Over the last ten years, we’ve had the pleasure of consuming some amazing stories, touching characters and utterly beautiful graphics mixed with outstanding audio techniques. Was it the best decade in gaming? Possibly. But also a very significant one. Developers opened their arms wide to embrace a new market ready for tapping – the casual gamer. Nintendo’s success of the WIi and DS, Sony’s knack of borrowing their idea and Microsoft’s desperation to jump on the band wagon has made for some very good gaming – both in casual and hardcore experience. But enough of my rambling, continue reading to see my top ten games of the last decade. In no particular order of course as it was hard enough picking only ten!
Ico (2002 – PS2)
When deluded folk babble their nonsense on how games are not art, show them Ico. It had an art-style that didn’t try and wow you with polygons, it charmed you with brilliantly designed characters. Shadow of the Colossus may have been technically superior with a longer campaign but it lacked caring which is what made Ico the heart-warmingly pleasant game that it is. It could have easily been one big escort mission but instead, Yorda had a personality that made you want to be her hero and Ico‘s ending was one of the most touching I’ve seen.
Wii Sports (2006 – Wii)
It may have been a bundled game for the majority of territories but Wii Sports was the start of something that has changed the video game industry forever. Casual games have been around a lot longer than Wii Sports but very few if any had the same kind of allure that this introduction to the Wii maintains. For a considerable time, most Wii gamers only ever played Wii Sports and to this day, even with a sequel to challenges its dominance, Wii Sports is still a fun game to play.
Gears of War (2006 – Xbox 360, PC)
Remember before Cliff Bleszinski’s thick-neck-fest was out? When it didn’t seem like every game used the Unreal 3 engine or have some kind of cover system? Gears of War revitalised the idea of ‘stop and pop’ gameplay and became the game to beat when it came to next-gen graphics. It looked stunning on both HD and SD tvs – a blessing to all those who were yet to buy a HD tv back in 2006 (like myself). Getting 3 of your mates together online and seemingly taking on the world had a hidden layer of depth thanks to the cover system. And lets not forget the ongoing amusement that comes from quoting Marcus Phoenix’s script.
Doodle Jump (2009 – iPhone)
For all the terribly controlled, unimaginative arcade clones that claim to be iPhone games, Doodle Jump trumps them in everyway. The painfully simplistic concept that gnaws at the competitive streak inside of us all has elevated the vertical platformer to a place where so many developers aspire to be. Tilt the iPhone to move the doodle, don’t fall off, get as high as you can. Simple, fun and only 59p. Marvelous.
Bioshock (2007 – Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
If I could forget my first play through with Bioshock I would do so in a flash. Only so I could then play it all over again and experience Ken Levine’s masterpiece as if I were a total newbie. The beautiful graphics and eerie audio crafted an engrossing world that felt uncomfortable to traverse but deeply rewarding. The use of Plasmids gave us gamers the ability to play Bioshock exactly how we wanted, even if the path was slightly linear. Don’t worry Ken, we all forgive the poor ending too.
Shenmue II (2001 – Dreamcast, Xbox)
I am one of those guys who is still holding onto the ounce of hope that Shenmue III will be released (I mean come on, I’ve even seen the screenshots!). Until then I still have my fond memories of the revengeful life sim sequel that is Shenmue II. I rarely replay games that are so story driven. Once I’ve seen it all, I’m done. With this little gem, I was forced to start again due to some initially neglected scratches on my Dreamcast discs and found it to be a whole new adventure. Sure the key storyline milestones are there but getting from one to the other was totally different. Shenmue II makes you do some mundane tasks that most of us would begrudge doing so in real life but somehow, it made them fun and made me want to keep doing them right until the very end.
Halo: Combat Evolved (2001 – Xbox)
When I was wondering whether trading in my PS2 was actually a good idea, a friend lent me Halo with the words “Trust me mate, you’ll love it”. And I did along with countless others. Its biggest flattery came from so many developers promoting their games as ‘Halo killers’. Non of which succeeded but those two words showed the grandeur that Microsoft’s now franchise possessed. Enemies fled from battle with humorous cries, vehicles where fully operational and the multiplayer filled bedrooms with LAN parties. PC gamers may have had such treats for a while but console gamers marvelled at how their beloved platform could now be taken seriously when it came to FPS titles.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008 – PS3)
Say what you will about the terribly lengthy cut-scenes but Solid Snake’s last poetic tale perfected the applaudable ideas of the previous three games. Controls felt spot on with no more crippling finger poses, graphics far surpassed what everyone was expecting and all the loose ends of such a convoluted story wrapped up neatly causing many gamers to sigh “oh, now I get it”. Hideo Kojima even turned one of Metal Gear‘s hated characters – Raiden – into someone who we all desperately wanted to play. Brilliant.
Half-Life 2 (2004 – Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
There is yet to be a finer example of what makes a great FPS. Half-Life 2 broke tradition and came with a story that yearned for completion with characters that seemed real and a world that could so easily be our own in the not to distant future. The stages Gordon Freeman had to explore were so vast in size and so varied in style that gamer became joyfully lost amongst the Headcrabs and Metrocops. Level design and a brilliant script has made Half-Life 2 a game that all serious FPS fans should experience.
Mass Effect (2007 – Xbox 360, PC)
The part of BioWare’s sci-fi wonder which I enjoyed the most was talking to NPCs. A flick of the analog stick decided your demeanour – would you be a jerk or a nice guy? Whatever your choice, the narrative strived onwards towards a conclusion full of fantastic gaming moments. It may have been riddled with glitches and the elevators seemed to go on forever, but these complaints never once disrupted the fun. BioWare have successfully created an outstanding sci-fi adventure with incredible depth to the characters and storyline. Beautiful, wonderfully unfolding and ever so more-ish. Thank heavens for Mass Effect 2.
Modern Warfare 2 (2009 – Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Building on the brilliance of the first Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward have produced a fantastic high-octane FPS that does so many things right. The story may not be anymore than a Hollywood blockbuster but when the majority of games still struggle to have any kind of interesting narrative at all, such a criticism starts to look more like a compliment. The admittedly short single player campaign only took about five hours to complete but entertained me longer than the eight hours I spent with Killzone 2 and its mind-numbingly boring later levels. It’s far from over though as the fantastic multiplayer and co-op levels offer a great deal more.
Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy (2005 – Xbox, PS2, PC)
A refreshing start to an incredibly well crafted murder mystery has paved the way for a new direction in video games. But for all its accomplishments, David Cage’s ‘directed experience’ couldn’t quite keep up the initially powerful beginning. The last 90 minutes took the story in directions that felt cliche and predictable fuelled by now-intemperate quicktime events. Though it’s still worthy of high praise thanks to the virtual performances and chilling environments. If I had played this back in 2005, I may have been more forgiving of the ending and controls but I see Fahrenheit as a catalyst for excitement of Heavy Rain – which isn’t a bad things at all.