The Caltrops Top 50 Games of 2010-2019: #50-40

Welcome to the Caltrops list of the 50 best games of the decade, which was from 2010 to 2019. Here is a link to the previous article, which had some honorable mentions. And if you’d like to discuss the list with people, please do! This is the way to the Caltrops forum.

Entries #39-30
Honorable Mentions Part One

#50 – CITIES: SKYLINES by Colossal Order Ltd. (2015)
Steam Link

There was an attempt by Electronic Arts to make an online Sim City game that was online all the time, even in single-player and of course the release was incompetent and they even said themselves it was dumb. Eventually they made an offline mode for this single-player game like they were doing us a favor. The game was awful, the maximum city size was small and it seemed like that was the end of SimCity games.

Then Cities: Skylines was released. Holy shit, it was amazing. This was “all EA had to do” and by that I mean not attempt to go cryptofacsist on their customers, but of course they can’t do that. Cities: Skylines is a beautiful, immersive game that the Caltrops forum spent weeks HGLUAHGLUAHGLUAing over. We all played it and loved it.

“Yeah, but for a Wittgenstein city aren’t you mostly just yelling at all the new citizens to leave? 8)” — Mysterio, 3/11/2015

#49 – XCOM2 by Firxasis (2016)
Steam Link

On one hand, it seems less than ideal to include a game that so frustrated valued forum member FABIO. On the other hand, he came around on it and XCOM2 had lots of advocates. The thing is, XCOM and XCOM2 are always going to be behind the eight ball when they start. X-COM from 1994 is possibly the greatest computer game ever made. XCOM2’s objective is to be better at being an X-COM game than the RoboCop and Total Recall remakes were at being RoboCop and Total Recall. And I think that while XCOM2 makes some odd choices (the 4-troop limit, starting you with pre-made characters, having panic when the troop limit is 4) they are much better at attempting to recapture what the original X-COM game did 25 years ago than most soft reboots and remakes. We have an entire base where the topic is Guess Who Fucked Up X-COM now. The highest praise I can give XCOM2 is that they didn’t.

#48 – Retrobooster by Really Slick (2014)
Steam Link

The first time I played Retrobooster, I just wanted ten minutes of solace. My life is a lot less hectic now, but Retrobooster is so much fun because it’s the next game in the Asteroids -> Asteroids Deluxe -> Choplifter -> Gravitar -> Gravitron 2 lineage. You’re in a gorgeous alien world where your mission is to shoot down enemies and not squash little guys who are on your side. The game’s writing is beautifully integrated within the actual game world while you’re playing. We’ve seen things like the high score table being part of the experience in, say, Omega Race, but I can’t remember ever seeing this effect before. It forces you (at times) to read or shoot. And it looks so good when things are blowing up.

#47 – Mount and Blade: Warband by Taleworlds Entertainment (2010)
Steam Link

Roop says, “I looked through my Most Played Steam List, and it was all just games I ran multiple times with mods, like Skyrim. I wouldn’t call that close to game of the decade, but because of all the creative mods I sure spent a lot more time than I should have with that janky fucking thing. Then there’s Warband. I didn’t ever mod that one but holy crap, I spent so many hundreds of hours on that game and then all over again on each of the two expansions. It’s clearly my most loved game… and it’s almost sad really. Not once did I ever finish a campaign!

#46 – Slay the Spire by Mega Crit Games (2019)
Steam Link

pinback says, “Awesome combination of deckbuilder and roguelike. If you like either of those styles, I find it impossible to think you wouldn’t get into it in a big way.”

Rafiki says, “This game is great and very addictive. The UI is damn near perfect. Cards display how much damage or block they’re going to do, and if you have modifiers that raise or lower the amount it’s automatically reflected on the cards themselves and colored green or red to let you know if you’re doing above or below the base amount. Relics that trigger after certain events, like every 3 turns, 10 attacks, or 6 plays, helpfully have counters attached to them. Each turn, you can see what an enemy plans to do (attack, defend, buff, etc) in a little icon over their head so you can plan accordingly. If you want to know what a buff or debuff is on your or an enemy, just mouse right over it and a clear and concise tooltip will explain it. Whoever designed this UI deserves an award. If I could make a single change, it would be to the damage modifier for vulnerability. Vulnerability makes an enemy take more damage, and to see the damage increase you have to drag a card and hold it over the appropriate enemy to see what the effect will be. I’d love to just be able to mouse over an enemy and have the cards auto-update, although I can see why they did it the way they did since you can sometimes have 10 cards in your hand which crowds out the ability to see the effects of all of them.

The artwork and presentation is simple, but it’s fine. You’re not going to really remember any enemies or attacks, but you’ll be focusing on your hand anyways. The upside is you don’t have to sit through 20 minute Final Fantasy animations. The cards are where the bulk of the artwork went and they look good, and the cards for each character have completely different visual styles, which is really nice. The music is good and doesn’t become grating after repeated playthroughs.”

#45 – Trover Saves the Universe by Squanch Games, Inc. (2019)
Steam Link

This is what Erik Wolpaw said about this game before it was released: “[Jay] Pinkerton and I spent about a month breaking story with Justin Roiland on Trover Saves The Universe. Here’s the trailer, which contains a lot of swearing. And I don’t mean like one or two “damns” 30 seconds in, either. The hardcore swearing starts at second zero and then continues pretty much uninterrupted by words that aren’t swears for about 3 minutes.” Rather than link to that, I will link to this extended ad that came out, which is hilarious and this fake ad by RedLetterMedia. RLM was told to just make something funny even if it had nothing to do with the game itself.

I bought Trover on day one and the game itself is just as funny as the ads are promoting it. Look, video games are usually extremely unfunny. Most games are not even good enough to make you push slightly more air through nostrils than one normally pushes. There are jokes everytime you go to do something in Trover and they always made me laugh. Maybe it’s because I enjoy anything Justin Roiland says, but if you’re looking for the funniest game of the decade, it’s this one.

#44 Banished by Shining Rock Software LLC. (2014)
Steam Link

Billed as a city-building strategy game, inspired pinback to write the following:

These are the main complaints in almost every critical review I’ve read of this game.

1. It’s TOO HARD: Hey genius, that’s why they call it a GAME. A game about SURVIVING with a handful of numbnuts in the middle of nowhere. I’m sorry you keep running out of food and wood. Perhaps click “restart” and try something else? Plenty of people have managed to build thriving towns of hundreds of citizens, even without whining about how hard it was to get there! If you just want to hang out in the woods and have everything go right for you, play fucking Proteus or some shit.

2. The UI SUCKS: This one I truly cannot forgive. The UI is fantastic. How did that one review put it:

“This doesn’t excuse the woeful interface, how it presents itself as prettily minimalist but in fact you need to manually keep open and arranged several, heavily statistical and visually tedious windows throughout.”

LOLOLOL. SEVERAL TEDIOUS WINDOWS. Look: open the little town summary window. Open the job list window. YOU ARE DONE! And they cover about 1/20th of the screen, and give you everything you need to know about everything. I can’t help it if your contacts prescription is off and you can’t read the tiny little numbers and letters, but when you can do and see everything you need to play a game, AND the main screen is still perfectly visible and uncluttered, THAT’S A GOOD INTERFACE.

And how do you “manually keep open” windows? Look, they stay open all by themselves! SCIENCE!?!?

I can’t believe ONE GUY wrote this entire game. It’s the most compelling city-builder I’ve played since SimCity 2000.

Editor: Giggity.

#43 My Friend Pedro by DeadToast Entertainment (2019)
Steam Link

Max Payne crossed with Contra crossed with Hotline Miami. And it looks great and it’s about a bipolar person. Caltrops has a long history of letting bipolar people’s behavior slide, and My Friend Pedro is no different.

The game uses “ballet” in its description, which I first saw used with the original Max Payne game. That took a lot of guts, to go the other way to describe their game using that word at that time when the press turned on Romero for being too manly about his marketing. Max Payne as a franchise has really lost its way and although My Friend Pedro is 2D, it’s a fine successor to making gunplay poetic.

#42 Marvel’s Spider-Man by Insomniac Games (PS4) (2018)
Playstation Store Link

(I’m amused by the fact that after release they tried re-branding this as “Marvel’s Spider-Man.” As someone who bought it on day one I can tell you, quite categorically, that nobody was calling it “Marvel’s Spider-Man.” If you’re going to pretend there aren’t a bunch of other games that have the exact same name because your marketing team is dumb then at least have the balls to stick with that decision and not try to get us all to call it something else later, you cowards.)

There is a guy that cosplays in the area where I work in a Spider-Man costume, and it’s the one from this game. It is my goal to take a photograph of this man, therefore sort of turning me into Peter Parker when he dresses up as Spider-Man. The cosplayer sometimes gets asked to leave the area by security and I think if the place where I work ever gets exploded by the Hobgoblin shortly after security ran off the guy already dressed in the Spider-Man costume, my call to 911 is going to sound a lot like Kevin Cosgrove’s although I’ll be a lot more disappointed and my call will have a lot more sighing.

#41 Hollow Knight by Team Cherry (2017)
Steam Link

Entropy Stew, a programmer, says, “That is the best recommendation I can give to any game, because I just don’t play to the end anymore. I could have been playing Zelda of all things, but this drew me away. It’s the best money I’ve spent on a game since Rocket League.”

#40 Kerbal Space Program by Squad (2015)
Steam Link

Welp, I went through the comments on Caltrops and found this post by skip where he talks about the awful work conditions the developers put their remote workers under and this post by Jsoh Cable where he states that the alpha might turn into something nice after a thousand more updates. None of this really affects the game itself, of course.

It did get a good number of votes and I’ve had multiple jobs where people have talked about how much they love it at work. There’s a thread on their forum where the developers simply ask the question, “What did you do in KSP today?” and it’s got 15,000 replies. And they are still updating it, so I guess it really did get that thousand updates Jsoh was asking for.

The Caltrops Top 50 Games of 2010-2019 Part One: Honorable Mentions

It’s time for the Caltrops list of the best games of the decade. How was this list made? By discussion on the Caltrops forum over the last ten years, voting e-mails written to the admin, outright voting in one of our threads and interpersonal discussions the admin had with regulars. Some of the voters who voted for the list are friends with some of the developers whose games made it onto this list. And I have been informed that forum member Commander TDARCOS had sex with the Victor Vran team. I assume. The notes given to me just says he made them gag. With that, here are exactly zero of the top 50 games, but instead the HONORABLE MENTIONS!

MARVEL PUZZLE QUEST by Demiurge Studios (2013)
Steam Link
Thoughts by Caltrops Senior Writer Jerry Whoreback:
I just finished Marvel Puzzle Quest. Not as good as the original Puzzle Quest, much better than Puzzle Quest 2, it was fine. I think I would’ve liked it more if it was harder and if I didn’t have to level anyone up or unlock anything. I liked that I could have Storm on my team from the beginning. I didn’t like that unlockable Mohawk Storm was treated as a different character, so none of the special moves I unlocked for regular Storm would carry over. I like mohawks more than most, but I’m not going from a Storm with all the special moves to a Storm with none of the special moves. I’m not stupid.

There wasn’t a whole lot of Marvel artwork, probably one drawing of each hero at rest, one of them attacking, and a profile bust for the status bar. No animation to speak of. There were dozens of heroes, but most of them were unlocked without any special moves, and unlocking special moves was a random grinding thing that took forever. I finally got She-Hulk near the end and added her to my team for the final battles, despite her being completely useless without any moves. Even carrying a full one-third of my team as dead weight it was still too easy – not only did I never lose, I was never even in danger of losing. And I’m not some Bejeweled master, always thinking three turns ahead; I’m mostly thinking about what She-Hulk’s bum would look like if I could turn her picture around.

I can tell I liked Marvel Puzzle Quest well enough because I’m just bursting with suggestions for how to make it better, and fluids to spray all over the back of She-Hulk’s picture. I don’t have any idea how you could make Limbo better except to make it a different game.

FROG FRACTIONS by TwinBeard Studios (2012)
Link to play

There is a fun bit in the Wikipedia entry for Frog Fractions. “[Developer Jim] Crawford released Frog Fractions earlier than he wanted, when he sent an incomplete version to the 2013 Independent Games Festival as a ‘Main Competition Entrant’ but was told that he needed to increase the game’s popularity before it would be accepted.” More detail is in the original source: “[Crawford] had submitted an unfinished version for review at the Independent Games Festival, but was told he needed to build more buzz around the title. The irony, he says, is that building buzz is why he submitted the game in the first place.” It is very, very nice of Jim to use the word “irony” because reading about this for the first time this week, I would characterize what the IGF said as “abject stupidity.” Imagine holding tryouts for your baseball team and then telling the most promising walk-on that you’ll sign him if only he increases his follower count on the Gram. I’m sure not every one of these festivals or jams are staffed by idiots but it sure seems that way.

PREY by Arkane Studios (2017)
Steam Link
Thoughts by Worm:
Prey (2006) will forever reign as having the best opening of any FPS ever. You play arcade games in a bar and then two guys try to fight you so you beat them to death with a wrench and your girlfriend screams at you. Little does that twat know there’s an alien invasion and your recent manslaughter won’t even matter.

Alternatively, Prey (2017) had a cool idea but decided to just give you a tutorial and have everything go to hell, just like every FPS ever, except the ones that start with things already gone to hell.

Altogether this is the Skyrim space station game, it’s fun and feels seriously influenced by System Shock to a point where it’s the actual System Shock 3 you wanted BioShock to be. You walk around and have quests and find people’s bodies, shit pops out and scares you and whatever it’s a good time.

WORTHY by Pixelglass Games (2018)
Purchase Link

Worthy is a brand new Amiga game that was released in 2018. The premise of the game is that you’re a “fearless boy” collecting all the diamonds on a particular level to prove to the gal in the game that you are (wait for it) Worthy. Each level has like 50 diamonds and the boy has to navigate traps and things trying to kill him. When I last bought a diamond ring all I had to navigate was the fact that carriers stole half the packages sent to our house in downtown Denver and literally not a single thing was done by the complete wastes of space at the postal office servicing our area. It’s not that Worthy teaches us that there are monsters when it comes to delivery of packages containing priceless gems, what Worthy teaches us is that those monsters can be defeated.

(The post office that used to be ours eventually closed.)

LEGEND OF GRIMROCK by Almost Human Games (2012)
Steam Link
jeep says, “It’s just like Eye of the Beholder, but now your computer is fast enough that you can maneuver around the enemies. if you can even remember the Eye of the Beholder games you have a big advantage because the walls and stuff have secret buttons in the same spots.”

The amazing thing that Almost Human Games did is create a grid-based CRPG crawler – a “blobber” if you will, on their own. As opposed to what inXile did, which was scam thousands of their fans out of one and a half million dollars based on blobber nostalgia and then just make some unfinished … thing that had absolutely nothing to do with CRPG blobbers in any way. (When reading the word “thing” there, I mean to be mentally heard in the same way that Hans Gruber, who helped us bridge the gap between the original Nazis and neo-Nazis when we needed something in between the most, might show contempt toward Sergeant Al Powell when he learns that Al is impotent when it comes to blowing people away with machine guns during his – Gruber’s – lifetime.)

Din’s Legacy (PC)

No Man’s Sky has recently released yet another disappointing update that adds a fresh coat of paint to its lifeless Potemkin Village of a galaxy, but fails to deliver the living world promised by the infamous E3 trailers where I could join in, I could take sides. Defenders of No Man’s Sky say that delivering a living world is unrealistic, it’d take 50 years and $500 million to produce a game like that, “you ask the impossible!” But then, like Yoda lifting Luke’s X-Wing out of the swamp, indie developer Soldak not only creates procedurally generated worlds far more alive than even NMS’s wildest promises, it’s been making them for more than a decade.

Din’s Legacy is Soldak’s latest “living world” ARPG. While the game is as straightforward to play as Torchlight, the procedural world building, event generating, and player character mutation approaches Rimworld levels of procedural anarchy. All the more crazy because Din’s Legacy gobbled up all the innovations of its four preceding games.

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Dead Rising 2 And The Lack of Rebindable Controls

Dead Rising 2's 'Controls' Menu
This is it, this is Dead Rising 2’s complete ‘Controls’ menu. Complete and unedited, which you can totally tell, because I would not let an edited version keep Uncanny Katie around.

Looking at the review averages for this game, it’s pegged at about 77%. HOW? It lacks one of those most basic interface options in PC gaming, rendering it unplayable. “Hmm, if you don’t like the default controls, the game is unplayable. I give it………………….77 PERCENT!” Jesus Christ, did no one notice this? Did anyone think it was important enough to bring up?

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American Fugitive (PC)

So this is 2D GTA, I figured why not. I’m using keyboard and mouse, but I have a feeling a controller would be better. The camera is excellent, zooms in and out as it needs to, here it pulled back and to the right a bit as I sped up in that white car. It saves anywhere, no safehouse (yet anyway). Steam link.

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Short Review: DARQ (PC)

Well, I WAS playing it. Now I’m not, because it’s over. If you’re the type who think 2 hours for a $20 game is too much, this MIGHT change your mind, but maybe not. The puzzles are relatively straightforward, only a handful of times straying from “go everywhere, find everything, try to use everything on everything”. However, “going everywhere” is not quite as straightforward as your average graphic adventure, due to the rule/gravity-breaking nature of the game’s mechanics.

But none of that is what gives the game its value. It’s purely presentation that puts this over the top. Amazing, AMAZING to look at, during every single moment of those two hours.

If you’re in the mood for a little creepy surreality mixed with light puzzles and phenomenal production values, I think it’s definitely worth the $20, and I say this as someone who was gifted it.

Comments? Join us on the forum.


Katana Zero (PC)

I’ve become somewhat notorious over the years for my dislike of art games, specifically games that use their artistic pretensions as an excuse for crappy-to-nonexistent gameplay. But let me be clear, if someone made a God Hand 2 with the same quality gameplay wedded to a woke storyline, wonderful! By all means, bring your SJW politics into my videogames, as long as it plays well.

Katana Zero (Steam)seems to be a developer’s intentional attempt to stretch my art game philosophy to the breaking point. Because Katana Zero has really good gameplay, but its arthouse pretentions threaten to smother that completely.

Fast-paced action swordplay!

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Frostpunk (PC)

I bought this on the cheap from a disreputable Steam key seller, and haven’t done much else since other than my job and taking care of my family and shoveling the snow and oh god somebody kill me please

It’s a challenging, tight survival/city-builder set in a frozen crater. The limited, confined terrain doesn’t leave much room for creativity in terms of layout, but the constant threat of freezing/dying/mutiny/BABIES BEING SACRIFICED FOR HEAT keeps the action tense. Everything requires heat, which radiates out from a generator at the center of the map. Key tech upgrades allow cranking up the level and range of the heat provided by the generator, which become more and more crucial as the temperature continues to drop.

Besides that you’ll spend most of your time trying to bring in more resources and research more tech to allow you to support more people so you can bring in more resources and more tech so you can support more people so you can, etc., etc. Then there’s the occasional story point where decisions can be made and laws can be passed, each of which affects the game’s systems, usually in both good and bad ways, so the tradeoffs all need to be considered.

You’re also able to send scouts out to explore the larger world, which consists of a map with thumbtacks on it, which, once you reach them, offer some variety of reward (or usually multiple rewards that you must choose from), reveal more locations to explore, and generally move the story along.

Meanwhile, you’re treated to one of the more gorgeous/well-made city builders you’ll ever seen. Everything looks great, everything sounds great, the writing is strong, everything is spelled correctly. It just screams quality from top to bottom. And it feels cold.

Criticisms (and relatively low average hour-count on the Steam reviews) speak to one possible drawback, that being that once the “main storyline” is complete (which if you succeed, I’m told takes about a dozen hours?) there’s no reason to go back. However, since then, 11bit has added an endless mode, more scenarios, more maps, and have promised even more in the coming year, so there should be plenty to do if you end up digging it. Of course, it may take several tries to complete the main game. It’s pretty tough! I’ve already had to restart a few times, but it’s a compelling enough experience that I don’t mind hitting the “New Game” button again.

Comments? Join us on the forum.


Mischief Maker’s Top 7 GOG Winter Sale Recommendations


With all this talk about the lost greatness of 90s FPS games, let’s not forget that there is a game that accurately recreates and improves on the gameplay of the classic Descent, by the original Descent team, that’s already out and already awesome. I’m more than a little worried the upcoming game named “Descent” not by the original team is gonna steal this game’s thunder/totally suck.

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Road Redemption (PC)

There is a quote by Shigeru Miyamoto that idiots use because it doesn’t apply any longer. The quote is, “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” This was true when Nintendo was putting games on cartridges long after everyone else did. It doesn’t apply any longer unless you’re making 2600 games for the Atari Age Store, I guess. Road Redemption is one of those games that has overcome extinction events that destroy other games and continually gotten better.

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