This Thursday will mark five years to the day since I became Senior Editor of Dealspwn, and it will also, sadly, be my last day writing for the site. It's also been just over half a decade since this millennium moved into adolescence, and in that time there've been some absolutely cracking games of all sorts, shapes, and sizes. So in the interests of a bit of self-indulgent reflection, and because it's a Tuesday, here are twenty (it was too hard to simply do ten) of the very finest games we've seen in the first half of this decade.
Honourable Mentions: Super Meat Boy, Mario Kart 8, Divinity: Original Sin, Sleeping Dogs, Trine 2, Tomb Raider, Frozen Synapse, Titanfall, Dishonored, Portal 2, Super Mario 3D Land, Papers Please, The Stanley Parable, GTA V, Bioshock Infinite, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, Hotline Miami, Halo 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition.
20. Saints Row IV
What we said: The Saints are back in town, and they're firing on all cylinders! Volition have built a fantastically cohesive superpowered sandbox stuffed with plenty to do, some outstanding performances, and all of the tools for some outrageous virtual fun. It's the purple-tinted lovechild of Prototype and GTA, but with all of the Saints' own character and charisma . And it's bloomin' brilliant!
19. FTL: Faster Than Light
What we said: If you like roguelikes and space and always dreamt of being the one in the big chair saying "Make it so!" then this is the game for you. It might not have the most well crafted universe and it will frequently punish you, but it's also massively replayable, hugely rewarding, and genuinely thrilling at times. Engage!
18. Batman: Arkham City
What we said: Arkham City's beaten all the odds and built on the original game whilst maintaining everything that stole our hearts a couple of years ago. I can't recommend it highly enough, although you will have to clear your schedule if you decide to pick it up because you'll find it almost impossible to stop playing and there's a slight risk that you'll end up believing you actually are The Caped Crusader by the end of it.
17. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
What we said: A contender for Game of the Year, and certainly one of the best RPGs ever made.
16. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
What we said: Forget your cynicism, put down your worries and leave all doubts behind. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood manages to top its predecessor in virtually every way and also find space for a whole bunch of new stuff too including a cracking multiplayer mode. No, it's not the big leap that might accompany a '3' in the title, but for any fan of the series, or sandbox games in general, this is an absolutely essential purchase and certainly in the running for game of the year.
15. The Last of Us
What we said: Well paced, superbly written, and boasting some of the best visual and audio work of this generation, Naughty Dog have once again produced a fine game. This is linear blockbuster gaming at its best, and it dazzles the senses. even if the form disappoints the mind a little given the genre.
What we said: Bastion is a triumph of non-traditional storytelling and brutal, pixel-perfect combat. It's the perfect start to the Summer Of Arcade... and for what promises to be an exceptional career for Supergiant Games.
13. XCOM: Enemy Within
What we said: Enemy Within is an improvement on an already outstanding game. It takes familiar systems, builds on top of them and challenges us in new ways, once again wearing our fingernails down to the bone and frazzling our nerves by making us second-guess each and every decision we make on and off the battlefield. It's bigger, deeper, and more challenging than ever before, forcing players to rethinktheir approaches, and expanding massively on replayability once more. Prepare to lose weeks to this game...AGAIN!
12. Mass Effect 2
What we said: BioWare has created a galaxy not that far away at all, but it has imbued it with interesting and curious races, vivid characters and boatloads of intrigue. Like any good page-turner, you want to know everyone's backstory and you want to know what happens next. But more importantly, like the best games out there, Mass Effect 2's strength lies in the fact that instead of showing or telling you, it lets you experience and influence the whole ride instead.
11. Fire Emblem: Awakening
What we said: Fire Emblem Awakening is an absolute masterpiece, whether you're a series veteran or rank newcomer. As one of the finest Strategy RPGs available on any handheld format, not to mention the best game on the 3DS thus far, you owe it to yourself to plumb its tactical and emotional depths. Do not, for any reason, miss this triumphant saga of love and death.
What we said: Like the finest feel-good films, or those books you read again and again until the title on the spine is illegible from creasing, Journey is a game that exhibits pure joy. It plays with it, subverts it, threatens to take it away at times, but the end result is something inherently euphoric, deeply personal and, dare I say, even a little bit spiritual as well.
9. Guild Wars 2
What we said: ArenaNet have ultimately crafted one of the best MMOs to emerge in recent times, showing that a lack of subscription fee in no way means a lack of quality. Completists will be in their element with so much to discover, and with a focus on freedom and ease of play MMO newcomers and veterans alike will be able to join in the fight together. The world of Tyria is as fun as it is beautiful, a combination that makes Guild Wars 2 one of the must-have PC titles this year.
What we said: Vanquish is a fantastically cool action game that is an absolute blast from start to finish that does what the great games do: make you feel like an absolute badass.
7. Xenoblade Chronicles
What we said: Xenoblade Chronicles is one of the best JRPGs ever made. In fact, it's probably one of the best roleplaying games of this generation - regardless of platform. Monolith Soft has made the genre relevant again, delivering depth and nuance without compromising fun or thrills. If you own a Wii, you owe it to yourself to play Xenoblade Chronicles. It's that simple.
6. Red Dead Redemption
What we said: Red Dead Redemption is a game of epic proportions, that takes players on an action packed adventure across The Wild West. This has got to be the best title of 2010 so far, and will set the bar for all of those that follow.
5. Bayonetta 2
What we said: I've played it through three times already, and I want to play it again right now. I want to summon a giant, demonic unicorn with my hair while dressed as Samus, before rolling around the corpse of my felled, headless nemesis in a Morphball. I want to surf the tunnel of the tsunami that destroyed a city, before flying around the hovering body of the angelic leviathan that summoned it, and poking out the angel's eyes with stilettos bearing giant swords. Again! I want the feeling of fighting that Masked Lumen again, on a higher difficulty level, with different weapons, pitching Bayonetta against an enemy that is more than her equal. And I want to win. Again and again and again -- faster, harder, better. There is no other action game that can elicit the pure joy that comes from such an expertly balanced set of systems set against such a bonkers backdrop.
4. Dark Souls
What we said: Demon's Souls fans will find more of the experience they loved, with a few new game mechanics to keep things fresh, while new players will be immersed in a beautiful world and one of the best representations of sword-based combat that gaming has to offer. Prepare to die.
3. The Walking Dead: Season One
What we said: Through masterful writing, some of the best voice acting that this industry has ever seen,and moody soundscapes and a strikingly emotive and communicative art style, The Walking Dead provided the storytelling experience of the year with five superbly wrought episodes that forced us to make hard choices time and time again, and care more about a bunch of virtual characters than many of us do about things here in the real world.
2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
What we said: Bethesda have managed to meet, and perhaps exceed, the expectations placed upon the fifth entry in the series. With so much freedom to play the role you wish to, and a huge area to explore, those looking for a deep medieval fantasy experience will get their money’s worth with this one. As far as I’m concerned, Skyrim is the pinnacle of the RPG genre.
What we said: Looking back, it's difficult to imagine a time without Minecraft, such as been the way that Mojang's bundle of virtual building block as taken the industry by storm. It's not just the game itself either, Minecraft has changed the way everything works. It has helped turn everyday folk into millionaires thanks to the YouTube revolution. It has changed our perceptions of the development cycle -- both from a creative and consumer standpoint. It has grown beyond a mere tapestry of cyber LEGO to become an educational tool, a gateway into games for many, and example of grassroots success. It's more than a game: Minecraft is an ongoing event.