TGR’s 50 Best Games of the Decade

It’s taken a lot of discussion… okay, bickering between the TGR staff, but we’ve finally been able to agree on our pick for the fifty best games of the noughties. Now it’s your turn to bicker with us. OK, let’s face it, some great titles didn’t make it onto this list. Lots of great titles, in fact. It’s been hard to narrow it down to 50, and for that as a community we should be thankful. Over the last ten years we’ve been treated to some really fantastic games, especially in the last few years, and it’s certainly been, and still is a fantastic time to be a gamer. There are still some potentially great titles to come out later this year as well, and maybe they’ll invalidate this list (even more), but we just couldn’t wait until 2010 to start our bickering. So, without any further delay, here it is in alphabetical order: the TGR staff’s pick for the 50 Best Games of the Decade.

Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn [BioWare] [Sep 2000] [PC]

Setting down the roots for all Western RPGs after it, Baldur’s Gate 2 was a triumph of characterization and storytelling. The atmospheric world of Faerun became all the more meaningful through the tangible changes to it that players orchestrated through their actions.

Batman: Arkham Asylum [Rocksteady] [Aug 2009] [PS3, 360, PC]

Who would’ve thought that a movie/comic book licensed game would make the list? Arkham Asylum confounded its cynics who were expecting a poor title from an unknown studio. In the asylum itself, Rocksteady provided a setting that did justice to the realm of insanity within Batman’s line-up of villains. Every second spent within its crumbling walls was creepier and more exciting than the last.

Beyond Good & Evil [Ubisoft] [Nov 2003] [PC, PS2, Xbox, GC]

With a believable main character in an absorbing world, Beyond Good & Evil was a uniquely satisfying action-adventure game, and one that placed emphasis on investigation rather than combat. The emotional story and deep interrelationships proved that you didn’t need bullets or chainsaws to tell a tale in video games.

BioShock [2K Games] [Aug 2007] [360, PC, PS3]

Andrew Ryan’s ruined vision of paradise was a masterclass in atmosphere and intelligent storytelling. The slow reveal of the events that led to the decaying underwater utopia of Rapture made for a chilling experience, but so much more so was the uncovering of the player’s role in the city’s demise.

Braid [Number None] [Aug 2008] [360, PC, PS3]

Braid was a work of artistic brilliance with some unique platforming puzzles, but its genius was in its ambiguous, multi-layered story. That story offered up a final twist that literally turned the game on its head, and blew the minds of players who thought they had even the slightest grasp on what was going on.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare [Infinity Ward] [Nov 2007] [360, PS3, PC, Wii]

By blowing the WWII cobwebs away from the previous Call of Duty games, Modern Warfare was able to up its spectacular presentation to the max. Although the bombastic moments provided the highest thrills, it was the melancholy story and forlorn ending of this topical shooter that left the greatest impression. Beyond that, its perk-based multiplayer kept players glued to their seats for many, many months.

Sid Meier’s Civilization IV [Firaxis Games] [Oct 2005] [PC]

Never mind the level of depth and strategy within Sid Meier’s Civ 4 that made it a work of genius, for it was its open-ended potential for creating a unique nation that could dominate through either aggression or diplomacy, its incredible attention-to-detail, and the wonderfully balanced mechanics that made it such a replayable and, above all, fun game to play.

Deus Ex [Ion Storm] [Jun 2000] [PC, PS2]

Deus Ex was the grandfather of the intelligent, RPG-based shooter genre, one that has yet to be as brought into light as sharply as it was with that game. It was the perfect storm of all the conspiracy theories a Mulder-a-like could wish for, and Ion Storm filled its world with unrivalled complexity, such that it remained convincing and engaging right to its dramatic end.

Diablo II [Blizzard North] [June 2000] [PC]

Crawling through dungeons with buddies by your side has never been more addictive and satisfying than it was when playing Diablo II over Battle.net. The mother of all loot-whoring games is still as irresistible as it was nine years ago, and it doesn’t take a genius to understand why the world is drooling over the prospect of Diablo III, no matter how far away in time it is.

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion [Bethesda] [Mar 2006] [360, PC, PS3]

The beauty and majesty of Cyrodil’s fantasy landscape was present in all its forms, from riding over grassy knolls to wading through dark marshland. Packed full of characters and inventive side-quests, Oblivion was so addictive an experience that spending 100 hours within its realm was not only possible, but probable.

Fable 2 [Lionhead] [Oct 2008] [360]

Dangerously close to delivering on all of Peter Molyneux’s hype (steady… – Ed), Fable 2 had a charm and personality that made it a constant delight to play. With a mix of meaningful moral choices, and a variety of options for combat and character customization, Molyneux’s second attempt managed to hit all the right buttons, and become an instant classic.

Fallout 3 [Bethesda] [Oct 2008] [360, PC, PS3]

Exploring the bleak, disturbing landscape of post-apocalyptic Washington was reason enough to get sucked into this game. But it was the sheer level of freedom and opportunity within the world, all encapsulated in that moment when players stepped out of Valut 101 for the first time, and the sun blinded their vision, that made Fallout 3 arguably Bethesda’s finest work.

Final Fantasy X [Square] [Jul 2001] [PS2]

Maybe it wasn’t quite as impactful as the leap from SNES to PlayStation in Final Fantasy VII, but the wonderfully-realized 3D visuals, plus the addition of voice acting for dialogue, helped bring this game to life more than any game before it. A great combat system and a deep, twisting story, all to the backdrop of one the more atypical Final Fantasy settings, made FFX a landmark triumph for both the series and its genre.

Gears of War [Epic Games] [Nov 2006] [360, PC]

By putting satisfying shooter gameplay before all else, Gears of War proved that the combination of a refined cover system and some very, very big guns could work wonders in the right hands. 2006 provided only a few greater moments than those provided by Marcus Fenix spitting out one-liners and cutting Locust in half. Back in your hole!

God of War [SCE Santa Monica] [Mar 2005] [PS2]

Portraying Greek mythology was never more fun than when players controlled the wonderfully enraged Kratos. The feeling of power coupled with Kratos’ righteous revenge made for one of the great, truly visceral gaming experiences of this decade, and it should come as no surprise that God of War accumulated an amazing twelve Game of the Year awards back in 2005.

Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec [Polyphony Digital] [Apr 2001] [PS2]

It’s hard to believe, on reflection, that Gran Turismo 3 came out as early as 2001. So graphically impressive was that game that it could’ve stood up tall many years later. Not to mention that its realistic control system was properly realized on the PlayStation 2, and with the console’s power came an incredibly deep and addictive career mode that sucked away the summer of 2001.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City [Rockstar North] [Oct 2002] [PS2, PC, Xbox]

Out of the many GTA games we could have chosen, Vice City stood out because of its unique personality and fun-filled world. It combined the satire and bite of previous games in the series, but also took you back to a time when hair was large, Phil Collins was on the radio and every mafia film was up for parody. Many have tried, but it was Vice City that really made the 80s cool again.

Half-Life 2 [Valve] [Nov 2004] [PC, Xbox, 360, PS3]

Six years of hype paid off with one of the greatest shooter experiences ever devised. From fighting the dystopian Combine Overwatch to the interactions with Alyx and the City 17 resistance, Valve honed the genre’s staples to technical perfection. They then went on to perfect perfection through HL2: Episodes 1 & 2, and it’s to the series’ credit that fans are still salivating about Episode 3 so many years later.

Halo: Combat Evolved [Bungie] [Nov 2001] [Xbox, PC]

Did Bungie or Microsoft realize what a phenomenon Halo would be when they released it? Not only did Halo take the console shooter multiplayer crown from Goldeneye and Perfect Dark with relative ease, but it did this on top of one of the most engrossing, and simply impressive single-player shooters ever to have graced any console. Where Halo is today in the gaming landscape owes so much of its success to the sheer quality of the series’ opening title.

Ico [Team Ico] [Sep 2001] [PS2]

Although not a huge commercial success, selling only 700,000 copies worldwide, the predecessor to Shadow of the Colossus became a cult-hit thanks to its unique, minimal and elegant approach to creating a fairytale action-adventure game. Such was its brilliance that it still represents one of gaming’s most artistic ventures to date.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic [BioWare] [Jul 2003] [PC, Xbox]

Considered by many to be one of the greatest games to use the Star Wars license, KOTOR had the winning combination of BioWare’s RPG expertise and a faithfulness to George Lucas’s universe to satisfy the franchise’s abundance of fans. It also proved that BioWare could work wonders outside of medieval fantasy, something the developer would later prove again with another game on this list…

LittleBigPlanet [Media Molecule] [Oct 2008] [PS3]

LittleBigPlanet hit the gaming world by storm with its exciting presentation at GDC 2007, but the question was whether it could meet its potential. 18 months later, and all the hype had been met. Loved by younger gamers, platformer fans, budding designers and artists alike, LBP was an adorable game in its own right but really impressed through its revolutionary yet simple content creation, which has led to its now ever-increasing database of levels

Mario Kart DS [Nintendo] [Nov 2005] [DS]

Nintendo’s beloved racer snaked its way onto the DS with style. By reverting to the MK64 style, including classic tracks, and allowing online multiplayer for the first time in the series, Mario Kart DS will be remembered as one of the best installments in a series that lost its roots on the home consoles.

Mass Effect [BioWare] [Nov 2007] [360, PC]

Although probably remembered for the depth of its intricately-designed world, its superbly-realized cast, and a level of freedom that resulted in unwarranted controversy, Mass Effect did so much else brilliantly. From its character creation to its varied first-person combat and original soundtrack, BioWare’s space-based RPG was an unforgettable experience.

Max Payne [Rockstar] [Jul 2001] [PC, Xbox, PS2, GBA]

May Payne brought spectacular ’bullet time’ mechanics to gaming. It clearly drew influences from The Matrix and John Woo cinematics, but it then threw in some dark, graphic novel-based material to create a truly memorable crime action-shooter. It’s somewhat sad, then, that its movie adaptation was such a disappointment. When will people learn?

Metal Gear Solid 4 [Kojima Productions] [Jun 2008] [PS3]

The question we all wondered: would Metal Gear Sold 4: Guns of the Patriots truly deliver the ending to one of the greatest game series of our time? We should never have doubted Kojima. MGS4 was the jewel in the revered developer’s crown, with the PS3’s technology able to deliver and realize his ideas much better than previous installments ever did. Sure, it indulged its fanbase with some really hefty cut scenes, but when they’re as good as Metal Gear Solid 4’s were, who really cares?

Metroid Prime [Retro] [Nov 2002] [GC, Wii]

Samus followed Mario and Link into 3D a console generation later, but her delayed appearance was more than worth the wait. The eerie, sci-fi-based exploration of Metroid translated to the first-person perspective of Prime in a manner that was somehow faithful to the original, yet still a new, typically polished Nintendo spectacle in its own right.

Okami [Clover] [Apr 2006] [PS2, Wii]

Okami was very much inspired by the Zelda series, but it more than held its own with possibly the most original and indeed the most gorgeous aesthetic seen in a video game to date. In terms of influencing its master just look at Zelda: Twilight Princess, where Link gained a wolf form for half of the game. Beyond Zelda, though, Okami was one of the most influential video games released this decade.

Peggle [Popcap] [Feb 2007] [PC, iPhone, 360, DS]

Arguably the most addictive game ever conceived; Peggle blends Puzzle Bobble, pinball, and a knowingly unpleasant cuteness to form something that shouldn’t be nearly as good, or difficult to put down, as it is. The player is given just the right blend of luck, skill, and encouraging feedback to always be forced into just one more go.

Perfect Dark [Rare] [May 2000] [N64, 360]

Would Rare’s follow-up to Goldeneye 007 be as good as Bond’s outing on the console? Stupid question. Perfect Dark pushed the N64’s capabilities to the limit (and beyond), and by taking the much-loved Goldeneye formula and turning it up a notch, it represented one of the greatest split-screen multiplayer experiences, and still does.

Pokémon Diamond/Pearl [Game Freak] [Apr 2007] [DS]

In the 21st century, catching ’em all is not so much of a gaming challenge but, thanks to a 490-strong repertoire, a massive commitment of time and effort. It’s a credit to Diamond & Pearl that they made the prospect so appealing, and indeed addictive. The increased complexity to the collecting, training and battles ensured that Nintendo’s phenomenal franchise has continued to grow from strength to strength.

Portal [Valve] [Oct 2007] [PC, 360, PS3]

Valve’s first-person action-puzzler defied convention with style. In this short yet endearing adventure, the portal gun provided material for truly original, mind-bending puzzles, whilst the back story was presented with a dark wit via the background dialogue of the insane super-computer GLaDOS. Bring on Portal 2 already.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village [Level-5] [Feb 2007] [DS]

Logically, a simplistic game like Professor Layton, that’s essentially the gaming version of a mind-teasers puzzle book, shouldn’t be so good. In reality, Level-5 made one of the most endearing and memorable games of 2007 by embellishing the world of the enigmatic Layton with the studio’s trademark charm and attention-to-detail.

Psychonauts [Apr 2005] [Double Fine] [Xbox, PC, PS2]

Suffering from poor sales, Psychonauts was never fully appreciated when it was released back in 2005, despite being unique in almost every way. It offered some wonderful visuals, and a compelling story that was frequently funny as typical for a Schafer production. Simply put, Psychonauts was a stunning platformer that not enough people played.

Resident Evil 4 [Capcom] [Jan 2005] [GC, PS2, PC, Wii]

No-one expected the change-up in gameplay that Resident Evil 4 delivered. With unpredictable enemies in the form of the Ganados, fantastic set-pieces, all mixed with the endearing B-movie tone of the series, RE4 breathed new life into the survival horror genre, and no game since in the genre has been as compelling, or nearly as well-designed.

Rock Band 2 [Harmonix] [Sep 2008] [360, PS3, PS2, Wii]

Who would have thought that pretending to play music with plastic instruments or singing out of tune could be so cool? There have been many installments from the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series that deserve accolade, but Rock Band 2 was the height of perfection and provided huge amount of fun for all kinds of gamer, and a great representative of social gaming.

Shadow of the Colossus [Team Ico] [Oct 2005] [PS2]

Everyone loves an epic boss fight, don’t they? Well Shadow of the Colossus managed to take the concept and make an entire game around it. It was a brave move that was pulled off in spectacular form by Team Ico, ensuring that Shadow of the Colossus would be remembered for many years to come for being one of gaming’s most unique experiences.

Shenmue II [Sega] [Sep 2001] [Dreamcast, Xbox]

Finally, a Dreamcast game! And indeed, finally a Sega game! Building upon the huge success of its predecessor, Shenmue II provided a faster-paced storyline and more action, while still being wonderfully intricate in its level of detail. It was an epic adventure title in every sense of the word.

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 [Atlus] [Jul 2006] [PS2, PSP]

Placing its focus on character development and relationships, Persona 3 balanced the oddity of previous Persona games thanks to clear presentation and some amazing cut scenes. It broke free of the usual J-RPG tropes, impressing with its unique narrative whether you were forging social links or battling demons. In an increasingly samey genre, Persona 3 stood tall amongst the cookie-cutters.

Silent Hill 2 [Konami] [Sep 2001] [PS2, Xbox, PC]

The Silent Hill series has approached survival horror from a more surreal, psychological horror angle than the Resident Evil series. The height of the series, and this approach, was Silent Hill 2. It offered, amongst other things, the first glimpse of the incredibly horrific Pyramid Head. More twisted than its predecessor, Silent Hill 2 was deeply disturbing and engrained itself into the memories of its players forever.

Soulcalibur II [Namco] [Mar 2003] [GC, PS2, Xbox]

With its weapon-based fighting the Soulcalibur games were different beasts compared to the likes of the Street Fighter and Virtua Fighter series. Succeeding wasn’t merely down to combos but also the weapons available and the ability to evade attack. Soulcalibur II best represented this balance, and with its rich visuals provided one of the best fighting games of the decade.

Street Fighter IV [Capcom] [Feb 2009] [PS3, 360, PC]

It felt a little like the Street Fighter series was going to become part of the past with no sight of a new title for years. That was until Street Fighter IV burst onto the scenes. With look and gameplay that paid tribute to Street Fighter II, but still represented evolution thanks to the introduction of some well-implemented features, Street Fighter IV was an instant hit. The crown is back where it belongs – with Capcom.

Super Mario Galaxy [Nintendo] [Nov 2007] [Wii]

Every Nintendo system needs a defining Mario title, and the Wii got its plumber in shining armor in the form of Super Mario Galaxy. Combining the best elements from previous games such as Mario 64 and Yoshi’s Island, the Wii finally had a classic Mario game, and one that represented the series unquestionable return to form thanks to its innovative, gravity-based platforming.

Super Smash Bros. Melee [HAL Laboratory] [Nov 2001] [GC]

Super Smash Bros. Melee was a deceptively hardcore fighter, as well as deceptively addictive. After all, who could possibly resist being able to pit characters like Pikachu, Mario, Link and Samus against each other? Melee represented a sumptuous evolution for the Nintendo’s fan-service fighter, and one that kept players next to their GameCubes 24/7.

The Sims 3 [EA Redwood Shores] [Aug 2009] [PC]

Maybe it’s not so cool to admit it anymore, given the increased casualization of the series, but let’s face it – The Sims 3 was wonderfully addictive. Whether you wanted to be kind with your Sims, or maybe not quite as kind – think windowless prison – The Sims series has always represented great freedom within a simulation game. Then EA added in a host of new features, and took that freedom to a whole new scale, and that’s why The Sims 3 is on this list.

Thief: Deadly Shadows [Ion Storm] [May 2004] [PC]

Encompassing a unique artistic style set in a mixture of fantasy and steampunk, Thief: Deadly Shadows was a memorable stealth based game. It’s not often that you can play a game from the perspective of a thief, and this game was admirable in its depiction and provided very solid gameplay to boot. Let’s have that Thief 4 already.

Wii Sports [Nintendo] [Nov 2006] [Wii]

Maybe it was the bastion of the casual gamer, but there’s no doubting that Wii Sports was a pivotal title. It was the game that the whole family could join in with, even with no previous gaming experience, and no matter how much you don’t want to admit it, it was terrific fun. Maybe not the very best game of this decade, but probably the most important.

World of Warcraft [Blizzard] [Nov 2004] [PC]

Its premise was one of the simplest on this list: kill monsters, collect loot and complete quests. Nonetheless, World of Warcraft has stolen our hearts, our money and in some cases, our soul. It represented the pinnacle of the MMORPG genre, and still does, and that its base of subscribers continues to grow is testament to its quality more than any words here could be.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass [Nintendo] [June 2007] [DS]

The DS was craving for a Zelda title when Phantom Hourglass arrived on the scene, and thankfully it fulfilled all of Nintendo’s promises. Its control system was perfectly aligned for the DS, and another classic Zelda game was born. So good was Phantom Hourglass that our cynicism regards Spirit Tracks is much lower than it should be.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess [Nintendo] [Nov 2006] [GC, Wii]

Perfectly intertwining the Wii controls alongside conventional controls from previous titles, Twilight Princess managed to feel both familiar yet original to gamers. Beautiful to look at and beautiful to play, superb design made this the greatest Zelda title to have graced us this decade, and one that took the series back to the heights of its 90s success

Check the final page for the complete list…

 

The Complete List

Baldur’s Gate 2 [BioWare] [Sep 2000] [PC]
Batman: Arkham Asylum [Rocksteady] [Aug 2009] [PS3, 360, PC]
Beyond Good & Evil [Ubisoft] [Nov 2003] [PC, PS2, Xbox, GC]
BioShock [2K Games] [Aug 2007] [360, PC, PS3]
Braid [Number None] [Aug 2008] [360, PC, PS3]
Call of Duty 4 [Infinity Ward] [Nov 2007] [360, PS3, PC, Wii]
Civilization IV [Firaxis Games] [Oct 2005] [PC]
Deus Ex [Ion Storm] [Jun 2000] [PC, PS2]
Diablo 2 [Blizzard North] [June 2000] [PC]
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion [Bethesda] [Mar 2006] [360, PC, PS3] 
Fable 2 [Lionhead] [Oct 2008] [360]
Fallout 3 [Bethesda] [Oct 2008] [360, PC, PS3]
Final Fantasy X [Square] [Jul 2001] [PS2]
Gears of War [Epic Games] [Nov 2006] [360, PC]
God of War [SCE Santa Monica] [Mar 2005] [PS2] 
Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec [Polyphony Digital] [Apr 2001] [PS2] 
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City [Rockstar North] [Oct 2002] [PS2, PC, Xbox] 
Half-Life 2 [Valve] [Nov 2004] [PC, Xbox, 360, PS3]
Halo: Combat Evolved [Bungie] [Nov 2001] [Xbox, PC] 
Ico [Team Ico] [Sep 2001] [PS2]
Knights of the Old Republic [BioWare] [Jul 2003] [PC, Xbox]
LittleBigPlanet [Media Molecule] [Oct 2008] [PS3] 
Mario Kart DS [Nintendo] [Nov 2005] [DS] 
Mass Effect [BioWare] [Nov 2007] [360, PC] 
Max Payne [Rockstar] [Jul 2001] [PC, Xbox, PS2, GBA]
Metal Gear Solid 4 [Kojima Productions] [Jun 2008] [PS3]
Metroid Prime [Retro] [Nov 2002] [GC, Wii] 
Okami [Clover] [Apr 2006] [PS2, Wii]
Peggle [Popcap] [Feb 2007] [PC, iPhone, 360, DS]
Perfect Dark [Rare] [May 2000] [N64, 360]
Pokémon Diamond/Pearl [Game Freak] [Apr 2007] [DS]
Portal [Valve] [Oct 2007] [PC, 360, PS3] 
Professor Layton and the Curious Village [Level-5] [Feb 2007] [DS] 
Psychonauts [Apr 2005] [Double Fine] [Xbox, PC, PS2]
Resident Evil 4 [Capcom] [Jan 2005] [GC, PS2, PC, Wii]
Rock Band 2 [Harmonix] [Sep 2008] [360, PS3, PS2, Wii]
Shadow of the Colossus [Team Ico] [Oct 2005] [PS2]
Shenmue II [Sega] [Sep 2001] [Dreamcast, Xbox] 
SMT: Persona 3 [Atlus] [Jul 2006] [PS2, PSP]
Silent Hill 2 [Konami] [Sep 2001] [PS2, Xbox, PC]
Soulcalibur II [Namco] [Mar 2003] [GC, PS2, Xbox]

Street Fighter IV [Capcom] [Feb 2009] [PS3, 360, PC]
Super Mario Galaxy [Nintendo] [Nov 2007] [Wii] 
Super Smash Bros. Melee [HAL Laboratory] [Nov 2001] [GC] 
The Sims 3 [EA Redwood Shores] [Aug 2009] [PC]
Thief: Deadly Shadows [Ion Storm] [May 2004] [PC] 
Wii Sports [Nintendo] [Nov 2006] [Wii]
World of Warcraft [Blizzard] [Nov 2004] [PC] 
Zelda: Phantom Hourglass [Nintendo] [June 2007] [DS]
Zelda: Twilight Princess [Nintendo] [Nov 2006] [GC, Wii]

Thanks to Adam Standing, Gideon Heap and Jennifer Allen for putting this all together.

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1 comment to TGR’s 50 Best Games of the Decade

  • Very good list of must play games. As of today, I would also include Red Dead Redemption

    I have to say that I agree with you on all the games I have played on this list. My favorite is Batman: Arkham Asylum. Now, I can’t wait to try Fallout 3.

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