Winner: Resident Evil 4 (GameCube, 2004)
This decade saw a lot of “big” games, but how many of those games were any good? How many do you think you’ll even consider replaying in five or 10 years? If there’s one, and only one, game of the decade it has to be Resident Evil 4. The game resurrected a waning franchise, justified your purchase of a GameCube, and was actually fun to play. How rare. The lackluster Resident Evil 5 only reinforced how well made Resident Evil 4 was: perfect controls, probably the best graphics ever to grace the GameCube, and, yes, the best single-player mode of the decade make this the game of the decade. It’s pretty much non-stop fun, which is really all you can ask a video game to do.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PS2, 2003)
You can almost consider Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to be the same game three times, but Vice City wins because it’s our favorite setting of the series so far. Is it fun to go around and blowing up anything that moves? Yes, but it’s actually more fun to appreciate the time and effort Rockstar put into crafting a pretty enjoyable cast of characters and reasonably OK story for our entertainment. Plus, how many game in the 2000s have completely ripped off the GTA franchise?
Guitar Hero (PS2/PS3/Xbox 360, 2005)
Our original game here was Super Smash Bros. Melee because it was, and I quote, “the ultimate party game.” Upon further reflection, that title actually belongs to Guitar Hero if only because you couldn’t attend a party attended by non-gamers between the game’s release and today without running into people banging on the strumming a plastic guitar. This is especially true if you visited certain gentrified sections of Brooklyn. The game was everywhere, so clearly it must have done something right. Publishers may have since shot themselves in the foot by releasing 800 versions of the game in a two-year window, but you can’t blame the game itself for publishers’ greed. It’s fun, and it represents the peak of the music game genre that, in a very real sense, defined the decade in gaming.
Shadow of the Colossus (PS2, 2005)
This is our arthouse pick, yes, but for all the hullabaloo of “please re-make Final Fantasy VII for the PS3,” we say: no! Instead, re-make Shadow of the Colossus for it pushed the PS2 as far as the little guy could go. The game was like playing art. Rarely has a sense of scale been so raw in as it was here. A terrific soundtrack, a unique setting, and an unmatched sense of “oh man, we’re going on an adventure” means that youre sure to impress your “games as art” buddies .
Devin: I want to throw Final Fantasy XII on here. A lot of people dismissed it because of its cipher of a main character and weird MMO-style combat. But the fact is it was a hugely deep, very interesting, and strikingly beautiful game. I loved it from start to finish, although the final boss was a bit corny.
Matt: You can’t tell me that any of these games above are more fun — I mean LOL, smile-on-your-face, gets-better-as-you-drink fun — than Super Smash Bros. Melee. Yet it probably isn’t the best game from the last 10 years. But it’s still damn fun.
Greg: I’m going to pull a Nicholas here and proclaim that this is all a bunch of nonsense. It’s impossible to claim that any one game of this decade was the most definitive (especially not RE4, dumb dumbs), considering how many games changed the horizon. Guitar Hero and Smash Bros made busting out a video game at a party okay. The Lego Star Wars/Indie/etc. series proved to girlfriends around the world that gaming with your boyfriend can be a fun experience. GTA taught the world to hate linear gameplay. Call Of Duty and Halo taught millions of console gamers the joys and frustrations of well made competitive first-person-shooters whilst simultaneously increasing the average weight of adolescents around the world. WoW brought MMOs into the mainstream. Shadow of the Colossus destroyed our sense of scale, while Katamari Damacy proved that games can be abstract and still sell well. There is no one answer to this question, because the games of this decade were simply too good.
Doug: Wii Sports — hear me out! As most people’s introduction to the Wii, the bundled Wii Sports game serves as the ambassador to a new way of thinking about video games. How many video games from the past ten years will you find people of all generations playing? Nobody’s really playing Halo in nursing homes or senior centers. The simple control scheme and 1:1 movement in Wii Sports made Nintendo’s latest console a hit with people outside the core demographic of gamers, something Sony and Microsoft are still scrambling to replicate.
David Diaz: I think Halo: Combat Evolved should have made this list. It became the benchmark for all console FPS and sparked the beginning of one of the most dominant franchises in console history.