Auriea’s Top 9 Games of the Decade

Decided to take the difficult step of listing what I feel were my most worthwhile gaming experiences of the past 10 years. (Inspired by the top 12 list compiled by Gamasutra)
All the games on this list had to fit several criteria: a) I had to have played it all the way through. Indeed, most of these I’ve played multiple times. b) They had to have changed my life in some way. Either in the “ah, I wish I could make that” inspirational kind of way. Or by virtue of having added some meaning to my existence and stuck with me even though I played them long ago… (games can do that.) So…

10. Neverwinter Nights (played 2002-2004)
The only RPG in 10 years that I’ve played all the way through, multiple times, obsessively. (And all the official expansion packs, plus many adventures that were created in the player community.) I got very involved with this game. I became fascinated by how it was made, the character design, how the authoring tools worked, how its multiplayer worked. I guess this was the first game-with-an-editor I really looked to for insight of how big games are put together. The minimal GUI, that right click radial menu, sweet design decisions. NWN and A Tale in The Desert were big for me in imagining how navigation could work for The Endless Forest.

9. Shadow of Memories (played 2001)
A “choose your own adventure” type story with the character going backwards and forwards through time to figure out his own murder. One of the more complex plots of any game I played the last 10 years, actually. One of the only games I’ve ever played multiple times just to find out what all the alternate endings were. I wish there were more games like THIS… now, today, with contemporary graphics and less cut scenes. sigh.

8. Kessen II (played 2002)
At the time I was totally blown away by the aesthetics of this one. Kind of a cheesy plot (even if it is _based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms) but still, very engaging. I remember that I loved the over the top character design and the magic effects when spellcasting. I wanted to think up a game that needed such elaborate stuff as that! And while it is an RTS, it wasn’t so very much of an RTS to turn me off. I enjoyed winning the game and then starting it over playing from the “bad guy” point of view. But yeah, for me it was all about the particle effects!

7. there is no number 7. I WOULD put The Path here… but that would just be weird 😉 … Gotta admit though, I love it best and the game changed my life more than any other…

6. Silent Hill 3 (played 2003)
SH3 was one of those games I anticipated for months, scouring game sites for screenshots and shaky conference videos. Every time I found something new, it showed me how beautiful game graphics could be. Amazing character design and even the plot worked… maybe a bit too much. The main character of Heather was truly unique. A teenage girl. The soundtrack was absolutely perfect blend of mall pop and creepy Yamaoka standards. I credit this game with, what is for me, the scariest and eeriest put-down-the-controller-and-back-away moment in gaming. (I’m not gonna spoil it for you… have a “Making of” video instead.)

5. Black & White (played 2001-2002)
Peter Molyneux is an idiot for having listened to critics of this game. It is the most amazing game he has ever made. He had such an awe-inspiring team of programers and the freedom to execute some unique ideas! For all the flaws, it’s a work of genius. I lost entire days! Lost in being a god over those little worlds. The zooming in to see the tiny details and then backing out and being the master of all I surveyed! Training my animal to mimic me. Miracles! No other game swept me away like that. And you bet it influenced us a wee bit when making the ABIOGENESIS feature in The Endless Forest. Biggest disappointment of the decade was when Black & White 2 turned out to be completely different and more of an RTS than a god game.

4. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly (played 2004)
ah man… I just love love lovelove love this game <3 <3 <3

3. Animal Crossing (played 2004-ongoing)
The whole family played this game for a solid year on Gamecube. It was the must-have reason I bought a Nintendo DS. We got it for the Wii and it is STILL the only game we play with any regularity. Relaxing, bonding, creative. I admire it for actually trying to trigger nostalgia, and succeeding! Memories of my AC town on a sunny fall afternoon with the cicadas chirping and I, at the waterfall, fishing for Coelacanth… If we ever make a simulation game, this will be the reason why.

2. Silent Hill 2 (played 2001)
I can credit this game as the reason why when Michael suggested we should try our hand at making video games, I said YES absolutely. Before playing SH2 I had no idea a game could get to me like that. SH2 didn’t seem to make any concessions; confusing, ruthless, imperfect. I wanted to make something like that. YES.
This, is my #1 favorite cutscene in any game, ever.

1. Ico (played 2002)
We were working on the scenario of 8 and making the first demos. Michael found a news item on some game site about Ico. We were astounded at the description, in that it had a lot in common with our designs for 8. We kept the game on our radar and bought it the day it came out. Like no other game played this decade, with Ico I was moved, I was inspired to tears of joy and sorrow. If you ask me, THIS is Fumito Ueda’s masterpiece. When seeing a character’s idle motion carries with it so much meaning. When I long to go back to the sundrenched grassy knoll just to chase the birds. To hold Yorda’s hand, listen to the waterfall and stare at the view. When I cannot wait to meet the “boss” because I know it is the coolest moment in the game. It has to be my favorite game of the decade.

Now look at this list.
Isn’t it odd that the games I loved most were all in the years 2001-2004. And nothing after 2004.
I guess the “Next Gen” has been a total disaster for the gamer in me. There has not been one game that’s really done it for me since 2004! A few have tried to worm their way under my skin. I could list the short stint I did in Guild Wars or the myriad DS games I played (like the Phoenix Wright series or Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!) that I thoroughly enjoyed. I regret that I couldn’t play Portal… I bet I would have liked that one. I’ve played some great indie games lately too. And on PS3 there’s been smaller games like flOw and Flower, and my Game of The Year is Noby Noby Boy. That one, yes, I found it refreshing!

Perhaps I’ve gotten harder to please as I get more analytical about what goes on in the industry or maybe it’s, as Michael believes, that creativity has lost ground to technology and pandering for cash. I have gotten older, my interests have changed, I am busier maybe. Loads of reasons why I have not found the joy in many games lately…. still its too bad. I miss the good old days.

Six of these years we’ve been making games, hardly a surprise that I had more fun with games before it became my “job” so to speak. I guess because I could take things more for granted, and everything seemed so much more like magic. I’m of course hoping that in this shiny new decade I will find games that have that certain something, and I can game, once again, like its 2002.

17 thoughts on “Auriea’s Top 9 Games of the Decade”

  1. I think the title of Shadows of Memories was “Shadows of Destiny” in the US, I remember it fondly, I was 15 at the time but it really had a nice hook, and the multiple endings each gave a different slant on the “Memento”-esque plot. There were some nice time-travel, you-are-your-own-grandfather sort of twists in it.

  2. Silent Hill 2 stands as one of the best games I’ve ever played, and I’d forgotten how incredibly good that scene is.

    I’m not really a list-making kind of person, I organize with dendrites much more than hierarchies, but if I were making a list Silent Hill 2 would be near the top.

    I’m very hesitant to rank my lists because #1 changes depending on my mood. For me, personally, Morrowind was just slightly more effective than Silent Hill 2. However I made a very conscious decision early to really immerse myself, and play as my character rather than play the game. I’ve had very few experiences with games that are as good as that was after I made that decision. It took effort on my part to maintain, but I did. I liked how different the world was, and the type of abstraction that Bethesda used (and continues to use) is very simpatico with me, so things that broke other people’s immersion didn’t bother me.

    Now, however, I need to go back and finish Ico. Some personal thing came up in the middle of the game and I never got back to it.

  3. Neverwinter Nights has to be the one game with the most playtime for me… and I havn’t even gotten any of the expansion packs. I should probably check out NWN2, but I have a feeling I’ll be disappointed.

    When it comes to newer games, I have found a lot of really short, lovely games but when it comes to “full-content” games pretty much all my favorites are about 2001-2004, indeed. I know I’ve gotten quite a bit more picky when it comes to gaming, so I can’t help but wonder whether I’d still like these ‘old’ games if I wouldn’t see them in the same light of nostalgia as I do now.

  4. Oh, and don’t worry too much about Portal. Whereas I didn’t find it bad, I can surely say that it’s way overrated.

  5. I’m surprised if you like NWN that you didn’t mention Oblivion. At any rate, I recommend it for it’s beauty alone.

    …That said, it’s a kind of a Hollywood blockbuster version of Neverwinter Nights, if you will — or, the answer to “How would James Cameron have done NWN?”


  6. @honey thank you for the link!

    @Chris… We have Oblivion… I don’t know why I never played it 0.0 there was probably a reason… probably something Michael said or I looked over his shoulder while he was playing it and it didn’t grab me. Or it might have come after the cynicism set in about RPGs (first you kill rats, then the skeletons in armor show up etc.) hmmm.

  7. Oblivion just wasn’t a believable world for me. The usual rift in time and space happens and the earth rips open and demons threaten to cast everything in darkness (yawn yawn). But you can simply walk away from this cataclysm and go and shoot some more rats in the dungeon instead. Which is fun. I loved collecting the arrows I had just shot. But it’s only fun until you realize the utter futility of it all. I guess that’s when I stopped playing.

  8. I’ve been reading through all those topNumber games of the decade for a while now (and I still think that choosing approx. 10 games from 10 years is a manifestation of insanity rather than anything else [unless someone played all games of last decade, good luck with that]) and I got to say that this one is least disappointing of them all :)

    Lack of a single indie art game on any top list I have read so far makes me feel physically and mentally bad, though.

    Oh, and number 7 would probably be a worthwhile, yes. Hum… :)

  9. Wonderful list, I can definitely see why you’d like these games so much. I would very much like to create one of the games in the list you write in ten years time!

  10. Truly intelligent choices, because the “most visible” games aren’t necessarily also the most ingenious…which most of “top charts” I’ve seen so far – never takes into account.
    Oh, how I love Silent Hill series from 1 to 3..for that unique experience – painfully struggling from the anguish of solitude, loss, love..One of the most intense and heartfelt experiences…alongside with Ico and Dreamfall (game that really moved me to tears at the end, which is hard as hell ), somewhat abandoned but still outstanding and innovative game Omikron: The Nomad Soul, or I have No mouth and I must scream..every in its own way.
    Then there are that beautiful pieces of indie scene and is almost crime not to mention them…like Pathologic, The Void or The Path and even the smallest piece of art like Fatale (which isn’t so necessary to mention here, you know 😉 )
    Until there are still developers like you, Ice-Pick Lodge, Quantic Dream and others. I never lost hope that gaming will be more than next-gen once again and even more than ever

  11. Have you ever played any of the games in the Katamari series?

    Either “We Love Katamari” or the newest one “Katamari Forever”

    (the original never made a European release)

  12. Yes i did E.L. We have “We Love Katamari.”
    and recently I saw/played a bit of the first Katamari Damashii. And I must say it looks like the best one.

    My issue with the Katamari games is the time limit. I hate the time limit. I find it unnecessary and annoying. So annoying in fact that I stop playing the game.

  13. Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2 changed my life, they inspired me and made me want to do something similar too! I’m completely obsessed with the series and Akira Yamaoka – I listen to the SH soundtracks a lot, beautiful music and ambiance.

    Have you played Forbidden Siren (just called Siren outside of the UK)? It took me a while to get into that, but some aspects of the gameplay really drew me into that world, the level of immersion was fantastic.

  14. Are you aware that in Katamari Forever, each level has an “Eternal mode” which allows you to play without the time limit, rolling things up to your hearts content.

  15. Regarding getting older and getting harder to please with games, well, I’m still a kid and I also feel that way already <_< the mainstream game industry is sinking, and we all know it. I remember when I first played Dark Cloud and was immensely moved. Yes, that's your traditional RPG at work, but it had a charm unlike any other. Since then Level 5 only released games to make money, which is a shame.
    It's actually guys like you and Team ICO that give me hope for a brighter future in games (or non-games as you prefer to call it :D).
    This blog, and The Path development blog have been really inspiring to me. Keep it up guys.

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