The past 10 years have gone by far too quickly and have seen the gaming medium go from strength to strength. A countless array of fantastic blockbusters, indie darlings and moments of experimental brilliance have helped prove that games are far, far more than the playthings of children.
They deserve to be discussed in the same echelons as classic literature and iconic films; as pieces of work that have gone onto define a generation. Over the past decade we’ve seen the world of gaming go to some fantastic places, whether you’re talking about the rise of mobile gaming or an exploration into deeper, more mature storytelling that melds with tried-and-true mechanics. So we think it’s time to celebrate.
I can think of so many games that deserve recognition but didn’t make our list. We’ve reserved spots for the very best, however, so it’s time for Trusted Reviews’ top 25 games of the decade.
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25. Minecraft (2011)
It’s hard to deny the impact Minecraft has had on popular culture. Now owned by Microsoft, it is one of the biggest games in the world. You can find books, bedsheets, spin-offs and countless other pieces of merchandise inspired by the blocky experience, and that’s all because the game that inspired them is infectiously fun at heart.
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24. Diablo 3 (2013)
Blizzard Entertainment has unleashed an onslaught of fantastic games this generation, from the charming gunplay of Overwatch to the World of Warcraft and its sprawling plains. The studio’s catalogue is not to be sniffed at, and that goes double for Diablo 3.
Released after years of anticipation, the launch of this dungeon crawler was rocky, but it’s since evolved into a wonderfully compelling adventure that’s a blast to play with friends. If you’re a fan of big monsters and even bigger loot, don’t look much further than this.
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23. Forza Horizon 2 (2014)
Playground Games has become the premier studio when it comes to arcade racers this generation, spawning a trio of fantastic entries in the Forza Horizon franchise. For us, the second is an undeniable highlight, taking players to a European setting filled with gorgeous architecture, rolling hills and so many vehicles to drift around in.
Forza Horizon ranks as our favourite racing game of the decade, and – despite the likes of Dirt Rally, Formula 1 and Project Cars releasing in the same time frame – is streets ahead of the competition in terms of the fun factor.
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22. XCOM 2 (2016)
XCom’s comeback is one of this generation’s greatest success stories: Firaxis Games has brought a franchise back from the grave and made it better than ever. XCom 2 and its excellent expansions are the culmination of this effort, still standing as some of the best strategy experiences on any platform.
Creating your own group of amateur soldiers before taking on an endless onslaught of aliens is either horribly punishing or unbelievably rewarding, and sometimes both in equal measure. Exceptional strategy mechanics make each skirmish a triumph if you manage to employ the right tactic, wiping out supernatural beasties with ruthless aggression.
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21. Stardew Valley (2016)
Stardew Valley is one of the finest indie games we’ve played in years, and the Trusted Team has been absorbed in it for hundreds of hours since it launched. Turns out that living in gorgeous countryside, tending a farm and falling in love with your village sweetheart makes for an absurdly good time.
Thanks to a number of updates, you can now play alongside friends, tending a shared pasture filled with all sorts of valuable crops. At first glance this entire idea can sound quite laborious, but it’s a genuinely stunning piece of work filled with lovely visuals, wonderful music and a mechanical loop that never lets go.
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20. Overwatch (2016)
Overwatch is a superb shooter which has grown from strength to strength since its launch in 2016. It’s a fairly simple affair with only a handful of modes available, but it’s the massive number of heroes, each with their own distinct classes and abilities, that keep things interesting for days on end.
You could play as the time-hopping Tracer with her duo of pistols or the ominous Hanzo with an old-school bow and arrow. The choices are endless, and unlocking a bunch of gorgeous cosmetics only encourages players to further try out heroes they might not otherwise look at. Oh, and did we mention all new additions are free?
While it has stumbled when exploring different nationalities and cultures in the past, it’s hard to find a property as inclusive as Overwatch in the modern zeitgeist. Male, female and openly queer characters are a welcome sight, especially for a game in the AAA space.
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19. Life is Strange (2015)
Dontnod Entertainment’s Life is Strange is a landmark narrative experience, largely because of the themes it decides to tackle. You aren’t a muscle-ridden superhero or a gun-toting marine. Nope, you’re Max Caulfield – a young, anxious adult beginning her life as a college student. It’s an episodic adventure unlike anything else out there, telling a story of unexpected tragedy and self-discovery in equal measure.
Taking place over the course of five episodes, the story follows Max as she stumbles across her old friend Chloe Price. Together, the two embark on a journey that will transform their entire lives. Max finds herself with the power to rewind time, pushing her to try and fix past mistakes even if it means dooming everyone she loves in the process. Life is Strange goes to some beautifully unexpected places and is something everyone should play.
18. Destiny (2014)
Built by the iconic Bungie studio, famous for developing the classic Halo games, Destiny was a curious beast that many people didn’t know what to make of when it first came out in 2014. Combining MMORPG elements with Bungie’s classic shooting mechanics and a vast new universe to explore, the game was unlike anything we’d ever seen before.
While the Bungie shooting may have been the big draw that got gamers to try Destiny, it was the RPG mechanics that made them stay. The original Raid system was a particular high and left even the most skilled fireteam of friends and mercenary players scratching their heads for weeks. This is a key metric that differentiated it from the sea of shooters on the market, and the game also offers a diverse loot system.
With play including mechanics and a vast array of different hero archetypes, the game established an impressive longevity and developed a lasting player base that’s still active on the newer Destiny 2.
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17. Final Fantasy 14 (2013)
The original release of Final Fantasy 14 was an unparalleled disaster. Square Enix created something that ignored all of the advancements made by the genre in recent years, resulting in a beautiful yet downright archaic game to play. It was simply broken in certain ways, missing vital components that kept players from ever coming back.
Square knew the brand was damaged, but instead of abandoning the project, it took the servers down and began remaking it from scratch. Fast forward a couple of years and we have A Realm Reborn, an MMORPG which has since become the genre’s finest. A series of wonderful expansions in the form of Heavensward, Stormblood and Shadowbringers have cemented it as something you need to play.
We’ve even got a few words from the game’s director and producer, Naoki Yoshida, on Final Fantasy 14’s unexpected revival and success, and how Square Enix hopes to build upon this in the years to come: “The current FFXIV is at a very happy place right now, and it’s thanks to to all the players, fans, and members of the media who have supported us throughout the years. We are very grateful for this,” Yoshida told Trusted Reviews.
“As members of Square Enix, we are the ones providing a service, while the players are the ones paying for and enjoying the service. This may be a business relationship in general terms, but I don’t think that’s the case with FFXIV. The development and administration teams consider the members of the community as comrades, expanding FFXIV together as allies. I believe that FFXIV is a Final Fantasy created with the community, so let’s continue enjoying it together! :)”
16. Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim (2011)
The decade kicked off in spectacular fashion as Bethesda launched Skyrim, which is still the latest mainline entry to the open-world RPG Elder Scrolls series. While Skyrim may not have a great single-player story, and can even be accused of a rather shoddy combat system, it’s second to none in terms of providing a sprawling fantasy world to explore. Teeming with dragons, trolls and monsters, Skyrim feels as though Dungeons & Dragons has been brought to life in video-game form.
Skyrim is now available on a huge number of consoles, including current-gen versions, showing how popular this fantasy epic is. While many of the mechanics may now feel dated almost a decade after release, there’s still a lot of joy to be had in looting dungeons, joining assassin cults and uncovering every excellent side quest that Skyrim has to offer. We really can’t wait for its successor on the PS5 and Xbox Series X.
Related: Elden Ring
15. Persona 4 Golden (2012)
Starting off as a humble series that seldom made an impact outside of Japan, Persona has grown into one of the biggest RPG properties in the world. This is arguably all thanks to Persona 4, which introduced western audiences to one of the most stylish high-school adventures around. Atlus has crafted a traditional turn-based experience with storytelling at its core.
Set in the Japanese countryside town of Inaba, you play as a schoolboy by night and a dangerous monster slayer by night, travelling to a strange realm known as The Midnight Channel to solve mysteries. Exclusive to PlayStation Vita (may it rest in peace), Persona 4 Golden is an enhanced version of the PS2 classic with oodles of new content, acting as an essential entry in any gamer’s library. It could potentially be eclipsed by the more recent Persona 5, but it’s wonderful and has a very special place in our hearts.
14. Batman Arkham City (2011)
Superhero games were a bit of a mixed bag until Batman Arkham Asylum burst onto the scene back in 2009. The game brought us a swift and brutal Caped Crusader when it came to combat, but also presented us with a Batman heavily focused on detective skills – and it was a smash.
Batman Arkham City took everything that worked about its predecessor and kicked it up a notch – opening up the world further and revving up the stakes in the story. All this added up to what might be the greatest superhero game ever (sorry, Spider-Man fans).
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13. Portal 2 (2011)
Valve doesn’t make many videogames these days, with Portal 2 being one of the last major efforts from the giant corporation. Fortunately, it was absolutely brilliant. Expanding upon the simple premise of the original, Portal 2 is a vast, ambitious effort with a fully fledged narrative and countless innovations to existing gameplay mechanics.
It’s still one of the finest examples of humour in the medium, with sharp writing and excellent performances making it genuinely hilarious at times. This made some head-scratching puzzles far easier to endure, although they were a breeze to tackle with a friend in the bespoke co-operative campaign featuring a pair of charming robots.
12. Hollow Knight (2017)
Hollow Knight burst onto the scene in 2017 and emerged as one of these most popular indies of the decade. It didn’t take long for Hollow Knight to make it onto a wide range of platforms and it gained a ton of popularity as part of the Nintendo Switch’s indie games revival, alongside games such as Dead Cells and Celeste.
The game itself is a take on the Metroidvania formula, which mashes together anthropomorphic bugs and eclectic hand-drawn levels. Like the games that have influenced it, Hollow Knight is challenging and rewards you for carefully plotted boss runs and a whole lot of patience. Put in the time with this dark yet remarkably charming title and you won’t be disappointed.
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11. Dishonored 2 (2016)
Arkane Studios is a master at crafting worlds that are a joy to explore. The original Dishonored and Prey are both excellent adventures into the unknown, but the former’s sequel is the past decade’s finest example of a virtual sim. It improved upon everything its predecessor did so well while introducing an abundance of new ideas.
You play as Emily Kaldwell or Corvo Attano, a duo of master assassins betrayed by the empire they once considered their own. It’s up to them to prove their innocence, overthrowing a syndicate of corrupt politicians and powerful figures who control the entire country. This can be achieved by killing every poor soul in sight or sneaking by like a leaf in the wind, leaving your enemies untouched.
No single playthrough of Dishonored 2 will play out the same way, which is partly what makes it so special and deserving of a place on our list.
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10. Bloodborne (2015)
Bloodborne is FromSoftware at its very best. Another one of its titles is higher on this list, purely because of the impact it’s had on the medium, but this PS4 exclusive could arguably be held to another standard entirely. It’s a masterpiece of aesthetics, mechanics and overall vision. It doesn’t feel compromised in any way whatsoever, ensuring it stays with you long after you put the controller down.
I’ll never forget the first time I pushed aside the rusty iron gates of Yarnham, stepping into a battered, broken world filled with supernatural beasts and gnarly horrors of the night, all of which were begging to be torn apart by my axe. Bloodborne takes the slow, deliberate combat of Dark Souls and amps up the aggression, forcing players to act faster and more violently instead of staying back, cowering behind a shield.
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9. Celeste (2018)
The rise of independent games over the past decade has allowed small, ambitious creators to make their mark on the industry with a fraction of the budget you’d usually see with major blockbusters. A number of classics have emerged as a result of this movement, and Celeste sits proudly as one of the finest examples.
From the creators of Towerfall comes a colourful, fiendishly challenging platformer. You play as Madeline, a young anxious girl who seeks to climb a mountain, using it as a physical metaphor for confronting her demons and finally moving forward in life. The story is wonderful, filled with lovable characters and a central, queer-coded message of self-acceptance and the acceptance of mental health issues.
Its platforming is equally impressive as you dive between treacherous obstacles, using a range of physics-based abilities to progress. The game is rather difficult, but you can always switch on accessibility options to just experience the story. Oh, and don’t get us started on the soundtrack.
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8. Uncharted 4 (2016)
Nathan Drake’s PS4 debut turned out to be his deepest adventure yet. It maintained the fun, charming hijinks of previous outings while reaching a deeper level of maturity with its storytelling, and nothing in the genre has really matched it since. It’s visually stunning, mechanically diverse and gripping all the way through.
Beyond a somewhat overlong conclusion, we really can’t fault it. Featuring some jaw-dropping set pieces across the muddy stretches of Madagascar and some tear-jerking narrative revelations, Nathan Drake’s swansong is a master stroke of gaming genius, with Naughty Dog at the top of its game. Lost Legacy is equally as stellar, but including it as well might be cheating.
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7. Dark Souls (2011)
FromSoftware’s Dark Souls could be crowned as the most influential game of the past 10 years and we wouldn’t bat an eyelid. It has had a profound effect on the fundamental blueprints of game design thanks to its fluid, unforgiving combat system and nuanced approach to exploration across a vast, interconnected world.
The land of Lordran is uncompromising in its approach to drawing the player in, drip feeding new locations and spectacularly grim lore through dialogue and character descriptions. You’ll constantly hit walls thanks to horrendously difficult bosses, but pushing through is so, so worth it. Each new discovery is a marvel, drawing you further into this dark, gothic world that refuses to let go.
6. The Witcher 3 (2015)
Skyrim didn’t last long as the king of fantasy RPG games after it was launched. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt surpassed it in almost every regard just four years later, with an epic story, an engrossing combat system and a vast world blighted by gruesome beasts. Taking the role of monster hunter Geralt of Rivia, you spend the majority of the game slaying creatures of all shapes and sizes. However, there’s more on offer here, including a dive into human politics and the surprisingly excellent Gwent card game.
Developer CD Projekt Red also set the bar high for post-game expansions, with both Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine continuing the same high standard of the base game. It’s a great shame we’re unlikely to see another entry to the Witcher series just as it hit form, but at least we will see the developer continue to make RPG games, with Cyberpunk 2077 confirmed as the next release.
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5. NieR: Automata (2017)
Yoko Taro’s NieR: Automata is a strange, unique masterpiece in myriad ways. Its distinctive aesthetic has inspired fan art and cosplay from across the globe thanks to an iconic cast of characters, while its deep, philosophical narrative isn’t afraid to ask the big questions most games avoid. Combine all of these beautiful qualities with a fluid and satisfying combat system from PlatinumGames and you’ve got a recipe for success.
Whether you’re duking it out with obscure alien machines from space or discovering the historic ruins of a planet long since abandoned, Automata is filled with so many worthwhile features, I could be here all day recounting them all. If you want something strikingly different, play this right now.
4. God of War (2018)
When Kratos – infamous for debauchery, plundering and downright sadism – became a father to his son Atreus in this 2018 reimagining, everything changed.
God of War introduced us to a more thoughtful and methodical Kratos – a man wrestling with being a father while still having inconceivable threats to take down. The combo provides us with a sprawling odyssey that satisfies as much with its fractured relationships as with fracturing enemy skulls.
Related: Upcoming Switch games
3. Mass Effect 2 (2011)
Mass Effect 2 is a triumphant RPG, showcasing Bioware at the top of its game when it comes to engaging characters, in-depth storytelling and series of truly engrossing gameplay systems. Every decision felt like it mattered, with the final showdown killing off characters if you made the smallest of mistakes. We cared about every character no matter how minor, praying they’d live to see another day once the deed was done.
It’s a shame the story-based choices you made in Mass Effect 2 didn’t conclude how fans had hoped in Mass Effect 3, but that still didn’t detract from the incredible experience provided by this sci-fi epic.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)
The past decade saw the emergence of open-world games but many were underwhelming, with tedious bloat padding out the map and ruining the fun of exploration. Trust it to be Nintendo that showed everyone how to do an open-world game properly, as the company ditched its trusty Legend of Zelda blueprint for a more ambitious approach.
Breath of the Wild is arguably one of Nintendo’s best games yet, unleashing Link into a jaw-dropping land to prepare for his final fight against Ganon. This is a survival game in its truest form, as breakable weapons and harsh weather conditions prove more of an obstacle than even the toughest enemies. But that just makes every journey feel like a proper adventure.
Related: The Last of Us 2 preview
1. The Last of Us (2013)
Naughty Dog is one of the best studios in the world and hasn’t put a foot wrong since the release of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves back in 2009. Every single game has been a masterpiece, from the swashbuckling tales of Nathan Drake to the grim, sombre relationship between Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us.
This is a bleak post-apocalyptic story of friendship, loss and doing anything to protect the ones you love, even if it means leaving the world behind. It’s extremely powerful and set a benchmark for drama in a medium that seeks to emulate film.