Ten years is a long time by anyone’s measurements, but gaming has had a seismic shift in the decade just passed: mainstream VR, the eighth console generation, 3D, 4K and HDR, the Ouya… and more than a few games. And in celebration of the arrival of a new decade we’ve made an attempt to condense the previous one into a list of our top five Xbox games from the years 2010-2019. Apologies in advance if your favourite isn’t on the list, but feel free to sound off in the comments as normal!
5. Red Dead Redemption 2
Let’s kick off with the most recent game on the list, the critically acclaimed cowboy simulator from Rockstar Games. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel to 2010’s Red Dead Redemption, but this time tells the story of Arthur Morgan. He and the rest of the Van der Linde gang must deal with the decline of the Wild West in 1899, an age where outlaws were being run into the ground.
But it wasn’t just riding round on a horse all day, Red Dead 2 featured an unparalleled level of player freedom and maintenance, that will likely be a blueprint for games in a few years’ time on newer consoles. After the initial tutorial missions, players were left to their own devices. Some ideas had been firmly established in gaming such as conversation trees, morality systems and eating and sleeping but Red Dead gave everything an extra level with the likes of shaving, weapon degradation and cleaning, bathing and choosing the right clothing for the right environment. This level of detail was not to everyone’s taste however.
One thing many were agreed on was the control system. For those playing on a controller, it was atrocious. Every button has a contextualised option and half the battle was pressing the right button.
Red Dead Online soon arrived, similar to how Grand Theft Auto Online launched just after Grand Theft Auto 5 did, and completely changed online gaming. Red Dead Online had a rough start in comparison with lobbies being half full and the world itself just being a bit bare. In the year since though it has been properly fleshed out and feels almost like a worthy add-on now. The problem now though is to tempt players away from the juggernaut that is GTA Online.
But Red Dead Redemption 2 is definitely worthy of a place on our list. Fantastic storytelling, gorgeous soundtrack, an amazingly detailed open world and one of the best experiences in gaming. Red Dead Redemption 2: Yeehaw!
4. Halo: Master Chief Collection
Next up is the controversial entry on the list, as we have a compilation of games that stretch back to as early as 2001. But the fact remains that Halo: MCC is one of the best-selling Xbox One games so is worthy of a place on our list.
The Master Chief Collection launched in November 2014 and contained all four mainline Halo games upon release. It wasn’t without its launch day issues however, and as an apology to fans Halo 3: ODST was quickly added in. The collection has been receiving regular updates as recently as last month, as the missing Halo FPS – Halo: Reach – was finally added, giving a grand total of six Halo games.
Halo 1 and 2 both received the Anniversary treatment, meaning a complete graphical overhaul and even now, five years since release, some of the cutscenes in Halo 2: Anniversary are unlike anything I have seen before. But everything else is playable in 4K and at 60FPS and have received varying degrees of graphical touch-ups. Halo: MCC was never a simple port of the games using backwards compatibility – it is the definitive way to play these games now.
The multiplayer was all present and accounted for too, meaning when the collection originally launched there were over 100 multiplayer maps to play on, and six of these had received the same remastering as Halo 2’s campaign and looked stunning.
So there you are, number four on our list; a contentious entry perhaps, but every bit as worthy as the others on our list. I don’t think anyone will begrudge the next entry however…
3. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
It’s 2015 and people have finally stopped playing Skyrim – a game that I regret to inform you doesn’t appear on this list. Having passed over games such as Kingdoms of Amalur, Divinity: Original Sin and Dragon’s Dogma due to still shouting Fus Ro Dah and taking arrows to the knees for nearly four years, players escaped their Elder Scrolls cocoon looking for the next Western RPG.
In terms of gameplay, The Witcher 3 doesn’t share many similarities with Skyrim, but it is an awful lot closer than The Witcher 1 and 2.
Players once again control Geralt of Rivia who is searching for his missing adopted daughter, Ciri, who disappeared to escape from the Wild Hunt. That’s the game in a nutshell at least, but perhaps not what The Witcher 3 is most famous for.
Gwent was a card game played by most inhabitants of the Continent and provided one of the game’s longest side-quests as Geralt searched high and low for every single Gwent card. Such is the success of the minigame, Gwent has gone on to be a game in its own right.
But The Witcher 3 is also highly regarded for its post release content as well. There were two expansions released: Heart of Stone and Blood and Wine that themselves could have put many other games to shame with the sheer amount of content in them both.
Fans are eager to see what CD Projekt Red can do next with the release of Cyberpunk 2077 not too far away, as this will be the first time the company has worked on something other than The Witcher. If they can do to Cyberpunk what they have done to The Witcher then gamers are going to be very lucky in 2020.
2. Mass Effect 2
Bear with me a minute here: This next entry is the only game on our list to not be either released as a current generation title or have received a remastering or remake, but by God is this original trilogy crying out for a 4K remaster. You’d be forgiven for thinking Mass Effect 2 released last decade, but it did in fact release just 26 days into the 2010’s, making this the oldest game on our list.
Mass Effect 2 is often regarded as the best in the original Mass Effect trilogy, and that trilogy is commonly revered as one of the best in gaming, so this entry makes absolute sense. The trilogy will be remembered for the consequences your actions have; characters across the trilogy can die if you don’t complete their loyalty missions, and those same characters can be romanced by Commander Shepherd if you can use the correct conversation options. Mass Effect 2 improved on the one area that hindered the original Mass Effect.
Combat in the second game was outstanding in comparison to the first game, to the point where it was fun to instigate a fight. In fact, the whole game just felt like a more rounded experience over the first game, making it one of the highlights of the decade.
A testament to Mass Effect 2 was that I played and completed it within two weeks, and I am not one who likes to rush through games. Our Game of the Decade though took me less than a week to see the end credits.
1. Bioshock Infinite
Another trilogy recognised as one of the best in gaming, Bioshock Infinite represented – at the time – the conclusion to a story that began in 2007 with the sleeper hit Bioshock. Infinite offered a new location in the clouds as opposed to deep down underwater, but many of the same themes existed between Rapture and Columbia – and post-release DLC Burial at Sea helped combine the two locations into the same narrative.
At its core, Bioshock Infinite was a story-driven FPS; but that story was not your average one, and indeed to go into detail regarding it requires a whole other article to try and explain it. You play as Booker DeWitt, a man given a simple task: “Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt.” The girl in question is Elizabeth, who has been locked away somewhere within the floating city of Columbia, and it is up to Booker to free her and bring her to safety.
It starts with a lighthouse, and before long Booker is catapulted into the sky into Columbia. The opening hour of Bioshock is perhaps the best opening hour that has ever been committed to our favourite medium; wandering the streets getting a taste of the vibe of Columbia, questioning why – in a game set in 1912 – you can hear God Only Knows by The Beach Boys being sung by a barbershop quartet, and even enjoying a little funfair. But things quickly turn south when you realise the racial undertones in the funfair, and it isn’t long after that when you come across a couple of Infinite’s quirkier characters, the Lutece twins…
Bioshock Infinite was a landmark achievement in storytelling within gaming and – say what you want about the actual combat – is thoroughly deserving of a place in our top games of the decade.
Hopefully there is an argument for each game on this list, and hopefully I have delivered a decent case for each one. But what are your standout games of the 2010s? It is very unlikely that your top 5 resembles this list that the team have come up with, so contribute in the comments with your favourites! Don’t forget to also check out our top games of this year, our top exclusives of the decade, and even our very worst games of the year!