Three more games added to my best of the decade list? Don’t mind if I do. I almost felt bad about how many games that appear on this list ended up being first person shooters. But ended up brushing those concerns under the rug pretty quickly. Video Games are delivery method for story telling for me, and what better way is there to effectively convey story than through a genre everyone understands all too well.
At this point, there is very little teaching required to get players up to speed when playing first person shooters. In general, they all control pretty much the same, especially on console where Call of Duty pretty much set the standard for how these games control. Going back and playing Halo again was a real mind bending experience after being so used to playing these games a certain way.
But I’m getting away from the point, let’s get back into this list.
#6: Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire
Released in 2014 | Played on 3DS | Developed by Game Freak
There was no way I was not going to put a Pokemon game on my list, and there were seven mainline entries in the series to come out this past decade. Y’know, realising that fact just now, I think the critics of the franchise might have a point. They are churning these games out far too often.
I’ll put my hands up and say that the last two generations of games haven’t had the impact on me as the earlier entries have. I don’t know if it’s just a case of diminishing returns in terms of my fandom, or if Game Freak really are struggling to keep up with the demand that the Pokemon Company are forcing on them in terms of marketing and the anime.
That being said, between Black/White, X/Y and ORAS, it was really difficult for me to pick a favourite. In the end though, I have to pick the game that combined and refined my favourite other games in the franchise, Ruby’s setting in X’s engine.
X and Y were great, adding Mega Evolution as my favourite new mechanic added to a game since its inception, and being the first game to use polygonal models instead of sprites (Stadium and Colosseum notwithstanding), Omega Ruby refined that engine and then added even more to it.
In a great setting with a great story and every little quality of life change from the modern iterations of the game added on top of them. Additionally, the game had a pretty decent post game as well, which is something the games haven’t always done that well.
Pokemon might not be the all-important franchise to me like it used to be even at the beginning of this decade, but I still love it fondly and Omega Ruby might just be the best entry in the entire franchise for me, let alone the last decade.
#5: Borderlands 2
Released in 2012 | Played on Xbox 360 and One X | Developed by Gearbox Software
I knew this game was going to appear in this list somewhere, even before I started compiling a massive list of games that could potentially show up on it. I had some kind of unhealthy obsession with this game, for a good long time. Playing it through in it’s entirety, DLC included, about six time. And that’s no mean feat considering how much content this game has, especially when it comes to the Handsome Collection.
I know people have mixed feelings when it comes to Borderlands and it’s style of “memey” internet humour. But when it came out in 2012, I was in my early 20s and the tone and humour just struck for me. It’s not aged well by any means, but underneath that veneer of cynicism and irreverence, there was a heart to these characters, one I connected with.
I’m not the only one who feels that way, as the years following was filled with games that found inspiration in the game’s style of humour. Or if not that, then its visual style or even their RPG and loot mechanics. Borderlands didn’t invent any of these ideas, but it put them all together in a product that really worked and turned the heads of a lot of people. Picking the bits they liked and sometimes improving on them.
As both a single player experience, and a multiplayer one, as a story and as a mindless shooter, the game fills so many different roles for me and has been a game I’ve played over and over and over. At this point, I feel more likely to play this one again than I do Borderlands 3.
It’s the definition of a time and place game. It hit me at a particular time in my life and hit me hard, and as a result I have a huge amount of nostalgia for it. Playing Borderlands 3 this year really made me realise that most of my enjoyment of this game is powerfully driven by nostalgia. If only they’d modernised the latest entry in the franchise rather than just making a game that feels out of time, then that might have shown up on my list.
Released in 2016 | Played on Xbox One | Developed by Blizzard Entertainment
For about three years after its release, Overwatch was the game I played. Putting close to 400 hours into it collectively. When the game first game out, I fell in love with its style. There was this “Disneyfied” look to the whole game, one that was perfectly suited to this weird and wonderful cast of characters.
It also had this “feel good”, celebration of the players and masking of the under performers. Everyone was whisked up by this feel good approach, low pressure the game seemed to have to everyone riding the train of just celebrating these characters and celebrating one another.
As time has gone on, the game has grown and changed. The Overwatch League, which seemed like a great idea at the time actively ended up hurting my personal enjoyment of the game. It gave people a glimpse of the very best players making use of strategies that requires high teamwork and high levels of skill, and made them think they could emulate it.
Metas came into being, forcing players to playing particular heroes instead of heroes they wanted to play. The toxicity of the player base increased as the game aged, turning the more casual players away from the game. Additionally, because Blizzard started using the league as a basis for hero balance, the skill ceiling on certain heroes became too high for more casual players.
Zenyatta is still my second most played hero, despite the nerf to his projectile speed making him all but unplayable for me now. I’m simply not good enough to lead players on a game of this speed, but because the best player in the world was too good with him, they had to nerf him. It’s not a good look when you have to stop playing your favourite character in a game and start maining a new one because the developer became the fun police.
All I’ve done is complain though, and this is a list of celebration. But because I have so much to criticise, it’s just a testament to how much I care about and have invested in this game. I made online friends playing this game, got into small groups that I’d play competitive with some regularity.
I do adore these characters and would love to see them outside of the context of this competitive based shooter. I haven’t played the game once since Overwatch 2 was announced, nor do I think I will go back to it until the sequel comes out. But no matter my feelings of the game, that three and a bit year period in which I was playing it near enough every day can’t help but make it one of my obviously most important games of the decade, having a huge impact on me outside of the game in terms of the clothes I’ve worn and the logos I’ve proudly adorned my property with.