Welcome to the final sixteen of Fanbyte’s Top 50 Games of the Decade! Last time we met, we dove into games 50-17. We saw two immersive sim modern classics from Arkane, an ASCII browser surprise, the funniest visual novel of the decade, and all the Mario games that will appear on this list. That’s right, we’re done with the Marios now!
I want to thank the entire Fanbyte editorial staff for their tremendous help putting all of this together and for their braves takes like “Saints Row is good” and “Red Dead Redemption is not good.” Teamwork makes the dream work.
Here’s the last Games of the Decade podcast! It’s a long one! I hope you all enjoy our frank and heartfelt tributes to our sixteen collective favorites. Here’s a direct download link, as well. Disfruta!
Here’s our final countdown with some thoughts for each game!
16. Monster Hunter World (2018)
Capcom’s tracking and hunting action franchise struggled to find western audiences mainly because a lot of the series’ core mechanics are fussy. That changed in 2018 with Monster Hunter World, the most successful entry to date. The reason? Lots of quality of life improvements that opened up the game to new players.
The game is still deep as hell, so deep that some of us here at Fanbyte are still grinding gear more than 200 hours later. It helps that Iceborne, the game’s 2019 DLC, is really great. And the food! My goodness, the food.
15. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015)
Hideo Kojima’s swan song at Konami isn’t without its problems. It’s a little bloated, especially when you reach beyond chapter one of its main content. Kiefer Sutherland’s fairly shallow (though canonically understandable) turn as Snake was a disappointment. All of that Quiet stuff was a little icky.
Despite these issues, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain features the finest distillment of Tactical Espionage Action of the entire series. When this game sings, it belts out incredible mission after incredible mission. The game also earns serious bonus points for letting us attach basically anything to a baloon and send it back to our good good boys back at the base.
14. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)
Ubisoft’s model for open world design seems to be “upturn a sidequest trashcan onto the earth and let the player go nuts.” CD Projekt Red’s approach for the incredibly ambitious Witcher 3 was taking each piece of sidequest trash and polishing it into sidequest treasure, creating a perilous world that nonetheless felt lived in. Geralt’s quest to find his adoptive daughter turns into something bigger and better as he explores his past with one of the decade’s best characters, Yennefer of Vengerberg.
Take these engrossing tales and fold them into excellent action role playing and you have one of the best games of the decade and one of the best open world games ever. Major bonus points here for Blood and Wine, DLC that could have been another full-priced game on its own.
13. Fallout New Vegas (2010)
Obsidian took a broken engine, a calendar year (more or less), and a deep love for the roots of the Fallout series and crafted Fallout New Vegas. At its worst, it’s a buggy mess with some serious “gotta hear both sides” bullshit peppered in. At its best, it’s a funny, bizarre, and wildly entertaining gallup through the Wild West Wasteland.
Major bonus points for a great cast of companions, a little robot buddy you can repair, and the best DLC a Bethesda-published game has ever had. Obsidian made great stuff before New Vegas and continues to make great stuff today, but their turn at the wheel of a Fallout game is one of the finest examples of role playing this decade.
12. DOOM (2016)
There’s something deeply sublime about the last kill in any given room in 2016’s DOOM. A moment where you feel your heart beating fast for the first time, only noticing it because the game has given you space to feel it, briefly. This repeats for hours and never overstays its welcome. The new adventures of the Doom Slayer feel like a response to first person shooters moving past its early 90s roots, sometimes to ill effect.
DOOM is never slow, boring, or complicated. It’s kill or be killed, it’s rip or be ripped.
11. Undertale (2015)
Toby Fox’s RPG evokes classics like Earthbound, but what if I told you it was much better than Earthbound? I’m telling you it’s much better than Earthbound. Fox’s funny, heartfelt, and innovative game has completely changed the game for independent developers not by making a lot of money (which it did), but by penetrating the zeitgeist unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
Look no further than professional wrestling superstar Kenny Omega, who commissioned Toby Fox to work on an entrance theme with him 2018 and dressed as Sans on the Halloween episode of AEW’s Wednesday Night Dynamite this year. Toby made a song for Pokemon. Incredible.
10. Hitman (2016)
We cheated a little here and included Hitman 2 in our conversation, but the idea is clear: create little sandboxes for Agent 47 and let it ride. So many individual levels and moments stand out in the new series, but the extremely easy humor of “your target looks like you” creates so much emergent gameplay it made our collective heads spin. It’s one of the best games to watch, it’s one of the best games to play, and it’s the tenth best game of the decade.
Just watch out for the homing briefcase.
9. Threes! (2014)
Asher Vollmer’s simple and transcendent mobile game Threes! is basically perfect. You can play it one-handed, you can play it for a couple minutes, and you can sit in bed for hours trying to beat your high score. No other game on this list has inspired a shameless clone that we’d actually throw down about.
If I see someone playing 2048, I’ll (politely) tell them to stop and play Threes!. It’s a better game. It’s a game with design so elegant it made me question my entire career as a game developer at that point.
8. Animal Crossing: New Leaf (2012)
The 3DS had some astonishing titles this decade, but none of them are as cozy and cute as Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Sure, you have debts to pay and you’re the mayor now, but with your friends in town and your amazing assistant Isabelle, there’s nothing you can’t do! New Leaf added new customization options and quality of life improvements to the series, which made it more accessible to new players.
Logging in to see what new surprises await each day was one of the great joys of the era.
7. Outer Wilds (2019)
The newest entry on our list is making the rounds on a ton of GOTD and GOTY countdowns. We couldn’t agree more. I’ll simply describe an early game moment that stood out for me instead of talking in vague terms about the incredible heights this game reaches toward the end.
Early on your home planet, you can visit a science center and observatory where your species has gathered all of its collected knowledge of the universe in one place. The hands-on demonstrations reflected my real life experiences at natural history museums as a kid, introducing me to concepts that are unfamiliar to me, but reflective of a living society in Outer Wilds. After exploring this center, I decided to look up into the sky for really the first time, seeing the origins of these wonders that most of my species won’t get to know. But I will know them. Knowledge is the currency of Outer Wilds, a concept introduced to the player almost immediately by the observatory I lost myself in. This sense of wonder and knowledge sharing never lets up. Our experiences with the game become part of the story, too, as we share with others details of our specific journeys.
6. Portal 2 (2011)
Valve focused so heavily on Half-Life 2 in the oughts, but its puzzler masterpiece Portal was the highlight of their lauded Orange Box in 2007. The game’s sequel outshines the original in nearly every way. It’s funnier, smarter, and a little more aware of itself as it opens its world to you just enough to give players a sense of what they’re really up against.
Stephen Merchant and JK Simmons excel at their voice roles and dropping into a secret room will allow you to hear “Exile Vilify” by The National, written for the game. Relevant to my interests, as a sad dad in training.
5. Destiny 2 (2017)
I’m not sure I could give a better sense of how Destiny 2 has grabbed this staff more than merritt’s experience as someone who didn’t touch this game in earnest until 2019 and then became the resident expert within about a month or so. Destiny 2 cooks with gas. Bungie’s gunplay feels right and the universe they’ve built is the right amount of obtuse, inviting players to look into the depths but never long enough to get a full picture of what’s going on even a half decade after the franchise first began.
You don’t get better co-op gameplay than this.
4. Titanfall 2 (2016)
Press X to time travel.
Titanfall 2 wasn’t a huge commercial success, but I suspect it made believers out of some forward-thinking execs (an oxymoron) at EA. Respawn spun off what they’ve learned about gunplay into Apex Legends, the best pound for pound battle royale game out there right now, and what they’ve learned about single player design into Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order. Both of those games are two of the best of 2019 and owe a ton to the genius choices made in Titanfall 2. It’s the best single-player first person shooter campaign ever.
3. Mass Effect 2 (2010)
The Mass Effect series has seen better days in 2019, but at the beginning of the decade, the series hit its high note with Mass Effect 2. BioWare figured out the formula. Focus on your supporting cast (even the annoying ones). Tighten the gameplay (even at the expense of reverse retconning the concept of ammunition). Up the stakes (even at the expense of a compelling singular villain).
Setting off on adventures with your buddies in a doomed galaxy was never this fun and hasn’t quite reached the levels Mass Effect 2 hit since.
2. Gone Home (2013)
Marketed almost as a supernatural horror game, players were (mostly) pleasantly surprised to find Gone Home was a much quieter, more contemplative experience. Other games have explored queer themes with more authority and nuance, but this was one of the first games many of us played that held up a mirror to at least a few specific experiences we had never, ever seen in a video game.
The story that unfolds is beautiful and heartbreaking and triumphant. It’s a love story, after all.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)
Learning a language gets harder as we get older, which is one of life’s unfortunate truths. I loved learning Spanish as a kid. I still get excited when I pick up a funny casual conversation between friends or can navigate my family through an experience in a foreign place. I miss learning languages.
Breath of the Wild, corny as this is, felt like learning a new language as an adult. I learned the language of this version of Hyrule, a land I’ve become very familiar with but didn’t care to know all that well. 2017’s entry into the Zelda timeline is unlike anything that came before it. It’s vast and tells stories, new stories, to you every single time you play it. I’ve put 250 hours into multiple playthroughs and still haven’t uncovered everything this game has to show me. I’m almost fluent, conversational maybe.
As long as this world still has new things to show me, I’ll keep going back to it long after this decade passes.