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Our favourite games of the decade

Entertainment

Posted on December 23, 2019

11 min read

It’s been a great decade for video games across every platform. From consoles to PC to VR to smartphones – if you want something to while away the hours, you’ll find something amazing.

Before we twiddle our thumbs into the 2020s, it’s time to take a look back at some of our team’s favourite games of the 2010s. For the shape of gaming to come in the next decade, we’re about to enter the era of 5G, nbn, and a new world of Xbox All Access. While we’re excited about each of those, here are some games that got us through the last 10 years.

Threes!

Cory Zanoni – Channel Specialist

Threes! is the perfect game. I bought it on its release on iOS in February 2014 and I’ve been playing it ever since. In the intervening years, I’ve missed countless bus, tram, and train stops because of it.

It’s just a charming puzzler where you match numbers. Combine a 1 and a 2 to make a 3, two 3s to make a 6, and then a 12, a 24, and so on until you’ve cornered yourself and you can’t make any more moves.

It’s simple but also diabolical. The game’s out to get you, constantly throwing spanners and wrenches and shovels into your carefully laid machinery. It’s evil wrapped in a twee grin and I can’t stop playing it. Maybe I never will.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Cory Zanoni – Channel Specialist

I haven’t played New Leaf for years but, every now and then, I wonder how my town’s going. What’s Pekoe been up to since she left? Did Angus ever get his act together. Probably not.

Such is the power of Animal Crossing’s wholesome life simulator that my virtual town exists as a real place in my memory. The camping site we built. The almost-but-not-quite complete fossil collection. The flower garden that slowly took over a quarter of the town.

Animal Crossing is a wholesome life simulator. It has nostalgia built into its core. I’ve spent more time thinking about it than almost any other game this decade. And, with the next Animal Crossing game launching next yeah, it could be my game of the 2020s too.

Hollow Knight

Campbell Simpson – External Editorial Lead

Hollow Knight is the single best game I’ve ever played. It’s a side-scrolling platformer set in a murky underground world of bugs, but it’s so much more than that too.

The art is gorgeous. The music is beautiful. The combat is challenging. The story – yes, there’s a story! – is high concept and, at times, heartbreaking. The difficulty of the game scales almost perfectly as you progress, too, and there’s so much to explore as you go. It can be hugely complex if you want it to be, but it’s never overwhelming.

It’s incredible to imagine a game with this depth of lore, incredible beauty in design and environment, and high skill level being made by three Aussies in Adelaide. It’s available on a bunch of different platforms, and you owe yourself to try it – even if just to support an Australian developer. The team is working on a sequel, Silksong, that looks even more intense and intricately crafted.

Stardew Valley

Campbell Simpson – External Editorial Lead

Stardew Valley is my mental health tonic. There’s nothing I find more relaxing than logging on to my little rural farm after a long day at work and completing all the little rituals that the game offers up: planting and watering crops, saving up to build a chicken coop or a barn for goats, designing and building all the many and varied parts that make up the smoothly running operation I’ve made – water sprinklers, kegs for making wine, keeping bees or growing mushrooms or any of a dozen different equally simple and enjoyable pursuits.

But you don’t have to do any of that, either. You can spend your time in Stardew Valley just walking around making friends with the couple of dozen villagers that populate the town, or foraging for wild plants, exploring a mine full of monsters, or standing on the beach fishing for 12 hours straight. It’s all fun, and the stakes are so low.

I’ve been playing a couple of different games of Stardew with my girlfriend for a couple of years now. It’s a fantastic multiplayer game more so than on your own; as long as you can find an hour or two to sit in the same room and chat away as you’re mining or fishing or tending crops, you’ll have a wonderful time.

Pokémon Go

Nhu Vo – 2019 Graduate, Telstra Enterprise

The mobile gaming world in the 2010s saw the arrival of Candy Crush, My Talking Tom and Clash of Clans but none of them brought the same level of craze and feeling of nostalgia like Pokémon Go did.

After disappearing off the face of the earth in the 90s, Pokémon was suddenly popular again and instantly became a global and cultural phenomenon. Budding Pokémon trainers far and wide got to live out their childhood dreams with a real-life experience to catch their favourite Pokémons in the real-world using AR.

Gone were the days of sitting idly on the couch tapping away as we explored new suburbs, parks, streets, even accidentally trespassing someone’s property just to catch that rare Charmander. Never did we think that such an app got people outdoors exercising, encouraging strangers to go on walks together, gathering at random public places chasing creatures.

Pokémon Go has got to be the game of the decade as it brought AR into mainstream gaming, showing us a brand new way for people of all ages to play together both inside and outside the virtual world on their phones.

DOTA 2

Matthew Wu – Product & Technology Communications Lead

I have a confession. I’m not a gamer. Well, I am. But not in the way most of my colleagues in this blog post are. I don’t think I’ve played more than 10 games this decade. That’s because I like to play games competitively.

Growing up, I competed in Counter-Strike and Call of Duty tournaments. I also got lost in World of Warcraft before I quit cold turkey – it was hard. But these were games of the 2000s.

The game of the decade for me is DOTA 2, the free multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game by Valve released in 2013.

While I was never as overly committed to the game as I was to my earlier FPS exploits (I’m now mainly playing Overwatch #AsheMain), DOTA 2 is one of the most-played video games on Steam. It has a sharp learning curve – like most MOBAs including League of Legends, a game that’s played by nearly three times more people – and it’s this complex permutation of balanced hero meta and strategy that makes the game one of the biggest titles for esports this decade. Nearly nine million people played last month and millions more watch YouTube videos and livestreams of amateurs and professionals playing – not bad for a six-year-old game.

DOTA 2’s annual official tournament, The International, also transformed the esports industry and has created celebrities, memes, and even a few controversies. It’s not surprising, considering the latest 2019 tournament had a prize pool of more than $50 million.

Celebrities were born overnight: Navi, Dendi, Alliance, AdmiralBulldog, SingSing, IG, OG; and a special mention to Melbourne’s Anathan ‘ana’ Pham who was part of the 5-person team that won this year’s tournament, netting the 20-year-old a cool $4.6 million for his hard work. In comparison, Novak Djokovic won $4.1 million for taking out the Australian Open this year.

It’s hard to measure the scope and impact of the game against non-esports games and other esports titles. But one thing is for certain. My pick for this decade’s biggest and most significant esports title is DOTA 2.

Grand Theft Auto V

Ross Healy – Senior Content Specialist

In a lot of ways, Grand Theft Auto V had a lot to live up to. Its predecessor was one of the biggest, fully-realised open word games ever (for the time) and each iteration seems to come with a whole wave of controversy.

Bigger still was the advent of online play. Was GTA going to deliver on so many fronts? Well, it did. It came out in 2013 and STILL it’s on the Top 10 Lists for most-sold games. Its enduring legacy comes from its immense depth, enduring story, and enormous online components.

I still go back to play GTA every other year and each time I get something different out of it. Three main characters, a caricatured Los Angeles, and the ability to flip to online at any time means there’s always something to do.

The sharp writing and cutting satire are reason alone for me to revisit Los Santos, but I think it says a lot about a game if I’m content merely jumping into a car and driving around a digital city listening to talk-back radio. This game is a triumph.

Persona 5

Ross Healy – Senior Content Specialist

While still pretty niche, the Persona games are known for their mix of intricate RPG strategy with high-concept relationship building. It’s basically a high-school simulator where the main characters moonlight as demon hunters in a parallel universe.

Persona 5 builds on everything its predecessors set up: rich character interaction, fractal-like decision making, meaningful time-management, and timeless music. The Persona series introduced me to acid-jazz and it’s music that can be looped for hours on end without ever getting bored.

Which is important because this game is long. It covers the real-time calendar of about 10 months in the hero character’s school year and you really play every day. It’s up to you decide whether you study, build your friendships, or fight demons and the opportunity costs have consequences.

This structure invites you to come back and play again and again, which is a concept that never loses its appeal. And that’s especially impressive for a game that demands at least 100+ hours of your life. But it’s 100+ hours well spent.

FTL – Faster than Light

Luke Hopewell – Senior Specialist Writer

2012’s FTL is not just my game of this decade. It’s odds-on to be my game of the next decade too.

Subset Games glorious creation puts you in command of a Galactic Federation ship that has to traverse one side of the galaxy to another with information that will topple the surging rebellion, all while being pursued by the rebel fleet you stole it from. It’s definitely simple to play, but almost impossible to master.

With every faster-than-light jump, you put it all on the line as random scenarios jump out at you, and the challenges can start to take their toll the further you fly. Each jump costs you fuel. Each fight costs you ammunition. Each transaction costs you precious scrap you can use to repair your ship. Every piece of energy in your ship matters as you balance shield strength with weapon charge time. And all of it can be brought to a swift end if you’re outmatched and your FTL drive doesn’t charge fast enough. It’s top-down strategy at its most action-packed, and the soundtrack is something I still bump in my headphones while I’m writing.

On top of being an incredible play experience with branching scenarios and intense space battles, it’s one of the best games to ever be ported from PC to iPad. I strongly believe the successful port of FTL to tablet kicked off porting culture as we know it today. It gave way to games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead and the genre-defining Fortnite.

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