The 10 best games of the past 10 years, according to critics

At one point in

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At one point in “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” Link has to dress up as a lady to sneak into a female-only desert town.
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Ben Gilbert/Business Insider
  • With 2019 wrapping up, we’re looking back at the last 10 years in gaming.
  • From revered sequels like “Mass Effect 2” to precedent-setting new franchises like “The Last of Us,” the last 10 years are flush with great games.
  • But which are the best of the best? This list of the top 10 games of the last decade according to critics is a good place to start.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

10 years ago, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony were all still pushing previous generations of game consoles.

The PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One were still years away from launch, and the “Mass Effect” franchise had yet to take a disastrous trip to the Andromeda galaxy.

10 years later, though, and we’ve played two of the best Mario games ever made – and that’s before mentioning both “Red Dead Redemption” games or the smash-hit “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.”

But which were the best of the best? We looked to reviews aggregation site Metacritic for a data-driven approach to the last 10 years – take a look:


10. “Portal 2”

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Valve Software

Critic score: 95/100

User score: 9.0/10

Plot summary (from Metacritic): “‘Portal 2’ is the sequel to the title named ‘Game of the Year’ 2007 by over 30 publications around the world. ‘Portal 2’ promises to break new ground in next generation gaming by expanding the award-winning recipe of innovative gameplay, immersive story, and creative inclusion of music while also introducing multiplayer co-op game modes.”

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Mac, Linux

Release date: April 19, 2011


9. “Red Dead Redemption”

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Rockstar Games/Take-Two Interactive

Critic score: 95/100

User score: 8.9/10

Plot summary (from Metacritic): “Developed by Rockstar San Diego, as a follow up to the 2004 hit game ‘Red Dead Revolver,’ ‘Red Dead Redemption’ is a Western epic, set at the turn of the 20th century when the lawless and chaotic badlands began to give way to the expanding reach of government and the spread of the Industrial Age. The story of former outlaw, John Marston, ‘Red Dead Redemption’ takes players on a great adventure across the American frontier. Utilizing Rockstar’s proprietary Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE), ‘Red Dead Redemption’ features an open-world environment for players to explore, including frontier towns, rolling prairies teeming with wildlife, and perilous mountain passes – each packed with an endless flow of varied distractions. Along the way, players experience the heat of gunfights and battles, meet a host of unique characters, struggle against the harshness of one of the world’s last remaining wildernesses, and ultimately pick their own precarious path through an epic story about the death of the Wild West and the gunslingers that inhabited it.”

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Release date: May 18, 2010


8. “The Last of Us”

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Sony/Naughty Dog

Critic score: 95/100

User score: 9.2/10

Plot summary (from Metacritic): “Twenty years after a pandemic radically transformed known civilization, infected humans run amok and survivors kill one another for sustenance and weapons – literally whatever they can get their hands on. Joel, a salty survivor, is hired to smuggle a fourteen-year-old girl, Ellie, out of a rough military quarantine, but what begins as a simple job quickly turns into a brutal journey across the country.”

Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4

Release date: July 29, 2014


7. “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”

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Nintendo/Bethesda

Critic score: 96/100

User score: 8.5/10

Plot summary (from Metacritic): “The next chapter in the ‘Elder Scrolls’ saga arrives from the Bethesda Game Studios. Skyrim reimagines the open-world fantasy epic, bringing to life a complete virtual world open for you to explore any way you choose. Play any type of character you can imagine, and do whatever you want; the legendary freedom of choice, storytelling, and adventure of ‘The Elder Scrolls’ is realized like never before. Skyrim’s new game engine brings to life a complete virtual world with rolling clouds, rugged mountains, bustling cities, lush fields, and ancient dungeons. Choose from hundreds of weapons, spells, and abilities. The new character system allows you to play any way you want and define yourself through your actions. Battle ancient dragons like you’ve never seen. As Dragonborn, learn their secrets and harness their power for yourself.”

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Release date: November 11, 2011


6. “Mass Effect 2”

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EA

Critic score: 96/100

User score: 8.9/10

Plot summary (from Metacritic): “The ‘Mass Effect’ trilogy is a science fiction adventure set in a vast universe filled with dangerous alien life forms and mysterious uncharted planets. In this dark second chapter, Saren’s evil army of Geth soldiers has just been defeated, and humans, who are still struggling to make their mark on the galactic stage, are now faced with an even greater peril.”

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Release date: January 26, 2010


5. “Super Mario Odyssey”

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Nintendo

Critic score: 97/100

User score: 9.0/10

Plot summary (from Metacritic): “Mario embarks on a new journey through unknown worlds, running and jumping through huge 3D worlds in the first sandbox-style Mario game since ‘Super Mario 64’ and ‘Super Mario Sunshine.’ Set sail between expansive worlds aboard an airship, and perform all-new actions, such as throwing Mario’s cap.”

Platform: Switch

Release date: October 27, 2017


4. “Grand Theft Auto V”

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Rockstar Games

Critic score: 96/100

User score: 7.8/10

Plot summary (from Metacritic): “Los Santos: a sprawling sun-soaked metropolis full of self-help gurus, starlets and fading celebrities, once the envy of the Western world, now struggling to stay alive in a time of economic uncertainty and cheap reality TV. Amidst the turmoil, three very unique criminals plot their own chances of survival and success: Franklin, a street hustler looking for tangible opportunities and serious money; Michael, a professional ex-con whose retirement is less rosy than he figured it would be; and Trevor, a violent dude driven by the opportunity for a cheap high and his next big score. With options at a premium, the crew risks it all in a myriad of daring and dangerous heists that could set them up for life.”

Platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PC

Release date: September 17, 2013


3. “Red Dead Redemption 2”

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Rockstar Games

Critic score: 97/100

User score: 7.7/10

Plot summary (from Metacritic): ” Developed by the creators of ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ and ‘Red Dead Redemption,’ ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ is an epic tale of life in America’s unforgiving heartland. The game’s vast and atmospheric world also provides the foundation for a brand new online multiplayer experience. America, 1899. The end of the Wild West era has begun. After a robbery goes badly wrong in the western town of Blackwater, Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang are forced to flee. With federal agents and the best bounty hunters in the nation massing on their heels, the gang has to rob, steal and fight their way across the rugged heartland of America in order to survive. As deepening internal fissures threaten to tear the gang apart, Arthur must make a choice between his own ideals and loyalty to the gang that raised him.”

Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4

Release date: October 26, 2018


2. “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”

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Nintendo

Critic score: 97/100

User score: 8.4/10

Plot summary (from Metacritic): “Forget everything you know about The Legend of Zelda games. Step into a world of discovery, exploration and adventure in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a boundary-breaking new game in the acclaimed series. Travel across fields, through forests and to mountain peaks as you discover what has become of the ruined kingdom of Hyrule in this open-air adventure. Explore the wilds of Hyrule any way you like.”

Platforms: Wii U, Switch

Release date: March 3, 2017


1. “Super Mario Galaxy 2”

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Nintendo

Critic score: 97/100

User score: 9.1/10

Plot summary (from Metacritic): “Super Mario Galaxy 2, the sequel to the galaxy-hopping original game, includes the gravity-defying, physics-based exploration from the first game, but is loaded with entirely new galaxies and features to challenge players. On some stages, Mario can pair up with his dinosaur buddy Yoshi and use his tongue to grab items and spit them back at enemies. Players can also have fun with new items such as a drill that lets our hero tunnel through solid rock.”

Platform: Wii

Release date: May 23, 2010