31 December, 2019

Popcorn Games of the Decade

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, 31 December 2019

The Rules

I went through my game libraries on Steam and other digital services and looked at games that came out this decade (on those services, some may have come out earlier on consoles).  To be on this list they had to spark a specific feeling: "That was a cool game, and I wouldn't mind another go."

At some level, this list may be a celebration of my poor memory. :)

The Games

Alan Wake (2010)

Control is a fine game, but the supporting cast of Alan Wake feel so much more real and present.  And the pacific northwest is so much more scenic than concrete box architecture.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (2013)

Plunder the seas.  Sing all the shanties.

Aliens vs. Predator (2010)

The game has issues for sure, but I still enjoy the campaign.  AvP 2's was probably better mechanically, but this one still looks good and feels good enough.

Cargo! The Quest for Gravity (2011)

Developer Ice-Pick Lodge is better known for the dour Pathologic, but this childish post apocalypse is stupidly charming to me.

Dark Scavenger (2014)

The only turn-based RPG on the list, like Alan Wake and Cargo, it's got a lot of character.  Developer Psydra Games bills itself as a small team, but this game is so quirky it feels like a one person operation.

DmC Devil May Cry (2013)

Developer Ninja Theory slightly simplified the DMC formula, and it worked.

EDF 4.1 (2016)

Big Dumb Fun.  EDF 5 (2019) brought some nice enhancements to the Air Raider class, but overall wasn't as fun largely thanks to an even worse loot system.

Forager (2019)

As the newest entry on this list, it may not hold up.  But it's a fun, actiony take on a clicker / watch the numbers go up type game that got entertainingly bonkers by the end.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (2014)

It's one of the few Stylish Action games that can hang with Devil May Cry.

Stalker: Call of Pripyat (2010)

The Metro series is kinda sorta carrying the torch, but Stalker was it's own thing.  Anomalies, monsters, secret military facilities, and humans of various stripes made for a unique world to survive and explore.

Just Missed The Cut

Singularity (2010)

Singularity is a good popcorn game, but felt derivative enough that it didn't quite make it.

Watch Dogs 2 (2016)

Getting upgrades felt a little too laborious and a lot of missions felt like running errands.  Still, having non-lethal options and a protagonist that wasn't another generic white dude was cool.

Vanquish (2017)

It's Gears of War but with rocket boots.  There's a lot of cool elements that that didn't quite gel into greatness for me.

Notably Absent

Bayonetta (2017)

It may just be my age, but some of the enemies had attacks with so little warning that it felt like I took hits that weren't my fault.  Plus a QTE death in a cut scene tanking my level ranking and upgrade currency rewards felt cheap.

Doom (2016)

The collectibles initially felt like a good excuse to play more Doom, but I couldn't figure out where some of them were without going to YouTube and it dulled my eagerness to return.

Saints Row 3 & 4 (2011)

Saints Row 3 lost the plot, and four was fluffy fan service.  And let's be frank, I liked Saints Row 2 enough that nothing was going to escape its shadow.


Popcorn Hall Of Fame

These are the games that sparked that feeling still even though they're more than a decade old, or that I've already played so many times that they're locked in.

Broforce (2015)

While sometimes this engine of chaos will kill you with no warning, that chaos is also part of fun when you don't die.  Plus it takes about three hours to finish once you know what you're doing.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (2013)

Take Far Cry.  Up the player speed and jump height by about 50%.  Cut the entire progression down to roughly six hours.  Make everything a dark 80s neon poster.

Warframe (2013)

It's super grindy. But the moment to moment of flipping all over the place and mowing down hordes of enemies with a great variety of space ninja magic and weapons feels so good I don't mind spending a lot of time with it. I do take long breaks from time to time. But eventually I'll get the urge to turn into a murder fly with Titania or be a chill magic monk with Baruuk and come back.

Dead Space 2 (2011)

Action horror which, thanks to EA screwing up their micro-transactions, gives you a ton of interesting weapons right out of the gate.  The Aliens of video games.

Magicka (2011)

Initially a great game, Magicka was reduced to being just exceptional by PvP balance changes that made the single player / co-op feel less crazy.  I used to be able to turn into a volcano. :(

NightSky (2011)

I normally hate puzzle platforming, but this toy version streamlined it down to pure joy.

Lost Planet 2 (2010)

Funky and clunky, but I still kept running those missions.  Never did try the co-op.

NecroVision (2009)

Bulletstorm before Bulletstorm and combos built on each other in a way that was more satisfying.

Wolfenstein, Wolfenstein: New Order, Wolfenstein: New Colossus (2009)

Shooting megalomaniacal Nazis is always good.

Clive Barker's Jericho (2007)

Horror action schlock with enough character and lore to keep it interesting.

Prototype (2009)

Like Magicka, Prototype puts too much power to control in your hands and lets you figure it out.  The sequel tried to reign in that chaos and suffered in the fun department for it.  I'll always wonder whether Hulk: Ultimate Destruction would have made this list if it had gotten a PC port.

Saints Row 2 (2009)

The classic.  GTA but sillier, but over the top gritty cut scenes that shouldn't have worked, but did for me.

Star Wars: Republic Commando (2005)

I enjoy Scorch.  I appreciate Fixer.  And I'm glad Sev is on my side.  The action's okay, but the bromance is what makes the game special.

F.E.A.R. and expansions (2005)

There's something particular about this mash-up of Akira and The Matrix that no other game even tried to copy (except the sequels, which failed).

Devil May Cry 1, 3, & 4 (2001)

The games that created, and for my tastes comprise most of, their own little genre.  I feel like I should like DMC5 more, but the frequent character switching kept me from really digging in.

Blood (1997)

More schlocky action horror.  I'm sensing a pattern.

System Shock (1994)

A space station full of robots, monsters, audio logs, and a great villain.  Most seem to prefer the sequel, but I find it sterile and ugly and burdened with a class system that adds nothing.  I never liked early, low-poly 3D.


Notably Absent

DooM 1 & 2 (1993)

It was a drastic step forward in tech.  It defined a generation.  I preferred its multiplayer to most of what came after.  But my time with it is over.


I forgot one Popcorn Game of the Decade.

Wasted (2016)

The indie 80s post-apocalpse FPS roguelite where you power up using hard liquor. I enjoy the setting and characters, but mostly I enjoy quickly and carefully working my way through the bomb shelters the game dubs Coolers. The mix of combat, stealth, and situational awareness required keeps me on my toes.