This won’t be quite as verbose as my 2019 GOTYs but it will have more games. I don’t need to write more here. You know how this works.
Without further ado.
Mass Effect 2 (2010)
The widest point in the narrative-choice diamond for a series that was not-entirely-unfairly maligned for a weak ending. Mass Effect 2 is the best of the trilogy, a dense and living galaxy of competing interests, well-written characters and heartfelt moments. Bioware at its absolute best, finally breaking Mass Effect out into its own, well-realized universe. Also, the combat is much improved from the original and you never have to drive that fucking Mako.
Fallout: New Vegas (2010)
The truest expression of the modern Fallout in all the best ways. Sprawling, deeply flawed, but full of beautiful vistas and monstrous post-apocalyptia. A Fallout that hearkened back to its 2D forebears by looking further forward, by refusing to be locked into uncritical retro-future nostalgia and instead telling a story of a place that was trying, desperately, to escape its own inertia. Possibly even more important because it was the last time Fallout as a series really attempted to do this.
It’s a cultural phenomenon, basically inescapable at this point. As far as cultural phenomenons go it’s hardly the worst. As a videogame it’s hard to think of one that will have a greater impact. There are going to be writers in the next generation who grew up on Minecraft.
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (2011)
An epic for the Twitter era. Weird and dark and haunting. A man in a bear hat tells me to party, and I do. The Scythian coughs blood on her journey of self-sacrifice. The sylvan sprites ding and hum under the moon. Mingi Taw looms behind the three-eyed wolf. The soundtrack bangs.
The Walking Dead (Season 1) (2012)
Leagues ahead of the source material. Emotional and painful. The birth of a new era of Telltale Games, a studio that would collapse in embarrassing mismanagement and horrific labor abuse six years later. A shame, because TWD Season 1 still holds up.
Kentucky Route Zero (2013)
The truest, most American game ever made. Terrifying. Otherworldly. Indescribably beautiful. The most important game of the decade. When the fifth act releases it will also be the most important game of the next decade. Impossible to fully capture why this game matters so much, but it really, really does.
Gone Home (2013)
Environmental storytelling taken to its apex, the first breakthrough hit of its genre. Quiet, simple, comforting.
Monument Valley (2014)
The only mobile game that is a must-play. A beautiful, intricate puzzle box. Unexpectedly emotional.
Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014)
There was no reason for this game to be good, and yet it was. A sequel (The New Colossus) was released in 2017. I liked it a lot. There is nothing that feels as good as a just revenge.
Desert Golfing (2014)
Golf courses take up about 2 million acres of land in the United States. They are ugly, tremendously wasteful, and a symbol of bourgeois leisure — a monument to American stupidity and the inescapable power of shitty old men to dictate land usage. I fucking hate every single one of them.
Desert Golfing should be the only golf allowed on the planet.
There is no game like Undertale! There will never be another game like Undertale! Undertale is the most important RPG of the 2010s! Undertale makes me cry every time! Undertale is one of the funniest games I’ve ever played! Undertale is sincere and heartfelt and wonderful!
The Witcher 3 (2015)
The game that Skyrim wishes it was. Daunting in size and scope, incredibly written, and the closing chapter on a truly epic story that ends strong and fittingly. The world of The Witcher 3 captures the mood of a dark fairytale so expertly it’s hard to think of a game that does it better.
The Beginner’s Guide (2015)
No game crystallized the feeling of self-doubt, fear, and the paradoxical desire for both celebrated success and quiet stability more than The Beginner’s Guide. It is a devastating game that took me by the shoulders and interrogated my every feeling of Want and my every feeling of Not Enough. It is a game about creation and celebration and failure — even if the failure is false. A game about being on stage to raucous applause and it still being not enough. A game about how it is beautiful to be known and terrifying to be seen.
Little Party (2015)
A small game about helping the next generation learn how to be good to one another. It is the most important duty we have.
The best horror game to come out in this decade. A house of teeth.
Unfortunately prescient. In 2017 I compared Tyranny to Wolfenstein — both are games about the aftermath of loss, the aftershocks of societal trauma on the level of impossible terror. Tyranny knows that you cannot have a clean ending.
It is about forgiveness, and redemption, and the slow journey toward both. Tyranny is about knowing you’ll never truly have both. To live well in the empire is to already have blood on your hands.
Stardew Valley (2016)
Consumed my life for a couple months in 2016. Staggeringly deep, unendingly lovely, with a new discovery around every corner. The millennial desire for escape compressed into a single game. Soft and caring and unforgettable.
A game about running away. A game about fucking up. A game where all the villains are just our own stupid regrets, our very human problems. There is no fitting ending, because that’s not how life works. Sometimes things just end.
Absolutely balls-to-the-wall furious. The DOOM Slayer made mythical, elevated to a position of an avatar of all human destruction. You are the wrecking ball. You are the calamity. You are the fist of rage.
Persona 5 (2016)
Disaster teens save the world from disaster. The best modern Persona game. Dripping with styyyyyyyyyle.
Night In The Woods (2017)
A game about coming home, in all the joys and frustrations therein. Expertly written, angrily queer, deeply full of love. A paean to the working class and the ways they survive.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)
Beautiful, occasionally goofy, the best game Nintendo has ever made. Not without its flaws (it is a Nintendo game) but at its best moments an absolute masterpiece of tragedy and peacefulness. The post-post-apocalypse, the green retaking the land, the ancient machineries quieted and made soft again.
Haunting, melancholy, ethereally beautiful in the way that all Supergiant games are. My personal favorite of their releases, Pyre is a tragic odyssey of betrayal, divinity, and civilization’s ruin, all told through a competitive tournament.
Desperate, starving tactical warfare in machines that cost more than human lives and humans who are trying very hard to forget that fact. Quietly beautiful, somehow, even through all the missile barrages and scrambles for position. No fight is clean in BATTLETECH. The future is a place of uncountable losses.
Slay The Spire (2019)
Possibly the game I have played the most of on this list. Nearly infinitely complex, with so many layers I would (and likely will) drop another 100 hours into it next year. Soothing and methodical, card-based strategy at its absolute peak.
Apex Legends (2019)
The only squad-based, FPS battle royale worth playing.
Outer Wilds (2019)
The end of the world has never felt so comforting. A galaxy-spanning puzzle box, the last throes of one apocalypse becoming the guiding hand of another. Intricate and unparalleled.
Disco Elysium (2019)
Lovely and abrasive. Cynical and coarse. The type of game built specifically for a certain type of tired, frustrated leftist. A game built under neoliberal capitalism that reserves its deepest bile for the milk-tongued centrism that leaves enough room for fascism to fester in its expanses. Nothing good can come from a cop. No matter how hard you try.