With 2019 coming to an end, and the decade along with it, I thought it would be pretty neat to go through all of the games I played between 2010 and 2019 and list my chosen Game of the Year for each of these years. Because everyone else is doing it too, apparently!
Obviously I’m only human, and I only have a limited amount of time on my hands, so I haven’t played every major release that’s come out in the last 10 years because… That’s impossible! I also have a very specific taste that is pretty unique to me, and most of my final choices were based around the games that impacted me the most, so there’s a high chance that many of the picks in this post won’t reflect your own. And that’s totally fine, I’d love you to share your own choices in the comments.
But anyway… Let’s go!
2010 – Super Mario Galaxy 2
Growing up, the original Super Mario Galaxy completely blew me away as a kid, and was such a magical experience that, at the time, made it my favourite 3D Mario game. The sheer scope, level design and ambition behind the original Galaxy was unparalleled at the time, and back then I would never have guessed that Nintendo would release a full fledged sequel a mere 3 years later.
And what a sequel it was. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a phenomenal game, with expertly crafted levels, a timeless presentation, a fantastic, beautiful musical score and a whole host of new gameplay additions that improve upon the original game in almost every way. It feels like a Galaxy 1 DLC that became so huge and bloated that it wound up being made into a whole new game, and as a sequel it some how manages to be even more impressive and ambitious than its predecessor.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 was also one of the first games I ever went out of my way 100% complete, which is both a blessing and a curse, because it’s what set me on the path of “I must complete everything ever” in most of the games that I play today which is usually fun, but… Sometimes drives me to insanity… It’s just that fun of a game!
It’s a timeless classic, and one of the best 3D platformers, and games, ever created. And it still holds up perfectly, even almost a decade later. You owe it to yourself to play this, and the original, if you haven’t already. You won’t regret it.
2011 – Xenoblade Chronicles
It’s probably no secret to anyone who’s even the slightest bit aware of my gaming preferences, but I fucking love JRPG’s. And Nintendo. So you can bet that when a new, Nintendo exclusive IP that was a JRPG, Xenoblade Chronicles, was first announced, of course I was immediately interested.
I’d never played any of the Xeno games prior to this one, and to this day I still haven’t because Europe never got Xenosaga for some absurd reason and everything I’ve heard about Xenogears makes it sound like a bit of a slog that hasn’t aged well, so I’ve just never gotten around to it but that’s all besides the point.
Xenoblade is a phenomenal game, with an amazingly gripping narrative, a super interesting and well developed setting, one of the most engaging and intuitive combat systems I’ve ever experienced and a scope and ambition that is almost unrivalled, even to this day. This game is huge. There’s so much to see and do that I can hardly believe that this released in 2011 on the Wii, a console that was, and still is, regularly criticised for being weaker than its competitors. Final Fantasy XII was always said to be a massive game, but Xenoblade is 3 times the size of that game.
The world is huge, with endless areas to explore. The amount of side quests and side objectives you can take on is so massive that you can spend literally days just going through the list and reaping their rewards. The combat is incredibly fun, engaging and encourages customisation and experimentation depending on the kind of encounter you find yourself in. It’s just such a fun game.
And that’s not even getting into the story and characters, which are also incredible. Xenoblade is one of the best told and most ambitious narratives in the entire genre, with a fully developed and realised setting, excellent and unpredictable writing and a strong cast of characters who all bounce off of one another really well and develop nicely.
And the music. Oh the music is… Just something else.
I love absolutely everything about this game, and it’s one of my favourite JRPG’s, and games, of all time. And with a remake of the game coming to the Nintendo Switch next year, I’m really fucking excited to experience the magic and wonder of Xenoblade Chronicles all over again, in glorious HD.
Nothing else came close to being this good in 2011, and 2011 was a fantastic year for games. That says a lot.
2012 – Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance
Dream Drop Distance is a weird, convoluted mess of a game. And in a series like Kingdom Hearts where everything is already a bit of a weird, convoluted mess, that’s really saying something. And that’s precisely why I love it so damn much.
Before this game released, we’d had next to nothing in the franchise that came after Kingdom Hearts II. We’d been teased a third entry in the series for years, only to be given a bunch of prequels and interquels on handhelds, like Birth by Sleep and 358/2 Days and the anticipation for what came after the second game, which released way back in 2006 was insane.
And while Dream Drop Distance wasn’t the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III it was the first game in the series to take place after Kingdom Hearts II and it was made very clear that the events of the game would lead directly into the third entry. And in my opinion it was a fantastic game.
As I said earlier, it’s definitely a weird one. There’s a weird focus on raising creatures called Dream Eaters, who serve as your party members, by playing with them and feeding them snacks to boost their stats. There’s some really weird movement mechanics that allow you to bounce off walls and swing around poles. There’s a daft mechanic called “Drop” that forces you to switch between each of the playable characters after a certain amount of time has passed. And the battle system is an odd blend of Kingdom Hearts II’s fast-paced combat and Birth By Sleep’s Command Deck system, with some new additions like fusing with party members. It’s an extremely experimental entry in a series notorious for experimenting constantly, and that makes it a really fun and interesting entry in the series to come back to.
And this experimentation also bleeds into the games narrative, which is… Fucking insane. I’m a huge defender of the story and lore of Kingdom Hearts but even I have to admit that Dream Drop Distance is pretty fucking confusing to follow at times. Even to this day, when Kingdom Hearts III has been released, I still have a bit of a difficult time fully understanding exactly what the fuck happened in this game sometimes, but… It’s still a really great story overall and adds some really cool and amazing twists into an overarching narrative that was already full of them. Say it with me boys and girls…
TIMEEEEEEEE TRAVELLINGGGGG XEHANORTTTTTTTT!
I feel like I’m the only person who liked that twist…
Anyway, Dream Drop Distance is an excellent entry in the series, and I highly recommend picking up the PS4 version on the 2.8 Collection if you haven’t played it before. It’s the definitive way to experience the game today and is well worth your time (just play the other games too before this one or you’ll want to blow your fucking face off)
2013 – Rayman Legends
I fucking love the original Rayman trilogy, with the first game in particular being very special to me (despite how ridiculously and unfairly hard it can be in the later levels), so when this game was brought to the Wii U, I was so damn excited to play it.
I never played Rayman Origins (and I still haven’t because most of that games levels are… On this game too…) so I had no idea what to expect from this at all before I bought it, and man was I blown away.
The presentation is timeless, the level design is some of the best I’ve ever seen from a 2D platformer and the action is extremely fast-paced, engaging and challenging all at the same time. I fucking love this game, and it’s made even better on the Wii U thanks to the GamePad functionality, which was actually utilised really well here, a rarity for Wii U games.
There’s not much else to say really. Rayman Legends is just a really, really good modern 2D Platformer and arguably the best entry in the entire franchise. Play it. Now.
2014 – Tales of Xillia 2
The Tales series is probably my favourite franchise in all of gaming, and after being out of touch with the series for a little while after Graces, the Xillia games brought back my love for the series by being some of the best JRPG’s I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
And Xillia 2 is an absolute masterpiece of a game.
Not only does it’s gameplay heavily expand on the already solid systems in the original Xillia but it’s storytelling is some of the best I’ve ever seen from a video game, and is almost on par with Tales of Symphonia (which still has my favourite story in all of video games). With a much darker atmosphere than any other game in the series, a fantastic main duo, an impressive combat system and kickass music, Tales of Xillia 2 is one of my favourite games of all time and I love it to bits.
I played through this game until completion non-stop when it first released and getting to the end was one of the most memorable and emotional gaming experiences of my life. I teared up when it was all over, and was immensely satisfied with the conclusion.
I hope Tales of Arise can bring the magic back again for me in a similar way when it releases next year.
2015 – The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D
I’ve already discussed Majora’s Mask at length in a previous post which I highly suggest checking out if you want to get my more detailed thoughts on the game, but let’s just say that it’s far and away my favourite game in the entire Zelda franchise, as well as a strong contender for my favourite game of all time. I love this game. So damn much. And this 3DS Remake is a very great reimagining of the original N64 release.
I’m of the pretty controversial opinion that the original game is superior to this one, due to its more free approach to boss encounters, its darker, moodier colour aesthetic and its lack of accessibility making the experience feel more oppressive and challenging to play, but Majora 3D is still a phenomenal experience and if you’ve never played the original, I strongly suggest playing this version. It’s a fantastic remake of a timeless masterpiece, and while I’m not keen on some of the design changes and new additions added to the remake to make the game more accessible and easier to 100%, I still find myself going back to this one just as often. It’s a fantastic Zelda experience and no game in 2015 came even remotely close to being as good as this one for me.
A remake of one of my favourite games ever? What else would I give Game of the Year to? Play this. Now.
2016 – Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
2016 wasn’t a great year for games for me. Honestly, I barely played much of anything that came out that year for no particular reason other than nothing much was really interesting to me. But thankfully this little gem of a JRPG released towards the end of the year and was pretty great honestly.
In an almost final hurrah for the Wii U, Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a solid JRPG experience that almost feels like a Persona spin-off title and it’s a great game. The presentation is incredible, the story is pretty fun and the battle system is a great blend of Persona and Fire Emblem mechanics.
This isn’t quite what anyone expected from a Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem crossover game, but damn is it something else, and with a re-release coming to the Switch next year, I look forward to playing this yet again. This is fantastic.
2017 – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
In contrast to 2016, 2017 was a phenomenal year for games for me. The Switch came out that year, and the amount of new, top notch games from Nintendo alone was absolutely insane. But despite all of the amazing releases that came out that year, Breath of the Wild was the one that stood above everything else for me.
I’ve mentioned this several times in the past but I really don’t like open world games. I can’t stand them. The worlds of these kinds of games often feel like barren wastelands with a checklist of things to do and it just… Feels like work. There’s no magic. There’s no wonder. There’s no life to most of these supposed “worlds”. And while there’s always lots to do in these games, what you do often doesn’t feel fun to me. The combat tends to be clunky and unsatisfying and the worlds just aren’t interesting to explore because of barren they feel.
But Breath of the Wild is the exception that proves the rule for me. It breathes new life into a genre I’ve never cared for, with an excellent, organically crafted world that is a wonder to explore and gameplay that is both engaging and satisfying. Everything you can see in this game, you can go to. Every ounce of the world offers something new and exciting to the player, even if that new thing is just a beautiful piece of scenery or a cool looking set of ruins to explore.
It’s a game that not only serves as a masterclass in open world game design, but also single-handedly redefines what open world game design is in the first place. And I hope that other open world games take inspiration from the new and ambitious direction Breath of the Wild brought to the genre and expand upon it.
What a game. Only Nintendo could take a pre-established franchise like Zelda and completely turn it into something new like this. And with a sequel on the way, supposedly inspired by Majora’s Mask, one can only wonder where the hell the series is going to go from here. To say I’m excited to find out would be an understatement.
2018 – Celeste
Given that I’ve already written about Celeste and the impact it had on me and my life in a previous post I’m sure anyone who’s been following my content for a while already saw this one coming a mile away.
Celeste is more than just a game to me. It was a life-changing event for me. Playing through it was one of the most emotional experiences of my life and it made me realise that I have issues. That I suffer from social anxiety and depression, two things that have been constant problems in my life that I was in denial about for the longest time.
Celeste helped me come to terms with my own mental health issues, and also served as a way for me to find a way out of it. And while I’m still suffering from these issues on a daily basis, getting to the end of Madeleine’s difficult journey was the first step towards me getting professional help.
With a gripping, super relatable narrative, a deep, meaningful message about overcoming your own fears and anxieties, and some of the best designed, most satisfying and most challenging gameplay scenarios I’ve ever experienced, Celeste is a masterpiece, and is easily my Game of the Year for 2018 for the impact it had on my life alone.
Few games changed my life the way that Celeste has. And I will never forget my time with it.
That being said, there’s one more game left for me to talk about…
2019 – Kingdom Hearts III
So yeah. My Game of the Year, and also my Game of the Decade, is Kingdom Hearts III for reasons that transcend any and all critical thinking. I know this game is pretty flawed. I know it has issues. I know it’s far from perfect, or even far from the best game released this year, let alone this decade, but…
Kingdom Hearts III is more than just a game to me. It’s a life event. A long-awaited finale to a story I’ve been obsessed with and have been following for the vast majority of my life. I grew up with this series. I spent my entire teenage years living and breathing Kingdom Hearts, posting on forums, role-playing with online friends in chatrooms, making AMV’s (which are still up to this day), hacking the game through cheat codes my friends and I created together, even going as far as importing the then Japanese exclusive, untranslated Final Mix re-releases just to experience the new content.
I was, and always have been a Kingdom Hearts superfan, and I’ve been waiting for this game for 13 years. And I know that’s a fucking meme, because we got a bunch of side games released in between the second game and this one but… I’ve been waiting for Kingdom Hearts III since 2006. Despite all the amazing entries the series has had between then and now, this has been a game I’ve been waiting for, for literally half my life.
Kingdom Hearts is a franchise that changed my life. It defined my childhood. It made my teen years. It impacted my life in a way no other game series has ever really managed to. It means everything to me, and to see it all finally come to an end with one final hurrah, this many years in the making, is something that only happens once in a lifetime.
And yeah, the game is super fun too, has amazing presentation and music, and is an immensely satisfying conclusion to a story that’s been developing for almost 20 years. It’s easily my Game of the Decade, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to experience something like this again so long as I live.
And if you want some more detailed thoughts, you can check out my full review of the game here.
And… That’s a wrap. Those are my picks for each Game of the Year in the last decade. As I said earlier, I’d love to hear your own picks, so feel free to share them in the comments.
Until next time everyone!