As the 2010s come to a close, looking back on the thousands and thousands of video games that were made over the last ten years is a daunting task. It’s so daunting, in fact, we need a little more time—we’ll be narrowing down that massive list to a selection of the most important games of the decade in the near future.
In the meantime, though, we thought it would be interesting to poll the Ars Brain Trust for some more personally relevant “Game of the Decade” picks. These titles might not rank as the objectively best games of the decade, or the most innovative, or influential, or even the most well-made. But each one stands out to a member of our staff as the most memorable and impactful gaming experience of the last ten years; the one that meant the most to us for one reason or another.
The results run the gamut from 100-hour epics to mindless mobile phone time-wasters, and everything in between. It may not quite form a comprehensive accounting of the decade in games, but altogether and individually, these are the titles that will stick with us most when we look back on the 2010s.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Chosen by Copy Editor Aaron Zimmerman
The Binding of Isaac is a game about a boy named Isaac fleeing into his basement to escape his mother, who has been convinced by religious television that Isaac is an unrepentant sinner who must be murdered. Isaac delves deeper and deeper into the labyrinth under his house, eventually somehow making it into his mother’s womb—and then Hell itself—while shooting at piles of poop and distorted visions of his own psyche. His weapon is his own tears. The game is full of hopelessly dated memes and endless toilet humor.
Look, I don’t love that this is my favorite game of the decade, but sometimes a game chooses you.
The Binding of Isaac (including all of its DLC, of course) has been my gaming comfort food since it got its hooks into me in 2014. I love the sense of progression you get from a good RPG, and with the Binding of Isaac, I can feel that power curve rev up to ridiculous levels in less than an hour, as many times as I want. The game’s huge variety of items—and the way they interact in unique and interesting ways—is still unmatched in modern roguelikes. No two runs ever play the same. Sometimes RNG is a pitiless god who saddles you with a lousy loadout you have to do your best with, and sometimes (OK, often) you become a disgustingly overpowered hurricane of destruction.
There’s no game I’ve put more hours into (no, I will not be checking my “Wasted on Destiny” stats), and I can’t imagine a time I won’t want to return to it for just one more run.
Dragon Age 2
Chosen by Tech Policy Reporter Kate Cox
In 2011, after months of hectoring from my spouse and a friend, I caved and tried Mass Effect. They were right, of course; I loved it and quickly dove into ME2 after. But then I hit a wall: it would be months before the third game came out, and I desperately wanted something to scratch that itch. So when I found this game on sale called Dragon Age 2 from the same studio, I figured for $15 it was worth trying.
I played it. Then I immediately played it again. And a third time. A different Hawke every time, following the script in this three-act play, this three-season TV arc doomed to a tragic ending. I was basically in love with it both despite and because of its flaws, in the same way my fannish heart fell in love with Star Wars in my teen years or Lord of the Rings in college. I wanted to talk about it, with everyone, all the time—so I took to my little blog to do just that.
The big surprise? Finding that people were listening. Suddenly, my name was out there. The rest was luck: lightning struck and the universe miraculously developed open full-time game journalist jobs at exactly the same time. I got hired into one and quit my office job in Feb. 2012, and I’ve had the incredible good fortune to be working as a full-time journalist ever since.
All the negative arguments about backgrounds, assets, and combat in DA2 are valid, but they never meant a damn thing personally. To me, the game was and is all about the stories, the people, and the world in which they are trying to do right against a history of prejudices and injustices. And it changed more than just my career: I’m now four years deep into a Dragon Age tabletop campaign with four lovely, amazing, and talented people that I feel lucky every day to be able to call my friends, none of whom I ever would have met without it.