2013-2020 was a strange time for me in terms of my gaming habits. My most dedicated peak as a gamer was between 2010 (when I purchased my Xbox 360) and the spring of 2014 when I became fully enraptured by my freshman year of college.
Following this period, I developed a very mercenary attitude towards video games. I only bought major platform releases that I already anticipated. Ironically, I ended up buying all three of the major consoles this generation but I never indulged in some of their largest games.
I bought a Nintendo Switch for Metroid Prime 4 (yet to be released 3.5 years after its announcement) but never bothered to play other major exclusives like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon, Fire Emblem or Animal Crossings: New Leaf. I also never touched some of the major new console exclusives like God of War, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Bloodeborne, Spiderman, Uncharted 4, Last of Us Part II, Half Life Alyx, Halo Wars 2 or Gears 5.
Some of the major multi-platform releases also escaped my scrutiny. I never played Shadow of Mordor, Alien Isolation, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, Destiny 2, Monster Hunter World, , Resident Evil 2, Persona 5, Observer, Fortnight, Nier Automata, Rainbow Six Siege, Metro Exodus, Kingdom Hearts III, Undertale, Witcher III, Star Wars: Squadrons, Ori I and II or Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
In a lot of ways, I feel like I missed out on the last half decade of gaming. I honestly can’t believe that an entire generation has blown by in just the time since I started college. I remember buying Dead Space 3, Bioshock Infinite, Batman: Arkham Origins and Titanfall for the Xbox 360 just before my life got too busy to accommodate gaming. Things just became a blur after that.
Even when I went out of my way to nab rare titles of interest like Destiny, Halo 5 Guardians, Star Wars: Battlefront and Fallout 4, the buzz of a new video game burned out relatively quickly. Most of the games I highly anticipated were relative bombs upon release. For good measure, I had other things to attend to once I got done blasted through these games. I always had a hard-out and couldn’t dedicate weeks at a time to these games.
I remember taking a day or two off work when recent titles like Borderlands 3 came out just because I’d waited so long for that game. Then I beat the main quest and I haven’t touched it since.
I’m coming at this list as a highly subjective set of games that meant something specifically to me during the time in my life when becoming an adult and focusing on adult things has really changed my priorities.
Take this list for what it is, a personal ranking the games that most affected me over this past decade. These are the eight games that most managed to draw me in and engage me at a time when my interest in the medium has never been more tenuous!
Notable Mentions/Misfires I Enjoyed:
Wolfenstein The New Order, Battlefield One, Outer Worlds, Borderlands 3, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, Halo: Master Chief Collection, Super Mario Odyssey, Fallout 4, DragonBall Xenoverse 2
8. Metroid: Samus Returns
After an egregious decade long disappearance from mainstream games (discounting Other M and that weird multiplayer Prime game for the 3DS), Metroid returned with a vengeance for the first time since Metroid Prime 3 on the Nintendo Wii. In essence, the 3DS return of Samus Aran was a fairly safe bet.
Considering there had never been an OFFICIAL remake of Metroid 2: Return of Samus from the Gameboy, this wasn’t a bad place to start. The game’s radical departure from the exploration focus of Super Metroid to a combat-centric focus bothered some fans but it made it an excellent jumping on point to the series for me! Since then I’ve indulged in Zero Mission and Super Metroid and fallen head over heals!
Now I’m just waiting on the long rumored Metroid Prime Trilogy box set for the Nintendo Switch…
7. Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order
EA’s record with the Star Wars license has been egregious. The two rebooted games in the Battlefront series were artistic abortions that savaged the reputation of the beloved FPS series from the early 2000s. Much to my surprise, they’ve actually managed to turn that reputation around with two successful Star Wars games with widespread fan approval! Somehow the company learned what it needed to do in the past year!
Confirming my long held theory that Respawn Games might actually be the best video game developer in the industry today, the company that once created Modern Warfare 2, Titanfall and Apex Legends turned around and made one of the best combat focused Star Wars games since The Force Unleashed and the Jedi Knight series.
While Cal Kestis isnt the most original Jedi character we’ve met, he’s proved to be one of the most interesting protagonists to come out of Disney’s regime with the franchise! His story about overcoming the guilt of his master’s death and putting the past behind him is a genuine pleasure that finds a sweet spot the marries the lore of the original and prequel trilogies in creative ways!
I’m very much looking forward to following his story in future games!
To be perfectly forthcoming, I still haven’t finished Cuphead since I bought it on the Switch last year. It’s an insanely hard game. That said, I respect the heck out of this game! Games like Cuphead arent for everyone but few games have such intense love and craft poured into their premises and artstyles.
As an homage both to the Max Flescher era of classic animation and the bone shattering difficulty of classic retro games like Mega Man, it’s perfect! I have nothing bad to say about it beyond the fact that I don’t always find difficulty of this intensity fun. I also would’ve liked more variety and platforming between the boss fights but far be it from me to criticize a game with this much effort and love poured into it!
ID Software’s return to gaming should’ve been a disaster. Their previous two games Doom 3 and Rage were critical disasters that tried to chase trends and tell serious stories. Coming from the studio that made Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM, such ideas were unbecoming of that legacy and didn’t play to their strengths.
With their revival and a new creative team leading the pack, the DOOM revival became the most unexpected and wonderful surprises of the generation! The game and it’s excellent sequel DOOM Eternal resurrected the blood curdling satanic horror, heavy metal influence and heart pounding action of the old games! They’re fun, tense and silly all at once!
Above all, they managed to find a way to bring that classic style of gaming to a modern audience without losing the sensibility and strengths of those games. Adaptation is always hard but this, alongside the Tomb Raider reboot, was one of the few franchises that took it’s core premise and ran with it!
DOOM and it’s sequel are easily among the greatest shooter games of all time!
4. Dragon Ball FighterZ
I’m not the biggest fighting games GUY out there. Fighting games are a tightly choreographed dance of timing, rhythm and memorization and if your only a casual player, like me, the games can come off a bit intimidating. That said, a game like FightersZ is worth giving the time. The developers of the prolific Guilty Gear series turned their attention to the beloved Dragon Ball Z franchise and delivered a beautiful, tightly controlled and loving homage to the world’s most popular anime series!
Whether it’s the amazing finishing moves that borrow from great moments in the show or the way button combos add up to flow into one another like a cathartic dance, FightersZ looks and feels better than almost any game in the fighting genre I’ve ever played.
It certainly helps that I’m a fan of Dragon Ball of course. The game’s story convolutes a scenerio that drudges up all the most popular canon and non-canon characters together into one place but the end result is hard to argue against!
Nothing is funnier than watching Yamcha and Krillin beat up on Super SAIYAN Goku!
3. Super Smash Brothers Ultimate
Again I’m not a fighting games person but Smash Brothers is a phenomena much larger than its genre! It’s usually a safe bet that the Smash Brothers games will end up being among the most believe games of each console generation. That definitely remained the case with the Nintendo Switch!
I can’t remember few gaming launches more hotly anticipated than the fifth Smash Brothers game! It was so fun meeting casual fans and gamers in public who went out of their way to host huge meetups to play the game together! Rarely has social gaming been as fun as it was with Smash 5!
It helped too that’s Ultimate was easily the largest game in the series to date! The game managed to fit EVERY character on the series roster into one game and launched with more content than I’ve ever seen in a fighting game! It was everything it needed to be as a fighting game and more!
2. Titanfall 2
No game this generation deserved more and earned less. Titanfall 2 is a masterpiece of interactive storytelling and multiplayer action! The game sadly got sandwiched in between Call of Duty and Battlefield One by EA’s release schedule in 2016. Sadly, this doomed the game to obscurity. Great reviews and good word of mouth wasn’t enough to save it.
It’s truly a shame because Titanfall 2 is the whole package! The game’s standalone story managed to take its overwrought science fiction premise and converted it into an epic boy-and-his-dog story about a random space insurrectionist who falls in love with a sentient combat mech.
Nothing about the scenario is super original. You’re a rebel fighting alongside an outnumbered rebel group against an interstellar corporation who wants to conquer innocent frontier worlds. Even when the game feels derivative, Titanfall 2 feels fresh by focusing on its unique central story dynamic.
Outside of the story, the gameplay is spectacular. The mech/infantry combat is seedless and transitions beautifully from one to the other without feeling clunky. The guns and mobility all feel great and the ability to jump in a mech every game adds variety and tension to the multiplayer matches.
Titanfall 2 is the complete package and still well worth grabbing a copy after four years.
1. Red Dead Redemption 2
Of course, only one game can be the best and I can’t think of a better game this generation than Rockstar’s epic return to the western genre. The company that built its reputation on Grand Theft Auto took a risk on its 2010 sequel to Red Dead Revolver and accidentally created one of the great games of the 7th generation.
Eight years later, the company gifted the world its largest game ever! The epic fifty hour prequel to the original game ends where the previous game begins: the Dutch gang falls apart and its survivor John Marsden is blackmailed into hunting the remaining members down. The journey of the prequel is just dedicated to watching that slow decline.
Dutch’s gang goes on an epic quest of revelation and destruction our our antihero Arthur Morgan watches the communitarian utopia of his leader burn down around him. Our group’s decline into sociopathy and betrayal takes them a long time across multiple countries and regions modeled after the Rocky Mountains, New Orleans, the Deep South, the Caribbean and Indian Territories and watches these hopeless gunslingers slowly come to terms with their doom.
The game is a long march to oblivion with long digressions, interludes, tangents and character arcs. At times, the length of the experience feels tedious. Our heroes get into so many shootouts with high body counts that it’s a miracle they’re allowed to walk in ANY cities by he end of the game.
That’s part of the point though. We need to feel the world closing in around them until the inevitable bitter end. We know how this story ends. We simply need to live every moment of sin and destruction until the scathing force of “justice” brings our story to an end.
Whatever else that can be said about it, Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the most ambitious and excellent stories to come out of the gaming medium in a long time!