Are we really over halfway through this decade? Yes we are! But in that time, we've been treated to many excellent games that have eaten up our time and deserve to be played. So we thought rather than count down our favorite games or the top 10 games of the last half-decade, why not give you a rundown of 30 games that came out between 2010 and 2015 that we consider essential? These are the games we think you absolutely have to play. We gave these games high marks when we reviewed them, and we believe they still stand strong. There's a huge amount of variety on the list, and it captures the essence of this decade so far, such as the plethora of brilliant visual novels, RPG sequels that changed their series for the better, games that made us laugh and cry — these games are some of the best you can get.
Yes, like you, we were disappointed in the last few minutes of Mass Effect 3. But even before they were improved by the free Extended Cut DLC, those minutes merely detracted from, rather than ruin, the amazing hours that had come before them. Improvements to some of the game mechanics, the addition of multiplayer, and the conclusion of storylines we'd been working on since the original game in the trilogy all added up to an outstanding experience, and we can hardly wait to find out what next year's addition to the universe, Mass Effect: Andromeda, will bring.
Yasumi Matsuno is a director who can tell a gripping story of political intrigue, and Tactics Ogre is quite possibly his masterpiece. A very adult story about everyday people caught in the middle of a struggle for succession, Tactics Ogre follows siblings Denam and Catiua Pavel as they're betrayed by their own country and forced to make difficult choices to survive. Depending on the choices you make, the story can diverge in any number of paths, each leading to a different conclusion, some more grisly than others. Oh, and did I mention that the gameplay is the system that Final Fantasy Tactics was based on? Sold yet? Yeah. Get in there.
Rarely do early access games live up to our expectations upon final release. Either the developers over-promise or creators have trouble adhering to the old adage, "less is more." Crypt of the NecroDancer stole our imagination and did a little jig with it, and although we left out of breath, we wore a wide smile. A few drinks later and more limber than before, we took her hand and returned to the dance floor, showing her a thing or two. And that's what makes Crypt of the NecroDancer such an enthralling experience: upon learning the game's nature and steps, a viscerally fulfilling run leaves us absolutely satisfied, ready to go again. Another proud boast this title can claim is that it caters to all skill levels; those inept at these sorts of games can experience success without simply modifying numbers in a cheap fashion, while those whose fingers can glide elegantly with the beat can test their mettle against absolutely brutal difficulty. Most importantly, for the gaming industry, Crypt of the NecroDancer teaches us that game design doesn't have to rest in the hands of singular genres. A marriage of roguelike and rhythm, these developers open a door no one even knew existed.
After completing the first Legend of Grimrock, secrets and all, some of us had absolutely no idea how the veteran developers could create anything more with the engine. Then LoG2 was announced. A veritable playground of mysteries, horrors, and cruel traps, LoG2 reminds us that games can still innovate and imaginative developers can surprise even the most jaded and experienced amongst us. Hosting uncharacteristic classes (farmer?), unusual races, and unconventional abilities, the level of customization alone demands gamers' valuable hours in this age of backlogs and Steam sales. The developers teach us that revitalizing genres doesn't have to be about exploiting nostalgia. Given appropriate direction and design genius, even first-person dungeon crawlers can learn new tricks. And then teleport-trap unsuspecting adventurers with them.
Monolith Soft have struck gold again with Nintendo by creating Xenoblade Chronicles X. This Wii U behemoth makes our list makes it because it takes everything about Xenoblade Chronicles' huge world and makes it look puny. Mira is an awe-inspiring planet that'll take well over 100 hours to chronicle (see what I did?) and explore every last inch. My jaw aches from how many times it dropped as I journeyed through the vastness of the planet. There's so much to look forward too — slaying giant beasts, piloting your first skell, completing one of the hundreds of missions, Xenoblade Chronicles X just keeps on delivering. The combat takes the best of its predecessor and allows for some extremely dynamic and fast-paced brawls which will keep you on your toes — just remember not to fight anything that's about 50 times your size. The majesty of the planet and the creatures that inhabit it will inspire wonder in any gamer, and we urge you to get hold of this and get lost in the world of Mira.
Not every DS game embraced the touchscreen's unique controls, but Ghost Trick wrestled it into a brilliant puzzle-solving mechanic that complements its gorgeous animations and twistastic story. At the beginning, Sissel, our spirit protagonist, finds himself dead and imbued with special powers, aka "ghost tricks." Amnesiac, he resolves to discover his identity and the reason for his murder. Shu Takami, also responsible for the Ace Attorney series, has created a motley crew of outlandishly cool characters that help piece Sissel's life back together. Innovative, quirky, and full of humor, Ghost Trick almost makes dying seem fun.
Forget the last five years, Persona 4: Golden may be one of the greatest games of all time. An immersive world, memorable characters, snappy gameplay and a killer soundtrack serve to make Persona 4: Golden an essential title. You may be saying to yourself, "I played the PS2 game. Do I really need to buy a Vita and play Golden?" The answer is overwhelmingly yes! The additional characters, scenarios and music make a great game, amazing. The fact that it's on a portable console makes grinding for levels or building a relationship with that special someone all the more enjoyable as you can play the game in spurts. If you haven't played Persona 4: Golden, it's time for you to confront your shadow and pursue your true self! The idea of letting this game pass you by is unBEARable. Go buy the game right now!
Although To the Moon features controllable characters, 16-bit RPG Maker sprites that look like they were ripped straight out of Squaresoft's golden age, and point-and-click collectathon puzzles, its primary focus is on narrative, much akin to a Visual Novel. And oh, what a narrative it is. Poignant and tragic, To the Moon delves into the mind of Johnny, an old man on his deathbed who wishes to travel to the moon. You play as a pair of doctors who, by delving into his memories Inception style, can pinpoint the source of his desire and implant the memories that will fulfill his dying wish. What they find there... I dare not spoil. Experience it for yourself and then listen to the soundtrack, because the music in this game is kind of incredible. If you're at all a fan of storytelling in video games, To the Moon is a must-play.
When I first sat down to play 999, I wasn't aware that I was about to experience one of the most engaging and thoughtful narratives I had ever seen in a video game. 999 is smaller in scale than its sequel and features 100% less flowchart, but its humble beginnings are deceiving. What begins as an intriguing and grim mystery in the vein of the first Saw movie expands into a completely bonkers science fiction tale that manages to back up its admittedly out-there science with confidence and consistent internal logic. Multiple playthroughs are a given, as they are required to see this tale to completion, with multiple branching paths and puzzle rooms that can bring you a step closer to uncovering the truth or deliver a grisly end. I would urge any fan of science fiction to give the Zero Escape series a try, and this is the place to start.
Wow, did this game come out of left field and rock my world when it came out it 2014. One of the wackiest titles on our list, the game is a fully interactive visual novel, and plays like a mix of Pheonix Wright and the Zero Escape series: if that sounds rad, that's because it is. You play as Makoto Naegi, one of 15 new students at Hope's Peak Academy, where every student in attendance is an "Ultimate", meaning they are the absolute best at their field of expertise. But it turns out that Makoto and the rest of his classmates are imprisoned in the school for the rest of their lives, unless they graduate. The only way to graduate is to murder another student and get away with the crime, and if someone does graduate, everyone else dies. Super happy fun times. The game is set up in 6 chapters, broken up as Daily Life and Deadly Life. During the former, players explore Hope's Peak and are able to interact with the other students and create bonds with them akin to the Persona series. Deadly life occurs when a student is murdered and players have to find enough clues to determine who committed the murder, including an interactive trial sequence at the end of each chapter. Boasting a wonderful script that deftly tackles the macabre circumstances with over the top humor and charm, a diverse set of characters, and a fascinating universe that has since been expanded with other titles, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is an essential play for any genre fan.