You Won't Believe Number 6!
It’s that time again! We’re rolling into a new decade, and it’s almost time for a new console generation as well. What better reason to look at my favorite games of the last ten years??
I have to say, this generation’s games have been a nice upgrade over the brown and bloom of the PS3 and Xbox 360 era, and Nintendo has recovered quite nicely from the Wii U with the Nintendo Switch. Recent years have been great for video games.
Don’t worry, this isn’t about the most influential games of the decade or any other semblance of objectivity I could try to pull out of my bum. This list is only going to be about personal enjoyment. Battle royales popping off doesn’t mean one will get its chicken dinner, and there will be no Pokémon going to these polls.
There are many, many awesome aspects to the follow-up to the beloved puzzle shooter Portal. For starters, my PS3 copy came with a digital code on Steam -- cross-buy across platforms, can you believe it?
The game itself kicks serious butt too. Like in the original Portal, the game has creative uses for your ability to create entry/exit portals around the world, leading to extremely satisfying puzzles. The addition of new mechanics, like the different colors of paint and light bridges, added some nice depth to an already clever game.
But the thing I love most about Portal 2 is its multi-player. The game has a separate campaign that turns it into a Cooperative Puzzle Shooter! It’s a lovely experience that should please casual and experienced players alike. Sabotaging your friend in creative ways is sure to add a few laughs too!
Of note about Portal 2 is that it was Valve’s last non-e-sport video game of the decade, despite launching in 2011. Please be good, Half-Life Alyx. Please be good.
Ah, Rayman. One of my favorite series of all time, and my favorite in Ubisoft’s catalog. While I was taken by surprise by the return to two dimensions after the excellent Rayman 2 and Rayman 3, the decision led to one of the most captivating platformers I’ve ever played. I’m not complaining.
Two things combine to make Rayman Origins so special. On one hand, its whimsical world full of beautiful landscapes and cartoony fauna is bound to take your breath away a few times. On the other, its smooth controls make the moment to moment gameplay an absolute blast. It’s the one game to make me love water levels!
Rayman Legends added a Wii U-oriented gimmick that I didn’t enjoy, but it’s otherwise just as excellent as Origins and has more content. Despite this, it appears the series has been shelved. Let’s hope Rayman isn’t gone for good.
What? It’ll be half a decade since Undertale came out? That can’t be right… Where has the time gone?
Existential crisis aside, Undertale hooked me from the get-go. Before the game even launched, I was discussing its Kickstarter demo with others regularly on a dubious internet board, and the final product didn’t disappoint. Toby Fox and Temmie delivered a quirky meta RPG that’s charming from beginning to end.
The humor won’t be to everyone’s taste, the sprite work is rough at the best of times, and the challenge isn’t there unless you’re playing the Genocide route -- which you probably won’t like narratively. But the combination of baller music, clever mechanics, and lovable characters led to an independent game that rose above the sum of its parts.
This was a long-awaited one for me. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Persona series, and the last entry was on the PlayStation 2! Thankfully, Persona 5 delivered.
If you’ve ever played one of the two previous entries in the series, you know what to expect. It’s a schedule management RPG where you try to balance making friends and saving the world. Here, this is done by stealing the hearts of wrongdoers to make them admit their misdeeds.
It’s not a game-changer, but it’s an evolution of the previous games in very key ways. The main dungeons are no longer random. Instead, they offer tailored experiences with secrets and puzzles, which make them a lot more interesting to play through. The improved visuals make Tokyo feel more like a living, breathing city. And the core of the game is as gripping as the previous entries, if not more so.
Persona 2: Innocent Sin remains my favorite Persona story, but Persona 5 is my new favorite overall package of the series. That’s not light praise.
There’s something about Edmund McMillen’s games. Super Meat Boy is one of my favorite independent games of all time, and The Binding of Isaac is most likely the game I’ve spent the most time playing. 123 hours on the flash original, 238 hours on the multiplatform remake.
In case you don’t know what Binding of Isaac is, it’s a randomly generated dungeon crawler with gross monsters and grosser power-ups. If you die, it’s back to floor 1 with none of your powerups, but there are permanent modifications to the dungeon to unlock for your efforts. In the back, there’s a story about a religious family struggling with divorce and a very imaginative kid.
The game brought roguelikes to the world -- randomly generated games with permanent death. The ability to start over and get a completely different experience is the perfect hook. Following over in Binding of Isaac’s footsteps we’d get games like Rogue Legacy, Enter the Gungeon, Nuclear Throne, Hades and so many more… But Binding of Isaac is the game that took over my free time between classes, all those years ago.
Super Mario Galaxy 2, as a sequel to Super Mario Galaxy, appears at first to be a scaled-back adventure. The hub world, if you can even call it that, is much smaller than Rosalina’s Observatory. The story is even more paper-thin than before.
Yet, in a way, this plays in Galaxy 2’s favor. There’s nothing that gets between you and a barrage of high-quality platforming levels. Defying gravity is still a blast and Yoshi is an amazing addition to the game. Galaxy 2 plays like a refined version of an already lovely game -- and just rewatching the trailer made me want to replay it all over. Maybe we could get an HD port in the future?
Galaxy 2 is not my favorite 3D Mario. For that coveted title, I still can't choose between Super Mario 64 for its movement options, or Sunshine for building on 64’s core with more creative themes and a refined camera. In any case, it’s clear to me that Super Mario Galaxy 2 is right behind these classics.
I’ve recommended this game over and over and streamed it quite a few times, so this should not be a surprise to anyone. The funny thing about Celeste, however, is that I nearly skipped it entirely. The trailers failed to sell me the game’s pitch, which felt weird considering the incredible reviews the game was getting.
But thankfully, DeadMoon/Kevin insisted I’d give it a try. And I can’t say no to him, the man’s got incredible taste.
I found the best pitch for Celeste online a few months after beating it. I, unfortunately, don’t remember the source, but it went along the lines of “the hardest game anyone can beat”. It’s a game about facing difficult challenges and never giving up, both narratively and in practice.
With the right mindset, you can achieve everything in front of you, no matter how impossible it appears at first. Listen to the music, focus on the obstacle ahead, grit your teeth and climb that mountain!
Let's start this top 3 with a personal one! Project M is an ambitious fan mod of Super Smash Bros Brawl. It attempts to rebalance the game, add even more content to the original release, and raise the overall speed and technical level of the game at the same time.
Surprisingly, they managed to succeed on all fronts. I’ve been playing a metric shit-ton of Project M during my university years and everyone managed to find different mains that fit their playstyles. I even introduced some people to Super Smash Bros with this game, thanks to the amazing costumes added to the game such as Shadow Queen Peach. For some laughs, we would sometimes use custom modes like turbo mode or screen borders that loop around -- something we never do in other Smash games.
Project M truly was the Super Smash Bros Ultimate years before Ultimate. While I don’t have easy access to a Wii anymore, and finding working copies of Brawl in 2019 isn’t a given, I’m hopeful that I’ll figure out a playgroup of this amazing game again. You haven’t lived until you’ve played Project M Ganondorf.
Guilty Gear Xrd will always be a special title for me, not only because of its numerous qualities but also what it means for me at Destructoid.
I don’t want to spend too much time gushing, but holy moly. Xrd is gorgeous. Arc System Works’ nailed cell-shaded fighting game graphics in their very first try. Five years later, as we start hearing news about its sequel Guilty Gear Strive, no other company has managed to match them.
And the fighting itself is so sweet! All the characters have incredibly varied playstyles, thanks in large part to their flashy weaponry. In what other game do you get to choose between fighting with a sword, a scalpel, an anchor or a… flag? The fighting is varied, flashy and fast-paced. It’s the perfect blend for an amazing fighting game.
Now, for the personal touch. It wasn’t too long after I got my PlayStation 4. I was looking for a fighting game to play and a couple of them were on sale on the PlayStation Store. For a long time, I thought about getting Skullgirls, but I ended up giving Guilty Gear a shot. Am I glad I did!
I got to chat with Larxinostic for the first time by including Guilty Gear Xrd in my very first game of the year list on Dtoid. We played a ton of great matches online together, and as the updated version of the game came around I even got to make the very first Destructoid Draws!
Some of my favorite memories on the website came from the purchase of a very special fighting game on a whim.
Is there anyone who expected NieR to get a sequel before Square Enix’s fateful E3 presentation? The original had pretty middling reviews and the developer behind it, Cavia, had shut down in 2010. It did a ton right, including genre-defining camera angles and a great mix of soundtrack and writing. But its stiff controls and tedious quests bogged it down in the eyes of critics. It didn’t get a lot of renown beyond being yet another janky Square Enix title in a janky era for the publisher.
But lo and behold, they partnered with Platinum Games of all studios to work on the sequel. The result was phenomenal. The music from Keiichi Okabe, Yoko Taro’s depressing philosophical writing and the quirky genre-defining elements are all there, with gameplay that carries the experience instead of hindering it. Dodging bullets and shooting machine scum while pondering my reason for existence has never felt this good. Until eventually it doesn’t feel good because the screen is blurry and… has someone been cutting onions in this room or something?
Whether you’re a fan of action RPGs or not, NieR Automata is a game I’d recommend. I got the chance to play it over spring break and I was glued to my screen the entire way. It’s got a few quirks, and I’ve heard the PC port is rough at best, but it was my game of the decade.