This decade produced some remarkable video games. Way more than 50 of them. Impossibly, the six core editors of Fanbyte sat down and narrowed a list of 150ish games down to 50. It took us three days. You can hear that deliberation here, here, and here. We’ve made it, though. This is what we’ve come up with. Was anyone happy with this list? No. But this is what happens when a committee builds a horse.
That’s right, Fanbyte is a camel. I’ve lost the thread on this.
Anyway, games 50-17 are on today’s podcast with 16-1 to follow tomorrow. Here’s the podcast and here’s a direct link. Enjoy!
I invite you to listen to our countdown, but here’s a note or two about each entry.
50. Kerbal Space Program (2011)
This charming hard sci-fi sim cashed in on the Minions craze by putting little chirping pill bug-looking creatures in perilous situations. The game’s popularity and reasonably accurate physics simulation of orbital pull has a fan in Elon Musk, who in 2014 admitted SpaceX uses the game for testing software. The biggest difference between Elon’s companies and the Kerbal Space Program is that the Kerbals have a union and have not yet been asked to squeeze Cuphead into their shuttle consoles. The crew here at Fanbyte like the game, too, just enough for it to sneak into our top 50.
49. DmC: Devil May Cry (2013)
DmC: Devil May Cry shifted the tone and aesthetic of the long-standing series somewhat drastically in this entry while maintaining the breakneck combat the franchise is known for. Maybe you can’t wield the Mega Buster or turn your bike into a huge weapon, but the fashion! Look at the fashion!
48. Darkest Dungeon (2016)
Red Hook Studios’ turn-based RPG has punishing rogue-like elements that never feel punitive. Darkest Dungeon has a special place in managing editor Steven Strom’s heart, but its merits as a hugely replayable, high-investment-high-reward game have earned its place on our list.
47. Alien Isolation (2014)
Scary. As. Hell.
Another game down the list might be scarier, moment for moment, but nothing prepared audiences in 2014 for the convention-defying AI the xenomorph in Alien Isolation used to hunt the player down. If you don’t like the feeling of being tracked through a spaceship by a supernaturally smart, nine-foot-tall alien, I’d skip this game. For folks thrilled by terror, you can’t do much better than this.
46. Spelunky (2012)
Some might call this game more academically important than fun, but they’d be wrong. If you’re bad at Spelunky, it’s hilarious. If you’re great at Spelunky, you’ll be rewarded by a deceptively deep action adventure game. 2012’s update to the original not only gave the game a cute facelift, but upped the challenge and added lauded multiplayer elements. It’s a modern classic that helped define the rest of the decade.
45. CandyBox! (2013)
A sensation wrapped in ASCII art, CandyBox! completely engrossed scores of social circles on Twitter in 2013. Sure, its mechanics are simple. You click a lot. But wait. That’s new. Okay what happens when I do this? Oh my god. Okay haha I have to stop playing this it’s just a dumb browser game. Oh my god a sword???? What?????
44. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (2013)
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is the best MMO of the decade. From the ashes of the smoldering wreck that was the original Final Fantasy XIV, A Realm Reborn is a both a bold reconstruction and a return to basics. Every expansion Square Enix released for the game was a triumph over the last, creating a package that will keep new players busy for hundreds of hours. It’s a perfect celebration of the franchise.
43. Butterfly Soup (2017)
Video games aren’t that funny. 2017’s visual novel Butterfly Soup is very funny. Come for its sharp sense of humor and stay for a super queer yarn about a Oakland high school baseball club.
42. Warframe (2013)
Digital Extremes’ Warframe is the quietest megahit of the decade. Don’t reduce it to a Destiny clone, either. With faster melee combat and years worth of content updates that go beyond the core gameplay, Warframe is still surprising into the next decade. Oh, and it’s free. It’s a free game. It costs no money to play it.
41. Persona 4: Golden (2012)
Persona 5 might have hit the zeitgeist a little harder, but the PlayStation Vita’s expanded version of Persona 4 is one of the finest JRPGs of the period. Combining the familiar “day in the life” and dungeon crawling cycle with tens of hours of additional content, Persona 4: Golden is the best distillation of what the franchise is all about. How this game isn’t out on Nintendo Switch right now is beyond all of us.
40. God of War (2018)
If From Software built its resume this decade on the movement of combat, God of War built its resume on the weight of combat. Kratos might be softer as a dad, but every swing of his axe carried the bulk of his dormant anger in 2018’s best action adventure game. Not everyone warmed to a God of War without the on-the-nose silliness of Kratos’ previous pulpy life, but it’s tough to imagine the next decade without a more thorough exploration of the rich world Sony Santa Monica introduced here.
39. Skate 3 (2010)
With every trademark expiration of Skate 4, the world seems to understand a little clearer that Skate 3 might be the last great skateboarding game. The Tony Hawk franchise lost its way shortly after 3, but EA’s Skate franchise carried the torch effectively, culminating in the infinitely YouTubeable third entry.
38. Superhot & Superhot VR (2016)
[extremely Superhot voice] SUPER. HOT.
Move and the world moves with you. The slick and simple shooter evoked a John Wick but low poly vibe that works even better in VR, which is a rare, rare accomplishment.
37. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (2017)
There are many imitators, some massively more successful, but no battle royale game quite had the run PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds had in 2017. It’s a game of memorable moments built on accomplishments, either yours or others. You’ll always remember you first Chicken Dinner, the wild moments you shared with your squad, a ridiculous cross-map snipe you saw on Twitch, etc. It’s a machine built for your fond recollection and it’s one of the decade’s best multiplayer games.
36. Bastion (2011)
Supergiant had an excellent decade, kicked off by the superb Bastion. Though followups Transistor, Pyre, and Hades (still in early access) might have more interesting hooks, Bastion is a clear demonstration of the talent and vision of its developers. And who doesn’t love Logan Cunningham’s turn as Rucks, the games dynamic narrator?
35. Stardew Valley (2016)
Stardew Valley seemed to understand the core reasons farming and slice of life sims like Harvest Moon are so popular with certain audiences more than its predecessors did. That’s only one of the reasons this game completely wrecked the audience’s sense of time when playing the best farming sim of the decade.
34. Return of the Obra Dinn (2018)
Lucas Pope’s second commercial game after 2013’s excellent Papers, Please is a pretty wild departure from previous work. Your character is an agent attempting to figure out what happened on a doomed ship. It’s tough and strange and has some of the best audio design of the decade, not to mention it’s a looker with its extremely slick “1-bit” graphical style.
33. Saints Row the Third (2011)
I’m hard pressed to call a game that allows you to control the size of your wiener “nuanced,” but here we are. Sure, what started as a response to Grand Theft Auto’s success turned into something much more interesting and, at times, progressive. You can also RKO people in this one.
32. Super Hexagon (2012)
I’ve had barbecue with the voice of Terry Kavanagh’s outrageously addictive Super Hexagon. That’s not the reason this game is on the list. I’m just laughing at the idea of Jenn Frank saying items off of a barbecue menu in a Super Hexagon voice.
Lean Brisket. Brisket. Fatty Brisket.
Super. Fatty. Brisket.
31. NieR: Automata (2017)
This game has two anecdotal distinctions.
- It caused two people I know who did not own a next gen games console (or play games, really) to buy a next gen games console so they could play NieR: Automata.
- It caused at least eight people I know to cry uncontrollably.
This game rules.
30. Super Mario Odyssey (2017)
The second best game to come out for the Nintendo Switch in 2017 (that’s bonkers, by the way) is a return to the sandboxy exploration of Super Mario 64. It mostly succeeds, though not without some bloat in its core Moon-collection mechanic. Still, 3D platformers don’t get much better than this and Cappy’s abilities are still creating memorable moments not previously possible in a Mario game.
29. Dishonored: Death of the Outsider (2017)
Dishonored and Dishonored 2 walked (very briskly) so Death of the Outsider could run. Though maybe not as complete of a package as the core games that came before it, Death of the Outsider earned huge points with us by expanding the story to Billie Lurk, a decidedly more interesting protagonist than the royal bloodline of the Isles.
28. PT (2014)
PT is one of the scariest games of all time whose legend grows with every PS4 that accidentally deletes the now-unobtainable prelude to what was to be a new Silent Hill entry. It’s a depressing monument to what could’ve been if Hideo Kojima hadn’t been run out of Konami, though some of this spooky spirit can be found in 2019’s Death Stranding.
27. Into the Breach (2018)
Subset’s follow-up to the wildly successful FTL: Faster Than Light is basically the perfect marriage of mech and time travel. It’s senior editor Danielle Riendeau’s favorite game. Just ask her how many hours she’s put into it. It’s incredible. It’s also deserved! What a great little gem.
26. Yakuza 0 (2017)
Yakuza 0 served as a wonderful introduction to a series that Westerners mostly missed up until 2017 when Sega published what was essentially an origin story for Kazuma Kiryu, the protagonist of the series. Yakuza 0 is now essential playing if you want to get the full picture of one of the best characters of the past decade.
25. Minecraft (2011)
Minecraft is a perfect sandbox.
24. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
The crew and I struggled a bit to even say this should be in the Top 50, but our rankings betrayed that trepidation. The 24th best game of the decade really is Skryim, for better or worse. Though it appears Bethesda will never again approach the highs of the transcendent Morrowind, Skyrim still got us.
23. Overwatch (2016)
Class-based shooters have been done well before, but maybe not without as much confidence and style as Blizzard’s Overwatch. Though its status as an esport has dealt a blow to its appeal for casual players, Overwatch still mostly rules. And hey, it only took them half a decade to put a playable black woman in the game!
22. Super Mario Maker (2015)
A reasonable argument can be made that Super Mario Maker 2 is an improvement on the original’s lofty premise, but by the time 2019’s Switch release came, the magic was kind of gone, wasn’t it? It’s still incredible to see new works and new challenges, but the wonder of that first year creating Mario levels was really special and probably won’t be recreated even when the rumored Zelda Maker eventually makes an appearance.
21. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010)
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a lot like Majora’s Mask. It’s clearly constructed with the best parts of its predecessor’s cutting room floor and it’s better because of it. It’s a tighter game that had more fun with its level design that maybe any other 3D Mario game. What a nice send-off for the Wii.
20. Super Mario 3D Land (2011)
You might be wondering where 3D World lands on our list. It doesn’t. Yes, that’s right. The Assassination of Super Mario 3D World By the Coward Fanbyte.
Listen, Super Mario 3D Land is the best 3D Mario game of the decade. It’s a hyperfocused game that also serves a lowkey tribute to Super Mario 3, the best 2D Mario game of the bunch. It also has the distinction of being the only 3DS game I left the 3D on for.
19. Bloodborne (2015)
From Software absolutely crushed it this decade. Incredibly, Bloodborne is the only game of theirs that cracked our Top 50. Why? It’s exhilarating and terrifying, a game that showcases the developer’s knack for building worlds we want to discover even if it kills us. It’s From’s finest hour.
18. Rocket League (2015)
Rocket League is a sports game. It’s also the best sports game of the decade. That’s it. That’s the tweet.
17. Prey (2017)
Immersive sims are Arkane’s delicious delicacy. Their approach to game design to always reward players who think outside the box might appear to break things, but its there, right there in that very thought where Prey lives and thrives. In an unfamiliar and unfriendly world, you can break things to your advantage, but there’s a dose of terror there, too. Prey‘s enemies and surroundings are broken like you, creating a sense of tension that doesn’t let up.