Into The Spine’s Games of the Decade: Part 2

Mementos, explosions, and swords.

2019 is coming to an end, so we thought on sharing short stories and anecdotes surrounding our favorite games from the decade. In this second part, we take a look at the chosen games by Haru, Diego, Ewan, Jay C, Kenneth, and Caitlin. You can read the previous entry here.

Haru – Hyper Light Drifter (2016)

I know not many people still think about Hyper Light Drifter. It was a pretty good indie game, but nothing particularly historical about it. But I can’t stop thinking about it. It was the first indie game that I kept a close eye on throughout its development. That first trailer showcasing its arresting visual style and haunting (yet somehow hopeful?) Disasterpeace soundtrack, hit me like a train at a high speed. Then it was released and I got my hands on it. It was all that I had hoped for and more. Every movement, dodge, and slash felt so good to do and I was stuck to just playing it for weeks. I haven’t gone back to it anytime recently, but it is my go-to game when someone asks me what my favourite is. I’ve played better games, but for whatever reason Hyper Light Drifter has stuck with me as this decade’s favourite of mine.

Diego – Transistor (2014)

Hearing “Old Friends” always gives me shivers. It’s a song that takes me back years ago, remembering the first time Transistor was announced. I’ve probably watched that first trailer over a hundred times, looping the song over and over trying to figure out what this new game from Supergiant might be. I fell in love with Red, her story, and the world around. I loved hearing Logan Cunningham’s voice once more. I loved the streets, the sounds, people’s backstories imprinted in each wall and remnant of the city.

Transistor meant so much to me. Without realizing it, it will later become the inspiration for Into The Spine, forever embedding itself to the site (in a subtle, not copyright inflicting way, mind). Approaching the end of this decade of games, Transistor has been in my life since 2014. 

I had the chance to hear the songs live during PAX West this year. I cried for pretty much the entire show, and it was as beautiful as I always pictured it would be. There was one song that stood with me the most, though. Its chorus goes like this:

“I see the spine of the world… Sparkle and shine, light the inside. I see the spine of the world… I know it’s mine, twisted and tied.”

Ewan – Dishonored 2 (2016)

The essence of Dishonored always lay in its city, and so replacing Dunwall was no mean feat. As it turned out, Dishonored 2’s Karnaca proved equally compelling as a place to run riot, and all the more powerful for its vivid contrasts. A sweltering, sand-blasted melting pot of crime and inequality, dust and bloodflies, powered by whale oil and wind turbines, the entire coastal metropolis felt palpably authentic. Complementing the city’s labyrinth of nooks and crannies and stunning cliffside vistas, were two of the best levels of the decade: The Clockwork Mansion and A Crack in the Slab. The former was inventive for its spatial dynamism — a giant Rubik’s cube of a building that trapped you within the interstices as the rooms and floors shifted around you. The latter was temporally innovative, allowing you to jump between two time periods with the press of a button. Most importantly, the actions you took in the past — be it a spot of interior decoration or something as crucial as the fate of a person — affected the present, both narratively and in the physical structure of the mansion. 

Whilst it’s possible to skulk your way through each and every Karnacan environment, simply appreciating the architecture and soaking in the atmosphere, Dishonored 2 is just as interesting amidst the chaos of conflict, offering up an intricate mix of supernatural abilities. And really — from city to street brawl — intricacy is what it’s all about. Dishonored is a game of fine details, perhaps the finest, and whilst I very much hope this isn’t the case, I could easily see us all ten years down the line, yelling into the void: “they don’t make them how they used to!”.

Jay – Outer Wilds (2019)

I’ve never been able to answer any question about favourites. Comparing anything at all feels like apples and oranges, and both are great, and I don’t understand how to choose between them. So when thinking about a game of the decade, I posed myself a different question: what game makes me feel like I love games even when they’re being awful? Outer Wilds was the first thing that came to mind, and though it’s recent, I don’t think it’ll stop being the answer to that question for a very long time. Luckily, with only 150 words, I don’t have to do the horrible but completely necessary thing of persuading you it’s good without giving anything away, so instead I’ll tell you the three times I fell in love with it. Firstly, when I played it. Secondly, when a friend played it and liveblogged the experience to me. And thirdly, when I was playing something garbage for review and thinking, why do I even love games? And the answer was Outer Wilds. 

Kenneth – Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (2012)

Much of this decade of my life has been pushed forward by the sheer force of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. Danganronpa and its sequel came to the US when I was just starting my career in journalism. Getting your foot in that particular door can be a long, exhaustive process, and at the time it felt like there was so much riding on it that when there were setbacks, long stretches without progress, or just a fear that none of it was going to have been worth it my mind went to the darkest corner it could find.

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is a game about getting out of that darkest corner. On the surface it’s a murder mystery orchestrated by an animatronic teddy bear, full of the adventure game exploration and puzzle solving that facilitates some of the most elaborate and memorable mysteries the genre can offer. But beneath the somewhat straightforward (albeit horrifying) premise is a story of hope, understanding that doesn’t mean you are without despair, but that you yearn for a future worth finding. It’s a story that I put into my skin in ink, and I don’t know what my life would have looked like without it. That’s why it’s one of the most important games of the decade to me.

Caitlin – Battle Chef Brigade (2017)

Since the game of the decade conversation began, I’ve gotten multiple shocked reactions when I’ve stated that this would be my pick. I’ve talked about this game a ton, but I feel like I’ve never really been able to distill what about this game is so magical to me. So, of course, I’m going to try to do it in 200 words. 

Battle Chef Brigade is the only game I’ve ever played that felt like home. It’s cozy afternoons spent in the kitchen with my father, learning the skills I have never been able to pass on myself because they feel as natural as breathing. It’s finding the perfect ingredients for an experiment that will either be incredible or a disaster, and the joy of existing in that possibility space. It’s the warmth you can only feel when you’ve made the perfect meal for the people you love and get to watch them take that first bite. It’s chasing dreams knowing that there’s always someone to fall back on if you try and don’t succeed. But mostly, it’s an often much needed reminder of all the wonderful things that make getting out of bed worth it in the end. 

By Jordan Oloman

Geordie journalist with a passion for old-school adventure games and everything melancholy. Bylines at IGN, Kotaku, PCGamesN, Playboy and more. @JordanOloman

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