USG's Top 100 Games of the Decade: #50-26

USG's Top 100 Games of the Decade: #50-26

The 100 best games of the 2010s, as determined by us.

For #100-51, see the first part of our Top 100 Games of the Decade list here. If you'd rather skip to #25-1, you can do that too.

Welcome to perhaps the most interesting portion of this list. The latter portion of our Top 50 is filled with innovators: Return of the Obra Dinn, Outer Wilds, Kentucky Route Zero. It also has some of the most daring games on this list, such as Spec Ops: The Line, a game that confronts the overwhelming violence of the military shooter genre head on. All are brilliant in their own right, and several remain hugely popular today. Read on for #50-26 of our list of the 100 Best Games of the 2010s, as chosen by USgamer.

Sleeping Dogs is one of the most memorable open-world games of the decade. | United Front Games/Square Enix

50. Sleeping Dogs

Release Date: August 14, 2012
Platforms: PC, Mac, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Possibly the best street-level crime game not called Yakuza, Sleeping Dogs is the product of a troubled history. Canceled before being picked back up and published by Square Enix, it's easy to see, upon playing, why Square went to so much trouble. Rarely has a city been as accurate or charming as this game's Hong Kong, and its melee combat, similar to Batman: Arkham Asylum, is likewise an important landmark in the history of good punchin'. —Julie Muncy

A Link Between Worlds did the impossible: It was a great sequel to one of the greatest games of all-time. | Nintendo

49. A Link Between Worlds

Release Date: November 22, 2013
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS

How do you follow up on one of the most influential video games of all-time? And why would you even try? The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds would be baffling if it didn't stick the landing so well. Setting a new pedigree for 2D Zelda games, and creating what's basically a new blueprint for the franchise's offshoots (as evidenced by Link's Awakening's 2019 remake), this much-belated sequel adds a stunning new mechanic and a whole lot of style to what might otherwise be a rote return to the Hyrule of A Link to the Past. —Julie Muncy

The music of Return of the Obra Dinn is also quite excellent. | Lucas Pope/3909

48. Return of the Obra Dinn

Release Date: October 18, 2018
Platforms: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

This is the latest game from Lucas Pope, the creator who shot to fame for the sharply political (and just plain sharp) Papers, Please. While not as overt, Return of the Obra Dinn is still enthralling. As an insurance adjuster in the days of merchant sail ships, you have to figure out what happened to a group of sailors who have returned ashore way more dead than they were when they left. It's an adventure game like they don't make anymore, with a neat graphical style. It's full of mystery and comedy and a bit of commentary on the banality of even the early, slightly less world-ending varieties of capitalism. —Julie Muncy

Subnautica is beautiful, but dangerous. | Unknown Worlds Entertainment

47. Subnautica

Release Date: January 23, 2018
Platforms: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Games that focus on survival usually emphasize the hostility of the player's surroundings. Subnautica takes it a step further by creating surroundings that are both cruel and unrelentingly alien. In a vast underwater ecosystem, you're firmly at the bottom of every food chain. With stunning, careful world design and all the horror of the weirdest stuff at the bottom of the ocean, Subnautica manages to draw players into the desperation of survival in a way that feels distinct from its competitors. There's not just that creeping unease, here; there's curiosity and fear and a bit of wonder, too. Those qualities may feel like subtle additions, but they render Subnautica special. —Julie Muncy

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the best Animal Crossing yet. | Nintendo

46. Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Release Date: June 9, 2013
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS

Animal Crossing has always been special. Part-simulator, part-hangout game, and part-bitter competition against a whole society of anthropomorphic animals who always seem to have better lawns than you, the series is about making space for yourself and just living life. New Leaf brought that to the 3DS and improved upon it in nearly every way. When people express fondness for the series now, this is probably the game they're thinking of most vividly. Can you be the mayor of a perfect animal village? You can certainly try, and try, and try again for—oh god how long have I been playing this? —Julie Muncy

Forza Horizon 4 had a great photo mode too. It'd be better without the watermark though. | Playground Games/Microsoft Studios

45. Forza Horizon 4

Release Date: October 2, 2018
Platforms: PC, Xbox One

Driving in video games is just… cool, isn't it? Good scenery, a perfect fantasy car you never have to buy gas for. It's a simple activity that's, honestly, one of the most satisfying things you can do in any video game. And nowhere is it as satisfying, and as lovingly crafted, as Forza Horizon 4, a game that sets you loose in a realistically rendered open-world version of the U.K. with just about whatever car you want. You can race, and there are plenty of races to run, but you can also just pick a direction and… go. Nothing feels better. —Julie Muncy

The AI that powers Trico is astounding. He feels like a real animal. | Sony Japan Studio

44. The Last Guardian

Release Date: December 6, 2016
Platforms: PlayStation 4

The Last Guardian is a lovely game, but it's most important in its context: as the third in a trilogy of melancholy games about love, loss, companionship, and monsters, created by Fumito Ueda and the developers at what used to be called Team Ico. With a legendarily long development time, The Last Guardian was the last piece in the triptych of ethereal, sad, beautiful games that includes Ico and Shadows of the Colossus before it. A story of a boy and a creature who becomes his closest companion, it's just as heart-tugging and wonderfully put together as Ueda's other work would lead you to believe. —Julie Muncy

Black Flag showed that you could change up the Assassin's Creed formula in exciting ways. | Ubisoft

43. Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag

Release Date: October 29, 2013
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, Nintendo Switch

Yo-ho, yo-ho, an assassin's life for me! Black Flag, released after the Assassin's Creed franchise started (ahem) flagging, was Ubisoft's first and necessary attempt at really doing something different with a series that had been bogged down by dull settings and overwrought ancient conspiracies. It was an important step in the franchise, but it's memorable for a much simpler reason: pirates! Pirate ships! Pirate combat! This game proved, definitively, that being a pirate absolutely slaps, and games like Sea of Thieves should be grateful Black Flag paved the way. —Julie Muncy

Finally: a good Spider-Man game that wasn't on old consoles. | Insomniac Games/Sony

42. Marvel's Spider-Man

Release Date: September 7, 2018
Platforms: PlayStation 4

Spider-Man has long been the Holy Grail of superhero games. A surprising number of studios have chased the possibility of a game that made all aspects of Spidey's power set—from swinging to punching to taking pictures next to skyscrapers—in a way that feels true to the hero. Somehow, Insomniac Games' Spider-Man does all of that, and does it in a way that feels effortless. Fun, sprawling, and at times incredibly earnest and sweet in its storytelling, this is the best Spider-Man game ever made, and one of the best superhero games, period. —Julie Muncy

Spec Ops: The Line confronted video games' obsession with gratuitious war crimes head on. | Yager Development/2K Games

41. Spec Ops: The Line

Release Date: June 26, 2012
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Built from a deep well of confrontational anger, Spec Ops: The Line redefined the shooter genre by daring to ask, with as much frustration as possible, "Why are you doing this?" Half meta-commentary and half-dark War on Terror satire, this Heart of Darkness-inspired descent into madness turned the rote act of shooting bad guys into something absolutely horrific. Following a soldier named Walker and his three-man team, the game showed a humanitarian crisis descending into a horrific bloodbath at the hands of the player. No game since has been quite so unflinching in its condemnation of digital violence. —Julie Muncy

Outer Wilds landed at number two on our Top 20 Games of 2019 list. | Mobius Digital/Annapurna Interactive

40. Outer Wilds

Release Date: May 29, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

The universe is going to end, but there's still so much to see. With only 22 minutes standing between you and a supernova, you must loop time over and over, not necessarily to save the solar system, but to understand it. Who was here before you? Why did they come? What secrets do the planets and moons of this place hold? Space exploration has never been done so stirringly, with such intimate care. While time loops in games are a bit passe, Outer Wilds makes it all feel brand new. —Julie Muncy

FTL is endlessly replayable, thanks to procedural generation. | Subset Games

39. FTL: Faster Than Light

Release Date: September 14, 2012
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, iOS

No one is there to help you. If this mission dies, you'll die in the dark regions of space. No one will ever know. Lots of science fiction is about this tension, but absolutely nothing captures it quite like FTL. One of a wave of games that made roguelikes and their imitators a big deal in independent games, FTL is about the simple desperation of having to lead a journey that might be doomed, as you travel through the void toward a destination you'll likely never reach, fighting other ships and keeping everything running as long as you possibly can. —Julie Muncy

Crusader Kings 2 remained alive and well this decade thanks to traditional DLC. | Paradox

38. Crusader Kings 2

Release Date: February 14, 2012
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux

Crusader Kings 2 is the game that helped to make Paradox. A character-focused strategy game set in medieval times, the game's incredible success and years of post-release support set the standard for PC strategy games and built a way forward for Paradox as a company. Both complex and humanistic, it manages to both simulate a world as busy and unfamiliar as Medieval Europe while centering it on relatable human characters and experiences, a combination that made it stand out as a pinnacle of its genre. Few strategy games even try a balance so delicate, and few succeed so admirably. —Julie Muncy

Playing Portal 2 co-op is especially great. | Valve

37. Portal 2

Release Date: April 19, 2011
Platforms: PC, Mac, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Portal was another game on this list that didn't feel like it needed a sequel. Yet, Portal 2 is one of the best games Valve has ever put together. It's a top-to-bottom work of genius that takes the simple and funny premise of the original and builds it into a broader world. It's a deeply comic story still, but one tinged with tragedy and loss, and also the delightful vocal stylings of J.K. Simmons. Beyond the memes, Portal 2 set a standard that puzzle games have been trying to match since. —Julie Muncy

Hollow Knight is one of the best metroidvanias of the decade. | Team Cherry

36. Hollow Knight

Release Date: February 24, 2017
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Team Cherry's darkly haunted game of insect warriors and lost kingdoms feels like the best possible marriage of its influences. Yeah, there's some Dark Souls storytelling in here. Yeah, the game design owes a lot to Metroid and Castlevania. What came out of that union is so much more than those constituent parts, so striking and sad and authentically thrilling to play that the bits of familiar ideas just fade into the background. Lots of games have tried to make these parts work together before, but none have done it so well. —Julie Muncy

Splatoon 2 even introduced a pretty killer PvE mode. | Nintendo

35. Splatoon 2

Release Date: July 21, 2017
Platforms: Nintendo Switch

Splatoon was an innovative, generation-defining take on the multiplayer shooter genre, replacing all that blood and gore with cute squid-kids, music culture, and paint. Only one problem: It was on the Wii U. Splatoon 2 is the successor it deserved, turning the innovation into an authentic phenomenon, marrying the genius of the core ideas with the portability and vibrant player base of the Nintendo Switch. —Julie Muncy

Journey's one of the most beautiful games of the 2010s, easily. | thatgamecompany

34. Journey

Release Date: March 13, 2012
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, iOS

No words. That's how Journey chooses to tell its story, a transcendent tale of life and rebirth from the perspective of a nameless pilgrim in a fantasy world. And that's also how it chooses to build its player interaction, a soft multiplayer system where players wander in and out of each others' worlds, only able to communicate with a simple pulsing sound. Both Journey's quiet beauty and its quiet approach to multiplayer would go on to be incredibly influential, heralding both a new generation of sincere indies and a generation of games that realize that maybe you don't need to let players talk to each other. —Julie Muncy

33. Red Dead Redemption

Release Date: May 18, 2010
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

There's a surprising lack of good Westerns in the video gaming canon. Perhaps it's because the setting is much, much more complicated than it appears, a mixture of wanderlust, idealism, danger, cruelty, and genocidal repression. Getting it right requires a degree of subtlety and care that most games just aren't interested in putting out. Red Dead Redemption is one of the most compelling exceptions, a story that borrows heavily from the best Westerns on film to tell a story about cycles of violence and hopelessness set against the enclosure of the American frontier. Compared to most other Rockstar games, it's sad, bizarre, and overly sincere. But those are also its greatest strengths. —Julie Muncy

Okay: Kentucky Route Zero only came to a conclusion in January 2020, but as the bulk of it released in the 2010s, we felt it deserved to be on this list anyways. And probably the next decade's too. | Caty McCarthy/USG, Cardboard Computer

32. Kentucky Route Zero

Release Date: January 2013 - January 28, 2020
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Kentucky Route Zero is the enthralling story of a subterranean, impossible highway that doesn't exist. The pioneer for an entire generation of dialogue-and-mood-centric adventure games, this is a game that can't be easily reduced to description. A tale of wanderers, outcasts, and mystics, KRZ imbues its every moment with both lived-in sincerity and magical realist portent. This is the pinnacle of video games as poetry. Every moment is poignant, every bit of dialogue worth quoting again and again. —Julie Muncy

31. Dragon Quest 11: Echoes of an Elusive Age

Release Date: September 4, 2018
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Like the best games in its long-running series, Dragon Quest 11 evokes a sense of both epic adventure and pastoral repose. This is a lush, beautiful game about trying to set a vast fantasy world in order again. But it's also a game about exploring sweeping fields, open deserts, and elaborate towns rendered in perfect cartoony detail. Freeing, massive, and surprisingly creative once it gets going, Dragon Quest 11 is one of the best role-playing games you could possibly pick up. —Julie Muncy

Pokemon Go made Pokemon trainers of us all. | Niantic/The Pokemon Company

30. Pokemon Go

Release Date: September 4, 2018
Platforms: iOS, Android

When Niantic and Nintendo collaborated to release Pokemon Go, it felt like something in the history of games had fundamentally shifted. For a thrilling period of time, people were roaming streets and fields looking for rare Pokemon. Strangers collaborated to capture gyms and trade information. Everyone was on their feet, in their cars, taking the fantasy of being a Pokemon trainer into reality. In the years since, while that remarkable experience has faded, it hasn't completely gone away. For a lot of us, hunting Pokemon, doing raids, and living out our childhood pocket monster fantasies is now just part of the fabric of regular life. What a remarkable accomplishment that is. —Julie Muncy

29. P.T.

Release Date: August 12, 2014
Platforms: PlayStation 4

Okay, fine, you got us: P.T. isn't really a game. It's a demo. The title, short for "Playable Teaser," was meant to indicate the game's role as a preview for Silent Hills, a new Silent Hill title helmed by Hideo Kojima and filmmaker Guillermo del Toro that got unceremoniously canceled as Konami's relationship with Kojima fell apart. But even without this game being a tease for a game that won't ever happen, P.T. is a stunning exercise in minimalist horror. It opens with just you in a narrow hallway, in a mysterious house. And that's where it stays, too, with that hallway changing into something more hideous and weird each time you pass through it. Obtuse and eminently unsettling, P.T. stands alone as a major work in the history of video game horror, demo be damned. —Julie Muncy

Two MOBAs dominated this past decade, but only one actually released in the 2010s. | Valve

28. Dota 2

Release Date: July 9, 2013
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux

Dota 2 is one in a long line of instances where Valve, when faced with a modder creating a brilliant derivative product, just hired them and asked them to remake it commercially. The release of Dota 2, based on a mod of Warcraft 3, further pushed the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre into the mainstream of video games. It arguably ushered in the moment when it became not just a quiet juggernaut, but a going concern for the biggest companies in the world. Also, it was (and still is) pretty good. —Julie Muncy

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a favorite among RPG fans. | Larian Studios/Bandai Namco

27. Divinity: Original Sin 2

Release Date: September 14, 2017
Platforms: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is the excellent modern vanguard of the genre of CRPGs, a genre includes classics like Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment. It was thought dead after the 1990s, and is currently enjoying the fruits of a Kickstarter-led revival. Developed by Larian, one of the companies at the forefront of this revival, Original Sin 2 is both the vanguard of its genre and a remarkable title in its own right, embracing the potential for freedom in its setting. What was remarkable about CRPGs from the start was their attempt to emulate the format of pen-and-paper roleplaying; what's remarkable about Original Sin 2 is how much it manages to truly accomplish that goal, working player experimentation into everything from the combat to a mode brilliantly designed to let players run their own campaigns. —Julie Muncy

Final Fantasy 14 gets better and better with each expansion, such as 2019's Shadowbringers. | Square Enix

26. Final Fantasy 14

Release Date: August 27, 2013
Platforms: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4

The success of Final Fantasy 14 is a small miracle. The second massively multiplayer online game in the Final Fantasy series, it launched with all the fanfare of fender bender. It was almost unanimously deemed to be a terrible, frustrating experience, and most people wrote it off entirely. Until Square Enix made the unprecedented decision to reboot and redesign the whole game as Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn. And people loved it. The game got better, and better, and better, and now stands as one of the best and most popular MMOs of a generation. —Julie Muncy

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