The Caltrops Top 50 Games of 2010-2019: #29-21

We’re counting down the 50 greatest games of the decade, 2010-2019.

Previous entries:

Honorable Mentions: Part One
Entries #50 – 40
Entries #39 – 30

Below are #29 through #21.

#29 – POKEMON GO by Nintendo, 2016
Available on your phone in the app store.

This was a phenomenon. I attribute all the thinking a person does about a game to a game’s entire “rating” when trying to determine how good a game is. I hope that makes sense, I don’t know if it does, so I’ll try to explain. When I was a kid and we had maybe three computer games, I’d spend entire weeks thinking about how to get past certain puzzles in Zork. Not every moment of every week – in my middle school you had to also navigate your way around the future serial killers and other young failures, but those puzzles were on my mind. Similarly, you’re “playing” Pokemon Go from the moment you leave the house and go into the forest and throw balls at the Pokemons to when your parents have to pick you up, or until kids today finish cutting out the paper doll clothes for the guns they’re going to bring into school. Or whatever their days look like, not an anthropologist over here. I’m just a man that noticed that kids and adults alike were showing up late to school and work for this game and I’ve rated it accordingly.


Mischief Maker says, “Shadow of the Colossus meets Dark Souls meets Devil May Cry meets Magic Tower. It’s one of those games that shot for the moon and came close enough to be amazingly unique. With a team of up to 3 AI-controlled “pawns” by your side, fight gigantic mythological monsters ranging from Chimeras to Cyclopses to the titular dragon by climbing all over them and stabbing them in the weak spot. People complain that the AI pawns are dumb, but there’s actually a game system where you “teach” the pawns how to fight enemy types by building up their knowledge bar, and can give it a boost by actually demonstrating the technique (like throwing an explosive barrel into a Hydra’s mouth). Once the bar gets high, they get pretty crafty in a fight. Protip: play as a hybrid class.”

#27 – SHADOWRUN: DRAGONFALL by Harebrained Schemes
Steam Link

Mischief Maker says, “Not only the best Shadowrun videogame of all time, but a serious contender for one of the best plot-heavy CRPGs of all time. It may not examine the human condition very deeply, but when the time comes to throw a moral decision at the player, it always throws a curve ball.”

FABIO says, “I’ve never given a harder “fuck you” to any NPC than Luca.

I have to audition to impress this Chinstrap McGee, who may or may not pay me at the end depending on how hard I make him stroke his soul patch? I did the first mission out of sheer curiosity then told him to get the fuck out of the neighborhood.”

#26 – FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S by Scott Cawthon
Steam Link

FullofKittens says, “There are four-ish animatronic dummys that are out to kill you.

Two of them (the bunny and the duckling) rove around the building, and will occasionally walk to your office to see if they can get in. If they can (the door is open), then they’ll walk in and kill you. (They technically can only kill you when you put the camera down, so if you have it down when they “walk in” then it seems like your door button is jammed, and then you’ll get killed after you check the camera again.) The only way to stop them is to keep their respective door closed, but of course you can’t leave the door closed because that… wastes power(?). When they walk up to check if you’re available, they’ll hang out in the camera blind spot for a few seconds. If you see them there (by hitting the light), lock the door until they get bored and wander away. They are the most common encounter.

There’s a fox dummy hiding behind the curtain in Pirate Cove. He is picky about how often you check on him with the camera: on some nights, he will come for you if you never check, on some nights it’s if you check too much, and on some nights it’s got to be just right. You can tell he’s starting to think about coming down because he will part the curtain and start looking at the camera. If you check Pirate Cove and he’s not there, he’s coming straight for you: you have several seconds to close the left door. If you look at the hallway between you and him, he starts sprinting towards you and you will probably die, you have like one second to close the door.

Then there’s Freddy, who allegedly adapts to your gameplay, can teleport in past locked doors, and really can only be stopped by keeping him at bay via a combination of watching him watching you from the hallway and keeping the right door closed. Freddy is also the dummy that gets you if you run out of power. He doesn’t really start moving until Night 3 or 4 though.”

It was a phenomenon. The creator made 4 sequels in a year and eventually made a game, “FNaF World” that was unfinished and broken and he had to pull it. Which is a shame, the jump scares and sense of dread was so real in the first one.

#25 – GRAND THEFT AUTO 5 by Rockstar North
Steam Link

There is an unwarranted organizational arrogance in regards to storytelling at Rockstar for the story mode to their Grand Theft Auto games, considering that at best they are a 10th-rate imposter of MAD Magazine and at worst they are a collection of insipid young nerdlings who clearly aspire to make terrible films and Scarface posters. Nobody has ever needed to hear what a GTA game has had to say; they are incapable of saying anything meaningful in single-player mode. It would be forgivable if we could bypass cut scenes but we usually (always?) can’t.

We like these games because we get to rampage in beautiful cities. I tried multiplayer for GTA5, though, and it was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had on-line.

Part of this is because my friends are funny, but with all the chaos in a typical GTA5 game you can’t help but sit back and laugh when your friends are enjoying it with you. We went on a couple missions and even just hanging out in one of the character houses, before the mission began, it was great. They have set up a system where it really is just you and your pals, we didn’t have to bother with the miserable screeches of typical on-line players. Our avatars looked ridiculous, I loved it. Multiplayer is setup to allow me, a zero-day, zero-level newb, hang with my more experienced (at GTA5) team mates. A wonderful decision, I was a bit worried that I’d have to “level up” first, but those in charge realized that just because someone is zero-level at GTA5, they juuuuuuuuuuust might have been playing games in general since Combat.

In fact, I can’t recall any of the single-player problems in multiplayer. The missions made sense, had good pacing and were interesting. At one point I was driving a car and a friend was able to set a waypoint for us, which was great as I hadn’t done that on the PS4 before. That was handy! The entire system seems streamlined to allow the four of us to simply HAVE FUN. We only played for a few hours, but it’s a goddamn triumph.

An excellent addition to what has been a franchise that really made you say, “It’s a great game, but” before this. There’s no buts now.

(Christmas GTA5 also gave us this delightfulness.)

#24 – DEAD RISING 2 by Capcom Vancouver
Steam Link

bombMexico says, “Zombies streaming through the doors, whats the first thing you grab? If you said duct tape, you get points for trying. The answer is swordfish.”

(Thanks to IGN for the screenshot.)

#23 – UNDERRAIL by Stygian Software
Steam Link

I knew it was a good game but I had no idea what could be beyond the first couple of hours. Then SsethTzeentach came out with this video. In no order, this is one of the greatest YouTube reviews I’ve ever seen, this instantly sold me on getting the DLC or expansion or whatever for UnderRail, it made me put another few hours into the game and it’s the greatest commercial anyone could ever make for a game. I think the culture of video reviewing is a natural step in game reviews because so many written-word game journalists hate games or the hobby or their readers. This video is bursting with JOY. A vicious joy, sure. A macabre joy… but joy.

#22 – COUNTERFEIT MONKEY by Emily Short
Interactive Fiction Database Link

There was a game once, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, that gave you a T-removing machine. When you use it you can remove the letter “T” from things – a rabbit becomes a rabbi, that sort of thing. Emily Short took that mechanic, introduced a full-alphabet letter remover and seamlessly integrated it into an 8 hour text adventure. There is so much more going on in the game than just a fun text adventure toy to play with, there is real depth to the player character relationship with themselves (sic) and an entirely different world and reality to explore. This game is from an artist at the height of her powers and probably the one I’d give to a veteran adventure game player looking to try a text game for the first time in years.

#21 – WASTELAND 2 by inXile Entertainment
Steam Link

A Kickstarter success story, they screwed up the balance at the beginning for Wasteland 2 and didn’t exactly correct it for the very first patch. It eventually became one of the best RPGs of all-time with the Director’s Cut. One of the best “moving little dudes around the screen” tactic games, Wasteland 2 implemented a game design choice to have the player pick one of two maps or boards to “save” at the beginning of the game, letting the other one rot. That’s a ballsy decision, making it so that some percentage of your game will never be experienced by players on their first playthrough, but what the hell, it was their backers’ money. A worthy sequel to 1986’s original for home computers, there are fun squad-based tactics, decent writing and in-game decisions with consequences.