For most, Christmas is a time to celebrate with family. For me, Christmas is a time to celebrate the massive Steam sale that'll mean I finally get some titles I was looking for. Very nice, very nice. Well, as we all know, the 2010s are ending. For many reasons, this decade is one of the best in gaming history, and for some it's one of the worst.
I don't intend to waste your time. Let's get to the list, in utter celebration of the monumental accomplishments we've made this year as a whole, the gaming industry being a pretty kickass thing. Some games people love won't make it (Sorry, Celeste) and some not everyone loves will make it (My #10 pick) but we'll be seeing a hopefully diverse list.
#10: Mount & Blade: Warband
Now, I know what some of you are gonna say. "But, Riley, Mount & Blade came out before 2010!" Okay, none of you care? Fair enough. Well, anyways, whether it matters or not, I've loopholed this one onto my #10 spot because I really like it. (It's a remake of the original Mount & Blade released in 2010) Mount & Blade: Warband is a real-time strategy/role-playing game in which the player will raise an army and get involved in the pseudo-historical wars of Calradia.
Between its intriguing companions, excellent combat, and genuinely changing world, the simplicity and lack of story of Warband turn from flaws to incredible strengths. Sure, it lacks many things most people consider to be the only good parts of video games, but I wouldn't give it up for the world. The massive sieges, the epic sword fights, navigating the dialogue tree to convince Jarls to join my faction, it's all amazing in a way focused entirely on fun and awesome, meat-grinder medieval violence.
#9: Dark Souls III
Fuck you, it really is my favorite.
No, really. I've never actually played the other two Souls games due to their lacking PC ports, and I consider that a pretty massive shame, seeing as while I haven't finished III, it really proved to me the power of Dark Souls, a power I never quite understood. No matter how much of an unsatisfying nostalgia trip III is for longtime series fans, I simply must admit my absolute adoration of it. It's difficult, but more than that, it's artistic. It's a tale of nihilism, of the last embers of a frozen world.
Dark Souls III genuinely amazed me, and more than anything, made me feel like I finally got Dark Souls.
But also, fuck you, Irythill Dungeons. I'm still stuck on you.
I like Crusader Kings II a lot, but a lot of it is transparent. That's not to mention the incredible difficulty navigating its political systems. I've played a ton of Crusader Kings II after getting it free, but I've never achieved a goal. (My interest wanes further when I need to wait to get A Game of Thrones up and running again after every update.)
In enters Stellaris. Stellaris is a much simpler, more ludicrous space-based version of other Paradox games. I like simpler things, ludicrous things, and space. You can invade planets. You can orbitally bombard planets. You can forge an epic space empire through diplomacy or violence.
I love this game, but unlike most on this list, I have caveats. The game seems to rig its "RNG" so that you always end up with neighbors, and usually everyone else, having the exact opposite political ideology and stronger weaponry, meaning you can rarely make big accomplishments. If the game removed that and didn't feel biased against the player, it would be ranked better on the list. It's damn addictive.
#7: Metro 2033 (Redux)
You know, I didn't like the Metro series at first. I always considered it to be like STALKER but worse. Then two things happened.
A) I read the book. It was great.
B) Ranger mode happened.
Ranger mode is bitchin'. Removing the HUD? Check. Making everything much harder and firefights extremely intense? Check. It's fun. It feels like a survival story and a rumination on the pointlessness of war at the same time. I love it. Also, it's very Russian.
If Hades weren't in early access it would have had a good shot at a #1 spot. It's a roguelike where I actually like the roguelike elements! (Which is rare, I usually consider them artificial padding) That's mainly due to its cheery and fun tone. Usually, Greek myth in games is depicted as dark and edgy, but Hades is more Disney Hercules than God of War. The Gods are all buds who are sometimes assholes, death has no real consequence to any of the main characters, and everyone is written to be likable in some way. It's a roguelike like I've never seen before, in that I want to keep dying.
Also, you can romance Thanatos, and I've wanted to do that for years. To each their own.
#5: The Old Republic
What the fuck did an MMO just make the list? What kind of drugs am I on?
Legit, though, I really like TOR. It's legitimately free, which most MMOs aren't, and it's got a well-written set of class stories. You can do a lot of genuine roleplaying in it, which is the reason I find it hard to get into most MMOs. For example, my first character, I played with a focus on absolutely chaotic character-building and insanity.
While it has tons of pay-to-win bullshit, thanks to EA, TOR's class stories confirm to me that someone at BioWare still knows how to write a goddamn story, even if all it does is hit the same beats you'd expect. It does, however, make Anthem's poor quality hit harder.
#4: Fallout: New Vegas & The Outer Worlds
Another game straight from 2010, New Vegas is possibly my second favorite game ever made. It's only due to technical issues that I don't slap it straight to #1, but oh boy, does it have technical issues. Between a rushed development and far too many bugs, including tons of missing content, New Vegas is a brilliant game curbed by executive meddling.
New Vegas is an epic with countless factions, quests, and roleplaying options. Its ultimate edition is $5.99 on Steam and GOG. Buy it. It's a life-changing experience.
Oh, and of course, I'd be remiss if I solely gave this spot to Fallout: New Vegas, so I've got to give a serious nod to Obsidian's most recent game, The Outer Worlds, which has captured me. I haven't experienced enough of it to certifiably say it's on the same level as New Vegas, but had I experienced more, The Outer Worlds would have been a serious contender for the #1 spot as well.
#3: XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Dear Microsoft, please fix the document folder bullshit that means I can't play this game. Seriously, I can't save this goddamn game without fiddling around with my computer settings or downgrading back from Windows 10. What the fuck?
Enemy Unknown is the first strategy game I've ever played to make me feel like I'm playing an action game. It's nail-bitingly tense, visually fantastic, fun, difficult, but fair all the same. You will inevitably bond with your troops, and it's of a far higher quality than its buggy, mediocre, falsely difficult sequel XCOM 2. If you've gotta get any turn-based strategy, get XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It makes every other entry to the genre look like garbage, including its own sequel.
#2: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
This one's pretty predictable, admittedly, but nonetheless, The Witcher 3 is an excellent game. I'm not even close to finishing it and I love every part of it. The world is beautiful and dark, the stories tackle mature themes with an incredible touch rarely seen in its peers, and it's an excellent game. Every part of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is perhaps created to perfection, between the excellent performances of its cast, its humor, and the beauty of its environments. Its combat is some of the best I've experienced in a Triple-A game, and I absolutely adore it.
This one's Game of the Year edition is on sale for $19.99 on Steam, a stunning price for something of its quality. Go play CD Projekt Red's masterpiece. You won't regret it.
Remember how bad I bashed XCOM 2 on the EU entry? I stand by it, but the game is still XCOM, and it's still pretty solid. Just accept that the AI in this one is unfair and deliberately manipulates cinematic moments into happening rather than playing fair, and you'll probably get a fair bit of mileage out of it. It's just below Enemy Unknown in every way. Oh, except you don't have to pay extra for customization in this one, which is present in Enemy Unknown. Fuck you, 2K.
What I said about Enemy Unknown is the same in Darkest Dungeon. Unlike most turn-based RPGs, Darkest Dungeon is so nail-bitingly tense that I consider it more of an action game than an RPG. Every action forces you against the wall, which makes victory even sweeter. If it weren't for bullshit RNG and absurd difficulty spikes, Darkest Dungeon would have made the list.
LISA: The Painful RPG and Undertale
This list was hard as hell to make, and leaving these two beloved indie RPGs off was very hard for me. Brilliant in themes and story, the lackluster gameplay in each of these makes it difficult to put them on the list. Otherwise, I absolutely would have put both of these on the list. Excellent games in every sense, just a bit too lacking in good gameplay.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild
This game is awesome. I love it. It's polished, brilliant, excellent, and controversial. It's a magical experience. The list just didn't have room for it, and I decided that my years of loving Warband ultimately put it slightly over Breath of the Wild. A shame.
And now.... Drumroll please... our #1 Pick.
#1: Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
Oh, holy shit, it's fucking Shovel Knight, the best game ever.
My God, nothing I can say does this game justice. I'm barely even gonna try. There's a shit ton of content, and most of it is excellent platforming. While I feel the final expansion has some serious missteps, it's an excellent game. Disappointingly, Treasure Trove isn't on sale right now, but I'd say $39.99 is a damn good cost for possibly the best platformer ever made. Four full campaigns, challenge modes, a fighting game mode, and all of it polished and top-quality, Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove digs itself a lovely hole and will serve as an example of how to do Kickstarter indies right, how to do platformers right, and how to combine modern video game tropes with old ones. This game is truly a gem. Dig on, Shovel Knight, for you deserve every accolade you have received.
Merry Christmas. I love you crazy motherfuckers here at Destructoid.