HomeNewsStaff Picks: Best Video Games of the Decade

Staff Picks: Best Video Games of the Decade

The past decade has been pretty amazing for video games. There’s been a number of new systems and game companies are trying to reach more and more audiences with gaming genres and structure. It wasn’t easy, but we at The Pop Break put together a list of what we think are the best video games of the decade. If you’re into these games don’t forget to check them out on Amazon or Gamestop.

Best Video Games of the Decade: Fire Emblem: Awakening

Fire Emblem: Awakening
is a tactical RPG that was developed by Intelligent Systems and Nintendo SPD and published by Nintendo. It was initially released in Japan in 2012 with a release to North America, Europe, and Australia following in 2013. Although it’s the thirteenth game in the Fire Emblem series, it was the first to be released on the Nintendo 3DS.

Like its predecessors, Fire Emblem: Awakening focuses on tactical movement of character units across a battlefield in order to fight enemy units. Through battling, characters are able to improve their abilities, develop weapon proficiencies, and build relationships between each other. Awakening takes place 2000 years after the events of the original Fire Emblem and Fire Emblem: Gaiden, with the focus being on Chrom, the prince of Ylisse, his personal army known as “the Shepherds”, and the Avatar (a.k.a. your character, which is defaultly known as Robin but you can pick your own name).

I have played a lot of video games, a few of them in the Fire Emblem franchise even, but Awakening blew me away in 2013. Since then, I have replayed it a good 6 times. I actually replayed it before Fire Emblem: Three Houses released this year (which won Strategy Game of the Year) and it was just as fun and engaging as it was the other 5 times. Robin’s (I always keep generic names, it’s like trying to name “Link” something else. It’s weird) storyline was intricate and emotional, especially if you choose to be a female and marry Chrom only to discover Lucina is your daughter. Sorry for the spoiler but the game is 6 years old.

Speaking of Lucina, I really liked all the characters in Awakening but I LOVE Lucina, so much so that she is my main in Super Smash Bros. Awakening is the game that took the bonding between characters to another level by bringing in the aspect of child units – depending on the characters you match up, the children will get different abilities (and hair color) which adds another level of strategy to the game with finding the right characters to bond in order to get the strongest kids. Plus their romance scenes are so stinkin’ cute.

-Rachel Freeman

Best Video Games of the Decade – Bloodborne 

In the recent decade, none of made a painful, rage inducing splash as the “SoulsBorne” series. The pinnacle of this cultural revolution of bringing “Hard” back to video games is none other than Bloodborne. Between it’s no holds barred approach, blinding level of polish, world building that rivals well established fantasy authors and a setting not seen often and executed well even less, FromSoft mastered the execution of the genre they created with this release.

From its first rumblings and initial marketing, the premise of Bloodborne was a tried and true horror trope; hunt werewolves in a gothic setting. However, throughout the experience, it becomes one of the best media representations of cosmic horror to date, and every tiny detail from the ground up supports that setting from the very beginning. The details and effort poured into realizing this setting is top notch and is worth exploring, even if you’re not a fan of the genre.

From the gameplay perspective, the game flips the deliberate, methodical, patient gameplay of the traditional Dark Souls experience and flips it on its head. Bloodborne demands an aggressive approach, with the weapons built around shifting between two forms while rewarding sticking to enemies through recovery mechanics tied to hitting the opponent. These two core tenants create a fluid, danza like approach that gives you the feeling of being an elite monster hunter.

Randomly generated end-game dungeons and memorable bosses and characters that stand out against others from the souls franchise, and what might be the best DLC ever crafted really pulls this game into a league of its own, compared to its own cousins. I’m not one to replay single player games, but I play Bloodborne every year, and it’s a wonderful experience top to bottom every time. A truly immersive experience awaits.

-Bryant Donato

Best Video Games of the Decade – The Last of Us 

Game developers Naughty Dog are still synonymous with Playstation’s Uncharted series, but the action/survival horror game The Last of Us is their unquestionable crowning achievement. Twenty years after a global pandemic wipes out much of the population, one man must protect a young girl (who may hold the secret to save humanity) and escort her safely across the modern post-apocalyptic America. The tense gameplay combines the resource management and scares of early Resident Evil with the stealth and sensory awareness of Metal Gear Solid.

However, the game wouldn’t be half as good without its incredible story, with the growing father/daughter relationship between leads Joel and Ellie at the center. During my initial play through, I was constantly amazed at the character arcs and emotional drama I was experiencing. From its tear-jerking prologue to its jaw-dropping finale, Last of Us’s story is on par and rivals the best that movies and television have to offer.

With its excellent combo of graphics, sound design, gameplay and story, it justifiably won dozens of 2013 Game of the Year awards. Plus, the long-anticipated sequel will finally arrive in May 2020, but the bar is set unfathomably high for fans like myself. The Last of Us remains one of those near flawless games that you couldn’t stop playing and yet never wanted to end.

-Mike Vacchiano


Best Video Games of the Decade –The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt 

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, developed by CD Projekt, is a critically acclaimed RPG and often times classified as one of the greatest RPGs of all time. The world of Witcher is a beautiful near flawless world that offers a coherent and immersive story. The story followers a monster hunter named Geralt of Rivea, a Witcher. A Witcher is a person who has undergone extensive training in monster slaying and the magical practices since a young age. In this game, Geralt is searching for his missing adopted daughter on the run form the Wild Hunt. With the expansive and in depth storyline the game systems make it much more engaging. Offering over 100 hours of gameplay and side quests there is always something to do.

This game is often classified as one of the greatest RPGs, and should be one of the best in the entire decade. One of the most important reasons why it is so great for players and why its one of the greatest is how immersive the game itself is. The amount of choices in the game are seemingly endless, the way one can play the game also differs from person to person. Every character the player encounters feels like they matter in one sense or another. This is one of the few games thats a “choose your own story and consequences.” The combat is also in depth and intricate offering many ways to tackle a battle and using weaknesses and knowledge as an advantage. It’s fun, emotional, and large enough for any player to enjoy and get in to. If someone is looking for a game with a deep experience this is the game.

-Alex Criscione

Best Video Games of the Decade – Horizon Zero Dawn 

An identifiable and strong young female protagonist partnered with a grizzled older man with nothing else left. A richly developed post-apocalyptic environment and mythos. Combat that combined stealth, ranged, and melee, often with crafted weapons and cooperative NPC tactics. Nope. Not The Last of Us. Horizon Zero Dawn.

I love RPGs: fantasy, sci-fi, tabletop, you name it. When I saw one that had you hunting giant robot dinosaurs, I had to break down and buy a PS4. As an RPG, it’s very much “on rails” in terms of story but, man, what a story. Completionists and loremasters will spend so much more time than necessary hunting and gathering every scrap of information that would flesh out the advanced past of the savage world that the spirited and intelligent young hero/outcast, Aloy, lives in and how it all came crashing down. Even as the player discovers the secret long before Aloy does, you anxiously wait to see her reactions as you work towards these goals on an open world that begs you to discover it.

Games like Horizon Zero Dawn are important. It’s fun and immersive to do things like scour the plains and mountains looking for ancient coffee mugs or get I to a fight with a robot T-Rex with laser cannons in its mouth. More importantly, though, Horizon Zero Dawn is an example of hard science fiction and, through Aloy, challenges us to examine science vs superstition, the concept of tribalism, and the potential conflicts between our intellect and ambition against the other aspects of our humanity.

-Matthew Widdis

Best Video Games of the Decade – The Legend of Zelda:
Breath of the Wild

Few games receive attention on the level of a new Zelda release on the horizon. When Breath of the Wild was released in 2017, it turned the beloved series on its head with the open-world setup, completely revamped combat scheme, and a general approach to the game that continued the series’ ability to ensnare new fans as well as thoroughly please old heads.

Turning on Breath of the Wild for the first time made me feel like I was a kid again, all those years ago, turning on the N64 and starting up the legendary Ocarina of Time and hearing that noise and having my tiny little child-mind almost shut down from overexcitement. Breath of the Wild‘s charm exuded from every aspect of the game. Longtime fans of the series such as myself were enamored with the little references to previous games in the series strewn throughout the massive Hyrule world map, the inventive approach to the dungeons and shrine quests, and the ability to interact with every piece of the environment in a way never before possible in a Zelda title.

I’m sure at this point millions of words have already been written extolling the virtues of Breath of the Wild, but I think it bears repeating: this is one of the greatest games of all time. More “intense” open-world games such as The Witcher series, Skyrim, etc., are long-established stalwarts of this genre, but Nintendo wading into the fray with a Zelda title brought that sort of adventure and mind-blowing fun to tons of gamers who otherwise may have felt too intimidated to give them a shot. Add that to the excellent gameplay, breathtaking soundtrack, and striking visuals, and you have one of the most riveting, impossible-to-put-down games that I personally have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

-Andrew Howie


Best Video Games of the Decade –South Park: The Stick of Truth
& The Fractured But Whole

Matt Stone and Trey Parker are truly the dynamic duo that can do it all, including make excellent video games based on their iconic series South Park. They’ve not only provided us with one, but two great South Park games with The Stick of Truth and its sequel The Fractured But Whole that are absolute love letters to the fans and the series.

Playing as “the new kid,” that Cartman lovingly names “douchebag,” fans got walk around South Park and take part in two incredible stories that takes them down memory lane. There’s honestly so many references that can be found across both games that it’s impossible to mention them all here – but I’ll do my best to name some of my favorites.

I’ll never forget my genuine joy in finding Mr. Hankey in the sewers and having to rescue his family, the legitimate struggle I faced in taking down Al Gore and Kyle’s cousin Kyle Schwartz, sobering up Towelie, visiting Canada, scouring all of South Park to find all of the Chinpokomon and yaoi of Tweak and Craig, just playing as Jimmy in both games, and seeing the plan Cartman has in creating their own cinematic universe. Even just seeing old character reappear for just a slight second was a genuine treat and games like these really show how much Stone and Parker really care about their fans. Not to mention, the games continue shows trend of parodying real-life things with Stick of Truth being a play on adventure RPGs and Fractured But Whole being a great riff on the rise of superhero movies.

The games also featured excellent gameplay that worked incredibly well with the animation that ripped right from the show. It was incredibly deep in giving players versatile options about how they want to go into battle. From the use of magic and medieval weaponry of The Stick of Truth to the mobile and movement-oriented positioning of Fractured But Whole, both games gave players plenty of viable options regardless of what character or class you choose to have in your party – and man were the choices great.

From playing as Jimmy the bard with his disastrous Brown Note or his speedster alter ego Fast Pass to your own custom character’s ability to playing as a variety of classes, including a Jew, in Stick of Truth as well as a changing superhero backstory with all of the superpowers you gain throughout the game, there’s so many ways to play that contain all of the great humor of South Park. Not to mention, who could forget the incredible summoning abilities that allowed players to call upon Mr. Hankey to summon his inner Fantasia, but it’s the poo version, and even Jesus, himself, to rain down bullets by pulling out two machine guns.

These two games set a new standard for what South Park could be outside of the series and had stellar gameplay, humor, and moments to make them a fan’s dream come true. They bring the kind of adventures that make you want to experience them time and time again, without forgetting a towel of course, and are easily worthy of being among the decade’s best.

-Tom Moore

Best Video Games of the Decade – Until Dawn 

Supermassive Games’ 2015 breakout horror hit, Until Dawn, is easily one of the most ambitious and immersive games that has come this decade. Essentially, players are given the option to craft their own horror movie as they control a group of friends heading up to one of their family’s mountain-top mansion and trying to survive the night when they are stalked by a mysterious force.

Player choice is always great mechanic to immerse players into the story and character, as long as players can feel the weight of their decisions, and Until Dawn took this to a whole new level. Not only could players influence and affect the relationships between characters and each character’s characteristics through dialogue choices, but ultimately decide whether or not a character would be able to survive Until Dawn. Add in the fact that players could increase their chances of characters surviving through finding clues about the area’s dark history and totems that gave players a glimpse into possible future scenarios, and you have a totally immersive horror experience on your hands.

Players can even add in their own elements of horror by choices made from talking to the mysterious Dr. Hill (Peter Stormare) between each chapter. All of this makes each play through unique for players and for players to have their own outcomes based on their decisions – including who would survive the night. It’s the kind of game that rewards players for good instincts and never impedes their experience with a game over screen – regardless how many characters die. Whether it was two character or the whole cast, players could see the night through to the very end without ever feeling like they like they failed or did something wrong and that’s something that most games really don’t do.

It’s also perfectly made for horror fans with plenty of creepiness and scares with some of the mechanics, like quick-time events and holding the controller still during instances where your characters have to stay hidden, being built around the game’s tense scares. The story, crafted by horror veteran Larry Fessenden and Graham Reznick, is full of horror fun from murderous masked characters to creepy Wendigos that roam silently hunt the group throughout the game. Even the environment gives off this creepy and isolated vibe that sends chills down viewer’s spines with each step they take. Not to mention, you can’t ignore the great performances from everyone and some of the notable names like Hayden Panettiere, Peter Stormare, and Oscar winner Rami Malek.

Until Dawn’s got everything that a horror fan could want but is also the kind of the game that has wide appeal because of its use of players choice and incredible cast – the key components of any worthy game on a best of the decade list. Supermassive is even taking their ambitions further by creating a horror anthology series with the first iteration, Man of Medan, hitting consoles back in September. While the future certainly looks bright for Supermassive and their Dark Pictures Anthology, none of it would be possible without Until Dawn as it’s surely soon to be revered as a classic.

-Tom Moore

Rachel Freeman
Rachel Freeman
Rachel Freeman is a staff writer and comic review editor at Pop Break. She regularly contributes comic book reviews, such as The Power of the Dark Crystal, Savage Things, Mother Panic, Dark Nights: Metal, Rose, and more. She also contributes anime reviews, such as Berserk, Garo: Vanishing Line and Attack on Titan as well as TV reviews. She has been part of The BreakCast for the Definitive Defenders Podcast. Outside of her writing for Pop Break, Rachel is currently a pre-school teacher. She is a college graduate with her BA in History and MAED. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @Raychikinesis.

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