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Top 10 Games That Defined The 2010s

Another decade is over, and the video game industry has gone a really long way. At the beginning of the decade, Wi-Fi connectivity would be considered an innovative feature for a gaming console – and now we have virtual reality and cloud technologies that are so widespread we don’t seem to notice them anymore. The new decade is sure to bring even more astonishing technologies that will definitely revolutionize the way we look at video games once again. And we have just enough time to take one small glance back at the most important games of the last ten years.

The 2010s have seen thousands of games released, and some of them can already be seen as true milestones for the entire industry. Some critics seem to compile their own lists of 2010s’ masterpieces based on sales information, but that approach doesn’t make much sense. After all, the defining games are not always the best-selling ones. That’s why we used a slightly different way to decide which games have had the most impact on the industry, taking a lot of aspects into account. Anyway, here’s our list of those top 10 games that truly defined the 2010s.

Dark Souls

Dark Souls game screenshot

There’s actually nothing left to say about the Dark Souls franchise that hasn’t been said already. And the first game in the series has become the most iconic one, bringing all of the innovative and challenging features of Demon’s Souls as its predecessor to a much broader audience. One of its most important aspects that was praised by almost every critic is the way it immerses you in the narrative. Most games make you follow a story, and it feels kind of reading a novel. But Dark Souls makes you explore the world all by yourself, trying to gather some information about it.

The other famous – or, rather, infamous part of the game is its brutal mechanics. Dying a lot is inevitable, and there are literally hundreds of different ways to die. Each boss is so hard to kill that it feels almost cruel – but that’s what makes finally killing a particularly annoying one so satisfying. All in all, these unique gameplay concepts allowed the Dark Souls franchise to become extremely popular, practically creating its own genre of role-playing games.

Fortnite

Fortnite game screenshot

The rise of the Battle Royale genre was definitely one of the most important things that happened to the video game industry in the 2010s. Sure, it was PUBG that created and popularized the genre, but Fortnite’s efforts to imitate it and join the trend were simply epic. Fortnite had been in the development since 2011, to go almost unnoticed after the release in 2017. That’s when its concept was switched to match PUBG, but with much more appealing visuals, more approachable gameplay mechanics, and a learning curve that was considerably less steep.

The result has become what we believe to be one of the defining games of the decade, combining original building mechanics with swift battles and powerful social elements that helped the game gain its enormous popularity. And while it has acquired this status at the end of the 2010s, there are good chances Fortnite will influence the industry in the 2020s, as well.

Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto V game screenshot

Every new game in the Grand Theft Auto franchise has seemingly aimed at providing a player with even bigger open worlds with more possibilities. But those worlds were not getting more alive, sometimes leaving a feeling of lifeless imitation. Grand Theft Auto V was destined to become arguably the first game in the series that combined a vast and entirely explorable world with an unprecedented level of detail. These details have finally made the GTA world living and breathing – even if that required a really huge budget.

GTA V has shown that Rockstar developers were never going to rest on their laurels – instead, it aims to achieve impossible with each installment of the famous series. Of course, the concept has stayed almost untouched for about 20 years – you explore the world, completing some missions and hoarding money. But it gets better every time, and the next GTA is sure to be even more awe-inspiring, however impossible it may look now.

Minecraft

Minecraft game screenshot

Video games were always about exploring pre-made world with certain rules. There has been a certain amount of experiments with truly open rules before, but it was Minecraft that has made sandbox games really simple and popular. Using intuitive mechanics and simple controls, you could explore infinite, computer-generated worlds, creating almost everything imaginable, from vast fantasy cities to working calculators.

Since its release in 2011, Minecraft has become a synonym of unrestricted creativity. An entire decade later, it stands almost as great and relevant as ever, and it will probably last another decade, as well. But even if it does not, the concept will definitely live on, and the emergence of the next Minecraft is just a matter of time.

Overwatch

Overwatch game poster

The existence of what would later become one of the most successful hero shooters was confirmed by Blizzard as early as 2008, but the project was abandoned in 2014 – only to reemerge in 2016, gathering more than 50 million players by 2019. The secret of such impressive success was simple: the gameplay encouraged players to experiment and try new strategies, frequently changing, adding, or removing characters and their abilities, sometimes altering the entire balance altogether.

Blizzard has been praised for its balancing talent for decades, and that talent plus the enormous budget have become the key aspects of Overwatch’s success. It has become a standard for all hero shooters out there, and if the genre is going to evolve in the 2020s somehow, it will be impossible for it to deny a great portion of influence by Overwatch.

P.T.

Released quietly in 2014 as a teaser for an unnamed horror game, what would later be known simply as P.T., or Playable Teaser, was one of the defining moments of the year – and of the entire decade, it seems. Featuring a repeating hallway with small unnerving changes, creepy radio messages, and other such things, this short but terrifying story turned out to be a teaser for Silent Hills, an upcoming game in the famous franchise.

Sure, the game itself was eventually canceled, but even its short teaser was horrifying enough to become one of the brightest events in the genre. You can see its influence in some recent horror games, and it’s definitely going to be relevant for quite some time.

Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go

The success of Pokemon Go was almost certain – after all, it’s one of the most popular franchises in the world. However, the launch was an outright disaster, and the chances of prolonged popularity were relatively small. But eventually, the game got better, and it was finally able to show the full potential of AR technologies, attracting lots of fans of every age and with completely different gaming backgrounds.

The first month after the release was unprecedented for the entire industry – there was never a game that would drag so much attention from the mainstream media. Pokemon Go has changed the way we think about mobile games altogether, offering new ways we can use it to communicate and explore our own world. It created a trend that will surely get only bigger in the upcoming decade.

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley game screenshot

Perfectly balancing casual gameplay with hardcore details that open almost infinite and equally satisfying ways to play it, Stardew Valley is destined to be remembered as one of the most important ways of the decade. Made by a one-person studio, it provides lots of content that can keep you busy for hundreds of hours.

There’s no right way to play it: you can speedrun it, choosing the easier path to victory, or you can choose to explore the world, collecting different items and farming. Stardew Valley gives you a peculiar sense of satisfaction and involvement, and that makes it one of the most memorable games of the entire decade.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda Breathe of the Wild game screenshot

Another milestone for open-world games, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gives you the story in a way that’s pretty similar to the narrative mechanics of GTA V. You just sort of getting thrown into the world, and then it’s up to you where to go. You have only the main objective, and you can choose your own way to complete the game.

Almost every other part of the game is optional. However, Nintendo manages to provide enough content to keep its open-world alive and intriguing. That makes the game really revolutionary for the whole genre, and its mechanics will surely influence many games we will see in the next decade.

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead game screenshot

Telltale Games was one of the first studios to switch the puzzle-oriented approach to an adventure game to more narrative-driven stories. One of the most successful aspects of The Walking Dead – apart from the franchise itself – was episodic structure. It managed to attract new players time after time, making it really popular.

The game has inspired a couple of other great projects, including Life is Strange – but, ironically, its success has eventually led Telltale to shuttering. But it remains one of the games you’ll probably never really forget about. And, what’s even more important, we’ll probably see more and more developers focusing on their narratives heavily – all thanks to The Walking Dead.

Something’s Missing?

We’ve left the games unarranged intentionally. After all, it was hard enough to choose a humble ten of them, let alone give some of them preference. Don’t forget there are a lot of other great titles that didn’t make it to our list. However, if you feel there are indeed some important or simply defining games of the 2010s that we may have overlooked, be sure to leave a comment.

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