We wanted to do something special for PAX Online x EGX Digital - the digital gaming event from our parent company, ReedPop, which is running this week - and with new PlayStation and Xbox consoles just two months away, a list celebrating the great games of the generation seemed like a no-brainer. And that was before we knew that last week and this would be dominated by news of the price, date and launch line-ups for the two new console families.
There was just one problem. Last year, we ran a feature series on our games of the decade, curated by the Eurogamer team and very much reflecting our personal tastes and obsessions. With the current generation running from November 2013 to now, there was bound to be an awful lot of overlap. How could we make the new list fresh?
The answer was simple: step out of our bubble, ask some other people what they thought, and see what, if any, consensus might form. So we assembled a panel of 19 game developers, critics and journalists - some of our favourite people in the games business - and asked each of them to submit a list of their five favourite games released since November 2013. (That was the only restriction: the games could be of any kind and on any platform.) Then we number-crunched the results to produce a top 10.
It was interesting: there was a pretty strong consensus about the top games on the list - certainly about the number one - but after that there was a huge divergence of opinion, taste and genre that reflects just how thrillingly broad a church video games have become. Some massive pop-cultural phenomena only got one or two mentions apiece, while some rarefied indie games got a lot of support. (Admittedly, while we kept out of the voting ourselves, there was quite a lot of Eurogamer selection bias in the people we chose to spoke to.)
The top 10 is interesting, but equally interesting is that enormous range of games nominated by our panel, so further down the page you'll find their comments on just some of the other games that stood out in this extraordinarily diverse generation of gaming.
Also, in the video embed below, you can watch a conversation I had with Eurogamer's Christian Donlan, Malindy Hetfeld and Chris Tapsell talking through the top 10 and giving our personal reactions to some of the choices.
Here's to another generation of gaming - and here's hoping it can be as thrilling as the last.
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Greg Kasavin: "It set a new bar for computer role-playing games, with its stunningly detailed open world, excellent character writing, and massive scope."
Keza Macdonald: "A fantasy game that breaks free of boring tropes. I played Skyrim for about 100 hours and couldn't tell you the name of a single character in it. But I remember about 20 brilliant stories from The Witcher 3."
Ralph Fulton: "It took me three attempts to properly get into, but then so did The Wire. A masterpiece."
Jason Schreier: "Puzzle perfection. I have probably spent more time playing Threes than any other game in my life (and I've spent, like, 500 hours on Destiny). Granted, most of that time was while riding the subway or watching TV with my wife, but still. The new Tetris, as far as I'm concerned."
Rami Ismail: "Nier:Automata is a staggeringly difficult game to describe - but stubborn would probably be the best word to use. It is sincere and stubborn, as you'd expect from a creator like Yoko Taro, but it is tempered by the experience in smooth action gameplay at Platinum Games. The result is indescribable - a game about games that is both a love song and a scathing rebuke."
Chris Plante: "A video game about the history of philosophy, the question of human exceptionalism, and the meaning of life... You play as sexualized androids with big swords. You kill robots who spend their days raising children, having sex, reciting literature, building and destroying societies, and obsessively seeking any meaning whatsoever. You claw for the meanings of being and not being. And all of this, somehow, despite the odds, works. As if all that isn't enough, the game doubles as a biting but loving critique of the video game medium, shifting between genres - sometimes multiple times in a fight sequence - to get at the evolution and pleasures of this art form. Oh, did I mention the sexy androids with swords?"
Erik Wolpaw: "According to Steam, I've played this for 875 hours. And that's not including the many hours I've spent happily, improbably watching people play it on Youtube. At this point, I can pretty confidently state that I will never get tired of it. There's a part of me that's ashamed to admit this simple-looking deck-builder is probably my favorite game ever, but the numbers don't lie."
Tom Francis: "Slay the Spire is a miracle of game design, specifically for its balance. Not in the sense that all the cards it offers you are equally effective - they're not, and it'd be a boring game if they were. The times you get offered a wildly powerful card, one that clicks exactly with what you already have in some terrifying explosion of damage maths, are what makes it. And what makes it last, what's made it become my most played game of all time, is the careful alchemy of when those moments pop up. Too often and they lose their meaning. Too rarely and the runs between feel like a slog. Slay the Spire doles them out just rarely enough that you're pushed to find new killer builds in the seemingly weaker cards you've been dealt. Just often enough that some runs make you laugh out loud, the absurdity of the damage machine you've constructed going to your head. That kind of balance is rare, and it's a hell of a thing when a game gets it this right."
Dan Marshall: "I'm a sucker for gold in a jungle. Any story about gold and some jungle and hopefully an old map and I am ALL IN. Uncharted 4 was just breathtaking from start to finish, I blitzed through it for no other reason than that I simply didn't have the necessary willpower to stop playing. Amazing performances and set-pieces, and enough gold and jungle bits to tickle my adventure thrillbones. Perfect."
Keith Stuart: "Just a wonderfully, assuredly executed narrative game with characters you genuinely care about and a perfect interplay of drama, place and action."
Rami Ismail: "Titanfall 2 is a genuine tour-de-force by a developer that had everything to lose and everything to prove. Even years after release, the game holds up in terms of action design, and it is still staggering in how varied and diverse the gameplay is, how well the narrative and the mechanics intersect, and how genuinely good everything feels."
Ralph Fulton: "For me, Respawn were the developer of the generation and this was their peak - the most constantly inventive single-player experience of the generation by far."
Heather Alexandra: "First-person shooters have gone through a miniature renaissance in the last five years or so, largely thanks to retro 'boomer shooters' like Dusk or Amid Evil. However, there've been a few genuinely amazing games in the AAA space as well, and Titanfall 2 is both the best of the bunch and the most underappreciated. Everything players take for granted while playing Apex Legends was perfected here. Combat is quick and beautiful in ways that even the Doom revivals can't compete with. The solid core comes with some of the most memorable levels of the last decade. Titanfall 2 is the truest modern successor to Half-Life and I'd much rather play this than pretty much anything else out there today."
Chris Plante: "Released in episodes across this decade, Kentucky Route Zero presented a prescient critique of the United States in decline. Laura Hudson wrote the definitive take for Wired."
Yussef Cole: "Defined the generation, not just in the ways it pushed interactive fiction forward but also in the way it stays relevant to the conversation thanks to its episodic model. Technically began at the end of the last generation but it manages to feel both timeless and timely, it has advanced and kept pace with the zeitgeist, and still managed to surpass most of what's out there with its final instalment."
Sam Barlow: "The journey along the titular highway plays games with perspective and voice that I've never seen before or since."
Chris Plante: "Filmmaker Christopher Nolan has spent his career trying to untangle the messy questions of time and its impact on us: the ways that time expands and contracts, how it sculpts our memory, the manner in which it dwarfs our lives and yet, to each individual, is so precious. For better and worse, Nolan has relied on the same tools as AAA video game makers: superheroes, guns, wars, and NPCs who exist to vomit exposition. I believe the best Nolan-esque experience of this decade wasn't made by Nolan. Outer Wilds, a universe-spanning, time-looping, heart-breaking drama set across an alien universe, is a marvel, and a reminder that small teams can accomplish big things. It's as complex, confounding, and even as explosive as a Nolan film, but it trades heavy weaponry and violence for heart and soul."
Tom Francis: "Among so many special moments in games in the last seven years, if I try to pick one that I wouldn't trade for anything, it's from Outer Wilds. It's being dumped back at the start of its time loop again, for the twenty-somethingth time, the whole game world reset except the knowledge in my head and my ship's log. Looking up at the same view of the same solar system I've seen every time, and seeing one, tiny detail. Something I couldn't have seen the first time, even though it was already there. And saying, out loud: "Huh, weird." And then: "Ohhhhhh! OHHHHHHH!" I don't remember what noises came out of me after that, because my brain was doing somersaults through a collapsing mental model of the game's constructed history, false assumptions falling away, huge revelations shooting up fully-formed, open questions resolving each other in a chain reaction of comprehension, answers finally clicking into place. My whole body got chills. Piecing together the secrets of this beautifully hand-crafted solar system as an astronaut-archeologist-detective was a delight like nothing else I've played."
Yussef Cole: "One of the few games to fully commit to existential horror, while keeping its tone so light that the horror creeps up on you even as you expect it. You aren't supposed to save the universe as much as live in its denouement, and your infinitesimal role is made further evident in every interaction. No other game feels like this."
Derek Yu: "Bloodborne is simply one of the best games ever made, period. It's a masterclass in how to make an action-exploration game by the best in the business, with one of the most compelling and frightening worlds I've ever had the pleasure to experience."
Greg Kasavin: "Though From Software had long been refining its 'Souls' game format by the time Bloodborne came out, Bloodborne presented such an engrossing world and faster, more responsive action that I ended up somehow liking it maybe even more than Dark Souls and Demon's Souls before it. From has certainly been one of the most influential developers this generation."
Simon Parkin: "Dark Souls laid down the chunky rhythms of combat, and the clockwork manner of world-organisation, but Bloodborne, Hidetaka Miyazaki's gothic horror interpretation of his own fantasy Ur-myth, has a texture and feel entirely of its own. It juxtaposes brutality and grotesqueness with High-Church intricacy and mystique. An exquisite monster."
Yussef Cole: "Most From Software games have a level of craftsmanship that is hard to match, but Bloodborne combines execution with sheer, undaunted imagination. Blood moons, frightening beasts, Lovecraftian nightmares, stuff games are well versed in, but nothing else comes together as uniquely and memorably as Bloodborne does."
Erik Wolpaw: "Soulsborne games are the best games, and this is the best Soulsborne game. End of story."
Victoria Tran: "You know this was going to be on the list. I knew it was going to be on this list. I'm not usually satisfied when I explore game worlds, but Breath of the Wild made me climb every peak, scour every rock, spend way too much time catching horses, and absolutely love every minute of it."
Keith Stuart: "What I love about this game is that it's an open-world adventure in the truest sense of the phrase: you can just wander around and discover stories and narrative threads without having to follow some grand and over-elaborate narrative arc. Everywhere you go there is something breathtaking and surprising."
Dan Marshall: "This is obviously one of the best games ever made. Tonally it's not my thing, the dialogue and voice acting is kind of creepy, but the actual gameplay is just astonishing. We all know this. It's at its best when the leash is off and you're setting your own objectives - I'd argue it could do away with the traditional 'mission' structure and just let you roam free, but what do I know. There's absolutely nothing bad about the moment-to-moment gameplay. It's slick and thrilling and tactile and just an absolute joy to play from start to finish. "
Jason Schreier: "Breath of the Wild takes the polish and charm of a Zelda game and combines it with the 'say yes to the player' attitude of immersive sims. My favourite types of games are the ones that reward you for experimenting and being curious, and Breath of the Wild delivers and then some."
Simon Parkin: "Another Zelda game had no right to be this fresh or important, especially one built from the constituent parts of a dozen preceding open world games. Yet, Nintendo and, one must assume, that secret army of Oompah-Loompahs who work behind its factory gates, have a talent for trimming the bloat and nonsense from other company's ideas. Yes, Breath of the Wild perfects and reimagines, but it also takes its own path, laying down a grand adventure that feels essentially intimate. It is, in fact, truly possible to set off in any direction, to see where the road takes you and you alone. You're never encumbered by the baggage of too many designers' whims and ideas or even, surprisingly, the series' own legacy. My children and I still wish, aloud, whenever we are stood high atop a hill, that we could jump into the air and glide away. Breath of the Wild gave us this hope, the sort that leads a person to view their own world with fresh eyes."
Keza Macdonald: "Breath of the Wild is what Zelda always felt like in my imagination: boundless, mysterious, playful and secret-stuffed. For a series that I've grown up with for 25 years to surprise me so much was totally unexpected."
Sam Barlow: "What does it mean to explore in a videogame? Whatever it meant before, Zelda: Breath of the Wild has redefined it."
Keith Stuart: "I think it's the perfect battle royale game and a perfect first-person shooter in mechanical terms. The way you move through the world and interact with items, enemies and objects is so seamless and beautiful; it's a masterpiece of 'gamefeel'. "
A Short Hike
Victoria Tran: "A small, joyful experience that is everything I hope to see more of in future games to come. It's tender and relaxing while still encouraging you to do your very best as you careen the skies. (With an equally enjoyable soundtrack!) Not every game needs to be a violent, combat-based, 100-hour experience. I'm LIVING for this surgence of cozy games we've been seeing."
Heather Alexandra: "In my time as a professional critic and reviewer, Celeste was the only game I covered which I could not list negatives for. As someone who worked hard to examine games for all their rough edges, that feels like a miracle to me. So let's say it: Celeste is good. It is, in fact, great. It is an immaculately made game with an earnest heart at the center. Nothing has felt so good to play or given players such precise and natural control over their character. It's possible that nothing will ever match Celeste's platforming chops."
Ralph Fulton: "I've played this game every day for the last two and half years, and I speak to my clan of strangers more often than I speak to my friends."
Rami Ismail: "Destiny is the game that might've defined more of this generation than most people realize. It's easy to point at PUBG and Fortnite and say, well, these games defined our era of games - and of course, they did - but Destiny is actually a precursor to a lot of what gaming is today. Seeing the game and its sequel go through its many ups and downs with the bravely experimental crew at Bungie at the helm has been nothing short of awe-inspiring."
Tom Francis: "Games with rich systems, inventive abilities, and emergent outcomes haven't been in short supply this generation. But something magical happens when you have all those things in a first-person stealth game. When you're in the world, alive to it, afraid of it, creeping through its rafters and concocting a plan to break it to your design. Dishonored 2 achieves that like nothing else, in a world that feels captivating and distinct. And in a genre about giving you interesting spanners to throw into interesting machines, Domino is the most versatile and delightful tool we've ever seen. Link anyone to anyone, and their fates are shared. It opens up a world of strange tricks with double-kills, dropkills and doppelgangers, but the icing on the cake is how it interacts with scripted moments. Karnaca is bristling with scenes of cruelty and murder, and Domino makes it more than passive worldbuilding. Once you see what's going to happen, you can quietly link the bully to his victim - and wait."
Yussef Cole: "Refines everything that made the first one so special. Widens out the possibility space, makes it more fun and dynamic to perform in non-violent and stealthy ways. Introduces levels which are denser, and more intricately designed spaces. Even the themes see some maturation and development as we get to muck around in the on-the-ground realities of empire rather than simply observe it from afar. Also the time travel level."
Divinity: Original Sin 2
Jason Schreier: "I'm a sucker for meaty RPGs like Baldur's Gate and Skyrim, and Divinity: Original Sin 2 is this generation's heir to the RPG throne. (Sorry, Witcher 3.) What really makes Divinity Original Sin 2 stand out is that every battle matters -- there are no filler encounters, and you're constantly making interesting decisions as you fight monsters, explore new areas, and uncover the game's sprawling story."
The FiveM mod for Grand Theft Auto 5
Brian Hicks: "Some might argue a modification of an existing title isn't a game. Some might argue that modders are not game developers. Regardless of how you end up on those subjects (it is, they are), you'd be hard pressed to deny the impact that the FiveM team have had on emergent gameplay and storytelling by content creators. Astute game developers should be paying attention to the phenomenon that is 'GTA Roleplay' and why the FiveM platform has fostered some of the most in-depth virtual worlds that in turn have created some of the most shareable stories in streaming and videos, reaching an audience that any developer could only be so lucky to garner the attention of."
Simon Parkin: "PUBG established the framework (or, more precisely, transposed it from Koushun Takami's novel to video game format) and, arguably, Call of Duty: Warzone has perfected it (albeit in the series' typically brittle, abrasive way), but it was Fortnite that shunted the genre onto culture's mainstage, a spot shared by vanishingly few games. It captured the imaginations of a generation of schoolchildren, for whom its candy-coloured, parent-friendly hills and valleys have become the digital equivalent of the local park. Lately it's become a desirable marketing platform for the entertainment megacorps, a thousand IP deals that have made the world feel a bit like a giant billboard. Its heyday is past (and the recent spat with Apple, which brought billionaire politics into the digital playground, has cheapened the fiction, despite supposedly noble intentions) but no game has left such a broad impression on the wider world."
Forza Horizon 4
Erik Wolpaw: "I love open-world caRPGs, and Forza Horizon 4 is the best one. I've heard some people like Horizon 3 better, but they're officially wrong. There's something to be said for the more streamlined Burnout Paradise, which I also love, but which is too old to qualify for this list. Plus, I'm a sucker for the grind, which Horizons has tons of."
God of War
Keza Macdonald: "My favourite bits of God of War were the off-quest explorations of mythological places. The fallen giants! Muspelheim! I also never thought I would have any kind of feelings about former lump-o-muscle Kratos, but here we are."
Sam Barlow: "A piece of pure magic, awe-inspiring in its conception."
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Greg Kasavin: "I played Hearthstone by far more than any other game this generation. This unassuming card game nonetheless is a technological marvel in how it offered cross-platform play across devices, and extremely quick and easy online matchmaking. Steady support from Blizzard over many years has ensured Hearthstone has stayed fresh, all while seemingly dozens of would-be competitors have come and gone."
Jason Schreier: "Sometimes a game just has a perfect core mechanic, and everything else is gravy. Even if Hollow Knight didn't have such a great atmosphere, killer music, and so many fun secrets, it'd still have the best damn nail swiping in the business."
Ralph Fulton: "The only game of the generation to truly legitimise use of the word 'Kafkaesque', with a twist that still shocks."
Into the Breach
Sam Barlow: "Only a handful of titles per generation can do for their genres what Into the Breach did for its - and in a genre that is so settled and so mature! Masterful."
The Last Guardian
Simon Parkin: "An AI companion is a dicey bet. One false move - a butting into a door frame, a blundering from cover - and the illusion fizzles. So it was with Trico, the minibus-sized creature whom you must cajole into aiding your escape from the tumbledown prison city where you and he are mutually trapped. For those players who managed to avoid those wrinkles in the programme that caused Trico to behave like a rogue robot, Fumito Ueda's beautifully observed pastoral adventure was exceptional, the perfect blossoming of the director's themes of power, vulnerability and cooperation laid down in his previous work. Those players who made it to the end were treated to one of the strongest, most affecting and earned endings anywhere in video games, a medium notorious for its botched or absent conclusions."
No Man's Sky
Rhianna Pratchett: "Went from strength to strength. Beautiful and utterly awe-inspiring."
Dan Marshall: "This is my most controversial choice, because I honestly prefer NMS how it was at launch to how it is now, which I am aware is probably heresy. I utterly loved the simplicity of it, and I get a bit overwhelmed with all the new additions. But, I have this story about how I found myself stranded on a hell planet desperately searching a grid I'd drawn out with real paper, looking for some element or other I desperately needed in order to take off, before another barrage of acid rain swept in again. It was perfect, it was thrilling, and it wasn't scripted. It is one of my fondest memories of the generation."
Rami Ismail: "Papers, Please is in my opinion the defining indie game of the generation. It is clever, elegant, polished, and profound. It relishes in its restrictions, it uses clever ways to extract maximum impact from minimal resources, and it was independently made by someone who had an artistic statement to make but managed to mix it with a commercial intent so smoothly that that, in itself, is art."
Brian Hicks: "While developers had been having success with the Last Man Standing TDM formula that came to be known as Battle Royale for years prior to PUBG (Survivor GameZ, DayZ Battle Royale, H1Z1, etc) PUBG was the first title to enter the space and really get the attention of the industry as a whole. It is thanks to PUBG that we have such outstanding experiences such as Apex Legends, Fortnite, and more. A title that changed the industry, all stemming from some of the smallest mod teams you might find out there."
Victoria Tran: "I have never seen a game that captured the public's attention so strongly before -- and encouraged everyone to meet up and go outside! It all seems like a dream now (thanks, 2020), but there's something to be said about a game that had the ability to capture the attention of people who don't normally play games."
Keith Stuart: "A very personal choice as this game has been an absolute miracle in terms of getting my autistic son out of the house and meeting other people."
Greg Kasavin: "There has never been and never will be anything like P.T., and I think it will be studied long after almost every other game this generation is forgotten (provided anyone still has PS4s with the game installed). If nothing else, it will be remembered as one of the strangest, most remarkable artifacts of this generation of games. A beautiful and bizarre cultural artifact, and a landmark horror game."
Red Dead Redemption 2
Keza Macdonald: "I remember my time with RDR2 as if it were an actual place that I spent time living in, rather than a game I played. The demented level of attention to detail makes this simultaneously one of the most awkward and brilliant games of the past ten years, for me."
Return of the Obra Dinn
Heather Alexandra: "If we're judging puzzle games by how unique they are, Obra Dinn takes first prize. Unraveling the mystery of an abandoned ship and reliving the final moments of each fallen crew member might sound a bit strange as a concept but it makes for a one-of-a-kind Guess Who? game packed with betrayals and monsters. You're not just solving puzzles, you're building a narrative piece by piece. Other games might be harder or test your quick-thinking to a greater degree, but there's nothing else quite like Return of the Obra Dinn."
Yussef Cole: "An incredible and unique piece of interactive art. Bold aesthetics which fundamentally determine how you interpret the game. Detective-style gameplay which feels reminiscent of the early years of PC gaming, but with many decades of game design lessons internalized. Stunning attention to detail and moment-to-moment experience. Something weighty and vast, a game that's more than a game."
Derek Yu: "Splatoon is a great example of how Nintendo's design ethos has successfully extended to the next generation. Developed by a team of younger staff, the game is energetic and cool - a unique blend of undersea life, urban fashion, and paintball that, like all of the best ideas, is only obvious once you see it for yourself."
Heather Alexandra: "Tetris Effect is one of the most life-affirming and wonderful experiences out there. Not just in games but across mediums. It is a distinctly unique fusion of play and music, laser-focused into a celebration of culture and creativity. If you told me before this that Tetris could make me cry, I would never have believed you. If you told me that Tetris could change how I view the world, I would have laughed. Tetris Effect does all these things and more. What else could you need?"
Keza Macdonald: "Tetris, but make it transcendental. A puzzle game about the wonder of being alive on this planet."
Chris Plante: "Please don't tell my boss, but I spent roughly 400 work hours playing Towerfall with my coworkers. I love this game so much that I spent the first 100 of those hours playing the game on Ouya. I don't have any brainy thing to say that justifies this selection. The answer is quite simple. No game has brought me more joy and built more friendships than this one. I'm forever grateful it exists."
Victoria Tran: "I don't think I've played a game that made me consciously explore and experience human dignity as much as this. I laughed out loud, cried, hoped, cried some more, and then felt the most uneasy horror I've ever felt in a long time. Undertale changed what we could feel in games since it's come out, and for that it's on my list. I JUST FELT SO MUCH. Some say I'm still crying to this very day."
The rest is here:
The top 10 games of the generation - Eurogamer.net