While West, Moose, and Luca argue about the best games of the decade, I thought someone should stop talking and finally put their foot down. Now, while the podcast boys discuss silly things such as ‘gameplay,’ ‘cultural impact,’ and ‘art design,’ I decided to take a look at something a little more definitive: fun. In this list, I am going to list off the ten games I had the most fun playing this past decade. So let’s put on our rose-colored glasses and think back to the gems of these last ten years.
10. Happy Wheels – Fancy Force
This browser game just barely scraped its way into the bottom of my list. The love child of developer Jim Bonacci, this gem of the flash game era was officially published to Bonacci’s website on June 4th, 2010 and was a major part of gaming culture for years to follow. Anyone watching YouTube let’s plays during the first few years of the decade will have memories of their favorite creators laughing and screaming at the bloody spectacle that is Happy Wheels.
With a friendly and easy to use creation system, anyone can create and upload levels for anyone to play. This ragdoll physics-based biking game isn’t great because of its in-depth mechanics or its stylized cartoonish graphics, but because of the hilarity that ensues each time you play. This game isn’t amazing by any means, but boot up the game today, listen to that killer guitar riff, and let the nostalgia come pouring in.
9. Skyrim – Bethesda Game Studios
The game that was ported to everything. Bethesda’s fifth installment of the Elder Scrolls series redefined what an open-world RPG was supposed to be. In the land of the Nords, there is always something to do; a quest to embark on, a cave to explore, a Daedric god to enrage. Adventure is around every corner. I remember having my grandmother take me GameStop at the end of 2013 so I could spend most of my Christmas money buying it and all the DLC that came with it.
All of my friends played Skyrim and talked about it, but I was late to the party. Despite this, I loved this game. I spent hours diving deep into the lore of Tamriel, exploring the northern reaches of the empire. In this game I was a world-class assassin, head of the college of Winterhold, and most importantly: the Dovahkiin. In Skyrim, the possibilities are endless and there is always something to do.
8. Fortnite – Epic Games
Love it or hate it, Fortnite dominated the latter part of the decade. The epitome of the battle royal genre launched itself into the public eye after a lawsuit from PUBG developer Bluehole Studio. The buzz surrounding the lawsuit cause many players (myself included) to check out the future killer of PUBG; but Fortnite was more than just the Saturday morning cartoon version of Player Unknown’s Battleground. Much, much, more. Fortnite didn’t need to be gritty and realistic. It didn’t have to ride the coattails of the shooters that came before it. Fortnite forged a new path.
The game was completely free, constantly updated with new modes and weapons, and boasted huge in-game events that brought millions of players together all at once. Fortnite was fun for everyone, not just gamers. Fortnite was the first game to break into the mainstream. Really, Fortnite made it ‘cool’ to play video games. Ever since Ninja’s and Drake’s stream, the Fortnite buzz has been everywhere. I remember in school how even people who didn’t play video games were talking about their matches from the night before. The jocks were playing Fortnite, the nerds were playing Fortnite, the popular girls were playing Fortnite: everyone played Fortnite.
7. Sunset Overdrive – Insomniac Games
This is one of the best games of the decade, it was just unfortunately released exclusively on the Xbox One within its first year. Sunset Overdrive had amazing art direction, a fantastic story, and most of all amazing gameplay. This game is Gears of War meets Infamous with the style of Splatoon. For me, this was the killer app for the Xbox One.
It had personality — it broke away from the previous generation defined by grays and browns. When I first saw this game at E3 2013 I was hooked. There wasn’t even any gameplay yet, but I was hooked. This 3rd person, open-world, parkour-based shooter was everything I could have hoped for (and more). The story was incredible, the characters were funny and memorable, and it was the first open-world that was fun to travel in: I never used fast travel once. If you have never played this game before, I cannot recommend it enough. As of writing this, you can get Sunset Overdrive for only $10.00 or through Xbox Game Pass.
6. Super Smash Bros Ultimate – Bandai Namco & Sora
Everyone is here. SSBU is an homage to the Smash Bros series and video games as a whole. You know what Smash Bros is. The best of Nintendo’s franchises duking it out in a winner-takes-all fighting game. While a late release in the decade, I had a lot of fun with it. During my freshman year of college, my friends and I would play this for hours on end. Every night, anywhere between 3 and 10 of us would pile into a dorm room and play Smash Bros up to the early hours of the next morning .
As a long time fan of the series, I think this iteration finally dethrones Melee for the best in the franchise. The graphics are the best to date and the fighting mechanics feel tight and refined. Smash Bros is always fun, but being crammed into a tiny dorm room with your friends makes it even more fun.
5. Rocket League – Psyonix
It’s soccer with rocket cars. I feel like there doesn’t need to be any more explanation about why this game is so rad. The high octane sports game was released in the summer of 2015 and was a smash hit from launch. It’s just a fun game. The soundtrack is great, the controls feel tight, and I could watch aerial goal montages until my eyes fall out.
Once again, what made this game so much fun for me is getting to play with others. Me and my friends started our “competitive team,” the Shanghai Trash Pandas, in high school and we still try and climb the ladder every summer together when we have time off of work. With constant updates and solid gameplay, Rocket League is always fun to come back to with friends.
4. Grand Theft Auto V – Rockstar Games
It was really hard to not put GTA in the top three. I loved this game so much. It is the most impressive video game to date (in my infallible opinion). Our latest venture into the world of GTA takes us to Los Santos, a city of drugs, sex, and lots of guns. We were treated not only to one protagonist, but three separate protagonists to explore the Los Angeles themed playground. The core game was solid through and through. I had so much fun with GTA V the first time on its initial release on the Xbox 360 that when I picked up the Xbox One version I played through the entire campaign again (something I never do), but this time in first person.
While the game did get delayed for about half a year past the intended release date, the wait was well worth it. Rockstar could have given us GTA V as it was at launch and stepped away from the project. If they did that, I am sure people’s opinions of the game would be unchanged. Despite this, Rockstar gave us much, much more. Less than a month after the release of the game, Rockstar launched GTA Online, essentially the same open-world crime simulator experience but with friends. Rockstar has stayed committed to the online mode, constantly updating the game and adding in more content to this very day.
I had the most fun with GTA Online. In high school, my friends and I would spend hours late into the night playing the newest game mode put out by Rockstar, completing playlist of user-generated races, or just goofing around in the free roam. From playing Running Back III, to raging at Stairway to Heaven, to having an impromptu deathmatch in the middle of downtown; lots of laughs were shared playing Grand Theft Auto V, and for that, thank your Rockstar.
3. Halo Reach – Bungie
Many people regard Halo Reach to be the black sheep of the franchise. Some people really loved this game and some people really hated it. Whatever your sentiment was towards the game, it was the last Halo developed by Bungie and should be regarded as their swan song to the franchise. While I wasn’t much of a fan of the single-player campaign, the multiplayer is where I had the most fun. Halo Reach brought back the Forge mode from Halo 3 and gave it a complete overhaul. Where Forge in Halo 3 was a map editor, Forge in Halo Reach was a map creator. The community created thousands of maps and modes for me and my friends to enjoy (notice a pattern yet?).
I can remember my mom yelling at me to be quiet because I was laughing too loud from playing game modes like Nascar or Fat Kid. It felt like every night my friends had found a new game mode to try out. Not only did we play with each other, but also with complete strangers. We would play a few public matches then invite all of our recent players and have a full private lobby with some ridiculous game mode. Keep in mind that this was in the prime of Xbox Live, so everyone had a microphone and everyone was talking through in-game chat. It was these kinds of nights that would define what an online multiplayer experience should be like.
2. Minecraft – Mojang
Who cares what the podcast boys say, Minecraft 1.0 was released on November 18, 2011, and I didn’t get introduced to the game until the Xbox 360 port in the spring of 2012, so I’m counting it! You know what Minecraft is. Punch trees, get wood, survive the night, mine diamonds, defeat monsters, craft new items: rinse and repeat. There is a reason it is the BEST SELLING GAME OF ALL TIME. It’s fun and the opportunities are endless. The player’s imagination is the only limit to what they can do in Minecraft.
Minecraft wasn’t just a game: it was a community. It was an entire culture and it even had its own subcultures. You had the redstone community, the building community, the modding community, the adventure map community… you get the point that I’m making. If you had an interest in a specific facet of Minecraft, you could find a community for it. If the Minecraft player base was its own nation, it would be the 8th largest country in the whole world. In the first half of the decade it seemed like if you played video games, you played Minecraft. And, just like so many games on this list, it was the multiplayer experiences that made this game so much fun. Out of my friends, I was the first to get Minecraft on the Xbox 360. Since I was the first person to have the game, I had the first established world. I played for about a month in solitude before my friends joined in.
Soon after the Xbox release, it spread like wildfire. We were all playing Minecraft. We would mine for hours in my survival world. I’ll never forget the time my friend Jacob built a wall around his house made of flaming netherrack. He then proceeded to hit me causing all of my dogs to attack him. As my pack of fifteen dogs chased him through the fire, they killed him, but not without sacrificing themselves. I was laughing on the floor for a solid ten minutes. Or the time my friend Matthew and I spent two hours building a multi-layered spleef arena with secret tunnels and then proceeded to spend the next six hours playing on it. Or how I got my brother, who exclusively played Call of Duty and sports games, to try out Minecraft and then we proceeded to sink hundreds of hours playing together. With it’s recent resurgence in popularity, Minecraft shows how timeless a great game can be.
Before I reveal my favorite game of the decade, let’s do a lightning round, listing off some games from the decade that were great but didn’t quite make the cut.
Dishonored – Arkane Studios
An amazing stealth game that rewarded exploration and allowed for many ways to progress.
Uncharted 3 – Naughty Dog
From beginning to end it felt like I was playing a movie that deserves an Oscar.
Super Meat Boy – Team Meat
An insanely hard but extremely rewarding 2D platformer with tight control and a boy made of meat.
The Walking Dead Season 1 – Telltale Games
What it lacked in gameplay it made up for in its story. Rest in peace Lee. Thanks for making me cry.
Garry’s Mod – Facepunch Studios
I know it didn’t come out this decade but I just started playing in 2019 and I’m addicted to Trouble in Terrorist Town.
1. Call of Duty: Black Ops II – Treyarch
I love Call of Duty. I buy the new Call of Duty every year and I pour hours into each one, no matter if it’s considered good or bad. Every CoD has something that makes it fun and memorable (except for you, Ghosts). So when I tell you that Black Ops 2 is the best Call of Duty game out there, I feel like I have at least a little bit of authority to make that claim. It’s not just be the best CoD, but one of the best shooters — if not one of the best games — ever.
The campaign was fantastic. Raul Menendez is one of the most memorable antagonists that the series has seen to date and having a story with multiple endings depending on the actions and performance of the player was a great addition. But, let’s be honest, most people don’t play Call of Duty for the campaign; they play it for the multiplayer. There is a reason that Black Ops 2 is a strong contender for the best Call of Duty: it’s multiplayer is one of the best in franchise history. It’s just plain fun to play. The guns feel great, and the introduction of the Pick 10 system for class creation allows for greater customization. Not only that, but you will be hard-pressed to find a bad map. Along with great multiplayer, this was the first introduction to competitive play in a Call of Duty allowing for more options for the hardcore audience.
But besides all of these things comes possibly the greatest testament to Black Ops 2: the zombies mode. Many players agree that this was the best game for zombies. Every single map put out was fun and innovative. Treyarch boldly experimented with gameplay elements, such as buildable weapons and tools to traverse the map. Along with this, they gave you a zombie-slaying companion NPC and game modes that let you play PvP zombies, actually taking on the role of the undead horde. They even continued the zombies saga and turned up to eleven.
I could go on all day about how good it felt to play Black Ops 2. In so many ways the game was technically sound; but like so many games on this list, what really made this game fun was the good times shared with friends. Running full ground war teams, quick scoping battles in private matches, cops and robbers on Hijacked, getting into modded Prop Hunt lobbies, the rush of adrenaline playing ranked play: the memories are endless.
Even though we are in different places in our lives at this point, I talk to my friends that I played with every day. I remember fondly the late nights spent squashing kids in pubs and spending all day Saturday trying to break our record in zombies. Even though I made these memories online, they are some of my fondest. While I sit here writing this I’m getting a little teary-eyed, thinking about all the good times with my friends and thinking about how I’ll probably never get to experience this again with those people. Black Ops 2 brought a bunch of misfits together and gave us hours of time growing up with each other, and we didn’t even know it.
Well, there it is ladies and gentlemen: a completely objective, official top ten list of games of the decade, sponsored by Heavyshelf. In all seriousness, looking back at the decade, I had a lot of hard times in my life, but having video games and people to play them with really helped out a lot. If this manages to come across the desktop of someone that I would regularly play any of these games with or even any not mentioned on this list, thank you. Video games have this weird power to bring people together from all over the world, despite our differences. I am glad that I have the privilege to enjoy this medium and be able to discuss it with others. Here’s to the past decade of great games, great friends, and great memories, and here’s to the next ten years to come!
For the OFFICIAL Heavyshelf list click here “Top 25 Games of the Decade“