The 100 Best Videogames of the 2010s

Games Lists Best of the Decade
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The 100 Best Videogames of the 2010s

10 years is a long time. I wasn’t an editor the last time Paste put together one of these lists, but I was already writing here, and took over the games section not too much later. I’ve been running this game since August 2011, over 80% of this decade that’s coming to a close. Frankly that blows my mind.

Time is the most absurd lie we’ve ever told ourselves. 2010 feels like forever ago and yet I remember playing through Mass Effect 2 like it was yesterday. That came out the very first month of 2010, just under 10 years ago, and my review of it was one of the very last game pieces to run in Paste’s original print magazine. That was lifetimes ago but also last week. We’ve come so far since then as a society and yet regressed to an astonishing degree. Life is a series of countless steps forward and infinite steps backward. If this doesn’t make any sense wait until you hit your late 20s: everything suddenly goes Sonic fast from there on out, and only speeds up along the way.

This list was crafted by two people: myself and my assistant editor, Holly Green. We didn’t write all the words in the blurbs below—so many writers helped with that over the years, and deepest thanks to you all—but we decided what games made the list, and what order they’d be arranged in. The goal isn’t to capture what was the most popular or best selling or best reviewed games of the decade, but to serve as a guide to what the people who oversee Paste’s games coverage—myself and Holly—consider to be the best and most important games of the last 10 years.

Critical consensus is a joke. Art’s subjective. What matters isn’t popularity or success, but how a game makes us feel, what it makes us think about, what it says about our culture and games as a medium, and how it impacts not just us personally but the industry and the art form. There are games you might expect to see on a list like this that you won’t find below. That’s cool and that’s fine: by its definition criticism is personal. If my time here at Paste’s games section has accomplished anything, hopefully it’s establishing an idiosyncratic vision and voice that are personal, consistent, and immediately recognizable. This list reflects that ambition while praising the hard work and groundbreaking artistry of brilliant designers from around the world. You’ll surely disagree with it on some level, but hopefully you’ll still respect the games that made this list, and the decisions that went into crafting it.

So hey, let’s get into it. Here are the best videogames of the last 10 years. Dig it.

100. Metro: Last Light
Year: 2013
Original platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

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The world of Metro never let you forget that you were in a nuclear wasteland. Ammo was currency, and decisions were constantly made between an upgrade or having enough bullets to survive. Weapons were slapped together with shoddy workmanship and your flashlight was a crank tool that often flickers out. Every venture out into the dark underground Russian metro tunnels was dangerous, but human life was forced to stay there due to the ravenous mutated creatures that tormented the surface. Among all this was a story of hope, of a possible future where Artyom and the people of the metro could find peace, and possibly a way to live above again. Expanding on the world introduced in 2033, Last Light was an atmospheric game that never let you forget the light at the end of the tunnel—as long as you didn’t let your light flicker out for too long.—Eric Van Allen


99. L.A. Noire
Year: 2011
Original platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

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The reception to L.A. Noire upon its initial release was a bit mixed; as a crime investigation period piece set in 1943, it was a bold change of pace in both setting and premise for the Rockstar crowd. And yet, for all its flaws, I couldn’t help but love the game for its perceptive ability to capture the feeling of an old detective thriller from a bygone era in film, from the clothes to the cars to the recreation of old Hollywood and its many damsels in distress. It’s also the rare good example of a game that features guns, but doesn’t center them in the gameplay; as he investigates everything from murder to insurance fraud, Detective Cole relies more on his handy notebook and interrogation techniques than he does his Colt M1911. I don’t get a lot of time these days to replay a game, but sometimes on a sunny Saturday morning, I still like to turn on L.A. Noire, slip into an old Studebaker, and take a nice drive while listening to the radio in downtown LA.—Holly Green


98. Fez
Year: 2012
Original platform: Xbox 360 

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Here’s the thing about Fez: all that platforming? It is just the surface. It’s tightly structured and for the most part you can brute force your way through it. The secret puzzles you stumble across in various rooms, the ones that lead you to the anticubes, are the real meat of the game. Sometimes they require you to look a little bit outside of the world, or look at it through a different lens, to solve them. Some require a knowledge of videogames, of the Xbox, of technology that comes from outside of Fez, but they’re not just “gamer” shibboleths. It’s these moments where Fez really shines; but they’re also shibboleths of a different kind, one that creates a challenge not of manual dexterity like so many other retro-looking platformers. Instead, the challenge is mental, and maybe even cultural: where Fez’s retro tendencies, its very self-aware nature of being a game, of technology, become the language of what you do.—Brian Taylor


97. Dying Light
Year: 2015
Original platforms:PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac

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At the tail end of the zombie craze that dominated games design for several years, Dying Light made itself useful by offering something none of the other games had: a thrilling escape mechanic. The game’s fluid execution of its main character’s parkour abilities was such a perfect escalation and natural conclusion to the genre itself. In an actual zombie apocalypse, dodging would probably be a much better way to survive than direct combat, and that was exemplified in how Kyle would deftly flit over fences, climb between rooftops and overhangs, and sprint away from enemies with ease. Add to that the light loot-hunting and crafting aspects, which give some purpose to the game’s exploration and combat, and Dying Light was actually one of the better zombie games to ever be released. It’s definitely my personal favorite.—Holly Green


96. Dragon’s Dogma
Year: 2012
Original platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

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Epic role-playing game Dragon’s Dogma is the game that keeps on giving. It doesn’t end where you think it will, growing more exciting as it goes before allowing players to tackle a New Game+ mode that’s actually worth playing.—Jennifer Allen


95. Spec Ops: The Line
Year: 2012
Original platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

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In Spec Ops: The Line the real cowards are the players, content to ignore real wars for false ones, spending their money on yearly installments of war games that aim to entertain rather than inform, to dull rather than comment on any aspect of reality. We tell ourselves we want to honor the troops, but what Spec Ops: The Line makes so clear is that our interest isn’t in any sort of reality at all. We just want an escape from the dangers of mundanity, no matter what the cost.—Richard Clark


94. Holedown
Year: 2018
Original platforms: iOS, Android

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Holedown felt instantly timeless, like a forgotten early arcade hit dragged onto 21st century smartphones. It takes a simple idea—you shoot out balls to break blocks before they reach the top of the screen, caroming the balls around the screen like it’s a pool table—and maximizes it for the mobile platform, with easy drag-and-go controls and a ruleset that makes it much more complicated than just busting some bricks. Somehow Holedown makes one of the oldest ideas in videogames—bouncing balls off of blocks—feel fresh and original.—Garrett Martin


93. Fire Pro Wrestling World
Year: 2017
Original platform: PC

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The latest version of Fire Pro doesn’t just boast the realistic wrestling action the series is known for; it has a whole new story mode centered around New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Fighting Road doesn’t just add a few dozen top New Japan wrestlers—it’s basically a wrestling visual novel, complete with static screens of Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada doing what can only be called a manly, wrestling-centric version of flirting with your character, but with Fire Pro wrestling matches largely deciding the story’s outcome. Fighting Road achieves something that most wrestling career modes don’t. Despite the lack of motion in its cut scenes, and its often unrealistic story beats (at one point I have to go to New Japan’s corporate offices for a meeting, and when I get there it’s led by wrestlers Yugi Nagata in a NJPW t-shirt and Super Strong Machine in his mask), the thorough text and first-person perspective make me feel closer to this character and more deeply embedded in this world than anything I’ve ever seen in a WWE game. Oh, and the actual in-game action remains the best videogame recreation of wrestling ever seen.—Garrett Martin


92. The Disney Infinity Series
Year: 2013-2015
Original platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PC, Vita, iOS, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U

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The toys-to-life market burned fast but short in the first half of this decade, with the sudden death of Disney Infinity in 2016 the first sign of its collapse. Infinity was the best of the toys-to-life games, for my money; although it was heavily built on nostalgia (especially a few specific strands of nostalgia that I’m personally very susceptible to), it also had the weird postmodern appeal of jumbling up characters from Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, and Disney. The toy box mode, which let players build their own increasingly complex levels over the game’s three-year history, and then share them online with other players, offered not just a seemingly endless stream of new content (some of which was legitimately great), but also a glimpse into the untamed id of internet strangers let loose in Disney’s playground. (Some of these toy boxes got weird as hell.) And by the end of the series’ life, it was finally fully living up to its potential, with the last few playsets and add-on modes being genuinely good games in their own right. The last year saw a fantastic kart racing spinoff and a fighting game patterned after the classic Power Stone, both of which made Infinity’s future seem incredibly bright. Sadly Disney shut it down just a few weeks later. Disney Infinity makes this list as both a series and a platform more than any single game, because its greatness lied in that overall experience, from collecting the beautifully designed figures, to making, sharing and downloading toy box levels. For a while in 2015, this was pretty much the only game I played, and I still miss those days.—Garrett Martin


91. Year Walk
Year: 2013
Original platform: iOS

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You’ll get lost really quickly in Simogo’s sinister Year Walk—which makes it that much creepier when you stumble across one of the game’s many eerie puzzles and frightening creatures. I can’t remember the last time a game gave me the intense feeling of being completely lost and alone the way Year Walk does.—Luke Larsen


90. Super Hexagon
Year: 2012
Original platform: iOS

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In Super Hexagon, you control a small triangle trying to survive in a world full of shapes, sounds and colors that would love to engulf you. Rotating left and right around a hexagon is the only action possible, as patterns and obstacles moving in sporadic motions come hurtling toward you. The first time you play you’ll probably make it through 10 games in 30 seconds. The game is that hard and sessions are that short. One thing is for sure, though: That 30 seconds will quickly turn into hours if you’re not careful.—Luke Larsen


89. Transistor
Year: 2014
Original platforms: PlayStation 4, PC

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[This is] the essence of Transistor: In the face of power, unique human qualities become valuable, hand-picked functions that operate in the service of an agenda. To a degree, we all lose our voice. In the wreckage of a fallen world, the only choice left to make is whose side we’re on, and what we’re willing to give up for the sake of the cause.—Richard Clark


88. Tetris Effect
Year: 2018
Original platform: PlayStation 4 

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Tetris Effect is a brilliant and forward-thinking new take on an old and deeply familiar classic. It’s a curious combination of relaxation and extreme stress, often swerving abruptly from one right into the other, and surrounding myself in it through virtual reality and headphones makes it even more powerful and evocative. It could use some more variety in its music, and be a bit more esoteric and surreal with its imagery, but it’s still a gorgeous, sometimes glorious vision, and a true VR stand-out.—Garrett Martin


87. Guitar Hero Live
Year: 2015
Original platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, iOS

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Guitar Hero Live, with its streaming music video channels, was as much of a music delivery service as it was a game, and that ensured its livelihood, at least in my household. As long as Activision ran and updated the now-shuttered Guitar Hero TV, I carved out time for it. It offered something that no other game, and really, no other TV station, did at the time: a powerful combo of play, nostalgia for the classic days of MTV, and discovery. I mean, I’d never buy a Darwin Deez record, but I’m glad I’ve seen that video, you know?—Garrett Martin


86. Spider-Man
Year: 2018
Original platform: PlayStation 4 

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Spider-Man might return to too many wells too many times—it might be too stuffed full of fights and collectibles and typical open-world business—but its foundations are so strong that it never threatens to collapse on itself. This game understands why Spider-Man has been perhaps the most popular superhero of the last half-century, and does about as good of a job as the comics or movies at capturing the character’s essence. It blends more than 50 years of Spider history together, molds it around a thrilling recreation of Spider-Man’s trademark motion and fighting styles, and puts you in control of the whole thing. All together that makes this one of the most mechanically, narratively, and nostalgically satisfying big budget games of the decade, and the best Spider-Man game yet.—Garrett Martin


85. Sound Shapes
Year: 2012
Original platforms: PlayStation 3, Vita

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Sound Shapes twists the basic tenets of the classic side-scrolling platformer into a form of interactive music-making. Every element of the game serves a musical purpose. Coins aren’t just collectibles but musical notes that add new instruments and melodies to the level’s soundtrack. Platforms aren’t just bricks or elevators but words that move, twist and disappear according to a song’s lyrics. Instead of simple obstacles to avoid or monsters to dispatch enemies are drum machines that contribute to the beat. Sound Shapes surreptitiously teaches you how to build and arrange songs while enjoying one of the most beautiful and memorable games of the year.—Garrett Martin


84. Downwell
Year: 2015
Original platforms: iOS, PC

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Downwell is a crunchy, rapid-fire “Spelunky-like” (are we at that point already? Are we prepared to start describing games as “Spelunky-likes”?) but, instead of side-scrolling, Downwell occurs vertically, in a procedurally-generated dungeon that the player falls down through. The player’s sprite will often fall right past powerups, enemies, and treasure rooms, making the game wonderfully frenetic torture. Fortunately, the player is equipped with a pair of goddamn gun-boots—making you, the player, feel incredibly powerful for every second you’re not staring in shock at the Game Over screen. —Jenn Frank


83. Tearaway
Year: 2013
Original platform: Vita

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Tearaway has all the charm, artiness and mixed-media visual appeal of Media Molecule’s other platformer, Little Big Planet, but Tearaway is more enjoyable as a game because it focuses primarily on play instead of creation. It wants to get you interested in arts and crafts, and regularly asks you to draw new objects within the game and decorate various characters, but that’s all incorporated into the game’s story. Tearaway easily shoulders the burden of showing exactly what a Vita is capable of. This should be the first game anyone who ever owns a Vita plays.—Garrett Martin


82. Gris
Year: 2018
Original platforms: Switch, PC, Mac

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Written as a metaphor for grief and loss, Gris is a basic puzzle platformer, but designed with an intuitiveness that is immensely gratifying in its smoothness and fluidity. Channeling a deep sense of isolation and melancholy, the game’s stunning environments are awash with the rich and warm textured tones of a watercolor painting, with the finer pen and ink details of a storybook illustration, bringing to mind games like Machinarium in its style and artistry. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I’m not sure I deserve a game like Gris. It’s one of the loveliest things I’ve ever played. —Holly Green


81. Dandara
Year: 2018
Original platforms: Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, iOS, Android

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Long Hat House’s first game might play fast and loose with history—its hero, Dandara, is a real-life figure from Brazilian history—but its Metroid-style design and unique approach to motion make it compulsively playable. It’s part myth, part dream, all wrapped up in an occasionally psychedelic sci-fi action game heavily indebted to the aesthetics of the ‘80s and early ‘90s.—Garrett Martin


80. Saints Row IV
Year: 2013
Original platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

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A little gaming literacy goes a long way in getting the most out of Saints Row IV. It manages to riff off of classic games like Metal Gear, Streets of Rage and even the old Atari tank-battle title Combat in clever and endearing ways. Saints Row IV is incredibly aware that it is a Video Game, capital V, capital G; it explicitly embraces the bizarre, juvenile and often incomprehensible logic of the medium, and revels in it. Here’s a toybox, Volition says, go smash some stuff together. Can do, Boss.—J.P. Grant


79. Rock Band 3
Year: 2010
Original platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii

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The Beatles: Rock Band might be the most beautiful version of Harmonix’s classic, but 2010’s Rock Band 3 is the most complete realization of the Rock Band dream. The addition of keyboards wouldn’t be supported for long—the next installment, 2015’s Rock Band 4, scrapped them entirely—but while it lasted it was a crucial new feature that opened up a whole wide swath of new songs for players to tackle. The only reason it’s so low on this decade-ending list is because, as good as it is, it’s just an incremental upgrade on the already fantastic Rock Band 2, which, like the genre itself, is thoroughly a part of the previous decade. Still, you can’t diminish how great this game was in 2010, and how people like me continued to play it years after release.—Garrett Martin


78. The Long Dark
Year: 2017
Original platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac

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The Long Dark is real. Not real in the sense of the physical versus virtual, but in terms of the mechanics of quantifying human progress. The details are so realistic, they become distressing. When resources are low, environment threats are everywhere, and there’s no guarantee you’ll survive the next few minutes, it’s difficult to relax, much less enjoy yourself. And yet, I can’t help but respect The Long Dark. I’m at ease with my discomfort with it. That may seem like a contradiction but I don’t think all art can, or should, exist to placate, even when its primary purpose (as with games but many mediums in general) is to entertain. I like the challenge, even if I can only handle it in short bursts.—Holly Green


77. Dance Central
Year: 2010
Original platform: Xbox 360 

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Dance Central and its sequels were the exception to the Kinect rule. Harmonix’s dance series showed that motion controls don’t have to be untrustworthy or unfulfilling, and despite their physical requirements they were the perfect games to demo the Kinect for both dedicated players and a wider audience curious by Microsoft’s weird, ultimately failed camera peripheral.—Garrett Martin


76. Oxenfree
Year: 2016
Original platforms: Xbox One, PC, Mac

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Oxenfree captures the vicissitudes of friendship, especially the heightened passions of teenage friendship. No matter how believable these characters and their relationships can be, though, you might find yourself wanting to get away from them altogether, especially early in the game. Even Alex, the character you control, can occasionally rankle with her petty reactions and annoying humor. In that way, Oxenfree recreates that sense of self-mortification that should be most acute during your teenaged years, and how we’re not always capable of saying what we want to say.—Garrett Martin


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