As 2019 staggers over the finish line, what better time to look back and take stock before we carry on pushing ahead? It’s fair to say that during this year – this decade – a lot of stuff has happened. Some of it was good. Some of it was bad. Your opinion on what falls where is entirely your own business, of course.
Thank goodness that in the middle of all the madness we’ve had video games to rely on. A constant form of escapism, there to be enjoyed by everyone. The past ten years have seen some truly landmark releases – we compiled our top 25 right here, if you’re interested.
Today, though, I wanted to focus specifically on the games that celebrated their tenth birthdays in 2019. If for no other reason than it’s always hilarious to watch people realise that a lot of major games are way older than they think, and that the ceaseless march of time comes for us all eventually. So yeah, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, I guess.
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Infinity Ward – November 10th, 2009)
Regarded by many as one of the finest FPS titles of all time, Modern Warfare 2 was a smarter, tighter sequel to the behemoth that was Modern Warfare. While its predecessor doubtlessly laid the foundations and will always be remembered as a much more influential piece of work, Modern Warfare 2’s campaign had some of the best moments in the entire Call of Duty franchise. No Russian, General Shepherd’s betrayal, and the gulag infiltration are just a few examples.
Batman: Arkham Asylum (Rocksteady – August 25th, 2009)
An incredible piece of work. What could have been a quick and easy way to cash in on Batman’s immense popularity ended up being a deeply influential action-adventure experience, and a genuine contender for greatest superhero video game of all time. The labyrinthine Arkham Asylum, with its myriad puzzles, traps and villains, was the perfect setting for this incarnation of Batman.
Absolutely scaring the crap out of goons by creeping through vents and using the environment to your advantage was a highlight of the masterful stealth-based gameplay. Plus, when that failed, you could just leap from the shadows and pummel everything in sight with a combo-based combat system that other developers still copy to this day.
Dragon Age: Origins (BioWare – November 3rd, 2009)
As we look ahead to a brand new Dragon Age game sometime in the next few years (if we’re lucky), we’d do well to remember Origins. Set in a beautifully crafted world packed with fascinating characters and a rich history, Origins is a reminder that BioWare can make a truly incredible single-player RPG when it’s not being held back by factors outside of its control. Was that a dig at Anthem? Yes. Yes it was.
Bayonetta (PlatinumGames – October 29th, 2009)
Bayonetta is just… it’s nuts, is what it is. A fiendishly challenging action-adventure hack ‘n’ slash, Bayonetta basically plays like Devil May Cry, if DMC had just necked a fistful of military grade hallucinogenics and darted off into the woods to become one with the moon and stars. I’m not knocking it – it’s absolutely fantastic, and consistently bonkers.
Borderlands (Gearbox – October 20th, 2009)
The original loot-shooter, Borderlands remains an anarchic masterpiece. Its meta-humour and toilet gags might not inspire a smile in everyone, but its frat-boy mentality belies the game’s consistently deep and oh-so-rewarding first-person combat and RPG mechanics. Borderlands 3 might have taken… well, everything that made the first game great a little too far, but we’ll always have the OG to rely on.
Assassin’s Creed II (Ubisoft Montreal – November 17th, 2009)
A perfect example of how to do a sequel right. Assassin’s Creed II is a marked improvement on its predecessor in every possible way, to the point that even ten years later, many consider this to be the high-point of the franchise. Even if you’re willing to debate that, there’s no denying that protagonist Ezio Auditore is the most interesting and likeable star of the entire series.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Naughty Dog – October 13th, 2009)
Thrilling heists, tense shootouts, and a train that seems to go on forever. Truly, Uncharted 2 has it all. In this first sequel, Naughty Dog and actor Nolan North cemented Nathan Drake’s place as a PlayStation mascot and icon of gaming. Blurring the line between action movie and video game further than ever before, Uncharted 2 was a breathtaking, cinematic piece of work that gave Naughty Dog the confidence to push ahead and take even more risks. The Last Of Us, anyone?
Demon’s Souls (FromSoftware – February 5th, 2009)
The meaner, altogether more punishing father of Dark Souls. Demon’s Souls often gets forgotten in all the praise and adoration for the Dark Souls series (and Bloodborne) , but it was this 2009 release that served as the progenitor for everything that followed. If you thought the first Dark Souls was unwilling to lead you anywhere by the hand, just try and make sense of Demon’s Souls nightmarish world. Challenging but rich and rewarding, there’s a reason fans are looking forward to the rumoured remake on PS5.
Left 4 Dead 2 (Valve)
Honestly, this is as good as co-op multiplayer shooters get. Left 4 Dead 2 is a consistently tense zombie horror that puts a focus on jolly cooperation above all else. You can try and go it alone, but forsaking your friends will often result in swift deaths for the entire squad. My advice? Stick with your team, shoot anything that moves, and if you hear something gently sobbing in a dark corner of the room – stay the f*ck away.
What a journey Minecraft has been on in the last decade. While the first “full” version of the game was technically released in 2011, the earliest incarnation of the block building survival sim was actually available in 2009. In the ten years that followed, Minecraft went from strength to strength.
Its limitless world and “do-anything” approach made it an instant hit around the world, and established it as a cultural juggernaut that’s as popular today as it ever was – if not more. Just last month, it was reported that the number of registered players for the game now sits an incredible 480 million. That’s if we include both traditional paid sales and the registered accounts for China’s free-to-play version of the game.
For context, that would make Minecraft third-largest country in the world, behind China and India. Yikes, right?