The Caltrops Top 50 Games of 2010-2019: #39-30

We’re counting down the 50 best games of the decade, as tallied by the readers and posters of the Caltrops forum over the last ten years.

Honorable Mentions: Part One
Entries #50 – 40

#39 – THAUMISTRY: IN CHARM’S WAY by Bob Bates (2017)
Steam Link

Bob Bates made two games under the Infocom label – the Sherlock Holmes and Arthur ones – and then co-founded Legend Entertainment where he worked on games like Spellcasting 101, Eric the Unready, Gateway and Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon. Those are really solid games. Bob didn’t stop thinking about what makes a good text adventure since Infocom broke up though and what Thaumistry is, is a close-up view of a guy that never lost being able to craft a game in a genre that at one time was the best genre in the world. This is a throwback (in terms of author competence) with modern sensibilities so there isn’t a lot of dumb text adventure parser confusion.

#38 – DEVIL DAGGERS by Sorath (2016)
Steam Link

Your mission in Devil Daggers is to stay alive for as long as possible. A good game is, what, 200 seconds of it? I tried everything to get the counter to increase without actually playing the game. I tried to pause the game. I tried to shut the game down via the Task Manager and hop back on, hoping it would pick up where it left off. I tried to lock up all of my computer’s memory and freeze Devil Daggers that way by running two concurrent tabs of Chrome. The game itself – throw daggers at enemies that are trying to kill you – is great, but the game inside the game, which is attempting every maneuver possible to cause the timer to keep ticking while the game is paused – well, that take on the game I can at least mess with for more than 25 seconds per attempt.

#37 – BABA IS YOU by Hempuli Oy (2019)
Steam Link

Pinback says, “Originally a (winning) Game Jam submission, a much-expanded, full version is now out on Steam.

It’s a Sokoban-y, block-pushing puzzle game, with the following, wonderful twist: Some of the blocks are words, and the rules of the level are spelled out in these words. The three blocks “WALL” “IS” “STOP” all lined up mean that any wall blocks will stop you. But if you push one of those blocks away, WALL is no longer STOP. One of the main rules that the levels begin with is the titular “BABA IS YOU”, but even this most basic rule can also be mutated based on how you push the words around. Every level provides at least one joyful moment of unexpected discovery and clever rule-bending.

It is the most brilliant puzzle game you will play this year, and maybe ever. If you don’t believe me, which you don’t, you can still play the Game Jam version for free here, and then instabuy the Steam version and come back and apologize for doubting me:


#36 – AKANE by Ludic Studios (2018)
Steam Link

I am always worried that games like Akane are from a genre that I haven’t seen before, so I attribute everything cool about the genre to the first game I played of it. Like if the first shooter you ever played was TekWar. It’d seem pretty revolutionary. I haven’t seen other games like Akane, so if I’m the asshole here, just let me know. The gameplay has you playing a gal with a sword and a gun. Enemies – some ninjas – come out in waves. The easiest thing to do is to hit the mouse buttons to slash them with your sword.

But you get a gun, too. There is a significant cooldown when it comes to the gun, so you can’t use it too much.

The gun is activated by hitting the left shift key. I don’t believe there is a way to remap keys in Akane. When you are hitting left shift … well, if you can still move (via WASD) while doing that you’re superhuman. Therefore, Akane gives you a gun to shoot these clowns in the head, but the specific key used means you have to make a decision as to how much moving you’re doing. And while left shift activates it, you aim with the mouse. I said in my original review that it’s like Defender in so much as the controls are “advanced” and mastery of them is required to get good at the game.

#35 – SHADOW WARRIOR 2 Flying Wild Hog (2016)
Steam Link

Mischief Maker says, “The best yet implementation of the Painkiller-school of FPS design with randomly generated maps chock full of explosive items to blow up in your enemies’ faces. I prefer it to DOOM 2016, the mobility is superior and instead of canned fatality animations, enemy dismemberment is dynamic. It’s also jaw-droppingly gorgeous but surprisingly easy on the hardware requirements. The one ding against the game is the menu for navigating weapon upgrades is a little awkward, but you can beat the game on normal without slotting any upgrades.”

This is ICJ again. I just want to add that Shadow Warrior 2 gets big points from me because the graphics are probably still top-5 for me, in terms of all the games I’ve ever played and it is the only game I’ve ever played that does the checkpoint thing yet has checkpoints often. Shadow Warrior 2 looks nice and wants you to play with it.

#34 – SAINTS ROW 4 by Deep Silver (2013)
Steam Link

I brought up Saints Row 4 to get a screenshot for this piece of the article. It has cloud saves, so I restarted where I last played, which was a couple years and one PC ago. My player character isn’t wearing anything but boots and glasses. There is a giant mascot-like character rampaging in a town and doing Magneto shit like flipping cars around and bringing people up in the air and letting them fall. I start shooting at it, but when I start doing that cops start shooting at me. I get the mascot-monster-thing’s attention and a Brinks truck comes out of nowhere and smashes into it, sending it flying. I take the opportunity to start shooting the shotgun I have at it and then it attacks me some more.

This was INSTANTLY after loading the save game.

Why did I ever stop playing this? Why is this franchise less famous than GTA or Red Dead Redemption or others in the genre? Has there ever been a game more serious about instant carnage, mayhem, fun and craziness than Saints Row 4?

#33 SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY by Nintendo (2017)
Go get the thing at Gamestop I GUESS

Here’s the latest perfect Mario game from the perfect publisher. Just perfect. Everything about the franchise has been absolutely perfect since Donkey Kong 3. Not a single screw up, not a single game that isn’t addictive. Not a Sonic R to be found. SMO is gorgeous, it sold (and sells) Switches, the jumping is right, the movement is right and the new thing – the hats – well of course that’s perfect too. They took the one thing that Tron games had and made it their own. It’s the latest perfect game in the perfect franchise so enjoy, it won’t get better than this until they make the next absolutely perfect Mario game. God, I’d love to fuck up the mascara on this one just once. Just once make Mario raise an eyebrow toward Luigi and say something like, “He’s not really going to leave that Kool-Aid spill for us to clean-a, is he?” as I’m eating cold fried chicken on the (their) couch. Some rebel at Nintendo that leaves work before 9PM: send me an e-mail if we can do Mario in a text adventure.

#32 NHL 16 by EA Canada (2015)
Playstation Store

It’s been a bad decade for sports games, and I am someone that loves sports games. The NFL sold exclusive rights for football to the EA Sports Madden series. My brother has played each one of these non-stop for ten years and beyond and he loathes the franchise. Baseball’s been dogshit since the Hardball, Micro League and MVP series left and the Super Mega Baseball franchise is okay but not good enough that anyone mentioned it for this list. That leaves hockey and basketball and since most people on Caltrops are Canadian, the NHL series got some love. I’m picking NHL 16 because that is the one I played and it has Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel in it and frankly, that’s the bare minimum I need out of these games, at least give me those two guys.

I bought the NHL ‘xx series from EA for almost 15 years and grew to hate them at the end. I was prepared to hate this, but NHL 16 is good in both arcade and “simulation” mode. Additionally, you can just start up a shootout between you and the person next to you. There are no real issues with this game – maaaybe “Normal” mode is too easy and “Advanced” or whatever the top mode is, you need to be perfect, but like we said in Banished this is a GAME, I expect that. I played almost an entire regular season on this, which I haven’t done since EA’s NHL 99. (Which, I learned, doesn’t end after 82 or 84 games, whatever it is, it just let me keep chugging until game 105 with no playoffs when I stopped. I’m sure Roger Goodell’s dick would puncture his slacks if told about that bug.) One more thing – in the screenshot, Eichel is wearing #15. I successfully bought a knock-off jersey from China for twenty five bucks when he was a rookie. I was shocked it arrived and fit a US American. For a second I didn’t even hate the Chinese government. Then Eichel decided he wanted to change to #9 and did so, rendering my jersey a relic. Thanks, Captain Jack. Thanks, Jack and Free Hong Kong.

#31 THE ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM by Bethesda Softworks (2011)
Steam Link

Special thanks to Caltrops poster Tony, who hasn’t been on the forum for 9 years, for the screenshot. I ain’t topping that.

#30 ROAD REDEMPTION by Q-Games, Pixel Dash Studios
Steam Link

I wrote a review of Road Redemption for Caltrops last year.

I don’t have a motorcycle any longer. I was moving and there was a dirt road leading to the new place and it wouldn’t stop snowing in early 2019 and after spending $500 to get it fixed in November of 2018, the thing wouldn’t reliably start in March of 2019. I was just done with it. Additionally, my neighbor twice chased off would-be car thieves for me and was going through a bad turn, so I just gave him the bike. The one thing I needed to communicate to him is that riding a motorcycle without a helmet – well, you figure out why they had to make LAWS in some states forcing you to do it. It’s great, it’s the best thing ever. Zooming around by yourself in April or early October with no helmet? It’s better than most of the games on this list. We’re ranking just human experiences after this and heads-up, after reading the tea leaves on the forum for this one, riding a motorcycle without a helmet is well above anything involving condoms and most experiences featuring dental dams. It’s a crazy, dangerous thing to do to yourself and your loved ones and of course you shouldn’t do it. But if you do do it once you realize why they have to legislate it, that’s all I’m saying.