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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Our Games of the Decade - Nick H.


List by Nick H.

It's hard to believe, but we're at the end of a decade this month, and it should go without saying that a lot has happened in video games over that last ten years. Just think: at the start of the decade people were playing Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PSP and Nintendo DS. There's been two new generations of consoles in that time, and one new Sony and Microsoft device. In addition, in that time VR made a comeback, and streaming games has just started to get steam. DDNet started as a humble little blog right at the end of 2010, and it's been fascinating to watch the site evolve and change as the industry.

To celebrate this huge transition, from one decade to the next, we've decided to get the team to share their most noteworthy games of the decade - the games that they found most memorable, or had the biggest impact on them. We'll publish these at a rate of one per day, and this time around we have DDNet's US editor, Nick H, to share his top ten games of the last ten years.

The Last Of Us

The gameplay of The Last Of Us was only good, not great, but the atmosphere struck me from the very beginning. I have a soft spot for apocalyptic storylines and The Last of Us had an unrelenting somberness to it that at times did not make it a ‘fun’ game to play, yet one that stuck with me well after the final credits rolled. As a father, the primary character of Joel resonated with me as I tried to put myself in his boots and think about how I’d fare in a world gone to hell like this.



Mass Effect 2

Barely squeezing into this list due to its January 2010 release date, Mass Effect 2 was the highpoint for me in the Mass Effect universe. The actual gameplay was much more polished than the original and the way decisions could actually impact the story made this a title I had to beat more than once. Decisions carried with them real consequences, especially near the endgame where poor choices could lead to very bad things for members of the crew I had spent so many hours getting to know.



Tales from the Borderlands

What Telltale Games did for the adventure genre over the last decade has been fantastic, and while I really adored most of its titles, none of them clicked for me the way that Tales from the Borderlands did. A fantastic cast of voice actors created the sort of narrative-driven game in the Borderlands universe that I had no idea I needed until I played it. The story was funny, touching and fascinating throughout.



Dead Space 2 

I like to pretend that the third game in the Dead Space series never happened, because it was such a tremendous letdown for me. However, the first and especially the second titles in the series delivered exactly what I was looking for in a science fiction/horror blend. I have always had a soft spot for horror, but many of the best games in the genre stand out because they create such interesting, memorable settings. Haunted houses, graveyards and more contemporary settings abound, but Dead Space 2 allowed me to stare into the depths of space while truly scaring me at times as well.



The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Skyrim is probably the most re-released video game ever, but it is something of a testament to the game’s staying power when it has been released on so many different platforms over such a long stretch of time. Whether it was the first time I played the game on my PC or the last time I played it, which was on PSVR, Skyrim managed to capture my imagination. I am a huge fan of swords and sorcery fantasy, and exploring the various lands never got old for me, and the sight of a dragon overhead was always one that got my heart racing a little in anticipation of what was to come next.



Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII

This may seem like an odd inclusion, but I was a tremendous fan of Romance of the Three Kingdoms (as well as Nobunaga’s Ambition) back on the NES and SNES. I can’t even begin to guess how many hundreds of hours I logged into these strategy titles, so when part XIII came out on PlayStation 4, in English, after a long hiatus where the series wasn't being localised, I was over the moon with excitement. Admittedly, it took some getting used to on my part, as the series had grown considerably more granular since the days I last played it. In particular the semi-real-time battles versus the turn-based tactical ones gave me pause right at first, but once I got used to the changes, I found it enthralling to revisit these characters I had grown so familiar with from other games and from the book these games are based on.



Mario Kart 8

Mario Kart 8 carries so much weight with me simply because of the amount of time it has brought my family together. Sure, now that my kids are all adults or close to, that time spent together has a bit more trash talking than it might have when they were younger. Similar to Monopoly, Mario Kart is just one of those titles that brings out the best and worst in friends and family when they play it together, but it has served as a gateway to a lot of memories along the way.



Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV was divisive for a lot of people, and it’s not my favourite Final Fantasy game ever. It might not even be top five, but this is a list from the last decade, and this particular entry to the series stuck with me for multiple reasons. The gameplay was good enough while most of the characters were at least interesting if not the most memorable ever – and yet they are better on the whole than they are individually. The relationships and adventures these characters shared with one another, right down to end credits rolling to Florence + The Machine’s rendition of Stand By Me, punctuated by Noctis simply stating, “You guys are the best” really drove that camaraderie home. Fantastic visuals, a soundtrack that ranks among my favourites ever (Apocalypsis Aquarius is epic) and that I played it through to a Platinum Trophy, and I can safely say that I really enjoyed my time with this game.



Fire Emblem: Awakening 

I have been a tremendous fan of the RPG / Strategy hybrid genre since the Sega Genesis, yet by and large it had remained a somewhat niche type of gaming for many years. Then something clicked with the release of Fire Emblem: Awakening. Maybe it was that Nintendo promoted it more and made it more accessible to a wider audience through less punishing gameplay. Whatever the reason, the Fire Emblem series in particular and the SRPG genre in general has seen much greater fanfare in recent years, and Awakening had a lot to do with that.



Dark Souls

What Dark Souls accomplished since its release in 2011 is impossible to ignore. When Demon’s Souls first released on PS3, it was well-received (certain aspects of it still make it arguably my favourite in the series), but it was really Dark Souls with its cross-platform release that popularised the series. In an age where gaming has most certainly become ‘easier’ over the last couple of decades, the Souls games bask in their difficulty. Sure, the graphics and sound are better, but at its heart (if it had one) is teach players persistence. You learn the game’s rules, you memorise patterns and you learn how to counter them. It is old school gaming dressed up in a modern presentation. Beyond that though, the games are all hauntingly beautiful in their own way. As atmospherically creepy as any horror game, this series kept me on my toes and taught me many (many, many) hard lessons on my way to a eventual, and very satisfying victories.



- Nick H. 
US Editor



Our Games of the Decade - Nick H.
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