The 10 most criminally overlooked games of the decade
© Warner Bros. Interactive
With the 'twenties' almost upon us, we're raising a glass to the video games that didn't quite get the recognition they deserved from 2010-2019.
Well, what a decade it's been for video games. You know all about the big ones, the hits, of course, but how about those that flew under the radar?
From critical darlings you won’t find in any casual gamer’s collection, to blockbusters unfairly panned on initial release, here are our picks of the most under-appreciated games of the last decade.
1. FIFA Street (2012)
It’s time to put some respect on the name of FIFA Street. Every bit as ground-breaking as FIFA 98’s fabled indoor mode, if rarely remembered with the same awe, its next-gen mechanics and novel gameplay paved the way for Volta today.
Concrete pitches. Favela-based futsal. Playful caricatures of top footballers (we see you Peter Crouch, resembling Street Fighter’s Dhalsim every time you go for a volley) – it's a world away from anything the FIFA series had served up prior. Not least in terms of gameplay.
Ensuring the spirit of street football takes centre stage, the game's cleverest feature is its shooting accuracy, which increases with the more skills and tricks you perform. And, let's be honest, it's not as if FIFA players have ever been averse to a bit of showboating, is it?
2. Mad Max (2015)
A scorched, desolate battleground where scavengers roam the lands and survival means getting your hands dirty. No, not the Black Friday sales, but 2015’s Mad Max, which brought George Miller’s cinematic wastelands to consoles in sumptuous fashion.
Much like the blockbuster film that it was very loosely tied into, the game was beset by production hold-ups. It probably didn’t help that when the game was eventually released it launched on the same day as Kojima's stellar Metal Gear Solid V, the gaming equivalent of releasing a film on the same day as Avengers Endgame.
Then came the raft of lukewarm reviews, many taking aim at a weak storyline and lack of strong female characters that had been present in the film. Fair points in truth, but what really was overlooked by critics was the game’s outstanding gameplay, particularly its vehicular-combat sequences which are not only unlike anything you've seen since Carmageddon, but so full throttle they'll leave your thumbs aching for a week.
3. Counter Spy (2014)
Metal Gear Solid meets Saul Bass, this mostly 2D-sidescrolling spy game based around the Cold War made for one of the best cut-back stealth experiences of the last decade.
You take the role of a super spy – notably neither American nor Russian – instead working for an impartial agency intent on sabotaging the nuclear plans of both superpowers to save the world. Scuttling around labs, bunkers and other top-secret facilities bursting with baddies, it’s so stylishly immersive you’ll think you’ve crashed headfirst into the inky panels of a graphic novel.
While the stealth mechanics do admittedly feel a little clunky at times, the shootouts, which offer a new POV, give the game an extra dimension, helping mark it out as one of the most original games of the decade. A stone cold (war) classic.
4. Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice (2017)
A haunting combat game with an unflinching view of mental health, Hellblade was well received, but it can be a little draining to play because of the elements it touches upon, which is the only reason people haven't been crowing about it for the last several years.
Pitting human vs God, you play Senua, an 8th century warrior on a quest to save the soul of her former lover, Dillion, from the goddess Hela, who, naturally, you can only reach after first dispatching some of her fellow underworld beasties first.
Anything but typical fantasy fare though, Senua uses her recently deceased lover’s severed head as a vessel to his soul and experiences hallucinations and other mental afflictions in what is an absorbing, radical and genre-bending cornerstone of gaming history.
Granted it’s not easy to play, but you owe it to yourself to crack on with one of the more challenging games of the last few years, because nothing worth doing is easy.
5. Return of the Obra Dinn (2018)
One of the few games this generation that actually lets you feel like an actual detective, Return of the Obra Dinn delivers you to the deck of the abandoned Obra Dinn as an insurance detective asks you to work out exactly what happened to the boat's crew with nothing more than a magic pocket watch and a giant book. Ideal for a console like the Nintendo Switch, it's a puzzle game you pick up anywhere and get lost in.
Sweeping up awards left, right and centre since release, the real mystery is how it’s still evaded mainstream acclaim. Available on PC, Switch, Xbox One and PS4, we implore you to hunt it out before the year’s up.
6. Helldivers (2015)
Helldivers takes all of the magic and chaos of a tense co-op game and mixes in some Starship Troopers-esque panic. The Helldivers fall out of the sky into a swarming hell of different aliens – hence the title – and have to fight to achieve missions with a variety of weapons.
The fun comes from the wide variety of items you can call in from the heavens and the way the speed of which the gameplay can change as situations turn against you. This is worth playing, but try and play it with friends, ideally those out of hitting distance.
7. Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015)
Raider of tombs, tormentor of butlers and OG of kickass female gaming characters, Lara Croft’s reputation possibly preceded her with Rise of the Tomb Raider, which, while not exactly panned, wasn’t exactly wildly embraced either.
It seemed the biggest gripe among critics was that the game hadn’t pushed the envelope enough since 2013’s Tomb Raider, the reboot it directly followed on from. This may be true of the storyline (searching for a lost city that may hold the key to immortality, navigating perilous terrain, fending off a deadly cult – textbook Croft), the gameplay is first-rate and, for sheer playability, not only proves itself well worthy of the Tomb Raider mantle, but gives the Uncharted series a run for its money, too.
8. Tesla v Lovecraft (2018)
It may seem an odd choice considering the game was a critical darling upon its release, but this indie has flown under the radar for too long now.
When horror writer H.P. Lovecraft finds himself possessed, he steals one of Nikola Tesla’s inventions, opening up an inter-dimensional wormhole to bring about the end of the world – as you do. Playing as Tesla, and armed with a teleportal and variety of weaponry, which changes as the game progresses, you must thwart the invasion.
Dialling the Lovecraftian ambience up to 11, developers 10Tons created a game that's as fast and frantic as they come. As you scurry across towns and fields, liquidising alien hoards into bright pinkish purple puddles of goo that evoke Lovecraft’s 1927 short story The Colour Out of Space among others, you simply won't want it to end.
9. No Man’s Sky (2015)
Yep, we’re going there: No Man’s Sky is far, far better than you probably remember.
Widely viewed as one of the most ambitious video games of the last decade, Hello Games's attempt to put an ‘infinite procedurally generated galaxy’ inside consoles didn't quite live up to expectation.
For all the praise for the bold visuals and searing artwork, there were major issues over gameplay issues, missing features and a flawed multi-player mode. Thankfully, the game's had numerous updates since to rectify these flaws, gradually propelling the game to the dizzying heights it had initially expected to reach.
No Man's Sky is all about exploration, survival, combat and trading. Though the real underlying beauty of the game is that there's no single way to explore its universe. Stick on your headphones, unwind and build your own personal utopia a la Matt Damon in The Martian; or voyage into new territory at the risk of losing everything. The choice is yours.
Careful though: danger lurks around every corner of this universe. There's been no update to stop you making daft decisions.
10. Star Wars Battlefront 2 (2017)
The consensus on Star Wars Battlefront 2 may have drifted towards the dark side since that whole drama over loot boxes in online mode, but the game has always had its fair share of criticism.
Unjustly we say. Just take the full campaign mode, which sees you thrown smack bang into the middle of some of the most iconic locations and moments in the franchise’s history: the level of detail is nothing short of exceptional as you saber and blast your way around the galaxy, allowing you to live out the dreams of your inner nerd. What more do you want, the Forested Moon on a stick?
Lest we also forget the multi-player mode. Seriously, where else can you see tens of strangers in full Jedi and Sith garb simultaneously fumbling over their weapons inside a massive hangar? Oh yeah, Comic-Con. Even so, the online battle modes are just heaps and heaps of fun.
So, with Rise of the Skywalker currently bringing the cinematic franchise to a close, there's never been a better time to get reacquainted with the game.