This will be my last list covering my favorite games of the last decade. Again these will be all PC games. In case you missed the other ones, you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here. For convenience let me just copy and paste my criteria for this list:
First I am sticking only to games that I actually finished. Or at least finished one route if it has multiple story routes. Otherwise this list would be much bigger.
Secondly, I am not sticking to any particular number of games or ranking them. This is just the ones I can remember from the top of my head and they are all special in my heart for different reasons.
Lastly, this is my personal list. Yours will surely be different. In fact, if you made a blog post like this feel free to link it in the comments below or if you don’t have a blog of your own feel free to write down your list there. 🙂
Ok. Let’s talk about the games now!
Crusader Kings 2
Crusader Kings 2 (CK2 for short) is my favorite game that I am terrible at. It has a huge learning curve which to this day I never really got over it. Still I love it because of the quirky sense humor of its events and how even when things go horribly wrong they can still do so in interesting ways.
Then there are the DLCs which I know a lot of people don’t like much because there is a gazillion of them and on the surface doesn’t seem like they add much. But personally I like how they often they add new mechanics or change old ones so you end up with more interesting choices than before. To me it feels more like Paradox isn’t resting on its laurels and realizing “yeah, we could could have done this part better” or “Now that the game is out let’s try exploring this other part of the time period that we didn’t have time to develop”.
The only other company that I can think that does something similar is Firaxis with the Civilization games. But while Firaxis tries to add a lot of depth and new mechanics all at once with its big expansions, Paradox does it with small, constant releases of DLCs and free updates. Different models but I don’t see any being necessarily better or worse than the other.
I’ve been reading some of the Developer Diaries for Crusader Kings 3 and I am really hyped about what I’ve seem so far. But one of my biggest hopes for it is that it be more like Stellaris, in that the learning curve is a lot smaller but it still has enough complexity and depth to make it a pretty interesting strategy game.
To be completely honest I didn’t buy Stellaris immediately when it released. My fear was that it would have a big learning curve like Crusader Kings 2 and I never play much of it, just like what happened when I bought Europa Universallis IV. Still I have been craving for something that could scratch my itch for a game similar to Master of Orion and during one of those times where Stellaris went on sale I decided to take the plunge, bought the base game and all the available DLCs at the time.
It turned out to be a great decision considering all the hours I’ve spent playing it. I did have a rough start with Stellaris but it does have a much smaller learning curve than Crusader Kings II and I have more confidence playing it than I do with its older cousin. I also love it has the same quirky sense of humor as CK2 and with some imagination we can create some really silly stories as we expand our civilization throughout the galaxy.
Another thing I love about it is how much we can customize our alien species and how few of it is set in stone. It is not only nice from a gameplay perspective but it also adds some immersion because no species is monolithic and completely unchanging over time.
Final Fantasy XIV
This one kinda of breaks my own rules since MMORPGs technically do not have an end. But I finished the Main Story of Shadowbringers1, the latest expansion, so I’d say it is close enough to finishing it.
I think the reason Final Fantasy XIV is fun for me is because it has several compromises that end up working for different tastes. It has a very traditional and rigid holy trinity but it also allows people to unlock any class and switch between them. Its combat is still hotbar based but is also dynamic enough that you need to constantly move. Crafting isn’t just hit a button and get an item but isn’t super complex either. And so on.
The story itself though can be hit and miss, specially in the base game. But as the expansions goes you can feel the team getting more confident in their storytelling and trying different ideas. Shadowbringers, the latest expansion, in special was so good that it reminded me why I fell in love wit this franchise so long ago.
All of these factors not only make Final Fantasy XIV a great game in itself but also one of the best Final Fantasy games released so far. Here is looking forward to what the development team brings us in the next year! 🙂
Warriors Orochi 4
The Warriors franchise is one of those whose existence I was aware of, even had some interest in, but never bought any game. Then one of my friends started to stream Warriors Orochi 4 and I knew immediately I wanted to play this game too.
Again, no regrets with this purchase. Warriors Orochi 4 is pretty much the peak of the series over-the-topness. Not only you beat mooks by the literal hundreds you also end up fighting actual gods. The game also has a lot of playable characters that somehow feel different enough in terms of gameplay that it never really feels repetitive.
But I think what I love the most about it is that it is an excellent game for when I am feeling brainless and just want some quick, mindless fun! 🙂
I don’t know where or how I first heard about Steins;Gate. Much less why I knew it was a game I wanted to play. All I know is that at some point I decided to buy the game, played it and loved it.
It is a game that starts what seems like to be a light comedy with some lovable goofballs and then slowly and naturally ends up turning into a more dark, serious story. Another cool thing about Steins;Gate is that a lot of its story is based on actual real theories about time travel. I learned more about it through this game than I’d probably would if I tried to research the topic on my own.
My only nitpick is that some really important decisions are hidden in what seems completely harmless and unrelated in-game e-mail replies. If I didn’t look for a guide about it I’d probably would never have found on my own. Seriously, I can only imagine how people figured it all out as it seems to be a lot of frustrating trial-and-error.
Despite that I love this game, its characters, the story and the art style. So much so that I some months back I got some wallpapers based on it that to this day still grace my computer.
I have yet to watch the anime adaptation of this game or play Steins;Gate 0 or one of its spin-offs. But it is definitely on my to-do list for the next year.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York
This is a game I’ve thought back and forth if I should include on this list due to it being released so recently and how short it is. In the end I decided to include it because the World of Darkness, and Vampire: the Masquerade in particular, is one of my favorite settings2. And this game captures what would be my ideal version of it.
You see, one of the problems with Vampire: the Masquerade is that it is very easy to fall into the “Pale Power Rangers Syndrome” as we call it here. In that it is all about the power trip of being a vampire and fighting against anyone that is remotely a threat to your group. It is much harder to pull the horror of being a vampire.
Coteries of New York is able to walk this tightrope in a very masterful way. There will be moments where you feel like a powerful vampire but there will also be lots of moments where you feel all the horrors of it too, like the constant hunger, the paranoia, being used as a pawn for older vampires, etc.
The art style in this game is also perfect. It is often a perfect mixture of beauty, darkness and even danger depending on the situation. Again, another thing that seems easy to do when you see the work of a master but hard to accomplish when you try to make it yourself.
If you are a fan of any of the Vampire: The Masquerade games, be it just the tabletop version or one of its CRPGs implementations, I highly recommend this one. Or even if you are just a fan of vampire fiction in general.
My hope for the upcoming Bloodlines 2 game is that it somehow capture some of the feelings this game brought to me.
That is it for my games of the decade. There were so many more games I wish I could have included but was not possible due to not finishing them. Then there were also some game series, like Civilization, that I deliberately left out. I chose to do that because I can’t pick just one as my favorite. Each entry has something that I love and that I miss in the other ones.
There are a lot of games I am sure I am forgetting too. That is the problem with lists like this: no matter how complete you try to make them some will for sure be forgotten or have to be cut due to some limitation. Still, imperfect as it is, all these games are special to me and if all other games suddenly disappeared I’d be happy enough with just the ones in this list.