Posted January 19, 2020 by Andrew Cathie in Feature
 
 

Rocket Chainsaw’s Top 11 Games of the Decade


It’s incredible to think that we’ve come to the end of another decade of video games. While the 2000s saw the death of SEGA’s console division and the birth of the Xbox, this decade has been a little quieter. We’ve seen the rise and fall and rise of Nintendo, as they came off the monumental success of the Wii, had their biggest home console failure in history with the WiiU, and then bounced back again with the release of the Switch. We saw Microsoft’s biggest success to date with the Xbox 360, only for some mishaps in messaging and design decisions cause the Xbox One to plummet in comparison. PlayStation put the pains of PlayStation 3 behind them, smashing through the 100 million consoles sold barrier for the third time in three attempts with the PlayStation 4, while the PlayStation Vita was a poorly supported platform that failed in the West, signalling PlayStation once again withdrawing from the handheld market.

From a games front, we saw the death of numerous long standing and beloved development studios. Creators of the Wipeout franchise Studio Liverpool were shuttered by Sony, Microsoft killed off Lionhead Studios, publisher THQ went bankrupt spectacularly, and we watched on as the Australian games space shrunk again and again as publishers such as 2K Games pulled their money from the our shores and larger indie developers like Defiant Development closed down. On the other hand, we’ve seen a boom in the Indie space unlike any before it, especially within Australia. Games like Hollow Knight, Untitled Goose Game, Assault Android Cactus, Golf Story and more have taken the world by storm and put a new generation of Australian developers on the map. Our hope is that we continue to see these studios and more flourish in the years to come.

From a pure video game front, we saw the release of some utterly amazing experiences that captured our minds and swayed our hearts. It feels like the medium is beginning to truly reach a crescendo – even though we’re starting to see increasing homogony within the AAA space – and that was typified through the sheerly immense range of stories that were told, voices that were heard and worlds that were birthed. Looking back on our favourite games of 2010-2019 wasn’t an easy task, and there are so many more amazing video games that didn’t make it onto this list, but without further ado, here are Rocket Chainsaw’s Top 11 Games of the Decade:

 

8 (tied). Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood


While the Assassin’s Creed franchise was just beginning, Assassin’s Creed II and it’s protagonist Ezio brought the franchise into the public’s view in a way the original game hadn’t quite managed. So much so, in fact, that Ubisoft did something that hasn’t happened for another character in the franchise and gave Ezio a direct sequel in 2010’s Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Accompanying the game’s fantastic Roman setting was another first for the series, the addition of a multiplayer mode that would become a series staple, as well as a system that saw players slowly take over Rome from the dastardly Borgias and recruit a new Brotherhood of assassins.

 

8 (tied). The Last of Us


By the time The Last of Us released in 2013, Naughty Dog had already made a name for itself through the Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter and Uncharted franchises, but none of those games prepared us for this. Gone were the colourful worlds of Crash Bandicoot and the Indiana Jones-esque swashbuckling of Uncharted, replaced with a depressing and confronting tale of the vicious and desperate realities of trying to simply live in the post-apocalypse. The Last of Us isn’t a fun game – it isn’t meant to be – but neither is it meant to be fun. It’s a harrowing tale that leaves you emotionally exhausted by game’s end, but with a sense of appreciation for the narrative that was told.

 

8 (tied). Red Dead Redemption


Red Dead Redemption came at a time where other publishers were well and truly moving into the open world space that Rockstar had pioneered across the previous generation. With Saint’s Row 2 recently released and Mafia II coming up, Rockstar released what was both completely familiar and utterly alien at the same time, Red Dead Redemption. The tale of John Marston, a retired outlaw looking to lead a peaceful life and forced to hunt down his former companions, was slower and more considered than past Rockstar games, but it was more emotional and memorable than anything they’d released before, resulting in a game that has stood the test of time since its 2010 release.

 

8 (tied). Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag


Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag marked the beginning of a new generation for Assassin’s Creed, expanding the scope of the series in a way that is still seen today. This was the biggest and most open the series had ever been, moving away from landlocked areas and into the maelstrom of pirate life in the open seas. There was nothing else quite like sailing your ship through the ocean and listening to your crew sing the shanties that you’d collected while onshore. The story spanned years, as pirate Edward Kenway stumbled across the secrets of the Assassins, taking on their mantle while struggling against the changing world around him. In a way, Black Flag is similar to Red Dead Redemption in its focus on characters facing the end of their ways of life, resulting in a story that is both memorable and emotional.

 

7. Undertale


It’s not often that a game comes along which completely turns the world on its head, but that’s exactly what Undertale did when it released in 2015. Solidified into popular culture five years later, Undertale birthed an incredible devoted fanbase, and with good reason. It’s focus on peaceful options to end combat was innovative and completely contrary to the tropes of turn based RPGs before it. The retro-inspired soundtrack is one of the best and most memorable in games to date, while the characters are quirky and interesting in a way unlike anything else. The narrative, and its meta-references both to itself and its subversion of existing tropes, elevate the game to a level that few could have expected before release.

 

6. God of War (2018)


Do you remember the crass, violent God of War of yesteryear? Well, this certainly isn’t that. Gone is the barely controlled monster that Kratos was, replaced with an older and wiser man who is trying to reform and be a better person. When life gets in the way of that, thrusting him into conflict after conflict, while also trying to raise his son, God of War becomes a surprisingly touching and engrossing narrative experience. God of War (2018) did something we didn’t know was possible and made us care about Kratos as a person and not just the death machine he once was. Throw in a new, Dark Souls-lite style built around more methodical combat and some beautiful scenery, and baby, you’ve got a stew going.

5. Portal 2


 

Games are often focused on serious narratives for serious people that want to have serious fun. Those are great and all, but sometimes, you just want to have some fun and laugh at some great jokes. Comedy is hard to do in a medium that is all about precise timing and interactivity, but that didn’t stop Valve from creating what is easily the best comedic experience we’ve seen in a game. The delivery from Stephen Merchant, J.K. Simmons and Ellen McLain are without fault, as is the writing of Erik Walpow, Jay Pinkerton and Chet Faliszek. Combine these with some incredibly intuitive, yet mind-bendingly difficult puzzles and it’s easy to see why Portal 2 is on this list.

 

4. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild


The Legend of Zelda has long, long been filled with the same gameplay and design decisions. For decades, we’ve been delving into dungeons in a linear path, hitting the specific check points the game tells us to, and progressing the story of Link. Breath of the Wild does away with literally all of that, paring back the story and linearity synonymous with the series and creating an emergent narrative and sandbox experience unlike anything before them. You’re given the basic tools to survival upfront, and then turned loose on a world that’s gone to hell, with the freedom to explore and progress at your own pace and in your own style. The story is kept to smaller asides and cutscenes, meant to give you some context to the past that has led you to this point, but also avoiding pushing you in any particular direction. The general gameplay of the series was completely changed as well, moving to a physics-based system that can lead to some truly inspired moments once you’ve mastered it. Breath of the Wild changed The Legend of Zelda as we knew it, and we have welcomed our new Hylian overlords with open arms.

 

3. Grand Theft Auto V


By this point, I guarantee that you’ve heard of Grand Theft Auto V. Hell, you might have even bought one of the 115 million copies of the game that have been sold to date. Grand Theft Auto V changed a lot of things for the series, but much of its success comes from being the culmination and perfection of what the series had always been. The city of Los Santos and its surround environment are incredibly detailed and a joy to explore as you speed down the highway at 100 miles an hour or soar through the skies in a stolen jet. The same manic, frenetic gameplay and experience are there if you want them, but the move to three protagonists – each with a different outlook on the narrative and life in general – creates an interesting and intertwining story unlike anything in the series before it. Couple that with the introduction of Grand Theft Auto Online, a massive online version of Los Santos where you can hop online with some friends and strangers to complete missions and cause havoc, and you’ve got a game that is quite unlike anything before it in scope and execution.

 

2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt


There was no doubt that something special was brewing at CD Projekt Red after the releases of The Witcher and The Witcher 2, but could anybody have predicted just how far they would come with the final game of Geralt’s trilogy? In a world where choice in stories is often ignored or poorly implemented, The Witcher 3’s impactful branches in narrative based on choice were incredibly refreshing. This was aided by some utterly amazing writing and narrative design that is unmatched by anything else released in the same decade. This combined with a world that was gorgeous to the eye and hid secrets and darkness throughout it, created an experience that was utterly engrossing and refused to let you pull away. Couple this with some of the best, if not the best, DLC ever created, and CD Projekt Red created an open-world RPG that wasn’t topped by anything else in its genre.

 

1. Mass Effect 2


To those that haven’t played Mass Effect 2, and even some that have played it, you might question how this game could be our favourite game of the decade. It’s an understandable question, but we cannot think of a game that was more memorable or has stuck with us as much as Mass Effect 2. With the most memorable opening and final mission in a game to date, Mass Effect 2 has stayed fresh in our minds in a way that other games haven’t. Having spent multiple playthroughs of Mass Effect building up my Captain Sheppard before importing him into the sequel, the opening moments were shocking and impactful in a way they wouldn’t have otherwise been. Spending the entire game getting to know my crew members through their incredibly well written and presented companion missions made the final mission, and every death that came with them, all the more harrowing and heartbreaking. Mass Effect 2 was the peak of the Mass Effect franchise and our favourite game of the last decade.


Andrew Cathie

 
Rocket Chainsaw's premier Fantasy-loving Editor. I basically play anything and everything that looks like it could be fun or interesting.