Heidi's favourite Xbox games of the decade

By Heidi Nicholas,
Now our TrueAchievements Game of the Decade event is up and running, we thought we'd make a list of our own favourite contenders. It's quite daunting to look back on a whole decade and try to pick the best moments. I've played some new games, some different games, and nowhere near as many games as I'd have liked. I didn't have the option to start playing as much as I wanted until a good way through the decade, but I've been making my way through everything I've missed, and everything that's come out since then. I definitely don't have Sam's gaming experience, but I've picked my list honestly — the games I've most enjoyed, those that affected me the most, and those that were just too much fun to leave out. These are just my opinion: my personal favourite Games of the Decade.

10. The Outer Worlds/Wandersong

The Outer Worlds ~ SuperHeroArt

The tenth spot has two games crammed into it, because I couldn't decide. The Outer Worlds was ridiculous, weird, and so much fun. I haven't played a game in a long time which was so happy not to take itself seriously. I know it's been touted as a spiritual successor to New Vegas; I hadn't had the chance to get into Fallout before, but I love The Outer Worlds for what it is. I like that it's so beautiful even whilst it's about the same dark stuff. I liked that it actually made me laugh out loud. I loved the dialogue, and just how many options there were in speaking with NPCs. It really felt as though you were talking, and not just clicking on the option which would progress you through to the end. I liked that the game was basically inviting you to come play at being a cowboy in space, and try out science weapons, and maybe help save the world, if you remembered. It was the kind of game I could actually use the word "wacky" for. It goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway: Parvati's the best.

Wandersong

As for Wandersong; I loved it. I wasn't expecting to have it in my top of the decade list, but thinking about how much fun I had, and how unique the game was, and just how beautiful the whole thing is, I had to put it on here. Wandersong was amazing. It's a game about being weird, and not really a hero, and making friends whilst trying to save the world — through song. It's eccentric and colourful and just so, so beautiful. I wanted to play it again as soon as I'd finished it. I loved it, and I had a lot of fun, and for those reasons, it's on my list.

9. Kingdom Come Deliverance

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"Henry's come to see us! Jesus Christ be praised!"

If you loved Kingdom Come: Deliverance, you loved it in spite of hearing that every five seconds. For a blacksmith's son in a poor village, Henry's somewhat of a celebrity. This game looked a little wonky at first, but what a game it was, and what an intro. Although I'm a fan of fantasy and sci-fi stuff, I can see how perfect this game would be for any gamers looking for a medieval setting with no magic, no dragons and no prophecies. You're just Henry. A good guy, but also a bit of an idiot.

This game dived deep into RPG elements and mixed it with realism, and it really worked. Henry wasn't a legendary chosen one with innate hero powers; he sucks at everything at first, because he doesn't know how to do it, and you have to learn with him. As a blacksmith's son, he doesn't know how to fight or read – leading to one of the coolest parts of the game. All books and words were illegible to him until he'd learned that skill later on, and then you could move on to the world of potions. He doesn't start off with cool armour, he has next to nothing. These limitations made every failure and success so significant. One quest tasks you with getting around some guards, and every option available to you leads back to the fact that Henry is totally ordinary. There was one option involving lockpicking (ridiculously hard on a controller) and I hadn't really got anywhere near the skill to manage it. It took me ages and a lot of reloading, especially because lockpicks weren't common and they'd cost an arm and a leg, but when I finally managed it, it felt like such an achievement.

The combat was excellent — and enemies actually fight together. No waiting politely for their turn in the fight: they all attack together, and no matter how powerful Henry gets, it was still challenging to run into a group of them. Archery was a bit of a tricky skill to master, especially as there wasn't an "aim" dot to follow. But none of that mattered when it was so enormously satisfying the one time you managed to make the shot and take out an escaping enemy from miles away. Plus, the arrows make that really good thunk sound. And, damn it, I just love Henry. Everyone loves Henry. He's a bit of a gormless idiot, but he's our gormless idiot. Who doesn't want a game where you and your medieval mates go and throw poo at someone's house?

8. Far Cry Primal

Primal

This was one I hadn't known I was waiting for. A game entirely set in the Stone Age where you can run around taming sabre-tooth tigers and cave lions — I had so much fun with this one, and I still think it's got one of the most beautiful game worlds I've seen. Everything's trying to kill you, but I still couldn't stop myself just walking around looking at the redwood forests and the golden sunsets. Granted, Far Cry Primal could be a bit of a grind. I always got lost in the caves. There were never any animals when I was hunting, but they'd all turn up to gang up on me the minute I was out of arrows. You couldn't go two steps without hearing that weird creaky-shrieky deer noise, and I sank way too much time into trying to find a rare black Dhole. But I absolutely loved this game. The story could get a little strange, but I was having more fun trying to tame every animal, and then becoming way too attached and trying to avoid any fights so they wouldn't die. I liked how you couldn't tame everything at once; I started out with a diddly Dhole to help with hunting, and worked my way up until I could storm outposts with bears or lions. Plus, I liked how random the game was. In most other games, no matter how far back in time the story takes you, characters always have a little bit of common sense or health and safety: maybe you shouldn't eat that, maybe you shouldn't try and jump that gap, maybe you shouldn't pick a fight with them. In Primal, you come across one guy who's convinced he can fly, and you take absolutely no steps to convince him otherwise. It's caveman times! They don't know any better!

I love Ikaros in AC Odyssey, but the owl in Primal is the best bird companion by far. The controls for your animal companions were extensive and really let me feel like I could micromanage them. I could keep my little ones back from the fight, or send in the bear as a distraction, and once I'd unlocked all of the owl's skills, taking down outposts began to be really fun. Imagine being the enemy tribe; you're having a nice caveman day, wondering what caveman stuff you're going to do, when an owl zooms over dropping beserk bombs. Then it frees the wolf you'd had caged up. Before you can deal with that, a bear storms in from the other side. Causing chaos for Takkar's enemies turned out to be a lot of fun.

7. Resident Evil 2 Remake

Resident Evil 2 screenshot

I'm terrible at scary games. I can't usually play them at all, because I'm happy to leave the player-character behind whatever cover or safe space they can find, and never make them go outside against zombies or whatever other horrific thing they're up against. But I had a lot of fun with the Resident Evil 2 remake. Leon and I had our problems; I could have done with him taking things more seriously and actually running a little faster, like you would if there were zombies coming after you, and less like he might have left his coat at a cafe and wants to get it before they close. Plus, he really needs to learn not to breathe like a zombie. And to stop stomping around so loudly. Claire was my favourite. But I also admire a lot of things about Leon; like how on earth he managed to keep his hair looking like Charming in Shrek, even after falling, fighting, and getting covered in every type of rotting zombie gore. I thought the inventory management was one of the best things about this game, still a novelty to me thanks to the fact that I'm pretty new to the series. I usually haven't been so fussed about what I'll take, what I can leave behind, and what I can afford to drop. And I've never seen a character be so effectively terrifying as Mr X and his Very Loud Boots. I also really enjoyed how much use you get out of every corner of the map, and how it felt like such a big deal to unlock a new area. I'm still terrified of it, but it was undeniably one of the best games of the decade.

6. Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is the epitome of coziness. It's the game equivalent of a blanket and a cup of tea on a rainy day. I can actually feel myself relaxing when I start this up, which I haven't really had from any other game. True, the villagers aren't quite so kind as the ones in games like Animal Crossing, and they won't hold back from telling you what they really think of the gifts you give them. You could spend weeks growing or crafting something on your farm only to have Emily tell you it's trash. Not that I'm still bitter about it, or anything. Still, trash?

You arrive at a run-down old farm, and it's yours to build up how you want. It's such a simple premise and it works so well. The issue I sometimes have with other life or farming sims is that it can feel like you've run out of things to do, or else that there's a bit of a waiting period until you get to the point where things really start to happen. Stardew Valley doesn't have this. It's perfectly paced. There's always something to work towards. You can just do your own thing, but there's always other goals to aim for, which is great for people like me who don't always want to farm, or prefer to have something to aim for. It's almost scary how quick you can get sucked into this game, and how many hours you sink into it without realising. I love the music, the seasons, the eccentric villagers, and the wholesomeness of Stardew Valley. That's not to say I didn't get stressed; no matter how early I start to prepare, I always panic on the first day of spring, forget everything I planned, and run around like a headless chicken trying to do everything at once. I like that it doesn't move on without you, though. Animal Crossing: New Leaf runs on real time, and if you don't check in for a while, you better believe you'll hear about it. Stardew Valley feels like it's entirely your game. Check in when you want; Stardew Valley's fine. Stardew Valley's got your back.

5. Red Dead Redemption

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For those who already skipped ahead: I know, they're both on here. But in my opinion, they both deserve to be. Red Dead Redemption excelled at everything it was trying to be. I did not excel at it. I got lost the second the game started, because I couldn't sort my horse out in time to follow the guy showing me where to go — and he just left without me. Then I couldn't get John to just get down and take cover when being shot at. Needless to say, I wasn't the best outlaw in the West. But I had a blast with Red Dead. It was utterly beautiful. Plus, I know I might be in the minority here, but I love a game with good horse stats. And this had good horse stats. Undead Nightmare was also amazing, but Red Dead Redemption was utterly iconic on its own.

4. Assassin's Creed Odyssey

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I think I lost about eight months to this game, and I'm still not entirely done with all the DLC. Assassin's Creed Odyssey was fantastic, and the only game to properly pull me out of the Witcher slump. I love Greek mythology and I was so excited about a game set in Ancient Greece, and Odyssey really delivered. I know you can choose Alexios or Kassandra, but in my opinion, there's only one right choice. Kassandra is a fantastic protagonist. Odyssey is ridiculously beautiful, and I'm glad they brought out the discovery tour, because I spent far too much time being chased by guards who didn't believe the heavily-armed mercenary just wanted to have a look around the pretty house/temple/palace. I also spent a lot of time agonising over choices and consequences, but that's my own fault, since I was the one hoping for a game with a good choice system in the first place. I did get a little tired with the in-game shop (still haven't got that Pegasus), but from the sheer amount of time I've sunk into this game, and the level of enjoyment I had playing it, this is definitely a firm fixture in my top 10.

3. Skyrim

Dragonborn 11/15/12 4

I don't think there's been another game I've been as immersed in as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I love RPGs, I love fantasy elements, and I loved Skyrim. Skyrim is a rare game. I haven't seen many that are loved as much as this one's been loved, to the point where its bugs have been lovingly adopted as part of the game's charm. And it's loved for good reason. When was the last time you could get stuck into such an epic fantasy? You could really get lost in Skyrim, and I did, for some time. Skyrim actually felt big enough for everything in it; all the factions, guilds, wars, and huge landscapes. It was one of those games which really encapsulated the "going on an adventure" feeling. Plus, it's the reason we've all been graced with the Gaming Grandma, so you know it's got to be a good thing.

2. Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2

What. A. Game. The Witcher 3 is great with epic tales on a vast scale, but Red Dead Redemption 2 has probably the best story on an individual, human level. I was, at first, in that camp of John fans who were suspicious about playing as someone new. Who was this Arthur Morgan? What did he think he has that John didn't? I think I shamelessly switched loyalties about two seconds after starting the game up, and now, I can't imagine a better protagonist for the Red Dead world. John Marston can do what he wants; it's all about Arthur Morgan now.

Red Dead Redemption was incredible, and will always have a place on my list of favourite games, but Red Dead 2 is a masterpiece. The relationship with Dutch, the build-up — that final segment of the game, where the tension can be felt throughout the game no matter what you do, is amazing. Red Dead 2 really nailed the whole "this way of life is dying" message of the series. Arthur and John, despite each calling themselves men of few words, are perfectly happy to yap on to anyone who'll listen, about how the world is changing, civilisation is growing, there's no room for them anymore. But I didn't really hear it until partway through the game, when I went to Saint Denis for the first time. I hadn't been planning on going there; I was just faffing about in the swamps nearby, when I had one of those NPC encounters with someone who needed to get to a doctor. It was night time and chucking it down with rain, and I was just zooming along on my horse, not really paying attention. I could only see parts of the city, and remember thinking that the doctor's office looked quite elegant, and not much like the rest of the game, but I couldn't see anything else. I had Arthur zone out until morning nearby, and I remember being actually shocked when daylight came. It was like I'd accidentally started up a different game with Arthur still in it. It really looked like a different world. There were trams and factories and industry everywhere, and Arthur Morgan, standing in the middle of it all with his cowboy hat and dirty clothes, looked like he'd stepped out of another time. It was a really affecting part of Red Dead 2. I hadn't seen a game achieve something like this, before or since.

Red Dead 2 also did a great job with being utterly ridiculous (the Lenny quest in the bar was amazing). Plus, he voice acting was incredible; Roger Clark did a great job with our boah, and Benjamin Byron Davis's voice-cracked "I have a plan" is legendary. Aside from the Witcher 3, I think this is the most I've ever connected to game characters, and, like the Witcher 3, this one also broke me a little bit — I was just slumped listening to "That's The Way It Is" on repeat for longer than I'd like to admit.

1. The Witcher 3

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This is my all-time favourite. It's hard to pin down exactly what The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt means to me, but I've never loved a game as much as this one. Unfortunately, I think it also broke me a little — I was in a full Witcher slump for months after I'd finished it. It was, in every way, a ten out of ten, and immersive on a level I haven't seen anywhere else. I love games as a means of escapism, and I was glad I had The Witcher 3 to escape into. Blood and Wine and Heart of Stone, which were technically just DLCs, had enough in them that they could have been their own separate games, and I loved those too. I knew this one was my number one of the decade, but it's likely going to be my favourite-ever game for a long time after.

The world of The Witcher 3 is beautiful. Even though the story often goes to ugly, dark places, the world is still so beautiful; contrasting battlefields and corpses with the untouched nature behind it. The game likes to make you feel uncomfortable. You might find yourself looking at a tree under a brilliantly golden sunset, only to notice, minutes later, that there are bodies hanging outlined against it. The Witcher 3 really sank its teeth into the idea that there are no "good" choices; it doesn't let its dialogue and choice system present you with two easy options. And the world-building was spectacular. I love lore-rich games, and The Witcher 3 certainly delivered on that, but the framework of the Witcher world itself felt so real and fully realised, that you could easily imagine it carrying on without you when you weren't playing. The Witcher 3 is a true epic. It's not a world I'd want to live in, but it's a world I'm more than happy to keep going back to.

That's it for my list! Sean's will be following along soon, as well as a roundup from staff across our other teams. Don't forget to have your say in our Game of the Decade vote – which now includes a second question set, asking for your favourite games in major genres.
Heidi Nicholas
Written by Heidi Nicholas
Hey, I'm Heidi! I've just finished studying a Masters in English Literature, but I've been obsessed with gaming since long before then. I began on the PS2 with Spyro, before graduating to the Xbox 360 and disappearing into Skyrim. I'm now a loyal RPG fan, but I still like to explore other genres — when I'm not playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey, or being lured back into Red Dead Redemption 2 or The Witcher 3!