Atamine634: An emotionally intelligent coming-of-age story about existing in a hostile world, my favorite Zelda-like found a unique identify for itself while succeeding the games it takes inspiration from. Anodyne 2 is an existential road trip made up of emotionally raw vignettes with a density of narrative themes ranging from personal to societal with a boldness of subject matter that elevates the experience above almost every story told in the medium. It's a triumph of small indie development and lands every emotional beat it wants while keeping the gameplay varied and complex the farther you go in.

John: The overall story is really lovely and ambitious, but what's most endearing to me are its imaginative spaces and the gorgeous varied episodes that make up its casts' inner worlds. The gargoyle, the wrestling match, the not-quite-out-of-bounds space behind the beach, the Dragon Quest riff complete with baroque chiptunes; the game's constantly throwing new ideas and aesthetics at you that could easily work as individual complete games. I admire Anodyne 2 deeply for that generosity, and for its beating heart.

eatthepen: Too new for me to judge how well it will stand the test of time, but it speaks so perfectly and powerfully to where I am in my life and career right now, in its critique of capital within home and family, that I have to rank it very highly for myself. Anodyne 2 has strengthened my resolve and my work, has given me new tools to understand how I want to be in the world, and has helped me think about how I might ever feel at home again.






jetstorm4: My favorite IntiCreates game. While it is more or less a remake of the NES Blaster Master, it serves as a combination of multiple elements from the NES and Famicom versions as well as the bad World of Power book? As a fan of the series (for the most part) I enjoyed the different callbacks to the NES and PlayStation game as well as the new story elements that made this one something special as I reached its true ending.

TenguGemini: Forget Wonder Boy, THIS is my favorite remake. It keeps everything I love about the original and removes pretty much everything I don't. It also performs a weird fusion of the japanese Meta Fight and the World of Power book. Cool stuff.

Carmichael Micaalus: Having played this game in the last couple of months, it's really hard for me to gauge where it really should be overall. What I can say is from start to finish, I had far more fun with this than I ever did with the original. Anyway, this is an excellent remake of Blaster Master, tying in elements of the Worlds of Power book (yeah, there was a Blaster Master book), and actually making some sense of the overall BM plot.






Atamine634: My personal pick for AAA Game of the Decade for taking the design ambition of System Shock 1 and giving it the big-budget treatment. Prey's accomplishment as a Shock title earns it my love as one of the best made for its great distilling of the immersive sim concept, sci-fi storytelling around ethical and existential themes, and bringing the design of Shock games back to a survival game approach. It's an extremely smart streamlining of the more complex features of Shock titles and probably the most intelligent Shock game ever made because of it.

Rhete: I'm not sure I've ever seen a game that sold its setting so well, and just felt like a real, tangible place. Prey takes place entirely on a single space station and allows you to explore every inch of it, both inside and out. The upgrades and powers you get are incredibly clever (you can turn into a coffee cup to roll through small gaps!) and the ending story twist shocked me in a way I can't describe. It's one of the few times I've ever felt something was just slightly off about a game, and having a theory... and then actually being right!

lieronet: We never got System Shock 3 (and it doesn't look like we ever will), but we did get Prey. An immersive sim masterpiece, Prey gives you tons of cool toys to play with, it lets you approach situations however you'd like, and it tells a damn fine story on top of it all. It even has really cool DLC that reimagines the game as a roguelike! I've been keeping a close eye on Arkane since this game came out.






Polly: Pid hit at an awkward time where we were really awash in difficult indie puzzle platformers, and having a nearly unsearchable name didn't help much either. Pid's gravity mechanics are a joy to engage with, and level design is built cleverly around every tool in your arsenal, all that and I haven't even mentioned its unique sense of place and visual style and the smoky bar jam band'esque soundtrack. Might & Delight survived this game going virtually unknown and have had a string of hits that connected with their audience, but Pid is the one that stuck the most for me.

Rhete: Just a great goddamn platformer. The game seems simple at first, and just goes all out with inventive ideas and variety as you travel all over the planet and then eventually to the moon. Pid is a journey, and one that I went through twice thanks to them also including a ridiculously challenging hard mode.

Nate: Didn't Rhete play this back in the day? Oh well, Pid is a game that is hard, that you will be frustrated with, but you will feel so satisfied when you beat that thing that you want to continue, and that's a good feeling.






jetstorm4: After the lackluster, yet still enjoyable, Tales of Zestiria, I was nervous where this special RPG series would go next, especially hearing it was related to Zestria. Fortunately, the team behind Tales of Berseria took what was good about Zestiria and made something really special. Velvet is a wonderful lead in this darker take on the Tales series, and as I described once before, it is a personal story with just a bit of grandeur. Definitely something special, and I hope it means something for future Tales of games to come.

eatthepen: The antagonist of this game is a certain kind of intellectual culture that just happens to be the kind of intellectual culture I grew up in and work in, and Berseria skewers that culture with righteous fury. It presents a breathtakingly clear analysis and deconstruction of the 'rationality' of oppression, and a liberating, cathartic burst of wild anger as a script for escaping that cultural logic.

Iffy: I found the gameplay, plot, and music to be mostly forgettable, but the characters REALLY make this one. One of the best, most unique rosters in any RPG.

Ghosty: "Iiiits Magilou!" Play this game for the characters, not the story, because the cast is top notch! The story is... There! The combat is also pretty fun.

Best nonsense banter in any game I've played!






jetstorm4: Of the RPGs I've played this decade, I think this is the most important of all of them (this and Pier Solar). Trails of Cold Steel is what got me into this series of turn-based Falcom games, knowing them mostly for their action-RPGs, and got me to really like this flow of battle system, getting me to play the rest of this series over time. Cold Steel is still one of my favorites, not only for what it means to me, but for also that it's an incredible game throughout.

Polly: Coming to Trails of Cold Steel after the whirlwind that is Trails in the Sky can be somewhat dizzying. It's a welcome change of scenery as we begin becoming more intimate with the inner-workings Erebonian Empire, but it does stumble a bit out of the gate trying to get its legs under it. Like Sky FC, it takes a while to get going, but once Cold Steel is firing on all cylinders, it's a ride you're gonna wanna immediately ride into its sequels.

Iffy: This one took a bit to ramp up, but I very quickly fell in love with its cast of characters and the plot points it was setting up. This game's climax completely blew my mind.






FreezingInferno: There's something about Etrian Odyssey IV that puts it a step above the other games in its series. I think it's the open world aspect of it. No longer confined to just waltzing into a deadly dungeon from a menu, now you explore the skies in an airship and find the deadly dungeons, as well as smaller deadly dungeons and other landmarks and treasures. The theme of overcoming a hostile and murderous world to discover the hidden beauty of its deeper depths, and solve its mysteries, is stronger than ever thanks to letting you soar the skies in your airship. With the dungeon crawl aspect as strong as always, this helps Etrian IV rise to new heights and be the finest in its series.

Pauncho Smith: This is a meaty and substantial game if there ever was. You'll spend countless hours meticulously constructing your team of travelers and filling out every square inch of those dungeon maps. It's hardly leisure, cos brutal FOEs that can eliminate you in an instant will always keep the tension high.

jetstorm4: In my opinion, the best form and the culmination of why I think this series sticks out to a lot of people. This felt like the game that really got how this style of game, a Wizardry-esque setup, combines with the stylings of the modern JRPG.






Rhete: While the game that came before this, Rayman Origins, deserves a lot of credit for setting the stage, Legends did a ton to distinguish itself. The new playable characters, including *gasp* a girl, were greatly appreciated. The music stages are an absolute delight and probably the best part of both games. Heck I even really enjoyed the Murfy stages, having control over a second character through a single button press adds new layer of reflex and timing that I'd like to see other platformers try their hand at.

LastZimOnEarth: Arguably the best pure platformer of the decade, Rayman Legends improves on its solidly executed predecessor to become what I can only describe as the closest thing a video game can be to pure joy. In other words, Origins walked so Legends could run.

Nate: It's nice to have a unique 2D platformer once in a while that isn't a Mario.

Remnant: The main reason I can't muster up a ton of enthusiasm for 2D Mario games anymore. This is the best 2D platformer I've ever played. No contest.






FreezingInferno: What if Hydlide was good? A loving letter to a particular game style of yesteryear that manages to be self-contained, breezy, and good on its own merits while also staying true to its inspiration. It's a marvel.

John: A bite-sized RPG with an amazing aesthetic about exploring a mazey world and poking around for secrets. I group it in my head with Soul Blazer and Helen's Mysterious Castle and old Falcom games. They're all humble games with small stories about thoughtfully exploring a world. I think it helps that I played the original phone version -- that release didn't have an in-game map, so exploring the looping maps is a lot more thoughtful and demanding. I've revisited this game several times since release, and it always brings me joy.

jetstorm4: Fairune is kinda the Hydlide I want to go back and replay. While I enjoy Hydlide, this is more of a puzzle take than an actual Action RPG but that's the point, to look at the map and the world and discover things that feel out of place and play with them. Studying the map and poking around are the key to enjoying this game and I think that's something that doesn't come up enough these days. I like it.






lieronet: Yes, they should have pared down the exploration elements. Yes, they stick you in arenas a a lot. No, I don't care. DOOM makes shooting demons a god-damn blast, elevated by Mick Gordon's incredible soundtrack. The developers even managed to inject a bit of humor into the proceedings.

TenguGemini: Killing demons feels REALLY good.

Atamine634: It may have been overhyped at the time, but returning to it after bouncing off of DOOM Eternal I believe the game's simplicity is actually a boon to the experience. There's a meditative trance I get into playing DOOM that I don't get from many action games. The simplicity lets me shut my brain off and enjoy the base, primal rhythms of its gameplay so I believe DOOM 2016 actually succeeds at being what Doom is secretly great at. Being a mood piece. A brutal, animalistic, heart-pumping mood piece.

Durante Pierpaoli: It's way too long, and the game's self-hatred of its own narrative context is almost embarrassing, (if being a space marine on Mars is so dumb stop making DOOM be about a space marine on mars, this isn't hard!) but god damn, rip and tear. I really didn't want to like this game enough for it to end up here, but all DOOM 2016 is doing is giving you too much of a good thing, which is the games vastly different form of combat presentation to the original games. Combat in DOOM 2016 honestly reminded me of playing Metal Gear Rising, specifically via its mechanical desire to keep the players close to enemies, as using the melee takedown rewards goodies not otherwise dropped, often including desperately needed health.

DOOM 2016 is one of the only games I've seen where pure, undiluted escalation of the "now there's two of them" flavor actually works, if only because the games new focus on one-on-one interactions makes avoiding every other monster in an area feel so much more vital and dangerous. This was just a blast. As well, also like MGR, it's soundtrack was a singularly great metal record, combining Djent with Industrial to create a really terrifying atmosphere that suits DOOM perfectly. (Though as always, DOOM works best with the classic metal records of your choice.)






Polly: No rhythm game has ever been as fun as Rhythm Heaven. The style, the presentation, the music, the minigames. It's fun dialed up to 255 at all times and it just never stops. Other rhythm games just lose me entirely with their beat maps never feeling right or bouncing between a song's rhythm and melody, but with Rhythm Haven, it's ALL about the beat all the time and there's just not a bad minigame or song in this thing.

Zeloz: This game is pure, sweet, rhythmic bliss pressed to a Wii disc. The game is an improvement on its DS predecessor in every conceivable way, has perhaps the cutest character designs this side of Kirby's Epic Yarn, and the soundtrack is just a bouncy, poppy delight for its entire 4+ hour runtime. Heck, even the English covers of the vocal tracks are really good this time around!

jetstorm4: Fantastic Rhythm game. I can still see the final Remix in my head for how many times I had to play it.






Polly: Rhete's magnum opus is a take on everything that has ever inspired him in both anime and videogames. It revels in its influences and it never comes across as shallow imitation, but rather a celebration of those things. This game simply has everything I love about videogames. Great platforming, lots of explosions, and loads of fantastic boss encounters that always made me stop and wonder, "how the hell did he do that in Flash 4?"

Iffy: This would probably be higher if I weren't so bad at it, but I really enjoyed this game's characters and world, and the level design is fantastic.

John: Rhete's transcendent space shooting epic across six SWFs. The screen-by-screen structure suits it well. Every new screen gifts you with a hand-crafted arrangement of the game's countless unique enemies, or one of the game's numerous and fantastic bosses. Rhete's action design has inspired me over and over throughout the decade, and this game is a decadent feast of it.






Zeloz: Without a doubt, surprisingly, my favorite Switch game to date. While the narrative never made as much of an impact as I felt it could've, the new Pokemon and some of the new cast are immediately endearing, and the Dynamax/Gigantamax battles make for the closest the series has ever gotten to true, climactic boss battles one would expect at the end of other JRPGs. Plus, the cooking and camping and online systems are such a joy to interact with.

FreezingInferno: It's pretty good. I really enjoyed the traditional Pokemon action, the quality of life improvements are lovely, and even some of the character arcs really hit with me. It also has Flygon in it, and Flygon is the best Pokemon ever. I love Flygon and I like this.

Nate: I already talked about the existential dread of this game and how it's the perfect allegory for growing up, so there you have it. Go discover nihilism in a Pokemon game.






jetstorm4: The best of the Xenoblade name, and the series finally accepting it's a Grandia sequel instead of a Xenosaga followup. While the mechanics of obtaining blades is kinda bad (it's a gatcha but without the begging for cash), the actual skill and leveling mechancics of blades were pretty great. The character development and world were incredible, the best of the series, and the turns that both Xenoblade 2 and Torna took were both incredible to experience and heartwrenching. I think this may be my favorite game from MonolithSoft, and I'd put it right next to Baten Kaitos 2 if not above.

Rhete: Xenoblade 2 captured a feeling of adventure I get very rarely from games these days. Once things get rolling your party travels through a whirlwind of unique and beautiful locations, it continued to surprise and impress me right til the end. The soundtrack is also one of the best of all time.

Iffy: I had trouble wrapping my head around this game and felt it was kind of bullshitty at points, but it's carried by a wonderful story and characters you immediately care about. One of the bigger tear-jerkers on here.






Rhete: Easily my favorite of FromSoftware's games post the original Dark Souls. Bloodborne pushes many players out of their comfort zone by speeding things up and dropping shields, allowing for much better balanced and speedier combat than the Souls games. The bosses in this game are all great, and the game oozes atmosphere due to them really playing up the horror elements that had not always been at the forefront of Souls. I got so stupidly into this game that I played through it five times and did the chalice dungeons twice. It's the good shit.

lieronet: For a long time, it was the only reason I owned a PS4. Bloodborne's more aggressive combat gels perfectly with my, shall we say, less than cautious approach to these things. The trick weapons were absolutely brilliant, and give the game almost a character-action feel.

Atamine634: Bloodborne is an aesthetic in-and-of itself. It was such an inspired stylish retooling of a patented formula that the unique gothic, cosmic horror experience of Bloodborne is elevated almost entirely by its aesthetics. It reframes its combat around the thematic idea of not being afraid of things you should really be scared of which is part of Bloodborne's great subversion of Lovecraft. Lovecraft's depiction of eldritch aliens seemed defined by their incapacity for empathy, but Miyazaki's twists that into a more compelling and sympathetic narrative. It's also one of the only good action-horror games that manages great combat with actual dread and fear. It's Miyazaki's favorite and probably for good reason. It might be his most unique creation.






Atamine634: John's grimdark masterpiece is at once one of the most tightly designed games I've played from the last decade and also one of the best games to examine what it means to kill. Killing a person's mind piece by piece is an unnerving experience that drives home the weight of what you're killing while also diving into distressing existential horror about the nature of identity and self. What I love most about Facets is how restrained it is regarding the darkness of its subject matter. This could have been so much crueler, drawn out, and exploitative, but Facets is about doing a job. It is simple and direct with the kind of human evil it's examining and it doesn't need to hammer in how dark the situation is, because simmering in it can be more powerful than shoving it in your face. It's one of the most On-Point experiences I've had with a game.

DoorCurtain: This is an RPG with no random encounters, only a few pre-existing ones. You have limited recovery items with no way to buy more, and those same items are the only ways to recover health and status effects for the entire game. Also, the encounters are only found within a few ruthless and brutal hell mazes. This game doesn't fuck around, even with the two secret insta-kill items. While I think the active time battle system from SNES Final Fantasy games was annoying in this game, I sure did beat the game anyway. How ironic, considering that, considering your mission, the game actively wants you to fail. This pesky revolutionary is doing everything it can to resist your efforts to wipe her mind clean, you see. Too bad the player can learn, from trying over and over again, how to most effectively finish the job. Very grim. John should be very proud of what he accomplished with this game.

jetstorm4: I tested this game for John Thyer, being one of the last people to test it for him, and found it was facinating take into the protagonist, and what it would take to BREAK them mentally. A fantastic, well paced game with 10 fights all culminating into an incredible final boss that just keeps going until it finally gives up and submits.






DoorCurtain: I've never played a Commodore 64 game, but even I felt the love put into the system with this game's graphical style. The game is a very simple platformer: press any button to flip gravity so you go up or down. It has awesome music and a fun atmosphere of adventure as you recover ship parts to make it back home. Death is a slap on the wrist, since you can immediately try something again as soon as you die, which is refreshing.

Rainiac: Manipulating gravity never felt so good. Finding all 20 trinkets and getting the true ending of the game feels like a real accomplishment. The infamous Veni Vidi Vici is aptly named, as you really do feel like a conquerer when you finally overcome it.

FreezingInferno: A simple graphical style and a solid "verb" for a gameplay hook help this game go far. Challenging as hell for a masocore screen-based obstacle course game, but it keeps you coming back. I got Veni Vedi Vici in like, 10 minutes. I'm cool and so is this.

Nate: Man, remember this game? It's short, indie, drives you crazy at some parts, it's just a good little thing you can go back and enjoy on multiple platforms.






Polly: Cold Steel II picks up right where the first game's explosive climax leaves off and finds our protagonist, Rean Schwarzer, knee-deep in a world full of shit neither he nor his classmates were ready for. This game digs deeper into Erebonian lore in the most satisfying ways, and as factions are formed and alignments change, it's clear Erebonia is a country ready for some very big things to go down, and by the time this game's ended, the scope of said things is almost dizzying.

jetstorm4: The major sequel to Cold Steel, Cold Steel II reuses many assets from that game but smartly builds on its story and themes to an incredible climax. The intermission alone, which allows the main character to converse with the main villains to get their perspective on the events, is worth the writing and buildup alone, let alone the bombastic finale and the somber ending.

Iffy: Incredible OST, Class VII's growth, and fantastic boss battles. What's not to love here?






FreezingInferno: An absolute joy of an experience that filled me with nostalgia for the 90's, when I played the SNES Donkey Kong Country games to death and practically memorized them. I'm grateful that the spirit was kept alive in the modern day, as this is one of the finest platformers I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

DoorCurtain: I wasn't really a fan of the 2D Mario games made in the 2010s, but I loved Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. It felt challenging, the levels were absolutely gorgeous, and the music was beyond incredible thanks to original compositions by David Wise. It's just nice to play a 2D platformer with a Nintendo character that felt like it was really trying for once. Also, I liked the Snomads better than the Kremlings.

jetstorm4: As time has gone on, I think of this game less and more towards the Rare platformers, but that does not mean this game is bad at all. It is a very well made platformer that succeeds in adding to the mechanics and gameplay style of Returns. I thought it was fun.

Psychic_Heist: If this is the last "Donkey Kong Country" game, something that feels possible, then you have a game that ends it on a high note. There is so much personality and innovation in what Retro Studio does with this game that the franchise now feels complete. I just really don't think you can take "Donkey Kong Country" anywhere else from here, and I am totally fine with that. This is the closest to series high point, DKC 2.






Polly: Volgarr The Viking is a love letter to old arcade games like Rastan and Ghouls and Ghosts. You're playing a game where the odds are so ridiculously stacked against you that each victory comes in learning another 20-60 second stretch of a stage and feeling a sense of accomplishment. This game's big, mean, and chunky in all the right ways if you're a sucker for hard-nosed arcade-type games like I am.

Zeloz: Does the Rastan, Big Barb thing about as well as Rastan. Maybe a little better, if one were to play Rastan I and II music over it.

Pauncho Smith: I'll never have the patience to master the alternate routes, but pretty solid overall.

FreezingInferno: A game which takes its cues from shit like Ghosts 'n Goblins. Definitely a high learning curve of trial and error involved, and its "good" run basically requires learning the game inside and out with little wiggle room for practicing the harder parts. It's still solid, challenging, and quite fun.






Nate: A really ambitious game for the 3DS with some of the best graphics on the system. The biggest drawback was the "morality" system but SMTIV delivered on a story big enough for an at-home console, but on a handheld.

Pauncho Smith: It's dark, it's dreary, it's full of demons. It builds on what Nocturne started, only this time, the combat is a lot faster, and damage output can reach ridiculous levels. Good luck with completing those missions though; this is not a game that holds your hand.

jetstorm4: There's a lot about SMT IV I love, its pace, setting, character design and development, the dungeon design, the overall feeling of progression the whole thing had, it's a lot. I'm glad this game is around and is still one of my top choices of 3DS RPGs. I'm glad they only made one of these.






Polly: Raw. Literally everything about this game is raw and crunchy in a way that tickles the ultraviolent receptors in our brains. It's a perfect marriage of top-down shooter and masocore quick-retry design. Throw on that neon 80's coat of paint and one of the best soundtracks of the decade and you've got an absolute banger.

Pauncho Smith: This game has been described as a "top-down fuck-em-up". No truer words have been spoken.

FreezingInferno: An... interesting thing, whatever it may be, full of ultraviolence and trippy visuals and a whole bunch of other dark shit. Challenging and fun, though.

Rhete: The game that basically invented a new subgenre of techno + violence. No matter how many times you die in the ultra fast mayhem of violence that is this game, the JAMMING soundtrack will keep you coming back for more.






John: A handful of games the last decade have combined the language of shmups with other genres, often to great effect. Games like Undertale and NieR: Automata marry the innate drama of shmups with moving and considered stories.

ZeroRanger shows that shumps are capable of weaving narratives just as powerful as the above, without needing to branch out into other genres. It stands on the shoulders of giants like RayForce and RefleX and tells an incredible story, all in the context of enthralling classic arcade action. It's an inspiring triumph, and a game I expect to revisit on and off for the rest of my life.

jetstorm4: I really should just say "IF YOU LIKE SHMUPS, PLAY THIS" but I will also say "IF YOU LIKE VIDEOGAMES, PLAY THIS"

Also: Unstopping, The Sea Has Returned, Sky XXXX Days, Sky Echo

Atamine634: I'm always reminded of DBZ when playing shmups, especially Touhou, and Zeroranger is terrific execution of close-quarters melee combat mixed with high-octane beam battles that gave me the greatest realization of that idea. The final boss is one of my favorite final bosses ever and learning how to fight it almost entirely in melee mode was one of the most satisfying times I've had with an action game. It also implores a special meta-element I've seen from only two games, but I never saw it executed as a MANDATORY requirement for True End. It's the most inventive shmup I've played.






DoorCurtain: One of the most delightful 4 hours I've spent with a game. Some people called the game a "Katamari-like" but while you do control something that consumes things to grow bigger, that's the only similarity. The focus is really on the narrative surrounding everyone's homes and livelihood being literally holed away to benefit some out-of-towners with no respect for local culture. Also, the game's writing is funny, even though it uses modern internet forum language in its dialogue, it never feels cringey because it understands the mechanics of why typing certain things in certain ways on the internet is as entertaining to us as it is in real life. I still want to replay the game, even though the game is very linear, because my time with it was just that delightful.

Carmichael Micaalus: I'll admit it's a little hard for me to place this one accurately as it's one of the most recent games I've played. It's a short, cute game that has a silly little story to tell you... about donuts.

TenguGemini: A very simple and very funny game.

Atamine634: A simple gimmick explored exceedingly well in just under 2 hours. DC is charming as heck with a great minimalist aesthetic and actual themes about gentrification and being complicit in it. Also it's 110% My Brand of stupid humor.






Polly: The stunning conlcusion to the Crossbell chapter of the Trails series does not disappoint or slouch in any way. From start to finish it's a rollercoaster ride of LITERALLY ALL OF THE EVERYTHING HAPPENING! Even if the conclusion wasn't as amazing as it is, one very important scene in this game stands out as one of the most touching and heartfelt moments I've ever experienced in a videogame, and that alone would be enough reason for it to be on my list.

jetstorm4: The moment to moment events of this game just decide to GO. This game is one of the speediest, most masterfully paced RPGs I have ever played. I say that a lot, but this one is fantastic. Play Zero no Kiseki first of course, but just put this one on and let it go.

Iffy: The only other game on this list that out-classes Ao in the "foot on the gas" rating is Cold Steel III, but this one is impossible to put down halfway through it. Very solid finale to an underappreciated story arc.






Atamine634: After I finished my only playthrough of Journey I spent some time online looking up stuff about it and one of the things I found out is that it became customary for players to send messages to their companions after finishing the game. I turned on my PS3 and yep, there was a message. A message from Japan. It was written in semi-broken English saying how much the experience meant to them while saying sorry for their broken English. This wonderful game where I communicated with a person through pinging noises let me have an extraordinary journey with someone who couldn't even speak my language. That transcended feeling from game and life experiences colliding has stuck with me for years. Journey's execution is phenomenal.

lieronet: This game would be one of the four classical elements, if the classical elements were videogames. Hard to believe it came out so long ago.

John: Simple and affecting, and brief enough that its broadness doesn't become obnoxious.

Remnant: thatgamecompany's work isn't for everyone. I'm in the camp that says the shoehorning of sixaxis makes Flow borderline unplayable. I enjoyed Flower, though it was short and maybe a little bit pretentious. But Journey was a very special...well, journey. The raw feeling of being a conscious being on an archetypal hero's journey is distilled within this beautiful game-as-art-piece that so many of today's "walking simulators" fail to grasp in their aspirations to be works of art.






Polly: Pulling this beloved PS2-era action RPG to the modern era of PlayStation consoles and giving it a spiffy HD upgrade would have been enough for most, but Vanillaware COMPLETELY reimagined how this game functions from top-to-bottom and created something even more action-packed and frantic, and...dare I say, a bit more fun? Even cooler though, is that they still included the PS2 original in this package, making Leifthrasir an even more impressive get just for preservation.

LastZimOnEarth: Having never played the original Odin Sphere, despite owning it via PSN, I was really captivated by the experience that Leifthrasir provided me. While the game is pretty much a cakewalk on normal difficulty and having some noticeable repetition in spots, I was still enthralled by the gorgeous art and compelling storytelling that manages to capture the feeling of a dark fairy tale.

Pauncho Smith: Five different characters with wildly different play-styles prevents the action from feeling too redundant. And as is Vanillaware's calling card, that food looks amazing.

jetstorm4: I didn't put many remakes on this list, mostly because I feel they exist in the times they came out. This game is an exception. SUCH an improvement over the original game in every way and direction. Plus the original game is here if you want that too!






Polly: The conclusion to the Zero Escape series is exactly all it needed to be. While it may not handle all of its threads with the most grace, it gets the points its trying to make across all while delivering an intense and bloody good mystery whose biggest secrets are often in plain view the entire time. Not bad for a game that was canceled in early development and resurrected thanks to overwhelming fanbase support.

jetstorm4: The third of the Zero Escape games and the most divisive of them. While many did not quite get why it ended the way it did and the twists it took to do so, I find it an incredible experience, one that I still think about from time to time.

Pauncho Smith: More rooms that make you feel super smart once you've escaped them, and more mind-bending lectures on morality and metaphysics than you can shake a blood-stained kitchen knife at. Also, you'll never look at snails the same way again.






Rhete: This game was like pure nostalgia in a bottle for me, allowing me to relive a very specific time period in the mid 90s where my favorite games were rail shooters like Panzer Dragoon and StarFox, and Treasure games like Radiant Silvergun and Gunstar Heroes. Star Successor is the game my childhood self would've died to play, taking those elements of the past and giving them a fancier coat of paint, along with one of the most comfortable control schemes ever with the split wii remote and nunchuck.

jetstorm4: A sequel to the Japanese only N64 game, Star Successor takes that form, gives it the perfect Wii-Remote/Nunchuck controls, and makes every moment in the game substantial and meaningful to me. Still one of my favorite action games ever and one of my favorite Treasure games.

Pauncho Smith: It really stings that this was the last major Treasure release the West ended up getting (ports of Ikaruga to modern consoles notwithstanding). Thankfully, Star Successor was at the very least a great way to bow out. It outclasses the original Sin & Punishment in every conceivable, and its controller setup made it perfect to play on the Wii.






jetstorm4: The first game that put Platinum Games on my radar, while I enjoyed it the first time I played it on PS3, it was its other versions (that were much better than the PS3 version) that elevated the game for me later down the line. While not as 100% full force as its sequel, its moments hit hard when they decide to, making an incredibly fun time.

Rhete: I tend to play games once and then move on, so the "stylish action" genre is one that's largely escaped me. Bayonetta is great because it works those that want to master it, but it also works on a single play through with its really fun story, enjoyable but not too hard combat, and COMPLETELY CRAZY INSANE OVER THE TOP FINALE. If you know me, that last one is a big big selling point.

TenguGemini: I REALLY hate dying instantly for missed QTEs, but otherwise this is Platinum Games at its finest.

Pauncho Smith: Come for the unbridled sexual energy, stay for the absolutely insane set pieces and boss fights (and the adorable costumes you can wear, assuming you're playing the game on a Nintendo console). Nobody fucks with this witch.






jetstorm4: There's a lot I could say about this game, but as a huge fan of Ys 1 I can say this game has a lot of merit to me. All the little callbacks and enemies brought into a game that plays like Ys VI and Oath in Felghana? Fantastic. Wonderful soundtrack too but that's usual Falcom.

Iffy: Has the feel of Oath in Felghana, but functions more like a dungeon-crawler. I find it slightly less charming, but it's extremely fun to play and the gameplay has a ton of variety.

TenguGemini: Yunica tries her hardest to kick demon ass. This game is also how I learned about After5, so there's that too.

Carmichael Micaalus: This game probably would have had a higher rating if not for the fact the game spends the first half of itself kicking you for losing a fight you're supposed to lose. Yes, I'm still bitter.






jetstorm4: The moment to moment playing of Cold Steel III, I realized Cold Steel was specifically the realized promise of what Xenosaga and other multi-part RPGs that didn't quite make the mark or the full promise. While those are still incredible, Cold Steel uses its assets in smart ways to create its world, set its narrative, build its villains, and break and build its main characters. Cold Steel III is the moment that the whole series builds to and is a fanastic time from start to end. Making it my favorite RPG of this decade.

Iffy: The culmination of the Trails series so far, and one that has me very excited for this arc's conclusion. One of my favorite casts ever, both new and old.

Polly: Cold Steel III is dizzying with how fast it immediately gets to "the good shit." It's paced similarly to Ao no Kiseki in that it's very unlike a Trails game and hits the ground running. The story is CONSTANTLY escalating as Rean and the new Class VII dive deeper and deeper in the muck that's working its way through the Erebonian Empire. By the time we reach the end, it's impossible to even begin imagining how and where Cold Steel IV will start because the final hours of this game go so fucking hard that I had to play them twice to fully absorb everything.






Polly: Never was a fan of the comics or TV show, but Telltale's first season of The Walking Dead series of adventure games is an experience that stuck with me. A strong and well-written cast of characters all-around are fed to the meat grinder of a zombie apocalypse and the cards fall where they may. Your choices carrying from episode to episode was a neat magic trick that made you feel like your experience was special, and even if the magic kinda wore off, the impact the game left is still there.

Rhete: One of the finest and most heart-wrenching stories in games. This game really puts you in the shoes of a man trying to do his best in an awful situation. You're not choosing between good or bad options, but choosing between different shades of grey because there are no right answers here.

Zeloz: I remember, when I first played this at a friend's house, I was nearing the end of the second episode and was goaded into killing an NPC I didn't need to. I'm normally an avoidant person who hates conflict, so this threw my friend for a loop. Hell, I got kinda freaked out when I realized the gravity of my actions.

The entire season is just filled with moments like that, presenting you with choices that, even long after you've made them, make you really think about your own moral compass and where it points when shit really hits the fan.






Polly: An incredibly put together deconstruction of the visual novel genre that you just have to trust is going somewhere. This one's hard to talk about without spoiling, so all I'll say is the written poems' writing is underrated and that you're either gonna "get" this game or you're not.

John: One of my favorite choices this game makes is the fakeout that happens before the big turn. You visit your classmate's house, and you know something is wrong. And because of that little warning at the very start of the game, you have a pretty strong suspicion it's going to be something awful.

But then you open the door, and she's there like normal. She's just feeling low today. You have a frank conversation about it. Then you make a choice, and you leave, not knowing your choice won't ultimately matter. You go do some other stuff for a while. Then you return, and you walk down the hallway again, and you open the door, and the worst thing that could happen happens.

The game could've just had The Big Awful Thing happen suddenly with no build-up, and it would've maybe been more shocking. But by building to it once, by giving you that relief when it doesn't happen, by using that time to build a deeper and more human connection with your classmate... it makes the end of it all so much more horrible.

Peaches the Rayven: I wish I knew what this game is trying to say. Interviews state that the designer just wanted a game that told a story that couldn't be imagined any other way - the characters only fit into a dating sim, the choices you have to make do creatively involve the game engine in new ways, and the emotional connection really did demand the visual novel genre.

But I'm not so sure there isn't something lurking deeper in there.

Is this game about how the straight male player yearns for easy wish fulfillment that is impossible in real life due to the actual complexities lurking underneath us all? Is it about how they are ultimately unprepared to be viewed as objects to possess, even though that is how they view women?

Maybe it's just a game that disguises itself as being about cute girls.

Pauncho Smith: Somehow we got to the point where Monika t-shirts are being sold at malls.






Polly: The first Mass Effect was...alright, I guess. With Mass Effect 2, the series became playable in a satisfying way and the darker narrative the previous game had only shown glimpses of came into full view. This game starts and ends with an absolute bang and rarely ever lets up in between.

Rhete: A massive step forward from the previous game, the shooting part is actually fun now! The writing is still great and I appreciated that the story is much more about building a crew and bonding with your teammates, and the whole Reaper thing takes a backseat.

jetstorm4: This might be a bit of a surprise knowing my tastes but take my word for it, Mass Effect 2 is the only BioWare game I would ever recommend! The story isn't quite there but its settings, world, and style is very nicely done and the game itself is very solid and well built. Funny how they started with 2 and never made another...

Remnant: This was the only Mass Effect game I managed to play all the way through, and it was worth every minute. Even the planet-scanning had a sort of zen-garden effect for me.






Polly: JoyMasher are great at leaving their mark on genres and riffing on games they love, and that holds true for their send-up to Irem's Gunforce series and, of course, Konami's Contra. It has all the button mashing, controller throwing satisfaction of those games with a fun over-the-top 80's post-apocalyptic coat of paint that's charming through the very end. If Konami's not gonna bother releasing any Contra games worth a damn, the indie crowd's probably got that lane covered.

FreezingInferno: Joymasher blasting it out of the gate with their best game this decade. A loving tribute to Contra (especially Contra Hard Corps) that is hard as hell but also fair as hell. It's so good that it managed to out-Contra Konami, as they put out a wet fart of a Contra in the same year. I'm glad for this, though. It's an incredible experience.

Pauncho Smith: Thank you JoyMasher, for doing what Konami won't anymore.

Beepner: "HAHA, HEY BRO!" Pick this game up even if you haven't been fiending for a proper Contra fix since 2011's Hard Corps: Uprising. It's a solid action game with some impressive Irem arcade game styled spritework.






Atamine634: Emotionally grueling and thematically dense, the wealth of subject matter explored in The House of Fata Morgana is more than I ever could have expected from a visual novel, and much more than almost every game I've ever played. What I entered for a compelling story was an extraordinary commentary on the human condition. It's an intense tale of vulnerability, abuse, trauma, betrayal and discrimination mixed with an examination of class, religion, and gender relations. The theming around Christianity was more than just window dressing and the message it wanted to send and HOW it did it left me awestruck. I'm drawn to dark and bleak media because there's sometimes a therapeutic element to finding a work of art that shares your anxiety, but The House in Fata Morgana is so psychologically dark I cannot recommend it to someone in a bad mental state, and I'm saying this from experience. Beyond this deep pit of misery hid the greatest love story that's ever fucked me up and a strange sense of reaffirmation as a person.

Polly: I'm no stranger to the "cursed mansion where lots of really bad shit went down and we're gonna tell you all about it," type of visual novel, so I went into this game with a bit of hesitation. The House in Fata Morgana is just... a lot, okay? It's a game that can be so emotionally taxing that it required a couple day or two breaks to finish. The mansion's bloody and traumatic history in and of itself is gripping enough, but the way the story ties together its cast of tragic characters and the stories they have to tell themselves is what elevates this above your standard bloody psychological horror fare. On top of that it's a story that's not afraid of tackling heavy issues such as sexual abuse and gender identity. It handles these topics with an amount of understanding, empathy, and respect rarely seen in stories like this, while also turning your eyes to the harsh realities. Fata Morgana is just a fucking master class in storytelling top to bottom. It may be a biiiit longer than it needs to be, but by the end I think you'll find it's one of the warmest and most honest tales in the genre.

John: I don't think there's any medium in art better at depicting the realities of violence and trauma in art than language. This makes visual novels (and other kinds of interactive fiction) uniquely well-suited in games for engaging with those subjects. Unfortunately, many do so towards exploitative ends, depicting violence pornographically while only superficially caring for the characters suffering that violence.

The House in Fata Morgana feels like a deliberate rebuke of that kind of exploitative storytelling. It is, in large part, a game about violence and trauma. When it needs to be, it's just as effective and unflinching at depicting those topics as in the work of authors like Kinoko Nasu, Kazutaka Kodaka, and Gen Urobuchi. But it never dips into voyeurism -- you're always meant to empathize with the victims, not consume them.

That difference in lens would be a challenging balancing act on its own, but then the game goes a step beyond even that. It asks you to empathize with the abusers of its story. It's a big ask, all the moreso because the game makes you care so deeply for the characters those abusers made suffer. It's important that it doesn't excuse the abusers. It doesn't apologize for them, and it doesn't forgive them. But it wants you to see them as people.

Because that's what Fata Morgana is about: people. A bunch of miserable, suffering, sometimes-noble, sometimes-monstrous people. The game's worldview is extraordinarily kind and mature, and cuts close to the actual reality of trauma, all in the context of a visceral, moving, and impossibly romantic story. It's the perfect antidote in a genre so often full of the most poisonous kinds of immaturity.






Rhete: Even though I'm the one heretic that prefers Fallout 3, I still greatly enjoyed my hundred plus hours exploring every inch of the Mojave Wasteland. The writing and quests are consistently great, and the game also has four expansions that all feel incredibly unique and distinct from each other.

lieronet: You know, this game has some stellar writing, incredible setpieces, and unforgettable characters, but nothing quite compares to the joy of taking out a bandit camp with an anti-tank rifle and hand-made ammo. Powergaming this game was all kinds of fun, and Old World Blues stands out to me as one of the most worthwhile DLCs ever.

Atamine634: As a fan of Triumphs of Jank and Ingenuity, I thought New Vegas was one of the most spectacular games made in the last decade and ended up being not just one of my favorite RPGs and immersive sims, but a big part of my political journey. It's one of the best role-playing games out there because its flexibility among a complex political skirmish allows for a more thoughtful reflection of self and political identity than a typical RPG would. It has the greatest grasp of compelling interconnected side-quests in an open-world game I've seen that are not only narratively compelling but highlights the functionality of New Vegas' infrastructure. New Vegas is an impressively realized setting where the freedom to progress leads to truly unique and memorable experiences. It's also the first game I played completely modded and funnily enough that played a big thematic role in my journey. My mods would occasionally break leaving me with something unplayable until I figured it out, feeling the greatest rush of accomplishent when I fixed the issue. Being a mechanic for my own game actually drove home the thematics and tone of Fallout. By the end, I felt like I had the most completely personalized journey I've gotten from a role-playing game and through that journey my acceptance of the possibilities made by collectivist ideals bloomed.

Peaches the Rayven: I'd like to put Fallout 3 here, but since the release of the two games straddles the start of the decade I'll side with NV this time.

While maybe not my favorite RPG of all time, it definitely earns a shining spot for how very well-made it is. The skills all seem balanced, the characters are intriguing, and the smartass, gritty plot hooks you and keeps you playing. In a lesser game, the sprawling storylines of three factions all competing for the city of New Vegas would feel spread too thin, but here the player gets caught up in the machinations and slowly becomes the driving force in the story.

The DLC isn't bad (my favorite being the low-tech and wilderness-focused Honest Hearts), but even on its own this take on the dieselpunk apocalypse has more polish than many other games I've had the pleasure of playing.






Polly: Starting out, PSO2 was the evolution of PSO we were all hoping for from PSU, but didn't get. Even though it had its issues, the fast-paced hack and slashing gameplay just felt great and kept me and my friends engaged for hours. What really puts this game on the list, however, is the time spent with friends and having met new people that would become infinitely important to me as years went on.

Iffy: This game absolutely has its flaws, but its gameplay and aesthetic really jive with me and I met a lot of irreplaceable people through it. I'm looking forward to giving it another shot with the NA version. Underrated plot, too.

Rhete: The original Phantasy Star Online is my favorite game of all time, so expectations for a sequel were through the roof. Then Phantasy Star Universe happened and was bad, so expectations were significantly lowered. PSO2 doesn't have a ton in common with the original, but it makes smart choices that were needed to keep the game relevant it today's times. I played an ungodly amount of the game and somehow the combat never got boring. The story mode, at least the first three episodes, were really good as well. This game is a great time when played with great friends.

Beepner: Most of the West has yet to play this, but the JP version gets a nod from me for the good times with friends had online and the way they modernized the combat in its initial incarnation. It's everything else about the MMO gacha and the over-zazzification of its expansions that dull its shine a bit. We'll see how it holds up when the NA release hits PC "late May 2020."






FreezingInferno: In the brief period between this and Shovel Knight coming out, this thing lit my world on fire. Shovel Knight kind of blew it away for me, but I still cherish the memory of this. A breezy and cute little game that still means a lot to me. (Hey, it came back on digital storefronts too recently, that's nice.)

Pauncho Smith: They got a little carried away with the collecting and the cut scenes BUT HOLY HELL THAT NEW MOON THEME IS GODLY.

Rainiac: A classic NES platformer given a fresh coat of paint in the form of vibrant cartoon-style animation. The original voice cast return to give the game an aura of authenticity, and the core gameplay is still excellent 25 years after the initial release. The game is available to purchase digitally again after being delisted for a time, which is good news.

Nate: This was the other nostalgic remake, although I never played the original. I really do appreciate how much was put into it, from the original voice cast to the easter eggs, it's not perfect, but there's love in there.






LastZimOnEarth: When Xenoblade Chronicles was first unveiled in 2009 as Monado: The Beginning of the World, there was no telling just how well-received the game would end up being. It was probably the first game I ever preordered with my own money and in my humble opinion, this is one of those cases where the hype was well deserved. While the combat was pretty solid, what really won me over was the crazy, ridiculous story and the sheer concept of two worlds that took the form of two giants, not to mention the excellent soundtrack.

Atamine634: I never beat Xenoblade Chronicles, but the journey I had making it up to the head of the Bionis is a time I'll always cherish. It's one of my favorite settings in a game for its concept and beauty and Satorl Marsh is one of my favorite locations in all of videogames <3

jetstorm4: What was originally a game that I did not like eventually turned to a game I fully enjoy now. While it's still my least favorite of the series, it's still a very fun time to go through, filled with twists and turns that I still love to see people react to, and I'm looking forward to wahtever MonolithSoft has for us next.

Rhete: A fantastic RPG and story, with some of the best directed and animated cutscenes I've maybe ever seen. It sadly took me most of the decade to get through this game, but it was totally worth it.






eatthepen: Nier is a glimpse of a better world, or at least a better videogames industry. It hints at what commercial game development could be if its extremely rigid genre system were broken, and all those resources poured into exploration of the full design space of Video Games. Even if you know how it ends, even if you think you've been 'spoiled', you owe it to yourself to play this one right through to ending D. I knew exactly what was going to happen and it still left me speechless. No-one gets to stop.

Durante Pierpaoli: I'm going off the US release here which I believe is NIER: Gestalt. Nier himself is one of the most interesting depictions of masculinity in a game, if only for the brutal honesty. Nier is a fairly typical videogame protagonist (especially by today's standards) but the primary difference is that the game's entire plot is hinged on his inability to accept the failure of his worldview. His worldview, as it were, is similar to all JRPG protagonists: "Supernaturally awful things are happening to my loved ones and the human race overall, but I will use the power of sheer will to overcome it." However, instead of overcoming, Nier's insistence to keep pushing generally speaking makes situations worse. This is not a happy game. This is a game about how, at the end of time, your time is best spent holding your loved ones instead of rallying against your inevitable demise.

Atamine634: While Automata was defined by its dark comedic irreverence that asked "what is human" while tonally and thematically detached from its own humanity, NieR is defined by the humanity found in its characters and their struggles. Automata is about questions, but NieR is about a person. A particular type of person. A person just like any you could know. Cares about their family, strong sense of community and altruism, but buried deep within an acceptance and willingness to use violence without thought when it comes to protecting His Own from The Other. The kind of person I've been uncomfortably surrounded by my entire life. Yoko Taro's desire to comment on the global zeitgeist installed by 9/11 resulted in what I would call one of the greatest tragedies ever written. It's about someone who will live the rest of his life in comfort knowing he protected his own, in ignorance of the destruction he caused. NieR is overwhelmingly bleak, but the final note it wanted to go out on with Ending D left me in tears by its beauty. I knew EXACTLY what I was supposed to feel because the game felt so grounded and human. Even beyond the narrative, NieR is actually an interesting experiment in game design that proves how limitations can lead to creative breakthroughs. Automata may be better in a mechanically thematic way, but NieR's ambition and execution make me look at it as the more important title.

jetstorm4: NieR is a special beast. While not the most well playing game, it is a game with a lot of heart, a lot of love, and a whole lot of suffering for both the cast and you! I've always likened this game to being the Ocarina of Time formula with a twist and I still describe it like that, where each area of the game has its own feeling and gameplay elements instead. Hopefully its remaster will get it into more hands.






John: A moving, deeply political tragedy about identity and culpability. A story about living in a system that rewards you for doing exactly the wrong thing. It's not dour of course -- like other Analgesic games it's cute and funny and romantic and sweet. Which makes it all the more admirable that it doesn't flinch when it needs to get dark. Melos and Marina's most incisive and biting story, and for that it's my favorite of the bunch.

eatthepen: A game about processing the end of the world through learning to trust and respect those for whom your lack of trust and respect helped cause the crisis. I needed this, and I probably still need it, and probably a lot of people like me still need it. One of the best warnings about capitalism and the cultural norms it forces on us.

LastZimOnEarth: Even the Ocean takes place in a fictional world yet the way it deals with the effects of climate change and how marginalized people unintentionally end up being pawns in corrupt power structures is sadly very relevant in our present as our own world is currently being ravaged by said human-made pollution caused by said power structures. And yet while Even the Ocean deals with the tragedy of its own events, it still manages to instill a sense of hope that no matter how bad out circumstances are, that doesn't mean we can't try to live out the best possible lives we can in this dying world.

Atamine634: I'm a narratively focused gamer so 2D platformers have never been my thing so finding a platformer with inspired worldbuilding and emotional hooks felt special, but was even more special was the weight of the story it was trying to tell. The clever light and dark mechanic that allows you to adjust your vertical and horizontal jumping capacities mix great with the puzzle platforming, but what makes Even The Ocean truly prescient is that it wants to leave a bold warning to humanity that our world desperately needs to hear.






Atamine634: Yakuza 0 didn't need to have a story as good as it did, but I'm glad it did. Yakuza is a fantastic red-light district simulator, but what makes 0 so special is the emotional weight behind the story it's telling. There's actual issues addressed in the story that lets me know that Yakuza is a series that cares about people. I love the idea of a dark setting filled with heartwarming moments and that sense of optimism in a corrupted world is what makes Yakuza so likable as a series to me. Kiryu is one of the best stoic bois in all of videogames and 0 also works as a great period piece.

Rhete: I'd already played Yakuza 4 and 5 when I got to this one, so I knew what to expect but was still completely blown away by how much I liked this game. The storyline is fantastic and it made me really care about both Kiryu and Majima. The combat feels better than ever with 3 different styles for each character you play as, and the way money flies out of enemies as you defeat them is hilarious. The final hours of this game are some of the most exciting I've ever seen.

LastZimOnEarth: It wasn't the first Yakuza game I had played, as I had played both 3 and 4 beforehand, but it was the one that really made me a fan of the series. The intertwining stories of Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima made for some exceptionally compelling melodrama, with the latter becoming one of my favorite characters in video game history thanks to this game. Not to mention the mostly excellent substories that range from heartwarming to enjoyably goofy. It was also a lot of fun to play around with both Kiryu and Majima's fighting styles during combat.

Nate: I think Yakuza is the best Shenmue can get, and come out in a shorter amount of time.






Rhete: Easily the most fleshed out and completely realized, "feels like a real place" game world I've ever seen. The side quests in this game are better written than most other games, they are consistently great and nothing is filler. Throw in two huge expansions, and you've got an insane amount of game here. I originally told myself I would pace myself with this game, but then I got completely absorbed into it for several months, never once wanting to stop.

lieronet: Don't make my mistakes and play this game for its mechanical systems. Play it for the stellar quest design. Geralt's world reacts to the choices you make like few game worlds I've seen.

Atamine634: I really enjoyed my time with Witcher 3, but I didn't fall in love with it. Still, it has to be recognized for setting the gold-standard for AAA open-world games. DLC is excellent and getting the tragic ending gave the adventure a final note that actually made me care about Geralt for a moment. There are other open-world games I'm more fond of, but all credit where credit is due. It's genuinely as good as it is.

Remnant: I admit it. I was indifferent to all things Witcher until I watched and enjoyed the Netflix show, and then I bought this game in a sale.

Wow. Just...wow. As a longtime fan of fantasy RPGs--both in video games and tabletop--this was the first video game RPG that made me feel like I was playing tabletop with a Dungeon Master who studied creative writing in college. Every location and every quest is dripping with the sort of well-written storytelling detail that shows CDPR clearly values the craft of storytelling and busted their asses to create an RPG world that feels alive.






Polly: I hadn't really engaged much with Momodora prior to Reverie Under the Moonlight, and frankly I still think this is the best and most worth playing in the series. The combat is super satisfying and crunchy (play on Hard please) and the world map is EXACTLY as large as it needs to be. No more, no less. Not a single moment of RUtM's runtime is wasted and if you give it a shot, I'll guarantee the same for you.

Pauncho Smith: Short and sweet, Reverie nails its ambiance and controls like a dream. It delivers on what the previous Momodora games hinted at.

Iffy: A snappy 2D action game with a beautiful aesthetic. I feel like it's in the same league as Touhou Luna Nights, Dust, and Hunters.

Rainiac: Many titles have tried to translate Dark Souls to a 2D plain, but Reverie stands at the top of the heap, and is a testament to the fact that a game doesn't need to possess flashy, state of the art graphics to look pretty. Challenging, especially on higher difficulties, but oh so satisfying when everything clicks into place and you successfully beat it.






Ghosty: A story that it seemed few people understood, and fewer gave the chance. I had no expectation of what Polly and John could possibly do to continue the story of Her Lullaby. What we got was entirely different subject matter, but still dealing with mental health. How do you move on from trauma? What do you do when relationships fail? While not as personally close to me as the first game, this game is still a quiet masterpiece.

LastZimOnEarth: While Her Lullaby already felt like a satisfyingly told story on its own merits, the brilliantly conceived sequel Afterward does a fantastic job of showing how both Tocco and Sal were affected by their traumatic experiences in the previous game.

jetstorm4: This is a followup to Her Lullaby and serves as what I think is an epilogue to where that story goes thematically. While structured differently, it's a somber story that took my mind into thinking about the original game in a different way. Go play it for free, after you play Her Lullaby.

DoorCurtain: A fantastic post mortem on Her Lullaby, and even though it's not as much of a game as Her Lullaby was (I think the correct term is "kinetic novel", basically there's no in-game choices, all you do is advance text), I related to it on a deeper level as it got me to reflect on relationships I left behind for my well-being and all the complex feelings that brings. You can beat each novel in one night, when it feels most appropriate.

Pauncho Smith: That's my apartment, FYI.






Polly: This game was the source of endless hours of entertainment for a good two years running while it consistently updated and the race to achieve that coveted 1001%. Rebirth is an upgrade to the original Flash release in every conceivable way. It's still that same game, just MUCH MUCH bigger and smoother. With the larger item pools come even crazier synergies and chances to absolutely break the game in the most satisfying ways. Despite the fact that I rarely play it anymore, this is a game that will always have potential to be a good time no matter what. The gameplay loop and feel are just so incredibly satisfying, and with runs barely needing 20-35 minutes to finish, it's a no-brainer when a quick-fix is all you need.

Rhete: The best roguelike ever. An infinitely changing and evolving dungeon that never gets boring after hundreds... hell thousands of runs later. What always stood out to me most about Isaac were the "tears" that you fire as your main weapon. There are loads of items that modify how they work, that will then stack on top of each other, making every run feel unique as your main weapon ends up different every time.

Rainiac: Far superior to the original version, which never really clicked for me. It perhaps had one update too many, but the core gameplay is very solid. RNG plays a huge part in whether your bid to reach the end of the game is successful or not, but individual skill is also a factor, an important balancing act that not all rogue-lites pull off as deftly as this one.

Nate: Yeah. It's a fun game, but a little bit short on content.






Polly: Dust: An Elysian Tail is proof that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything. This game was largely created and produced by one person, but with how well put together it is and how stunning it is visually top-to-bottom, you'd swear it had much more behind it. The game is just a joy to play. The sword swinging/flying around/filling the screen with millions of projectiles gameplay feels solid and the narrative is surprisingly touching.

Rhete: A gorgeous action platformer with an equally great storyline. If you haven't played this one, it's definitely worth checking out.

TenguGemini: What a cool game. 2D action platforming at its finest.

Beepner: It still kind of blows my mind that a game like this, which was largely the passion project of one person, who LEARNED PROGRAMMING just so he could make this game, turned out as good as it did. A beautiful world to explore with satisfying combat, assuming you set the difficulty level appropriately.

Iffy: A game I picked up because I knew the voice director, but I immediately fell in love with the gameplay and the artistry.






Polly: Super Meat Boy is one of the games (if not THE game) responsible for the indie scene taking off in the early 2010s, and for damn good reason. Sometimes all you need to make an almost endlessly engaging game is a solid set of platforming physics and good levels built around them, and that's exactly what Super Meat Boy is and then some.

Rhete: Platforming perfection. While it wasn't the first to do this, for me it really codified a new style of ultra hard game with incredibly fast restarts, and super short levels. Dying almost never feels bad because you're rarely more than a few seconds from the start of the level.

FreezingInferno: Hard as almighty fuck, but oh so forgiving on its respawn rate. It knows it's hard, it knows it's killed you, now get back in there and try again. Quick, snappy, hella hard, hella fun, with a whole lot of content to plow through. What's not to love?

Rainiac: Like Cuphead, Super Meat Boy takes great delight in brutally murdering you, but you keep coming back for more. The game's darkly comic cutscenes add quite a lot to the proceedings, and the controls are tight and satisfying.

Psychic_Heist: One of the first big 'indie' releases at the beginning of the decade to signal the new generation of video game developers. "Super Meat Boy!" was my introduction to Edmund McMillen, one of the most unique and standout voices in video games this last decade.

It's also the only one of those first wave of indie releases to stick with me strongly throughout the years since its release (no offense to "Limbo" or "Fez"). The secret here is like the gratification of a well-made pop song, everything is designed to quickly get you off. I can't think of any other platformer that has this both ways in the sense that not only is it satisfying when you complete a difficult level, but also oddly satisfying each time you die.

Splat. Splat. Splat-Splat. ... Splat.












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