It’s that time again. Time to read about what some nerd thinks about things from the last decade. Today, you’ll be reading about the best video games of the decade. That last sentence probably made some of you move on but trust me, you’re gonna want to get to the end of this article.
Red Dead Redemption II
America is obsessed with cowboys and the west. Every form of entertainment has its share of western stories, which is thanks to this romanticism of the west. Said romanticism reached comical proportions in the 50’s thanks largely to John Wayne and his brand of tough guy, hero westerns, where the good guys are good and the bad guys are non-white people. Thankfully, the genre has matured since then. “Unforgiven”, a movie from the 90’s, sees Clint Eastwood play an old, retired gunslinger who doesn’t want to shoot anyone and just wants to make a little bit of money because he is absolutely trash at farming. “Unforgiven” lands under a genre of film called “revisionist western”, a genre in which the point is to question the morals of the west and try to deconstruct the white hero narrative Old John tried his damndest to ingrain into society.
The film sees the gunslinger go out for one last ride, a ride that’s about as depressing as you could imagine. His friend gets killed leaving the wife, who did not want him to go at all, a widow. He is forced to kill, something he tried very hard to avoid. It’s just kinda a bummer all around. Red Dead Redemption II is the closest a video game has gotten to a revisionist western. Arthur Morgan, the game’s main protagonist, is everything you’d expect a cowboy to be. He’s tough, doesn’t have any emotions other than angry, depressed, and snarky, and he commits crimes with little to no remorse. If you look past this surface level view of Arthur, however, you’ll find a different kind of man. Someone who is surprisingly kind, who feels deep guilt. A man who is good. The tragedy of Arthur’s story is that he doesn’t really realize he is and wants to be good until the very end of his life.
He is diagnosed with tuberculosis, a fatal disease in the year 1899, and instead of sitting around and waiting to die, Arthur decides it is time to help as many people as he can before he goes. He still has his hesitations however, and still keeps a deep loyalty to his gang. That is until one of the final missions of the game. In the mission, Arthur helps an army colonel escape certain death and smuggles him on a train headed to a new life. After seeing him off, Arthur hears a familiar voice. A nun he had helped earlier in the game is on her way to Mexico, and just happens to be at the same station. She calls Arthur over, and the two have a conversation that has become one of my favorite scenes in anything ever. In the scene, Arthur goes through a micro version of his entire character arc. He starts out very guarded, making jokes with her and dismissing her wisdom.
As the conversation progresses, however, Arthur starts getting more and more involved, and opens up a little. The conversation culminates with Arthur admitting, for the first time in his life, that he is afraid. Arthur Morgan, the hardened outlaw, is afraid of dying. The nun tells Arthur that he shouldn’t be afraid, that it happens to everyone and that all he can do is try to accept it and spread as much love as he can. Her train then rolls in, and she wishes Arthur good luck. This moment finally breaks Arthur free from his prior beliefs, allowing him to become the good man he always was.
That is, if you play the game in the way the developers intended. The beauty of Red Dead Redemption is that you can make Arthur be whoever you want him to be. Arthur can if you so choose stay an immoral outlaw. In my opinion, no game has gotten a morality system as right as this game has. It helps you feel like you’re Arthur is unique, and for a game with a set protagonist that is very impressive.
I know, I know. You think I’m a dumb stupid head for putting this on the list considering games like The Witcher 3 and Breath of the Wild came out in the same time frame and they are considered to be two of the best games of all time. I love both of these games and came very close to putting them on this list, along with many others. The reason I chose the extremely divisive Fallout 4 is because I have, without a doubt, played it twice as much as any other game I’ve ever touched. I have sunk hundreds of hours into this post-apocalyptic RPG and will continue to sink hours into it because of one reason. Escapism. Reality can be absolutely crushing. You aren’t the main character; you don’t make huge world changing decisions. No, you just kind of stay in your lane and try your best to have fun.
In an RPG like Fallout, however, I can be the main character. I can live another life, be some adventurer who is trying to survive in an inhospitable world. It’s because of the escapism that the game allows that I love it. Fallout 4 has given me as much enjoyment as pretty much anything I’ve experienced, and trust me that’s saying a lot. It deserves it’s spot on my list, and it is going to take it no matter how upset it makes you.
The Last of Us
Finally, we reach the final game. This modern classic has been written about more than pretty much any game ever, receiving unbelievable amounts of praise in every single aspect it can. Because of this it’s become an extremely daunting task to even begin writing about it. How do you put a new spin on something as over done as The Last of Us? I don’t know if I can, but I don’t really think I have to. Most of, if not all, of you reading have experienced this game in some capacity, be it playing it yourself or watching someone else play it. There are no words to describe how the first play through of this game felt for me. I had been following it since before it was officially announced, clinging to any rumors I could find.
The game’s developer, Naughty Dog, had created the Uncharted series prior to this game, a series that I loved. To me, however, Uncharted had run its course. After three entries things begin to get a little stale, no matter how good that something is. So, when I heard rumblings that Naughty Dog was going to make a post-apocalyptic story-based game, I was just a little bit excited. I followed the game all the way up to its release and on the day of release, something I had never done before, I got myself a copy and sat down to play it. I finished it in one sitting. This game is over twelve hours long, and not once did I consider stopping. The story had me entirely enraptured.
Joel and Ellie were perfectly realized characters, the writing was impeccable, and the gameplay itself was a joy to experience. I have never had such a feeling of joy before, such content. It remains to this day one of my most treasured memories, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other.
And with that, we’ve reached the end of the best of the decade series. If you’ve stuck around for the whole thing, I thank you. If you read just this one, I thank you but less so. If you’re just reading this because I said you’ll wanna see how this article ends, haha got you. Hopefully next decade has even better games, music, and movies and moreover, hopefully I can get a job that lets me shove my opinion down readers throats again.
Header photo courtesy of Rockstar’s Facebook page.