These top three were the easiest games to pick on this entire list. I knew 100% that they’d be on here and also has a good idea of their placement right away too. I suppose that’s always the case when making lists like this though, you end up getting the top few easily and then agonise over the best of the rest.
Although in this case, it was a case of worrying about what to leave out rather than simply making up the numbers as a few of my yearly lists have felt like these past few years. Anyways, let’s get this top 15 finished up so I can go back to talking about anime or something.
But let’s recap if you wanted to see what came before this top three:
#3: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Released in 2011 | Played on Xbox 360 | Developed by Bethesda Software
There’s a reason that Bethesda keep putting Skyrim over and over. Hell, there was even an official trailer for a Microwave Edition. It’s all for good reason though, because Skyrim is something of a revelatory video game, especially for me.
I’d put a ton of time into Fallout 3 and New Vegas, being my real introduction to this action style RPG genre, but Skyrim went above and beyond anything that game did for me and changed my perception of what video games could be. I never really spent any time with the older games in the franchise, but the openness, the seemingly endless ways to play and having so much to see was totally new to me. Doing it far better than even Fallout could.
What really did it was the unique progression system in which you could really create your own class by levelling up individual skills. Rather than picking a class like other fantasy RPGs of the sort. In Skyrim, you just used skills enough and they became more powerful. Want to be a Summoner/Barbarian? No problem. But as well as the stories I created myself, there were so many quest lines in the game that I only just discovered a pretty major one the most recent time I played it.
Today, there are countless games that do much the same thing as the Elder Scrolls V, but none of them do it better. I like Fallout 4 just fine and The Outer Worlds is a good game that never really grabbed me. But Skyrim, it’s just Skyrim. It’s a game that has stayed with me this past decade and will continue to stay with me for years more to come. I might even pick up that version on the Switch.
I only wonder what the tentatively announced Elder Scrolls VI will be when it comes out at some point this decade and whether it can succeed in knocking Skyrim off its lofty perch.
Released in 2014 | Played on Xbox 360 | Developed by Bungie
There was no way Destiny wasn’t going to make it onto this list, let’s be real. It has been and continues to be the game I’ve put the most time into this decade. I mean, I haven’t crunched the numbers, but there’s no way it can be anything else, I’m literally playing it nearly every day.
While I’ve simply listed Destiny in this entry, really I’m talking about both Destiny and Destiny 2 collectively here. While they are technically two different games, in my head there’s no real differentiation between the two. Bungie have created something more than a simple video game in Destiny, they’ve created a world, a setting and a community that I want to be involved in all the time.
The blueprints for this were apparent when they made Halo: Reach, which I’ve already spoken about. Much like with MMOs, Bungie have fostered a living game, during which there is always something to talk about. Good or bad. Personally, I feel like the game is in the best position now that it’s ever been. Their current seasonal model makes it so it feels like there is always something to do, something to work toward.
Destiny is a game that has moved beyond the realm of a mere game for me. It’s a bit of culture and community I want to be a part of, and that’s in no small part thanks to Bungie’s amazing work outside of the game in their out of game work. The app, their website and their rewards system makes me want to do things in game and get tangible reward for them.
I’ve got the T-Shirts, purchased my title medals, bought the physical lore grimoires and seriously thought about getting tattoos based on the game.
Destiny is the game I play right now, to the point that other games have become something of a distraction from my time working on whatever title or ritual weapon for the current season is going. It also helps that Bungie make a damn fine playing first person shooter.
#1: Mass Effect 2
Released in 2010 | Played on Xbox 360 | Developed by BioWare
I don’t think there is a video game, maybe not any piece of fiction, that has hit me as hard or as powerfully as the Mass Effect trilogy has. Three very different games, there is little debate amongst fans which of the three is the best. Mass Effect 2 is truly a special game, while it might be rather basic when it comes to gameplay, it’s the story and the characters it presents that elevates it to something more special for me.
I don’t think there is any other game where I so profoundly care about and connect with so many of its characters as I do with Mass Effect 2. The first game got the story going and set the scene for what would come, but the writing was stilted and hampered by cliche. There were some great moments in there, but for the most part it was a pretty cheesy science fiction story. But the setting, and the lore, that’s where it shone so brightly.
By the time Mass Effect 2 came round we were in a game that wasn’t really about saving the galaxy or securing humanities place amongst the stars. It was a game about building a team, getting to know how they tick and earning their trust and respect. There is so much downtime in Mass Effect 2, and during that time you just go around and chat with your crew, get to know them and come to love them.
And I’m not talking about banging aliens here either. I really do love the cast of Mass Effect. Garrus, Liara, Tali, Wrex, Mordin, Thane. I’ve spend so much time playing these three games, at least ten times each, so much so that the greater story, while important to me, ended up being secondary to those little quiet moments that proliferated the games. Seeing these characters open up and share their passions, their fears and their hopes.
If there was ever a combination of setting, style, writing and tone that could draw me in, Mass Effect is the game franchise that managed to hit on the absolute perfect blend for me. While the final game was the best playing, the extreme macabre tone of everyone’s impending doom made it kind of a bummer. Compared to the second game which was more of a lighthearted romp by comparison, the closet thing to a Star Trek game I’ve ever played.
I adore Mass Effect 2 and would love/be terrified of Bioware and EA going back and doing something else with those original characters in the future.
And there you have it folks. I’m going to repost a full version of this list later on today to avoid needless clicking around in the future. But I’d love to hear of anyone else’s best game of the last ten years, share a story and celebrate something great. Lord knows I need to hear it.