, so getting into a game franchise known for both was an expression of my desire to go beyond my comfort zone and be better at something I was bad at.
However, it wasn’t an entirely new thing for me. My first PC game was StarCraft, and I finished those single-player campaigns with cheats. I was 12 and never caught wind of the burgeoning StarCraft competitive scene in South Korea, so I didn’t really get the “right way” to play it.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty was my chance to catch up and see if I could get good at it, despite my perceived deficiencies. I chose to main Protoss because it was the race I always rooted for in the original campaigns. It was right for my lack of speed as its units had decent punch and could be clumped up as a deathball that destroys everything in its path.
Even to this day, I can only play at around 80 actions per minute at best, but I can still get enjoyment out of multiplayer ladder because five years of practice showed me I’m not total shit when it comes to games like this. I got up to as high as platinum league with my effort alone, while I couldn’t last that long at silver league in team games like Overwatch.
I’ve also played the single-player campaigns multiple times. I still hold a special place in my heart for the Wings of Liberty campaign as it had everything I wanted in a StarCraft game—story, progression, cool units, and a satisfying conclusion.
Even with the whole controversy with Blizzard, I can’t drop this game. I don’t care that much about Overwatch or even Diablo IV anymore, but I can’t quit StarCraft II. I’ll most likely play this game all the way through the next decade.
There are many genres I want to dig deeper in, like fighting games, rhythm games, racing games, grand strategy, 4X, and so on. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to have the time or requisite focus to play any of them at considerable length, but that’s more or less my gaming resolution for the new decade.
Have something to say? Do you agree or am I off-base? Did I miss a crucial detail or get something wrong? Please leave whatever reactions, questions, or suggestions you may have on the comment section below.