DOTA or League of Legends- I think these are unquestionably and objectively the most important games in this era, opening up mulitplayer gaming from being a hobby into becoming something incomprehensibly massive and capable of rivaling established, multi million dollar sport franchises. Other games have basically just got more technologically advanced, but these have created something else entirely by focusing on accessibility, a free to play, in-game purchases model and cultivating a culture of entertainment and community.
From a personal perspective:
**Far Cry 2 **is the only FPS which has tried to offer more to the genre than just newer/more graphic means of shooting people since Half Life, tending towards expansion and spontaneity whereas HL delivered a tightly controlled experience. RAGE and **Wolfenstein the New Order **are its bastard offspring in respect to its frenzied firefights, and both excellent too, but Far Cry 2 is the best game out for andrenal FPS violence, an experience oscillating between patient, studious hunstmanship and outright panic attack. **Call of Juarez: Gunslinger **is unparalleled as a pure, old school, arcade shoot 'em up. The most Doom game of the era.
On a similar note, **Mafia II **is the only open world sandbox game (on PC at least, Red Dead Redemption manages it just as well) which tried to deliver the sense of playing through a slow burn, well plotted novel, and has probably the finest sense of pacing out of any narrative game in this era. Most people were too focused on just wanting another GTA clone to notice though and bitched about that instead because people are idiots. It’s a different genre, but **Bastion **was also as narratively compelling and expertly plotted. Like Mafia II, it uses all the game’s mechanics to slowly reveal a far bigger context that is utterly compelling and innovative in delivery. I would love to squeeze New Vegas in here for a similar reason, and in terms of narrative ingenuity it absolutley merits it, but the fact is that without heavy modding, which requires hours of investment, its technologically too compromised to really suggest in good faith.
Before playing it I would have anticpated the Witcher series would fit in that narrative section above, but instead The Witcher 3 gets its own section because it has outright broken the AAA genre. In relation to comparative budget, depth, presentation, polish, size, ambition and realisation of concept, pound for pound there is absolutely nothing that can touch it, and no evidence that anyone even has the capacity to begin to try and emulate something similar at present. It’s Coppola’s Godfather in the early seventies. You really want to know what games can offer in regards to offering storytelling and an evocative experience, the sort of thing that can rival a great book or film? This is it.
**Dark Souls **for being a best seller unrepentant in regards to its attitude towards intimidation, difficulty and accessibility, at a point when one most games were falling over themselves to be as ingratiatingly simple and undaunting to the player as possible. A whole raft of games have followed that would never have seen the light of day otherwise. Like the Strokes around the early 00’s and what their arrival did to save rock music in the charts. I have mixed feelings for both them and DS, but both were incredibly important for their popular impact on the health of their respective mediums.
Endless Legend **does many things differently which are great, but it gets a mention for being the only strategy game I’m aware of where the developers have made a continued focus on making the AI work with the game’s mechanics and posses it’s own personality. That’s genuinely revolutionary for this time period and not something seen since Alpha Centauri.
**Crusader Kings II **for creating an incredible, and incredibly popular roleplay generator in spite of having a UI which less accessible and rewarding than Microsoft Excel
**Amnesia: The Dark Descent for evolving the “Walk around without killing people and interact with things” genreNot must plays, but just as important:
Any number of remakes, redeuxs, most sequels, or fan service crowd funded games **At first these seemed like great fun, and many of them are, but the continuous green flagging of these I think points to the fact that, aside from the examples above, PC Gaming is in a similar spot to Hollywood right now, and indeed mainstream culture in general. The above examples and their ilk are your Iggy Pops and Bowies and Princes-something trying to do something unashamedly different. But they are nonetheless obvious outliers in a sea of competent but bland franchises, sequels, and overtures to nostalgia and the monied audience who pine for it. It seems lost on them that, if as children/young adults the market had shared similar tastes as they now posess, then all they would ever have played would have been reiteratons of Pac Man and Pong.
Notable absence: Any MMO. Ten years ago, I think everyone would predict that would be where gaming was at. Instead it peaked fast and has been downhill all the way since.