Games of the Decade – Jamie’s Top 3

Like most people I suspect, when thinking back on the last decade there are many, many titles to reminisce on fondly. But to narrow it down to just 3? It’s an interesting, though difficult, task. Some of us here at the Tavern wanted to look back and remember some of those games that truly stand out as the pinnacle of our time with Xbox over the 2010’s. Hopefully you’ll see a few here that you also remember fondly, or even be inspired to check out now. Let us know you’re top titles of the decade in the comments below or on Twitter @XboxTavern (Or @Enaksan). Here’s to a new stellar decade ahead of us!

Going back through my achievements I saw far too many titles that could make this list. A few honorable mentions before we kick off my top 3:

Klei’s masterpiece stealth game Mark of the Ninja. Bioware’s trilogy closer Mass Effect 3 (yes, even despite that ending). Telltale’s Walking Dead Season 1 and Tales From the Borderlands. Resident Evil 7. Rainbow Six:Siege. Far Cry 3. Titanfall 2. The behemoth that is GTA V.

All titles that I could quite happily be stuck playing for the rest of time, only eclipsed by the sheer magnitude of greatness that the list below emit. Also of note; a new GOAT for me in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, replacing Ocarina of Time. But seeing as that is yet to come to Xbox (yet…) lets crack on with the list shall we?

3: Skyrim

I still get goosebumps watching that Game Awards trailer from 2010. The slow, breathy chants as the camera panned over a carved stone wall. The sense of occasion that built up as the seconds ticked by. Then, the reveal of the Dragonborn locked in combat with a huge dragon. Rare is the trailer that gets the blood pumping quite like that. It’s handy then that the final game more than lived up to things. While it lost some of the colour that Oblivion drenched it’s landscape in, Skyrim improved on the previous entry in practically ever other way. The world was huge, yet packed with more detail than many, more limited titles. Every corner surprised you with a discovery, be it a new town, cave, quest, item or stunning viewpoint.

Not until 2017’s Breath of the Wild did I again feel that sense of awe and wonder exploring a landscape in a game. From traversing the snowy peaks of the Throat of the World, to the sunny plains of the hot springs where the Giants roamed and so many more, Skyrim truly nailed the feeling of adventure that I’d feel as a kid while off playing in the woods. A solid combat and class system allowed you to approach most of the areas in your own way, with stealthier players much more easily able to sneak in to enemy territory than Oblivion, while brawlers and magic users could have their cake and eat it, being able to wield a different spell/weapon in each hand. Open world titles often claim you can play it your way, but Skyrim is one of the rare exceptions in which that phrase feels at home.

2: Dishonored

I’m kind of cheating here, as I’m going to reference the sequel too, but even that didn’t leave quite the same impression on me as the original did back in DATE. I first played it at EGX in London, and even though the style doesn’t really suit a 10 minute demo, I was instantly enamoured. The striking painterly visuals immediately drew me in; from the soft brush stroke skylines to the portrait appearance of the NPC’s, I would count Dishonored as one of the best stylised games I’ve ever played. There was minuscule detail hidden with the world too, with small, barely perceptible pick ups dotted amount the debris that adorned almost every corner.

But really, the visuals were just the icing on the incredible gameplay cake. I always try to take the pacific/stealthy approach to games – whether that’s an option or not. Dishonored took that mantra and expanded on it in new and unique ways that still have yet to truly be repeated. Every room had multiple entry/exit ways, high and low vantage points and a seemingly limitless way to get through them. Sitting up high, assessing guard numbers and patterns before flawlessly slinking through and area unnoticed is still one of gaming greatest thrills. It may not make for an interesting trailer at E3, but for my money that’s far more satisfying than going in all guns blazing. Of course, Dishonered allows this approach too, and watching some of the incredibly skilled players utilise the powers to kill an entire room in one fell swoop is a sight to behold.

Ah, the powers. Complimenting any approach you cared to take, it will take a lot for a game to best the sheer power fantasy that Dishonored move set allowed. Whether using stealth or force, the tools at hand are flexible and easy enough to use that any failure rests solely on the player. Blink is up there with the Gravity Gun for me in terms getting the most out of game environment. I couldn’t get enough of instantly transporting to a ledge foes, then flitting across the rooftops, discovering new passages and hidden secrets. Get caught and you can zip directly behind them, allowing precious few moments to escape as they try to figure out what just happened. And that’s just one power. Slowing time, possessing an enemy then moving them in the firing line of their own bullets before time resumes is just one of the more tame example of the breadth of options that Dishonored presents. The sequels ad DLC expanded on these – often times in their own incredible ways – but nothing ever managed to match the originals wow factor.

They played into the story too, with each areas main target being able to be dispatched in both lethal and non-lethal ways. There’s an argument to be made of which is the more humane of the two in some cases – kill a man, or sentence him to a lifetime of slavery in his own mine, unable to plead his case due to a lack of a tongue – but it was a fresh idea that, much like a lot of Dishonored – has yet to really be imitated. A fully pacifist run is possible, as is a death laden one, though that will increase the amount of rats spreading the plague around Dunwall, leading to more unrest and more innocent lives lost.

There’s not a single element of Dishonered that feels rushed, forced or simply half-hearted, and for that it is a title that will remain at the top of not only my 2010 list, but my all time one too. Absolutely incredible freedom to use the available tool-set in any way you see fit, while offering up a compelling narrative and world to explore.

1: Resident Evil 2 Remake

Now, it really was a toss up between this and Dishonored, but RE2 takes it for me simply because of the sheer brilliance in it’s execution. Remaking games is hardly a new endeavour – hell, Capcom could be one of the biggest proponents of the idea – but rarely, if ever, has one been done with such skill and love. Taking what was already a highly regarded title, Capcom set about rebuilding the RPD and its surrounding areas in a way that not only made it fresh for fans of the original, but made it feel as though it was its own, new game. Easily one of the best looking titles of 2019, the fact that it eschewed a lot of the gameplay aspects that put people off in 1998 while refining every single other aspect to near perfection, anyone (18 and over, naturally) could jump in and have an incredible time.

The map and inventory system is massively improved, letting players keep tabs on where they’d been, while noting items and locked doors to aid progression. No longer were laps of the police station required to figure out where to use the last remaining key in your pocket. Zombies pose a real threat now, the unpredictable lunging making dodging them hard and aiming your weapon even harder. Even a two on one situation was tense, let alone when a room full of the undead were shuffling towards you. Later foes only amp up the pressure; lickers skittering along the floor using their hearing to make up for being blind to chase you down. The horrifying plant monsters, dogs and more are introduced at just the right pace to keep you on your toes, while letting you get a handle on how to deal with them. Boss battles that are classic Resi, yet spun new takes on the tactics required to best them.

And, of course, our dear friend Mr. X. Whack on a good pair of headphones and those thudding, impending footsteps take on a life of their own. Each move made by our heroes seemingly cranked up to 1000 decibels as you wish for them to be quiet. Hearing a door creak open behind you as you’re in the act of turning a crank, or searching a drawer is just as terrifying on the 4th run as the first. He has the habit of turning up at the worst times too; a later scene in the underground bunker sees him stalk you down a narrow footpath while trying to unlock a door using the electronic jammer. Pure tension through and through, it’ll be interesting to see how Nemesis in the upcoming RE3 remake will fare in comparison.

There’s a constant feeling of dread and danger looming over our heroes, even when in the assumed safety of the save rooms. Previously thought cleared areas might surprise with a reanimated corpse that we didn’t quite finish off last time. Empty corridors suddenly populate with Lickers to catch those unaware off guard. Dogs skitter around off screen before lunging into view leaving mere moments to attack. One stand out moment I think highlights the tension on show is when first attempting to leave the station; opening a door reveals a swathe of dog cages, most open. One unseen still caged canine barks as you pass by, attracting more – unfortunately freed – dogs in the process. A frantic battle of survival ensues, with the exit seemingly a million miles away. Problem is, you’re gonna need to come back this way, so if you didn’t dealt with them then, chances are you’re going to have a harder time coming back. Brilliantly, on the alternate scenario we instead find a pair of Lickers in place, with the dogs discarded in a heap on the floor. They can’t see you, but make so much as a squeak and all hell breaks loose. The campaigns are filled with moments like these, interspersed with the odd quiet moment, or – more likely – and even bigger threat to contend with. Rarely did I feel at peace throughout the campaign, and for my money, RE2 is all the better for keeping the pressure on.

I think my only real negative would be how the A and B campaigns of the PS1 original don’t have quite the same interaction here, though they are still distinct in their own right, with new areas to explore and enemies to encounter. I get the itch about once a month to restart RE2 again, and if time allowed I’d happily play it once a month for the rest of time. A superb blend of horror, action, stunning visuals and campy B-Movie story telling that deserves a place in the annuls of history as not only one of the greatest remakes ever, but one of the greatest games in its own right.

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Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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