Games of the Decade, 2007-2017: The Complete List

happy_birthday_portal

Alright, here they are. These are my fifty most highly-recommended games of the decade. It is, admittedly, an unusually demarcated decade, stretching from October 10, 2007 to October 10, 2017, as a way of celebrating the 10th anniversary of the release of Portal.

Happy birthday, Portal. Enjoy the cake.

Again, I make no claims that these fifty games are the “best” games of the past decade. They are not even necessarily my personal favorites. They are, instead, the games I recommend the most highly. They are the games I feel are the most representative of the new horizons artists working in the medium have pursued over the past decade. I would recommend them to anyone interested in the outer edges of what the medium can do: students, teachers, family, friends. I am recommending them to you, right now.

I have disentangled the games from the categories I announced them in, arranged them in order of release. Ranking these comparatively would be an impossible task. (Commercial releases supersede releases of free prototypes. Games released episodically have been dated by the release of their last episode, rather than their first.)

  1. Portal (Valve, 2007)
  2. Gravitation (Jason Rohrer, 2008)
  3. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (Atlus, 2008)
  4. Flower (thatgamecompany, 2009)
  5. 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (Chunsoft, 2009)
  6. Deadly Premonition (Access Games, 2010)
  7. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (Capcom, 2010)
  8. LIMBO (Playdead, 2010)
  9. Child of Eden (Q Entertainment, 2011)
  10. Dark Souls (From Software, 2011)
  11. To the Moon (Freebird Games, 2011)
  12. Minecraft (Mojang Specifications, 2011)
  13. Unmanned (Molleindustria, 2012)
  14. Dys4ia (Anna Anthropy, 2012)
  15. Journey (thatgamecompany, 2012)
  16. Botanicula (Amanita Design, 2012)
  17. The Sea Will Claim Everything (Jonas and Vera Kyratzes, 2012)
  18. Thirty Flights of Loving (Blendo Games, 2012)
  19. LIM (merritt kopas, 2012)
  20. Mark of the Ninja (Klei Entertainment, 2012)
  21. Hotline Miami (Dennaton Games, 2012)
  22. Proteus (Ed Key and David Kanaga, 2013)
  23. The Last of Us (Naughty Dog, 2013)
  24. Ultra Business Tycoon III (Porpentine, 2013)
  25. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (Starbreeze Studios, 2013)
  26. Papers, Please (3909, 2013)
  27. Gone Home (The Fullbright Company, 2013)
  28. Hate Plus (Love Conquers All Games, 2013)
  29. The Stanley Parable (Galactic Café, 2013)
  30. Consortium (Interdimensional Games, 2014)
  31. Johann Sebastian Joust (Douglas Wilson, 2014)
  32. The Sailor’s Dream (Simogo, 2014)
  33. The Talos Principle (Croteam, 2014)
  34. Sunset (Tales of Tales, 2015)
  35. HER STORY (Sam Barlow, 2015)
  36. Super Mario Maker (Nintendo EAD Group No. 4, 2015)
  37. Undertale (Toby Fox, 2015)
  38. Cibele (Star Maid Games, 2015)
  39. That Dragon, Cancer (Numinous Games, 2016)
  40. Oxenfree (Night School Studio, 2016)
  41. The Witness (Thekla, Inc., 2016)
  42. Firewatch (Campo Santo, 2016)
  43. The Last Guardian (Team ICO / genDESIGN, 2016)
  44. OneShot (Team OneShot, 2016)
  45. Night in the Woods (Infinite Fall, 2017)
  46. Everything (David OReilly, 2017)
  47. What Remains of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow, 2017)
  48. Rakuen (Laura Shigihara, 2017)
  49. Walden, a game (Tracy Fullerton & USC Game Innovation Lab Walden Team, 2017)
  50. Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer, 2013–)

And, for added convenience, here are the categories again:

Some stray observations on trends, as I wrap up this endeavor:

  • Apparently, according to my tastes, the decade peaked near the middle. My favorite year was 2012, with nine releases. Second place goes to 2013, with eight (actually, nine again, if we count the debut of the ongoing episodic game Kentucky Route Zero). 2014, though, was an unusually lean year, breaking this trend.
  • Of course, in my mind, 2014 is stained with the association of Gamergate, the alt-right’s backlash against women, queer people, and interesting artists in general dipping their toes into the medium. I am happy to report that, despite their best efforts, interesting games have continued to come out. But I also must admit, with everything going on in the world today, I can no longer marshal the exact same enthusiasm towards innovative gaming that I had in the more naïvely optimistic era of 2012–2013.
  • Japanese games have a strong showing between 2008–2011, but then drop off precipitously, as the list skews strongly towards North American and European-developed games. This isn’t representative of a huge drop in quality in Japanese games. On the contrary, many Japanese developers have been doing outstanding work. PlatinumGames has pretty much perfected the action game in the past decade. Atlus’s quality remains consistent across their numerous handheld and home console titles. And although the Wii U proved to be an unloved piece of hardware, I personally think that Nintendo hit new creative heights with Super Mario 3D World (2013), Splatoon (2015), and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017). Despite these fantastic AAA games, though, the Japanese industry lacks a robust indie scene that is experimenting boldly with the medium—or, at least, an indie scene that is visible to those outside of its national boundaries. I would love to think that there are many small developers making things as weird and beguiling as Hatoful Boyfriend (PidgeoNation, Inc., 2011) in Japan right now as we speak. But until North America gets some localizations of that indie scene—as opposed to yet another port of Cave Story (Pixel, 2004) for yet another Nintendo platform—my bias toward pushing the boundaries of the medium leads me in a Western direction.
  • Unsurprisingly, a beefy Windows computer remains king among gaming platforms, with a library that includes 40 out of the 50 games on this list. A decent Mac will get you pretty far, as well: 33 games out of 50 ain’t bad. Meanwhile, the viability of Linux as a gaming platform has exploded in the past decade, thanks to the combined efforts of the Humble Bundle and Valve. A decade ago, I don’t think anyone would have believed you if you said that there were 26 games available on Linux in total, let alone 26 of the most interesting games of the past decade.
  • If you must choose one console on which to play this decade’s worth of games, the PlayStation 4 looks like your best bet, with 20 titles from this list. Sony’s strong effort to port some of the most interesting PS3 exclusives (Flower, Journey, The Last of Us) to their latest platform helps here, as does their generous promotion of indie developers.

Finally, for the sake of completeness, here is an additional round-up of all of the games I included as “honorable mentions” in the various categories. There ended up being 19 of them, which is a fairly arbitrary number. Then again, I didn’t set out ahead of time to choose a specific number of honorable mentions. They just came to me as I went. As above, these are listed in order of release.

  1. The Path (Tale of Tales, 2009)
  2. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Naughty Dog, 2009)
  3. Heavy Rain (Quantic Dream, 2010)
  4. Red Dead Redemption (Rockstar Games, 2010)
  5. The Last Story (Mistwalker / AQ Interactive, 2011)
  6. Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier, 2011)
  7. Rhythm Heaven Fever (Nintendo SPD Group No. 1 / TNX, 2011)
  8. Asphyx (Droqen, circa 2012)
  9. Lone Survivor (Jasper Byrne, 2012)
  10. Fire Emblem: Awakening (Intelligent Systems, 2012)
  11. Spec Ops: The Line (Yager Development, 2012)
  12. The Walking Dead (Telltale Games, 2012)
  13. Antichamber (Alexander Bruce, 2013)
  14. Rooftop Cop (S. L. Clark, 2014)
  15. Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) (Upper One Games / E-Line Media, 2014)
  16. Fran Bow (Killmonday Games, 2015)
  17. Life Is Strange (DONTNOD Entertainment, 2015)
  18. Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE (Atlus, 2015)
  19. Orwell (Osmotic Studios, 2016)

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