RPG’s have had an excellent ten years of high-quality games. In fact, the past 10 years have been remarkably kind for most of the genres within the medium: from shooters to action adventures but it has been the RPG genre that has been the most prosperous. As we head into the new decade, it’s time to look back at the past 10 years of one of my favorite genres.
Here are some of the most exciting and influential RPGs of the 2010s. Let’s begin.
1: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
Skyrim is the game that keeps on giving, to be fair. It seems like yesterday that Skyrim launched because it has become this yardstick that measured every single RPG before The Witcher 3 released. It’s massive popularity is something that I have never before seen or seen since, it was explosive and unprecedented. Skyrim was the game that defined 2011, it occupies this sort of mythical status at the center of Bethesda Game Studios.
It’s surprising to see how far we’ve come ever since the release of the original game in 2011, games today are still looking consistently to Skyrim to nail their open world, the game even downright inspired The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, the very same game that would knock Bethesda Game Studios off their pedestal. There’s no doubt about that Skyrim is the most influential RPG of the decade.
2: Mass Effect 2 (2010)
Mass Effect 2 is the one of the greatest RPGs to release early on in the decade and for good reason. Continuing the epic space opera that began with the original Mass Effect in 2007, it opened up the floodgates for so many things. It continued the story of our fabled hero, Commander Shepard, and his or her quest to save humanity and to thwart the incoming invasion from the Reapers.
In addition to improving many different things that was criticized within the original game, the narrative was improved and introduced many iconic characters including Miranda and The Illusive Man. ME2 was a thrilling ride from top to bottom and the game represents the highest peak of classic BioWare and one of gaming’s greatest sagas.
3: Dark Souls (2011)
The Dark Souls set of games follow a brutal formula, a formula that launched an entire genre by itself and landed each of the games into the annals of gaming history as some of the hardest games ever made. We found so difficult that Dark Souls launched an entire genre titled , “Souls-like” encompassing very different games that were so difficult.
The series began in 2009 with the launch of Demon’s Souls, one of the sleeper games of that particular year, but it wasn’t until 2011 that the series really took off. It single handily not only started a whole entire genre by itself but brought the discussion of difficulty back into the conversation and popularized the notion that difficulty still had a place in gaming.
4: The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (2015)
CDPR raised the bar with The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. It’s world was daunting in scope and fitted the game perfectly, it was host to dozens of side quests and main quests and meaningful choices around every corner. Seeing your choices ripple throughout the land alongside it’s masterful writing added shades of gray to every decision made. Seeing a game with such ambition succeed gave CDPR the crown and hailed them as the new king of RPGs.
5: Mass Effect 3 (2012)
The Mass Effect Trilogy helped defined the previous generation, it defined what an RPG could become throughout the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation, it defined what the genre could become in this new decade.
Mass Effect 3, the conclusion to this epic saga, was a bittersweet end to everything that we’ve gone through throughout the previous two entries. The story of Commander Shepard is one of the greatest stories ever told, Mass Effect 3 was the culmination of our decisions, our friendships, our story arc for Shepard and so many other characters that we helped create throughout the previous entries.
For most of us, the ending is what we remember the most and the fallout of that ending. The controversy is probably one of the biggest controversies to happen within gaming this past decade and to happen within the time Mass Effect 3 released in, it still looms large over what is considered to be a heartbreaking goodbye. It is an epic conclusion, no matter how you see it, it is the conclusion to one of gaming’s most epic saga. There will never be another Mass Effect like the saga again.
These five games stand out in a landscape that was filled to the brim with RPGs over the last ten years. As we look forward to the new decade and what is to come, I am very excited at what I see down the road. It is a great time to be a gamer.