For his number one selection, Contributing Editor Sinan Kubba battles his love between two of From Software's hellish action-RPGs, finally giving the nod to Dark Souls. That doesn't mean, however, that Demon's Souls has been forgotten in the rest of his ten favorite games of the last decade.
I thought long about which of the Souls games to include, but it was impossible to choose. The linear Demon's Souls feels like a mirror-image Everest, as each strenuous descent takes you deeper into its dark, hellish recesses.
In contrast, the open world of Dark Souls poses all new questions of your courage, as you're never sure if you're walking towards a bonfire you can bank souls at, or a titanic beast that'll gobble them all up. It's sad Dark Souls has become a clumsy buzzword for difficulty, because both it and Demon's Souls have provided worlds, imagery and ideas that should shape gaming for years to come.
BioShock – Irrational / 2007
I descended into Rapture ignorant, but soon enough I was drunk on its ruined decadence, frenzied philosophy and friendly oversized divers. I was partying like it was 1959, flirting clumsily with its element-enhanced shooting and convenient audiobook mysteries, but then things got heated and suddenly that moment happened. I stumbled out, sat on the ground, and spent a full ten minutes sobering up so I could process what had happened. In short, BioShock was the best slap to the face I've ever had.
Braid – Number None / 2008
As with BioShock, Braid provided a moment - its end - that made me reflect on the whole game in a new light. Again, I'd vastly enjoyed it up to that point, and its resolve not to bend on writing and puzzles that, at times, went beyond nebulous and intangible. Superficially it's a beautiful, clever little puzzle-platformer, but without its style and that ending, I'm not sure I'd have dug beneath the surface and have been rewarded so deeply. It's not without its flaws, yet I can come back to Braid whenever and enjoy dissecting it all over again.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 – Atlus / 2008
100-hour games shouldn't be difficult to say goodbye to, but boarding that train to leave Persona 4 and say so long to its challenging combat, deep role-playing systems and first and foremost its endearingly believable cast of teenagers... we were going to be so happy together, Chie *sniff*. Oh, if only calendar management was as much fun in real life. Today: Grab a bite with Yosuke; Tomorrow: Take down a giant demonic teddy bear.
Super Mario Galaxy – Nintendo / 2007
The Fantasia of the Mario series, you wonder if Nintendo built the game then realized it was so magical and grand that it demanded an orchestra. Twisting gravity to take 3D Mario in a whole new direction was a masterstroke, but supplementing that with some of the most creative, whimsical, and downright lovable worlds the series has ever seen was pure genius. Nintendo at its very best.
Mirror's Edge – DICE / 2008
My faults be damned pick. I mean, I've written 1000 words on all the things I'd like to see improved in a new Mirror's Edge game, and that was before EA officially unveiled the follow-up. And that's kind of the point. It's easy enough to expose all the things that, like 3D Sonic, grind Faith to a frustrating halt in DICE's parkour game. But when Mirror's Edge works, its delivery of action platforming in what feels like an authentic first-person camera makes it genuinely exciting - and that's a word I use very deliberately. The space around the screen fades away as you zero in on the red beams and orange walkways, swinging, sliding and sprinting at whirlwind speed. At its best, however fleeting that may be, Mirror's Edge is an original, exhilarating masterpiece.
Demon's Souls – From Software / 2009
There are so many things I love about the Souls games: the unashamed dominatrix-like attitude to difficulty, the relentless grim mystery of their worlds, and the real sense of narrative freedom for starters. But I remember with Demon's Souls, what I was most taken aback by was how it was a massively multiplayer game for people who wanted to see the world burn. Demon's Souls rendered other players as intangible shadows, bloodstained deaths, cruel messages and invading bastards. With its at-times George R. R. Martin-like cruelty and drama, Demon's Souls was a 100-hour game I was very happy to say goodbye to when it ended. Yet so often I come crawling back, ready to love and hate it again and again.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – Naughty Dog / 2009
A bit like Drake himself, Uncharted 2 has a charm that makes it surprisingly easy to overlook its weaker points. And yes, boiled down to basic, mechanical constituents its gunplay and platforming are not the most complicated. But in terms of consistency of enjoyment, i.e., how much I'm enjoying one moment to the next throughout, I can't think of many games that rivaled Naughty Dog's sequel. Also, the game is full of some great little moments. The Marco Polo discovery in the rooftop swimming pool puts a smile on my face just thinking about it.
Half-Life 2 – Valve / 2004
Surely I don't need to speak too much on a game that truly raised the bar for first-person shooters, taking them to new levels of story-driven content and environmental design. But I did um and err about whether to go with Half-Life 2 or Half-Life 2: Episode 2, which crammed so many standout moments into just a few hours. Ultimately it came down to which was more haunting; the intro to Half-Life 2 or the ending to Episode 2? Let's just say Half-Life 2's hour has come again.
Fallout 3 – Bethesda Game Studios / 2008
It's not as well written as Fallout: New Vegas, and maybe it's not as expansive and attractive as recent Elder Scrolls offerings, but playing Fallout 3 was just about the most free I've felt in a game. I always felt I could pick a direction, run at it, and eventually I'd find some weird, incredible side quest, be that taking out a self-proclaimed gang of vampires or stealing the Declaration of Independence. That freedom extended to the dialogue options and power-providing perks, and all of those things combined made Fallout 3 an easy game to lose days to. Also, although the main story was somewhat weak I must reserve special mention for the black-and-white bizarre that was Tranquility Lane.
[Images: Number None, Irrational, Atlus, Nintendo, EA, From Software, Naughty Dog, Valve, Bethesda]