This was an epic undertaking; I don’t know how some of you folks got this done so fast. A little surprised with the slightly homogeneous top three. I’m pretty happy with where I ended up.
Bloodborne [2015, FromSoftware] A game without peer. The moment to moment gameplay is refined and beautiful. The storytelling is ambient and raw. I could lose myself forever in this horrific world.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild [2017, Nintendo] This idiosyncratic open world reimagining of Zelda deeply resonated with me.
Runner up: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt [2015, CD Projekt Red] This game both delivers an almost perfect simulation of an itinerant monster hunters’ life, and the best videogame family I’ve seen. I love how confident CD Project Red are in their storytelling.
Magic: the Gathering Arena [2019, Wizards of the Coast] Magic: the Gathering is my favourite game of all time. So, when the evil overlords at Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast decided to make a digital version of the game with all the friction removed. Well I basically didn’t play any other videogames for eighteen months. God forbid they add drafting against humans, I’m just dead at that point.
Runners up: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Overcooked
Total War: Three Kingdoms [2019, Creative Assembly] And just like that, Creative Assemble land their masterpiece. A game that makes all other strategy games redundant.
Brogue [2018, Brian Walker] Lots of games these days are described as being ‘Roguelikes’ without actually having any similarities with the game Rogue. Here though is a game which has taken the design of Rogue, deconstructed it to its base elements, then build something new and beautiful from its foundations. Every run of this game is a joy for me.
Runners up: Dwarf Fortress
Opus Magnum [2017, Zachtronics] I very much enjoy the Zachtronics puzzle games, but this one felt particularly delectable. The game has an animated gif export for your solutions, and they are immediately captivating even to people who have not played the game. This allowed me to share my love of this game much further than I usually can. Which only makes me love it more.
Runners up: TIS-100 and Into the Breach
VVVVVV [2010, Terry Cavanagh] This game changed me. There is a person before Veni Vidi Vici, and there is a person after Veni Vidi Vici. My concept of what is difficult and valuable was altered. Without this game I’m not sure I would have been ready for many of the other games I enjoyed this decade.
Runners up: Baba is You and Stephen’s Sausage Roll
Disco Elysium [2019, ZA/UM] I only just finished this, so it’s possible there’s some recency bias at work. But this game is both incredibly familiar and breathtakingly fresh and different. And delivered with such panache. It’s hard to believe I won’t still be thinking about it for a long time.
Runners up: Dragon Age II, Mass Effect 3 and Control
Kerbal Space Program [2015, Squad] Simple and complex. Build a rocket, launch an idiot into space, build a bigger rocket to save idiot. But with real rocket science. Every failure in this game is a delight.
Runner up: Minecraft and Euro Truck Simulator
Of the 61 games I considered for my list, when were they released?
Top ten by Steam’s hours played:
- Stellaris - 358
- Total War: Warhammer II - 321
- Total War: Warhammer - 279
- Dark Souls - 267
- Stardew Valley - 227
- Sid Meier’s Civilization V - 217
- Dark Souls II - 200
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - 184
- Dark Souls III - 162
- Factorio - 129