Hello Dear Reader! It’s that time of y- Decade, again, just checked my watch- Again?? It’s OUR FIRST RE:BIND HOLIDAY SEASON. What a wild ride it’s been since we started in January!
To celebrate, we’re doing something a little different. Prior to kicking off our most important titles of the decade, we have reached out to our community to solicit their thoughts.
Now, I know you’re all eager to dig into that nice wooden cake up there.. so without further delay…. Let’s BEGIN!
Laura Lorian (@LauraLorian)
The LISA games. Never have I seen a game that encapsulates trauma, toxic masculine attitudes, and the cycle of abuse as well as LISA did.
Night in the Woods. This game rulz ok. Perfectly eerie, yet makes you feel “comfortable” from the very beginning. Extreme apt commentary on capitalism, too.
Stardew Valley. This game really makes you feel like part of a community. Each character is crafted extremely well, with storylines that further your attachment to the town that makes up the games setting. I sank so many hours into this game that going back and playing it is like returning home.
Hyper Light Drifter presented an incredibly unique world that was filled with intricate detail and visual storytelling.
Hotline Miami was violent, unforgiving, stylistic, and essentially popularised the synthwave genre of music. Nothing makes you feel more powerful than being able to smash your way through hundreds of people, and nothing hurts more than walking all the way back and seeing what you’ve done.
Journey was the first game of it’s kind I had ever played, and I fell instantly in love with not only the aesthetic. but the dang music, which I have continued to listen to regularly even years after touching it last.
FAITH, for creating a genuinely horrifying experience using a style that I couldn’t possibly imagine myself being scared by.
And her picks for influential AAA games:
Dark Souls, but mainly for its world-building and attention to detail.
Outer Worlds, not only for being an in depth RPG with a wonderful story, but also for giving us some mainstream LGBTQIA+ representation
Little Red Lie is, without equal, the bleakest and most honest game I’ve ever played. It’s profoundly, utterly in touch with a certain kind of pain that most have felt but few wish to acknowledge, and states with unflinching directness (and commensurate eloquence), unobfuscated by sentimentality or metaphor, so many things other games refuse to even begin to consider as possibilities: insurmountable debt, hopelessness, pathetic loneliness, the desperate fear of having been left behind.
Darkwood is a rare breed of game that manages to subvert or reject nearly every expectation and cliche of its genre, and a near-perfect horror game whose successes rest squarely on its dedication to concepts that on paper should not work. Dread, horror, and even sadness permeate every layer of its design in such a manner that even when the player becomes aware of its tricks, the sense of extreme unease only grows. I also firmly believe that it’s one of few titles that actually manages to meaningfully encapsulate the “survival” part of “survival horror” beyond stupid inventory puzzles and colour-coded animal locks.
Dear Esther remains for me the perfect walking simulator: a short, solitary experience mercifully stripped free of any actions except walking and contemplating, with unbelievable amounts of textual and aesthetic density. Its literary excesses, for all the grandiloquence and rambling, never feel gratuitous, especially compared to its longer, later peers: it feels like a work that demands neither player nor witness, whose ambitions and address desire no audience — no fawning press, no awards judges, no armchair critics — except perhaps the titular Esther.
The friends of Ringo Ishikawa — a self-described “existential open-world beat’em up” in which you, the player, “just live there and feel. And that’s all.” — is one of few very games that genuinely seems to understand above all else the value in doing nothing. Even games like Shenmue and Yakuza, both of which ostensibly explore mundanity, insist upon the necessity for discretionary activities to be engaging, if not “fun”. Ringo doesn’t care about that however; its only concern is the inscrutable banality of living moment-to-moment, the days of one’s youth wasting away, and whatever beauty — however little — one may find in that.
And his picks for important AAA releases:
The Division — both the first and second game — brought to the table cities that remain virtually unparalleled in both the density and fidelity of their respective recreations. Although there are plenty of games that may feature interesting cities, none feel anywhere near as in touch with the texture of modern urbanity (and its collapse and reconstruction) than The Division. The games also do an excellent job, however unintentionally, of establishing a convincing hierarchical examination of the post-American capital state apparatus, in all its pettiness and atrocity.
GTA V Online is probably the most convincing indictment of capitalism I’ve ever encountered. When I started, I spent all these hours grinding menial jobs with shit payout, looking up guides and assembling repetitive mission playlists just so I could earn barely enough money to be able to do it a tiny bit faster; and then suddenly one day while I was just sitting there in my car or whatever some hacker came in and started dropping like $1bn bounties or something, which of course I claimed. I proceeded to go on the biggest spending spree I’ve ever indulged in and for a few days or so I was elated: I had this huge fucking penthouse, a garage full of supercars, all the clothes I wanted. I sat there and looked down at all the other players still grinding down in the street, killing each other for $5k, and I realised then and there that, having reached the top, there was no point whatsoever in playing anymore. It wasn’t that I had gotten tired of the game necessarily, or even felt I’d finished it: I was just suddenly overcome with this profound feeling of emptiness and realised that from that point on, no matter what I did thereafter in the post-game, it would just feel like some increasingly diminishing echo of something I did before. So I quit
[encrypted] — A short-form roguelight about mysterious symbols, cryptology and the insurmountable demise of all. A gentle poem of a familiar formula, and one that has lingered within my memories for some long while
Earthtongue — An estranged garden nurtured under distant horizons, brimming with small fauna and flora of some unkempt nature. An adoring friend during the smaller hours of the morning
Pan-Pan — About dwelling on one’s sense of adventure, gentle environmentalism and the serenity of getting lost on an abandoned island. Fix your downed spaceship and in time, sail away
Much gratitude to everyone who shared their best picks with us this year! Join us in Part Two soon!
Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for rebind.io and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice