With 2019 coming to an end, the 2010s will soon be done and over with as well. In the spirit of the end of the decade, we will be catching up on our top 10 lists for each year of the 2010s, starting with… well, 2010. We’ll have a brand new top 10 list from the decade every Tuesday leading up to December 31.
The 2000s spawned many original IPs with blooming ideas that captivated players and built audiences for many game developers. 2010 seemed to be a great year for those original IPs to receive some even better sequels. On this list, we only have three original IPs, including our honorable mentions. The years leading up to 2010 proved to be inspirational for developers as they clearly listened to audiences and created follow-up games worthy of history.
“It’d be easy to damn Limbo as the mere foundation for a renewed breed of platformers. Atmospheric, downcast side scrollers that don’t always test reflexes as much as they prod at your psyche. It’s only you and the depths of your logic grounding progression with minimal enemies in sight and a soundtrack that faintly washes over your surroundings. The black, white, or shadowy textures uphold an impenetrable mystique plastered out of Vincent Price’s aura. Its look is immediately unforgettable and forecasts an understated gloom that few platformers could sustain.” – Zach Kauz
“Limbo has aged brilliantly. I was actually playing it the other day, and I’m surprised it came out in 2010. The vulnerability of the protagonist and his weighty, almost desperate movement make for one of the best puzzle platformers of the decade.” – Lewis Mackin
“Since 2010, indie games have been attempting to re-cover the gaping hole that Limbo left behind. Playdead’s debut was worked on for at least six years, with co-founders Arnt Jensen and Dino Patti working tirelessly through several obstacles to make the vision a reality. The result? Unforeseeable success.
Tight gameplay evolving the arty platformer to an SSS-rank that has yet to be equaled in its field, and a story that continues to befuddle players in its meaning, Limbo is one of those rare instances of a game being “perfect.” It is undeniable art, it is undeniable beauty, and when a new game comes out that matches its intrinsic beauty, it will be a historic moment for gaming.” – Sam Taylor
9. Mafia II
“It only helps that Mafia II elevates a pastiche of ’40s and ’50s America with almost three timely hours of licensed music and incidental activities at retro barbershops and nightclubs. Beneath a standard graphical engine and its status as another crime game, Mafia II exudes character within and outside of its core family. Your right-hand man, Joe Barbaro, naively touts the joys of the mafia lifestyle as everything starts to cave-in, serving as understated comic relief and a supporting character who is just as nuanced as Vito. Driving and gunplay are tethered to the mechanical innovations of the late 40s, but are solid through-and-through and methodically improved by the attention paid to memorable set-piece design. In a current climate where open-world games regularly subsist off of content for its own sake (including the concessions made by Mafia III), Mafia II’s world holds up better than ever before.” – Zach Kauz
“Mafia II tells a somewhat quiet tale, and I think it would be a push to say it breaks new ground. What it does do is tell a compelling story mainly inspired by Scorsese crime thrillers. Unlike its contemporaries like GTA or Saints Row, Mafia II’s open world takes you right back to the ’50s. The tale of an immigrant trying to make it big in the land of opportunities is right at home in this time period.
The story really picks up in the latter third, too, ending in a bittersweet victory for our hero. I still miss you, Joe.” – Lewis Mackin
8. God of War III
“God of War III was the first game I earned a platinum trophy for on my own. It was the game with the most polished, basically perfect gameplay I’d played at the time. It took what the previous entries did and said, Hold my wine. Watch this. Santa Monica Studio put together something so fun and so uniquely satisfying that it was hard for me to find something that captured that unique rush for a while after.” – Nathanael Hueso
7. Halo: Reach
“Man, 2010 was a great year for multiplayer titles, and Halo: Reach has to be one of my favorites. The hours spent in forge mode making race tracks for mongooses and playing griffball with friends on a private server – unforgettable. I also remember desperately trying to flip an enemy warthog with the shield ability, something I had seen in the trailers. I eventually did it and finished my opponent with a maelstrom of grenades. It was so satisfying.
Reach’s story was great fun too. Bungie monopolized on the popularity of ODST and went for a bleaker narrative but with the large-scale action of the mainline games.” – Lewis Mackin
6. Fallout: New Vegas
“Fallout: New Vegas is one of the best-written RPGs of all time. It improved upon Fallout 3’s excellent gameplay, resulting in an all-round tighter FPS experience. Pair that with a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, a host of wondrous characters, and some of the best writing in gaming, and you have a truly rounded game.” – Donogh Moore
“Fallout: New Vegas inherits the same gameplay and graphical engine of Fallout 3 and broadens your character’s freedoms across the board. Crafting is reinvigorated, once again a core element of your survival. Your time spent in the wild west (Nevada, California, and Arizona alike) positions you between factions whose opinions of you alter the course of the game at large. In a single playthrough, it’s a remarkably intuitive way for the world to progress around you. Across multiple playthroughs, it verifies how intricate an experience New Vegas is.” – Zach Kauz
“There’s no controversial opinion from me on this one. Fallout: New Vegas is easily the best in the series. It captures the weird and satirical post-apocalypse wonderfully and improves on Fallout 3 in almost every way… I’m not someone who goes back to long-form RPG’s on the regular, but I can jump into New Vegas any time.” – Lewis Mackin
“Really, it’s incredible how almost none of Fallout: New Vegas falters. Every DLC has its own unique qualities: the combat became more tactical, the characters more rounded, the music more fitting beyond a quirky choice. I could go on, and on, and on about every single great thing Obsidian did with this game, but for now, just know that the praise is deserved.” – Sam Taylor
5. BioShock 2
“I think I would have to agree that Bioshock 2 was pretty underwhelming conceptually. It’s a classic tale of a sequel that just couldn’t live up to its predecessor. Rapture wasn’t new anymore, fan-favorite characters seemed to be replaced with underwhelming counterparts, and playing as a Big Daddy didn’t feel as satisfying as it should have.
Despite all this, Bioshock 2 is still an amazing addition to what came before it. We got to learn more about Rapture as a place, weapons were more diverse and satisfying to use, and now you could use plasmids at the same time as your guns. Rapture still looks beautiful too and going back to explore the underwater city hasn’t lost its charm. I can go back and play Bioshock 2 at any time, reveling in the more polished gameplay mechanics and demolishing splicer’s faces with a big drill.” – Lewis Mackin
“Meeting the same heights as the original, Bioshock 2 still is a more-than-worthy successor, with the same tight gameplay, albeit more weighted due to the Big Daddy perspective. Beyond a reasonably great narrative, it was the ‘Minerva’s Den’ expansion that, to this day, is still argued as being the greatest Bioshock-related thing ever. Objectivity aside, there is something special about Bioshock 2, and its status as an overlooked gem is a shame.” – Sam Taylor
4. Super Meat Boy
“Where many games released in 2010 pushed presentation in ways that often undermined playability, Super Meat Boy was merely interested in perfecting the art of player movement. You could quickly boil down Super Meat Boy to an unending arsenal of narratively interchangeable, nigh-impossible twitch platforming segments with a manic and juvenile sense of humor, but that would belie the fact that it is still one of the most mechanically rewarding games of its ilk. What was once merely a top-of-the-line, browser-based flash game was fully refined by 2010 into a compulsively playable mad dash with devilishly simple mechanics.” – Zach Kauz
“Talking about the game, Super Meat Boy is amazing fun. A true ‘games’ game if you will. Not worrying about an over-explained plot or holding the player’s hand, it throws you into its unforgiving levels straightaway, and you love it for that. Playing this game with a friend is where it reaches the peak of entertaining. You can take it in turns to beat levels, and it eventually turns into a competition over who can beat the stage the fastest. This is game design at its finest.” – Lewis Mackin
“Such a fluid, punishing game. Super Meat Boy was the hardest game I had played at the time and is still one of the most difficult I’ve come across. Even so, the payoff for completing levels is unparalleled in video games. There is so much to do and unlock that the game demanded you come back time and time again.” – Nathanael Hueso
3. Super Mario Galaxy 2
“Building on everything the previous game did right, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is full of colorful worlds packed with loads of charm, tight platforming under changing gravity, and an absolutely incredible soundtrack.” – Max
“As someone who got 100% on the previous entry, Super Mario Galaxy 2 had a lot to live up to in my book. When I booted the game up, I found the levels to be shorter and tighter. At first, this was disappointing, but I soon realized that it didn’t take away from the game, only enhanced it. There was more variety and much more charm in this entry and I was down for it all. Brilliant game and great memories.” – Nathanael Hueso
2. Mass Effect 2
“Mass Effect 2 is BioWare at its best. A massively fleshed out world that comes straight from the writing team’s minds. Companion quests were among the best and most compelling stories told, and it all concludes in an excellent finale. I watched my brother meticulously plan that one out, carefully crafting his 100% playthrough to get the best results. That’s gaming at its best for me.” – Lewis Mackin
“The Mass Effect trilogy has its ups, but it rarely has its downs. The second installment serves as a thriving example of this. Even at its worst, Mass Effect 2 trumps the competition…
As a sequel, there are few better. The aiming and overall controls are tighter than its predecessor, characters are more complex, the game received a graphical upgrade, the story hits deeper and stronger, and environments are more atmospheric and detailed. What more could you want?” – Brandon Pero
1. Red Dead Redemption
“This is my game of the year hands down. Whenever you think John Marston’s tale is coming to a close, it just carries on, adding more to his increasingly complex character. His dry wit and his cynical attitude never fail to entertain as he’s chatting away on horseback.
The gunplay is snappy, responsive, and brutal. Shooting an enemy in the leg and then watching them desperately limp away puts you in the saddle of a brutal outlaw. The online mode gave me some great memories too. Hanging around two trees, driving wagons into the water, and getting into dynamite throwing contests… ahhh, that was the life. I don’t think I can do Red Dead Redemption justice here at all. Just play it. Please.” – Lewis Mackin
“Traveling from Gaptooth Ridge to Diez Corona feels like a singular journey, but upon reflection, you think of it more like a paintbrush switching colors as it glides across a canvas…
This world is beautiful in its own right and gets further context and value with the addition of meaningful characters with fascinating mannerisms and backstories. You can’t help but feel for John Marston as he hauls himself from town to town ultimately just trying to get back to his family. There’s a certain romance that encompasses the setting and the characters, whether it be a sunset as you ride through the dust or the memory the pain of knowing you have to hunt down another old friend of yours in order to make your way back to your wife and child.” – Brandon Pero
Donkey Kong Country Returns
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Brandon is a young writer who loves going deep into games to explore meaning, purpose, and life. He believes that there’s nothing better than getting lost in a world full of characters to love and lessons to learn. He has a special place in his heart for single player games such as Mass Effect and Life Is Strange, but he also blows off some steam playing some of his favorite multiplayer games, like Paladins.