Continuing on from yesterday, I add three more games to my top fifteen video games of the past decade. Looking back at these games, and playing them a little in preparation for this list, the individual quality of some of them might have people scratching their head over their inclusion.
The thing is though, some of these additions are here for reasons beyond their quality in a vacuum, and instead came to me at a time where they meant a lot more to me than they might have at any other time in my life. But I’ll explain my reasoning on a case by case basis.
So, like before just to confirm that I’m only entering one game per franchise, but not nesseserily entering the franchise as a whole. y’know what, I’ll just let the entries explain themselves.
Released in 2016 | Played on Xbox One | Developed by id Software
The importance of the original Doom is undeniable, it was one of those genre defining, no, genre creating video games. And I missed out on all of it. The whole Doom/Quake/Unreal Tournament boom of PC shooters passed me by entirely, as all of my time on PC in those years was spent on garbage shovel-ware and licensed games.
DOOM (2016) was my first exposure to the franchise proper, and ho boy was it a game that stuck with me. There is something delightfully irrelevant about the nature of 2016’s Doom with works perfectly with how self series and heavy metal it can be the rest of the time.
Bringing yet another unique spin to the first person shooter genre, this Doom styled itself more as a “combat puzzle” game than a straight up first person shooter. There is a loop to gameplay; your health is drained fast and you regain health by killing enemies, using the gory glory kill mechanic to increase the health replenished. Thus the game naturally forces you to go at enemies hard and fast.
It’s an example of the gameplay and the tone of the game complimenting one another perfectly. The game takes place in a very modern FPS setting, in which mega corporations are tapping into hell as a resource, only for their own greed to backfire and cause hell to spill out onto the surface of Mars.
On more than on occasion, the supporting characters of the game try to wax lyrical and justify the choices they’ve made and in every instance, the Doom guy does not care. As a character, the Doom Guy is amazing. He’s the personification of the impatient gamer, he cares little for nuance or justifications, he simply wants to rip and tear through as many demons as he can as quickly as he can.
Doom was an exhilarating experience from beginning to end, and one of the few games that has me audibly reacting to things that were happening on screen pretty constantly. Doom (2016) is an amazing games and one of the few single player campaigns in the past decade that I’ve gone back to again and again.
Anticipation for the sequel made me go back and play through it again last month alone.
#11: Halo: Reach
Released 2010 | Played on Xbox 360 | Developed by Bungie
I agonised about where to put this game on my list. After going back and playing Halo: Reach again with it’s recent addition to the Master Chief Collection, I doubted myself that it was even worth putting this high up the list, or even at all. But then I calmed down and thought back to the game and what it meant to me at the time is came out a decade ago.
In a lot of ways, Halo: Reach seems to be the bridge between Bungie’s work on Halo, and what they eventually created with Destiny. On its own, Reach was just one more first person shooter and the fifth game in the Halo franchise, a series whose best years had arguably come and gone.
To me though, Reach was a defining video game that would exemplify what I eventually come to value in not only video games, but also in online communities. Reach was the first shooter to really allow the player to feel like they were creating their own identity within the game, what with the endless combinations of armour pieces, colours, emblems and tags. It’s the first game I ever played where I felt some real attachment to my character in an online community.
And Bungie fostered that community, having a robust website that tracked a wealth of online multiplayer stats and forge communities creating their own modes in the multiplayer. I like the campaign for Reach just fine, and the firefight mode was a great addition. But what really roped me into this game in a deep way is the connection it made me feel to an online avatar and the community that jumped up around that. Something that nearly every video game seems to do these days.
But Halo: Reach is the first game that really hit me in that particular way, and I need to put it on my list for that very reason.
#10: FTL: Faster Than Light
Released in 2012 | Played on PC | Developed by Subset Games
I feel like I’ve talked about FTL a lot since it came out. It’s a video game that I can’t seem to get away from, and one I end up coming back to over and over.
A simple game. FTL: Faster than Light is part RPG, part star ship crew management game. The player takes control of a ship and her crew, as they try to make their way from one end of a star system to another while a rebel fleet pursues them. The simple design aesthetic is the perfect choice to get the idea cross while also letting your imagination fill in the rest of the gaps. It also does a great job of creating this lore and science fiction world while not overloading you with information, it lets it out in drips and drabs and let’s you pick and choose which bits you care about.
It’s very much the same thing they did years later when they made Into the Breach. Which is also a very good video game.
The thing that kept me coming back to FTL through was just how repeatable it is. There are a ton of different ship layouts, alien crew members, weapons and ship systems to make one run utterly different from the next. Not to mention the countless different encounters and little adventures that can occur as you make your way from way point to way point.
It’s a game I have played over and over and over, coming back to it pretty consistently in the eight years since its release. It’s not just the setting that gets me, its the sense of progression that comes from discovering all of the different ships, that often come from performing a bunch of tasks within a run, that you don’t generally know is a thing until after you’ve done it. There are checklists to fill in, but also secrets to discover that the game isn’t too overt about.
On top of that, there are alternate layouts to each ship which come from performing challenges during runs. Something within the game that promotes different styles of play, ones that might not seem optimal, but end up being a lot of fun either way. Subset seem to have a perfect blend of endlessly repeatable gameplay, but also dangling carrots to encourage players to keep playing the game in different ways.
It’s a game about making the best of what you’re given and while nearly all runs end in failure, it’s always fun getting there and discovering new combinations of crew, weapons and ship upgrades. I love the replayability and setting of the game despite how ungodly difficult and unfairly random it can be at times. Both this and Into the Breach are simple, yet endlessly intriguing games, and I can’t wait to see what the studio makes next.