You are currently viewing 10 Most Surprising Games of the 2010s

10 Most Surprising Games of the 2010s

There’s something about surprising games. While you see some great games coming from a mile away, there are others that nobody could have anticipated. More often than not, it’s those games that you remember most.

That’s almost certainly going to be the case with the 2010s. A quick look at the most unexpected games of the decade reveals that many of them were the absolute best of the decade. Even in an age of information, a game can still come along that nobody saw coming and nobody can stop playing.

Here are 10 of the most surprising games of the 2010s.

10. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

surprising games

Final Fantasy XIV was a joke. The game was so bad, in fact, that Square Enix decided to shut it all down in 2012. Few people lamented the loss of a mediocre MMO released in the waning days of the genre. Fewer still cared when Square Enix revealed they would be relaunching the game.

Yet, FFXIV: A Realm Reborn proved to be one of the best MMOs…well…ever. This almost entirely reimagined game stands as proof that the culture of constant video game updates can be a good thing when utilized by the right developers willing to put the work in. Few games have ever been “saved” quite like Final Fantasy XIV.

9. The Walking Dead: Season 1

surprising games

Yes, it was based on a popular series. Yes, it was developed by a known studio. However, at the time of The Walking Dead‘s release, games based on known series weren’t exactly known for their quality. For that matter, developer Telltale Games was largely seen as a gimmicky studio that had failed to produce a true hit.

Imagine everyone’s surprise, then, when The Walking Dead turned out to be one of the most memorable video game narrative experiences ever. The “Telltale” formula eventually ran out of gas, but The Walking Dead showed that it was capable of putting writing, characters, and heart in the spotlight like few major releases had done before.

8. Doki Doki Literature Club!

surprising games

To the untrained eye, Doki Doki Literature Club was an anime visual novel featuring sexy characters amongst a sea of anime visual novels featuring sexy characters. Anyone who didn’t already care about this game when they saw it on Steam probably saw no reason to care about it.

That is until people started playing it. Doki Doki Literature Club utilizes your expectations of what it is in order to deliver a shocking experience that will forever challenge your pre-conceived notions of gaming genres. More than just a huge surprise, Doki Doki is a genuinely great game.

7. Beat Saber


The jury is still out on modern V.R. technology, but most people can agree that V.R. has yet to produce many true hits that feel like they couldn’t have been done without the help of a V.R. headset.

Beat Saber is a rare example of such a game. Described by some as “Guitar Hero with lightsabers,” this quirky rhythm game became the medium’s most surprising star. V.R. may be unproven and rhythm games may be past their prime, but Beat Saber remains an irreplaceable experience.

6. Flappy Bird

surprising games

Every week, countless mobile games that utilize borrowed assets and simple mechanics hit the various app marketplaces. 99.9% of them go by without much notice.

Meet the .1%. It’s still tough to explain why the simple (and simply addictive) Flappy Bird became such an instant overnight sensation, but the game became so popular that its creator eventually became overwhelmed and essentially had to abandon it. It was a genuine phenomenon.

5. P.T.

Briefly mentioned at the end of a PlayStation presentation, we’re willing to bet most people didn’t even bother to try P.T. when it was released to the public. Those that did try it, though, soon let everyone else know what they were missing out on.

Not only was P.T. actually a stealth preview for a Silent Hill game made by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro, but it happens to be one of the scariest standalone horror experiences ever made. The eventual fallout between Kojima and Konami and P.T.’s disappearance would only elevate this game’s legacy.

4. Stardew Valley

surprising games

The idea of modern digital marketplaces is that modern creators are able to gain the exposure they were never treated to before. In practice, though, there are often simply too many games on the marketplace for many new titles to really distinguish themselves.

Through sheer force of creative will, though, Stardew Valley managed to go from a game nobody had ever heard of to one of the most beloved titles of the last decade. This homage to Harvest Moon is charming, creative, and quite simply one of the most addictive titles of the last decade. It proves that the little guy can sometimes win.

3. Rocket League

Rocket League began its life as a game called Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars which was largely a market failure. Still, its developers believed in the concept. So, they pushed the title to various streamers and content creators before eventually offering a re-worked version of the game for “free” via PlayStation Plus.

That’s when something amazing happened. Millions and millions of people downloaded Rocket League just weeks after its PlayStation Plus debut. This little game of “car soccer” went from obscure gem to global phenomenon in about one month. As many of you know, it deserved every bit of success.

2. Fortnite: Battle Royale

Fortnite launched as a PvE game that many people felt was destined to become a potentially historic failure. When developer Epic announced that they had created a “battle royale” mode for the game just a few months after its debut, most people assumed it would be the last gasp for a game few people cared about in the first place.

Instead, Fortnite: Battle Royale became such a global phenomenon that it was eventually featured in the highest-grossing film of all-time. Fortnite would not only widely popularize the battle royale genre but eventually transcend it. We may never see another instance of a game grow in popularity quite as this one did.

1. Minecraft

The alpha version of Minecraft released in early 2010. It was a simple title that would eventually become the best-selling game ever made.

Minecraft‘s journey from there to here is the story of support. It’s developers constantly supported the title and added to it. Its fans fiscally supported the title and devoted hours to its various versions. Content creators built their own careers sharing what they built in the game.

Minecraft changed the way that games are developed, released, shared, and experienced. It’s also just a damn good game.

Matthew Byrd

Matthew Byrd covers the gaming industry including indies, consoles, PCs, iOS and Android apps, as well as topics related to entertainment and technology.