And so we continue with the Top Fifty Video Games of the 2010s! It should be noted that there are a fair number of both indie and Triple A games that I simply have not had the time to play. For example, games such as Dead Cells, Hotline Miami, or The Witcher 3 have a lot of critical acclaim, but I just haven't gotten to them or had the time to finish them. Perhaps in another few years, this list will be different! Maybe it's an obvious stipulation that this list will be comprised of games I've actually played and completed, but still figured I'd make note if you notice some of your favorites being absent. It's possible I didn't love them! But honestly, it's more likely I just never got around to them in the first place. Anyway, here we go with the next ten on the list.
40. THE WITNESS (2016) - Thekla Inc.
Available On: Windows, MacOS, iOS, NVidia Shield, PS4, XBox One
No one does puzzles better than Jonathan Blow. In fact, he is so good at designing puzzle games that sometimes he makes it next to impossible to finish them! While his critical darling Braid was not quite that challenging, The Witness definitely can be. It tells you virtually nothing about how to solve each type of puzzle. Even more, the island itself features puzzles in the environment that you might never even notice exist! The story also unfolds as players discover things on their own, but it's not even close to your typical narrative. It's almost like Her Story in that it's hard to imagine too many people figuring everything out on their own. The tricky thing with puzzle games is that it's incredibly gratifying to solve one, but it doesn't take long before the difficulty spikes. And if you have trouble with some puzzles, it just becomes unbearable. Your mileage might vary with The Witness (I fully admit to having to cheat more often than I'd like to), but it's worth checking out.
39. THUMPER (2016) - Drool
Available On: Windows, iOS, Stadia, PS4, XBox One, Switch
Described as a "rhythm-based violence game," it's really not all that much in the ways of violence. Controlling a silver vehicle on a track, players must take the proper action on time. Precision is key as inputs come up quickly, making it play a lot like Guitar Hero or Rock Band. The music is your friend, as all the actions necessary fit the theme playing. While it's certainly possible to get through levels without it, the music will definitely guide you through. It's an addictive, unique little game that is easy to pick up, but difficult to master.
38. VVVVVV (2010) - Terry Cavanaugh
Available On: Windows, OSX, Linux, iOS, Android, PSVita, PS4, Nintendo 3DS, Switch, Ouya, Commodore 64
Hey! Another game released for Ouya! And whoa. A retro-style game that also saw a small release for the retro Commodore 64. Wild. Terry Cavanaugh created a simple game with one real mechanic: players don't jump, they just change gravity's pull. Don't mistake the simplicity of the game for easy difficulty. You will die...a LOT. (Honestly, I died more playing VVVVVV than I ever did playing Dark Souls.) The game is also a kind of open world game that has you exploring a rather large map. It's addictive, challenging, cute, and fun. Plus, it has one of the best soundtracks on this list, which is saying something!
37. BIOSHOCK: INFINITE (2013) - Irrational Games
Available On: Windows, OSX, Linux, PS3, XBox 360
BioShock sort of sells itself as the "thinking man's first-person shooter." That's a relatively fair way to describe it. BioShock: Infinite is a fun game of that genre, but loses some of the more RPG-like elements of its predecessors. Switching between guns and powers is entertaining and engaging, though the game doesn't feel like it always lives up to its full potential. Elizabeth helps out a bit, which is cool, but there aren't enough segments that utilize her in smart ways. And the momentum-generating sky hooks only pop up here and there. Still, it's a good experience and hits all the typical meta-narrative notes one might expect from Ken Levine. The story will likely give you something to talk about, too.
36. WOLFENSTEIN: THE NEW ORDER (2014) - MachineGames
Available On: Windows, XBox 360, XBox One, PS3, PS4
Ya know, if you told me at the start of the decade that I would find killing Nazis in video games to be cathartic, I'd have doubted you. Too cliche. Turns out, it very much is! Wolfenstein returns in a big way with a game that is tight and fun to play while simultaneously giving a shockingly touching story. BJ Blazkowicz is a surprisingly interesting protagonist for the genre, and MachineGames manages to match modern FPS gameplay with the atmosphere and feeling of the classic game that helped popularize the genre.
35. GUACAMELEE (2013) - DrinkBox Studios
Available On: Windows, OSX, Linux, PSVita, PS3, PS4, XBox 360, XBox One, Wii-U, Switch
Ever want a platformer where you get to be a luchador who sometimes can turn into a chicken? Well, that's weirdly specific and convenient! Guacamelee is a bright, colorful, charming, and challenging action-platformer that is a good example of "easy to pick up, difficult to master." Levels require mastering new skills and boss fights put all the pieces together. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: thank god for the smaller and indie developers! The last generation of video games felt like we would never see colors again, despite everyone having HDTVs these days. Guacamelee is vibrant in every way. It's addictive on your own, but there is a two-player co-op mode that makes it equally great to play with a friend.
34. ONE FINGER DEATH PUNCH (2013) - Silver Dollar Games
Available On: Windows, iOS, Android, XBox 360
Speaking of addictive indie games that are easy to pick up and difficult to master, One Finger Death Punch is a flashy, rhythm-action game that might seem easy at first because of its simplicity, but quickly ramps up. Few games make you feel so much "in the zone" as this one. When you're clicking with the rhythm and nailing all the prompts - which as the name suggests, only really requires one digit to hit (you'll either press X or B) - it almost feels zen. It's so cathartic. Yet it can move so fast sometimes that the peace is disturbed, giving it a challenge that is gratifying to overcome.
33. DARK SOULS II (2014) - From Software
Available On: Windows, PS3, PS4, XBox 360, XBox One
The first of a bunch of From Software games on this list, the sequel to arguably the most influential game of the decade tightens the game play and is, in many respects, more fun than its predecessor. In other areas, it's a step back. The hub world is a tad disappointing, and most of its 40+ bosses are forgettable. Still, when the levels and bosses are good, it's really good! The disorienting layout of the world is often criticized, but it gives the game an almost Shining-esque feel, which I personally loved. The "dudes in armor" boss fights, while maybe not the most visually exciting, were also key to teaching me how to finally "get good" at Dark Souls. Imperfect and a mixed bag, but it's still a step above most other action games.
32. FEZ (2012) - Polytron Corporation
Available On: Windows, Linux, OSX, iOS, XBox 360, PSVita, PS3, PS4
One of the most well known indie games to emerge, in large part due to the documentary Indie Game: The Movie, Fez is a retro-style puzzle-platformer that has an expansive world to navigate. The premise is simple: our player-controlled character is a 2D being that finds his world suddenly 3D. Players set out on an open quest to find items required to put things back to normal. Doing so involves exploration and changing perspective. The core mechanic besides basic platforming actions is "spinning" the world. A 2D perspective on a 3D world to solve puzzles is interesting idea executed rather well, though there are certainly some bugs that needed to get ironed out. It can be hard to separate the art from the artist sometimes, so if you hate Phil Fish, you might understandably avoid it, but Fez became a hit for good reason. I beat the game, but I haven't even come close to finding everything there is to find.
31. CUPHEAD (2017) - StudioMDHR
Available On: Windows, macOS, XBox One, Switch
It seems that this stretch of the list is full of smaller indie games. Few caught attention quite like Cuphead. The boss rush game with a sprinkling of run-and-gun levels gets really difficult, really quickly. It's a relatively simple game to pick up, with basic controls, but it's incredibly challenging given how much life bosses have and how few hits players can take before "game over" and also the amount of stuff on the screen at one time. The biggest draw of the game is its retro, retro, retro style. Taking its cues from old 1940s Max Fleisher cartoons, they really just kill it with the animation. It's also complete with film scratches and dirty audio from its jazzy, vinyl sounding score. It's also one of the few games on this list that I might recommend almost only playing with a friend. Definitely more fun that way. I don't totally love that for something as broadly appealing as this visually and conceptually, they don't let you finish the game on any sort of "easy mode," which makes it weirdly inaccessible to many, but for folks who enjoy games that sometimes make them rage-quit, this is one of the best out there.
Well, this stretch definitely seemed to be where smaller or indie games settled. Only three of these ten came from major Triple A studios. There's a much better mix coming up, but don't be surprised to see more indie games appear!