In a few months, the decade will be officially over … which is kind of insane when you think about how far forward games have come over that time.
We’ve been through two console generations this decade, ushering out the end of the Xbox 360, PS3 and the Wii U for the PS4, Xbox One and, eventually, the triumphant Switch. PCs have seen a massive resurgence in the last couple of years, and lately they’ve helped to usher in a new world of ray-traced graphics (which will properly enter the domain of consoles with the next PlayStation and Xbox in 2020).
Always-online games are now definitely a thing. The variety and availability of indies has absolutely exploded from where we were in 2010. Games like LIMBO, Super Meat Boy, Joe Danger, Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Octodad still captured the imagination, but every year brought indies that just got bigger and bigger: Frozen Synapse, Binding of Isaac, Terraria, Hotline Miami, Fez, Mark of the Ninja, FTL, Journey, Legend of Grimrock, Antichamber, Towerfall, Gone Home, Papers Please, Surgeon Simulator, Kentucky Route Zero, Gunpoint, Don’t Starve, Risk of Rain … and that’s just the first three years the decade.
Consider the last few years have been like: Stardew Valley, Dead Cells, Untitled Goose Game recently, Crypt of the Necrodancer, Superhot, Firewatch, Undertale, The Witness, Rocket League, Beat Sabre, Nuclear Throne, Gorogoa, The Outer Wilds, Into the Breach, and so on. The funding and appetite for indies has changed remarkably as well, particularly as larger AAA blockbusters fatigue players with service-based models, and the Switch has been especially good for indies.
In a presentation at the White Nights conference last week, Valve business development head Jan-Peter Ewert put some figures on the disturbing reality for indie developers: the market is still very, very crowded. With the removal of Steam Greenlight and the straight-to-door Steam Direct approach, around 180 games get released every single week. Even if most games find no audience at all, the increased noise makes it infinitely harder for good games to stand out. Fortunately, there's one platform where indies are continuing to find a second lease of life, or a successful first one.Read more
But that’s not to say the last 10 years hasn’t been full of memorable, imaginative blockbusters either. Horizon: Zero Dawn was as good as anything this generation or the one before by some considerable stretch. More stories have been published on Kotaku about the The Witcher 3 alone than some writers will publish in a year or two. Assassin’s Creed collapsed spectacularly with Unity and, after a decent turn in Syndicate, made a superb recovery with Origins and Odyssey. Breath of the Wild is probably the best Zelda game and one of the best things to ever carry the Nintendo name.
Path of Exile continues to break ground and set the bar in its genre; Warframe has changed expectations for how a game can evolve over time. Hollow Knight has become a shining example of what Australian developers are capable of, and even though it’s going back a bit, there’ll always be a place in my heart for Mass Effect 2.
So you have from 2010 to 2019. A whole decade of video games — what’s your top 10 from the decade?