This last decade has been incredible for me personally. I graduated college at the height of the recession, got a job at the height of the recession, bought a new car at 25, and just last year, bought a house at 30. I have a lot to be proud of, and throughout that entire time, I’ve been accompanied by some absolutely brilliant games along the way. Some of these games have been incredibly impactful to me personally, but also to the industry at large. And so, in no real particular hierarchy, here are the games I consider to be the most impactful from the last decade.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Bethesda Game Studios
What can possibly be said about Skyrim that hasn’t been said a thousand-fold? For me personally, this is the game which converted me to PC gaming. I had already played roughly 250 hours of Skyrim on PS3 prior to seeing it played – unmodded – on my friend’s PC. I was floored by the performance and visuals, and so, I bought myself a pre-built Alienware since I didn’t know how to build PCs just yet. The rest is history, as I played hundred of more hours, modded it to the hilt, and built my love of PC gaming.
On a more somber note, Skyrim is probably the last truly great game developed by Bethesda Game Studios. The last decade has seen them fall from “grace” so spectacularly that I can no longer say that I’m looking forward to Starfield or Elder Scrolls VI. And so, Skyrim will always be that reminder of what Bethesda Game Studios once was, and probably will never be again.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – CD Projekt RED
2011 saw another phenomenal RPG, but one I did not play until after Skyrim. After I received my PC, a whole new world opened up for me, and one of them was Witcher 2. I remember being absolutely blown away by the graphics. Even now, eight years later, the visuals still hold up.
I loved absolutely everything about Witcher 2, my first foray into the Witcher universe. I loved the far darker tone, adult themes, and more meaningful gameplay and storytelling compared to Skyrim. Because of this, Witcher 2 always holds a special place in my heart as a showpiece of what PC power can bring to games, and how it can help tell truly fantastic stories.
Mass Effect 2 – BioWare
Mass Effect 2 blew my mind when I played it. I played some of Mass Effect 1 but never really finished it. But by the time the sequel rolled around, I was definitely curious. Good lord, what an experience. I loved the amazing writing, the truly massive universe, the epic story, and the high stakes.
This was the first game where I really felt like the companions were my friends, and I loved hanging out with them, doing their loyalty missions, and just getting to know them. The performances were outstanding, and the suicide mission at the game’s climax is simply unforgettable.
The Last of Us – Naughty Dog
This game is the closest I’ve come to feeling like a parent, or at least, what I think parenting entails, purely because of the constantly evolving relationship between Joel and Ellie. Apart from this incredibly intimate focused story, the stealth gameplay is exactly the type of gameplay in which I excel. I loved the high tension and scarcity of resources, forcing me to think on my feet.
The impressive AI aided in creating truly tense situations, and the phenomenal writing and performances sold the bleakness of the entire journey. I’m so stoked for The Last of Us: Part 2 next year, and I cannot wait to see how Naughty Dog evolves their craft.
Grand Theft Auto V – Rockstar
I had never really played any GTA game up till this point. In fact, I wasn’t convinced by this game until my friend sent me a picture of the map. He knew I loved massive open worlds, and knew that if I saw the map, I’d be sold. He was 100% correct.
I have put hundreds of hours into this game, but the insanity of the world’s detail is easily the biggest draw for me. Rockstar designed something incredible here, and I love diving into the online portion with my friends all these years later.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – CD Projekt RED
This game fundamentally changed how I thought about RPGs. It also far surpassed my already sky-high expectations for it. I had been following Witcher 3 ever since its reveal in 2012 and had paid close attention to its development.
The game I received simply blew my mind. The massive sprawling world, the incredible writing, the complex stories, and the fact that my decisions genuinely did impact the world was then and still remains incredibly impressive. The lasting legacy of Witcher 3 is how it changed RPGs henceforth. Games like Horizon Zero Dawn and both recent Assassin’s Creed games are they way they are arguably because of Witcher 3. Because of these reasons, this game changed my life and is something I keep playing today.
Horizon Zero Dawn – Guerilla Games
Guerilla Games had previously only created shooters, so I was surprised when they announced this open-world RPG. At the same time, I was immediately interested. We had seen so many post-apocalyptic games before, but this one seemed different.
Taking place in a post-post-apocalypse, Horizon Zero Dawn melded the industrial with the natural in a way I’d never seen before. The outstanding visuals, mesmerizing music, and incredibly tight gameplay combined with brilliant world design cemented this game as an all-time great for me. Here’s hoping for a sequel.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Nintendo
This is quite simply the best Zelda game I’ve ever played. If you’ve noticed a theme here, I strongly prefer open world games. And the open world fallen Hyrule of Breath of the Wild is among the best.
Apart from its massive size, I love how desolate it was. Each region had a distinct flair with its own unique denizens, but every adventure into the wild was an adventure into the unknown. It was deliberately designed to be isolating, and the world and music reflected this solitude. It is an instantly memorable game and satiated my constant desire to explore.
Red Dead Redemption 2 – Rockstar
I’ve written so much about this game that it’s difficult to come up with new things to say. However, what I will say is that Red Dead Redemption 2 is a masterpiece. It doesn’t care about your personal preferences. Rockstar is intent on showing you their vision – take it or leave it. And I love that.
The wonderfully slow pace, the stunning attention to the smallest details, the gorgeous world, the brilliant performances, the memorable music, and the single greatest story I’ve ever experienced across any medium make this one a true classic.
Battlefield V, Metro Exodus, Control – DICE, 4A Games, Remedy Entertainment
I’ve lumped these three games together not because of the genre they fall under, but because of what these games did for the industry. Anyone who knows me will tell you that the one thing I love most about gaming is the technology. I prioritize graphics above everything else. Nowhere else is this ceaseless, unapologetic, relentless march forward more apparent than on PC.
Ray tracing was introduced to consumer graphics in August 2018 when Nvidia heralded in the arrival of RTX cards – the first consumer cards capable of real-time ray tracing. Since then, ray tracing has seen more adoption in its first year than DirectX 12 did in its first year. This holy grail is unquestionably the future of graphics technology, so much so that the next gen consoles are heavily marketing ray tracing as part of their value proposition.
Battlefield V was the first game to implement ray tracing, and it was stunning. Metro Exodus implemented it for global illumination, instantly changing the entire atmosphere of the game. Control took it a step further to become the first game to implement multiple forms of ray tracing. Each of these games built off of the game preceding it, continually evolving this technology. The impact of these games is genuinely paradigm-shifting. We are now in an era where ray tracing is becoming the norm, and it’s these game we have to thank for having the audacity to bring us here.
While it’s great to celebrate the good, it’s perhaps more important to recognize and acknowledge the bad. So join me next week as I look back on the most detrimental games of the decade.
A highly opinionated avid PC gamer, Poorna blindly panics with his friends in various multiplayer games, much to the detriment of his team. Constantly questioning industry practices and a passion for technological progress drive his love for the video game industry. He pulls no punches and tells it like he sees it. He runs a podcast, Gaming The Industry, with fellow writer, Joseph Bradford, discussing industry practices and their effects on consumers.