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Outlast 2 Religious Themes Outlast 2 Religious Themes


The Use of Catholic Themes in ‘Outlast 2’



Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on November 1, 2017. 

The conundrum Outlast 2 and many other Catholic-based horror stories have presented

If you’ll bear with me for a moment, I have a personal anecdote that relates to Outlast 2.

When I was 16, I went through one of the biggest religious rites of passage for Catholics: Confirmation, the process in which Catholics are blessed by the Holy Spirit to further strengthen their relationship with God. But before we stand in front of a Priest (or in my case, a Cardinal) and have our foreheads smeared with oil, there are usually classes we take first. These range from bible study, to the history of Catholicism, to learning about the ceremony itself. I had to take two years of these classes before the church said I was ready to be confirmed. I remember nothing from these classes, except for one group activity that raised stereotypical Catholic guilt to a new level.

I was in a large room with about 50 other people my age who were just weeks away from becoming confirmed. This was the last activity of our retreat, and the vibe of the room pulsated with seriousness and uncertainty. A woman stood before us and asked us to help pass out three items to everyone in the room: a folded red paper, a nail, and a list of mortal and venial sins, totaling around fifty. This list contained the standard Ten Commandments and the seven deadly ones, but the rest were designed to make us feel guilt over having sexual feelings for the opposite (or same) sex, guilt over cheating on a math test, or guilt over telling a white lie. She instructed us to punch a hole through that red paper for every sin we had committed on the list, and then to unfold the paper when we were done.

I made around ten holes in the paper. When I unfolded it, a picture of Jesus was staring back at me. “This is what you do Jesus every time you sin,” the woman yelled after the majority of the room had unfolded their papers. The nail, the holes—it all came together. I started laughing. Everyone stared at me. It was all unnecessarily dramatic. Now, 14 years later, I understand what they were trying to impress upon us in classic Catholic guilt fashion; during the rite of Confirmation, there is a brief call-and-response period in which all candidates answer in unison, “I do,” to a few questions, the first being, “Do you reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises?”

Catholics believe it can be something as simple as a lapse in commitment to one’s faith that allows the devil to take hold of your soul. In the most extreme of cases, this leads to demonic possession. But, the devil persuades you, influences you in such a way that any decision to fall into sin and ultimately reject God is your own fault. It is only through confession, penance, and possibly exorcism that a person can find their way back to God. That is the main theme in Catholic-based horror—the internal struggle between good and evil.

Outlast 2 not only uses that as its main theme to drive the story, but it does so without making use of demonic possession or exorcism. Guilt and the corruption of the soul are two very Catholic tropes that Outlast 2 uses to create its unsettling tone. It presents itself in juxtaposition—the switching back and forth between the Arizona desert and Blake’s Catholic elementary school, Saint Sybil—which establishes the traditional theme of the internal struggle between good and evil, against sin.

Warning: Major story spoilers. Read at your own risk.

While Outlast 2 doesn’t seamlessly tie together the events in the desert to Blake’s visions of the past, both stand on their own to represent the internal struggle with evil. Blake’s visions are more obviously Catholic-oriented than any encounter with Sullivan Knoth or his cult members, but the cult represents the influence of the devil and the perversion of God’s word, while Blake’s memories can be seen as the guilt he constantly carries around with him, and possibly his belief that he is deserving of punishment because of his lapsed faith.

In terms of the cult, they are followers of the Testament of the New Ezekiel, which isn’t that different from a part of the actual Book of Ezekiel, simply for the fact that they both use apocalyptic imagery. Ezekiel wrote his book from exile, after the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar in 596, and spoke of the difficulty keeping people from sinning and worshiping false prophets. Both sub-factions of the Testament of the New Ezekiel in Outlast 2 are exiled, as well, into the desert of Arizona. While both have opposite views concerning the birth of the anti-Christ, Sullivan Knoth, his followers, and the opposing Heretics cult, are the epitome of the Second Commandment, not unlike the exiled peoples of Ezekiel’s time, and are driven by murder and lust. Their representation is not symbolism nor metaphor, but rather a direct representation of all that God warns against in the Old Testament.

Unfortunately for Blake and his wife, Lynn, they get caught up in the apocalyptic hysteria between the two clashing factions. For what can only be described as mystical or divine intervention, Lynn becomes visibly pregnant mere hours into the story’s timeline. The Heretics believe Lynn’s unborn child is the anti-Christ and will do anything to protect her from the Scalled, who want to kill Lynn to prevent the anti-Christ from being born. The one voice of reason in Outlast 2 is a minor character by the name of Ethan, who lost all faith in the Testament of the New Ezekiel when Sullivan Knoth raped and impregnated his 15-year-old daughter, and ordered him to kill the baby because Knoth proclaimed it to be the anti-Christ. Of course, Ethan is killed not to long after Blake meets him, and what symbolic chance at salvation Blake once had is gone.

Lynn is absent the majority of Outlast 2, as the central conflict is for the player to find and save her, so this gives players a chance to get to know Blake more intimately. While the connection between the present and his past as a child enrolled at Saint Sybil isn’t completely clear, given the overall theme of the game those scenes present Catholic guilt in a subtle yet equally sinister way. The game briefly mentions that Lynn was also a student at the same school. She isn’t present in these flashback sequences, but a mutual childhood friend of theirs is: Jessica.

One important scene with kid-Blake and kid-Jessica infers that they have a childhood crush on each other. They wander the halls of their school alone, Blake insisting he has to get home, but Jessica convincing him to stay. Not too long after, the children turn a corner and run into Father Loutermilch, one of their teachers. Loutermilch scolds them for being alone together, laying on the Catholic guilt thick and suggesting that what they were doing—acting like innocent children, really—was shameful in the eyes of God. He then tells Blake he’s free to go since he’s actually a good student that doesn’t get into trouble, but comments on Jessica’s reoccurring behavior problems. Jessica begs Blake not to leave her there alone with Loutermilch, but Loutermilch forces Blake to leave.

While it’s only alluded to, this scene in Outlast 2 is a direct commentary on Catholic priests molesting children, which later escalates into scenes of Jessica hanging from a noose in one of the school hallways. All these scenes together imply that Loutermilch raped and murdered Jessica, staging his crime to look like a suicide. Blake’s feelings toward this revelation are not exactly touched on, but the fact that he’s having these flashbacks at all not only tell players that he blamed himself for her death and still carries that guilt around with him, but also that he has long suspected that Jessica didn’t commit suicide.

From a Catholic perspective, that kind of perversion within the Church is extra disturbing. If these priests who ask us to reject Satan and all his works also succumb to the same sins we are told to confess, then what kind of salvation can the rest of us hope to have? The guilt over our own sins often takes precedence. Blake’s guilt for not doing anything to rescue Jessica is stronger than his repulsion toward Loutermilch. Sullivan Knoth, in some perverted and twisted way, feels guilt over impregnating Ethan’s daughter because it was conceived through sin and because he had the baby killed. The Cardinal that officiated my Confirmation helped protect priests accused of abuse from law enforcement within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. These are all very different situations, but for Blake, his guilt is on the same magnitude of severity.

That’s the exact conundrum Outlast 2 and many other Catholic-based horror stories have presented: the perception of sin and the guilt that follows. We may think we are doing the right thing, but as evidenced by Sullivan Knoth, his followers, and the Heretics, insanity masquerades as God’s will, even for Blake. Blake misses his second shot at redemption when he fails to save his wife’s life, but by the end of the game, Lynn’s pregnancy comes full-term and Blake is able to save the baby. The sun rises over the horizon, filling the desert town with serene light and warm relief. But, as Blake walks away from the town, cradling the baby in his arms, one question still lingers: is he really holding the anti-Christ? This ending is the ultimate Catholic lesson about the internal struggle between good and evil. Blake won’t ever really know the magnitude of his sins until he is judged by God.

Joanna Nelius is a Southern California native who was raised on age-inappropriate games, yet somehow turned out alright. She has been an editor and contributor for several small gaming publications, as well as speculative fiction and academic magazines, for the last few years. When she has some free time, she usually spends it exploring abandoned buildings or watching Unsolved Mysteries—and finding good homes for her twisted horror and sci-fi stories.



  1. Serge Aris

    November 4, 2017 at 1:35 am

    Sorry to disagree. While the flashbacks are set in a catholic school and there’s a rapist catholic priest, the dude’s cult screams protestantism all over the place, and the fact that the developers took inspiration for the game from the Jonestown mass suicide only reinforces that. There’s more catholic themes in the first part of bloodborne than in the entire outlast 2.

    • Joanna

      November 5, 2017 at 5:40 pm

      Take into consideration that, historically, in many places around the world, the Catholics and Protestants did not get along. So, if the cults scream Protestantism (which I disagree with), it can still be said that they reflect the a specific historical Catholic perspective of Protestantism, which is/was basically sinful. Protestantism also rejects the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy and sacraments, but they use many of the same prayers as the Roman Catholic church with a few alterations. But, Outlast 2 uses its own twisted version of the Act of Contrition, which is a Catholic prayer.

      Also, the Jonestown mass suicide wasn’t based in Protestantism;
      it was a new religious movement founded in 1955 by Jim Jones called the
      People’s Temple. It had Christian-based practices, but it was largely about apostolic socialism. The Temple preached that “those who remained drugged with
      the opiate of religion had to be brought to enlightenment — socialism.” That cult was more anti-religion any anything else, where-as Knoth’s cult in Outlast 2 is based in Catholicism. A clear example of this is that one of the names he goes by is Father Knoth; father denotes priest in the Catholic religion.

      • Serge Aris

        November 6, 2017 at 10:48 am

        Ok here’s the thing:

        While the issues of good vs. evil, invluence of the devil guilt, corruption of the soul, are christian themes, if you mention “catholic themes” I would expect themes that apply to the catholic churc, not to any christian denominations regardless of origin.

        Using the same prayers doesn’t make the game’s cult catholic-inspired. The apostles’ creed is a pretty good example: It’s a catholic prayer but many protestant circles use it, not without taking the time to explain that, when it says “holy catholic church” it doesn’t really mean “holy catholic church”. The different calvinist denominations use that same prayer, but that doesn’t mean they are “catholic inspired” That only means they took the prayer. So when you say the cult is based on catholicism because they have a similar act of contrition, that is inaccurate because that would mean calvinism is based on catholicism because they have the same apostle’s creed.

        People’s temple is a protestant church because it started just like any other protestant church: Jim Jones simply took the same book and came up with yet another interpretation to create his own church where he would be the one calling the shots. And what you say about “remaining drugged with the opiate of religion” and how that cult was more anti-religion is simply another protestant dogma that goes by: “Jesus is not religion”. “Jesus is not religion” is the new “once saved always saved”

        For Knoth’s cult to be based on catholicism, said cult must have direct references not only to “universally christian” themes like good vs evil, put references to how the catholic church works as a whole, and it should definitely have more than a couple of similar prayers. That’s why I say (and others too) that the Bloodborne church fits that perfectly. What direct references does the outlast 2 cult have besides the common prayers (that I already mentioned above)? The guy calls himself Father Knoth… Well, sorry but using that single title doesn’t cut it, specially when some protestant leaders (IRL) call themselves bishops or deacons, also catholic titles.

        He could call himself “bishop Knoth” or “Deacon Knoth” and that will not make him any less protestant. Also, remember that, according to the plot, Knoth was a salesman-turned-preacher after he supposedly had a vision or heard something telling him that he was some sort of prophet that needed to start a new church because none of the churches pleased God. Who are the ones that self-proclaim preachers? Who are the ones that start a new church because none of the existing churches are good enough? Not catholic priests… There are even protestant preachers that call themselves the reincarnation of Jesus, but so far I haven’t heard any part of catholic doctrine that teaches a random priest is Jesus reincarnated.

        You could argue there’s some sort of confessionary inside, in the part where they are torturing someone on a wheel, but that confessionary is a purely gameplay/scripted event element since it only serves to the purpose if hiding inside it to watch someone being tortured, and that same room proves it: how come there’s a confessionary but no altar, no lectern, no statues, no virgin Mary, no place for the eucharist… for a supposedly “catholic-inspired cult” it certainly lacks a lot of catholic-specific elements. At least the Oedon Chapel in bloodborne had an “ad orientem” kind of altar and statues of the gods and amygdalas…

        Unlike in Silent Hill 3, where you also get inside confessionary, and you hear Claudia on the other side “confessing” (and you can even decide to give absolution or not). That’s a direct reference to catholicism. Having a confessionary randomly placed inside a temple with no catholic motifs is not.

        You are still free to disagree, but “common prayers”, using the “father” term, or having a confessionary inside a protestant-decorated temple don’t make it “catholic.” So I would agree with your idea about “outlast 2 using catholic themes” if there were actual catholic themes, not “universally christian” themes in the game (like the theme of good vs evil or the devil), and if whatever catholic elements in the game didn’t enter in direct contradiction with the protestant themes surrounding it (like having a confessionary inside a church with no catholic motifs, or having a “father Knoth” that functions more like a protestant pastor). I don’t know what the devs’ intentions were, but if their intentions were to make a purely catholic-themed plot for both sides of the story, they failed in one of them because they evidently didn’t make enough research, unlike the devs from games like Silent Hill or Bloodborne.

        But at least they got the part about the rapist catholic priest right… although that part has nothing to do with the testament of the new Ezekiel cult.

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Interview with John Staats, First-Level Designer for ‘World of Warcraft’

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with John Staats, first-level designer for the launch version of World of Warcraft.



The first iteration of World of Warcraft, often called “Vanilla WoW,” has a strong pull of nostalgia for many fans. From inspiring countless other MMOs, to imbuing an entire generation of players with memories that they will never forget, to inspiring Blizzard to re-release it earlier this year, Vanilla’s footprint is undeniable.

Recently, I had the chance to talk to John Staats, a first-level designer on World of Warcraft‘s initial launch, to discuss his recent book, The Wow Diary: A Journal of Computer Game Development, which chronicles his own personal experience with developing WoW‘s initial release.


In a lot of ways, The WoW Diary reminds me of Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Kotaku’s Jason Schreier. Both books address the challenges of game development, including the incredible amount of hours that game developers work and the dreaded “crunch” when a project has to be delivered on time. Your section on how your colleagues described their work on StarCraft was particularly interesting. What do you think is the public’s biggest misconception about how developers work?

The biggest misconception is how expensive developers are! Most publishers and studio heads are always portrayed as the bad guys, but the truth is there’s so much risk in game development, it’s just insane. If a company is upfront about long hours, then I see no problem with longer hours to some point. Unfortunately, the law isn’t so flexible. After WoW shipped, we dropped to capped 40-hour weeks (mandatory) and it sucked. Everything was so schedule-conscious that we stopped experimenting.

Studios are all different. Some people asked if unions were the answer, and they might help in some cases, but they would make other situations worse. There would certainly be fewer games out there without crunches. I dunno. I’m from Akron, Ohio. I’m just happy to have worked in the entertainment industry!

As a developer, even at somewhere like Blizzard, fan feedback seems like it’s able to affect team morale. In the book, you mention a few cases of this. What was it like to work under the pressure of fan expectations?

World of Warcraft feedback wasn’t nearly as bad as Warcraft III, because the company was too quick to promote their first 3D title. Making a 3D game has such a sharp, painful learning curve that engine re-writes caused long delays. The fans were unfamiliar with the long waits associated in making 3D games, so they were especially angry.

The class designers definitely had it bad on World of Warcraft. People never post when they’re happy, the forums are usually very negative. And there’s strange “voodoo” where people report glitches or errors that aren’t really there. There’s a LOT of voodoo reports that designers need to verify, and that eats up their schedule.

Kevin Jordan once joked that he was going to claim to be a character artist at the launch party signing table, just to avoid being drawn into discussions about rogues versus shaman duels. For the most part, WoW was so much better looking, better playing, better running than the competition, we had it easy. Still, we put pressure on ourselves: for the most part, the fans were pretty cool.

World of Warcraft

You state in the book that you got your start in modding computer games on the PC. Did you have any prior experience with other game systems, or was your only experience with the PC?

PC only. I was actually a Macintosh user exclusively because I was in advertising in NYC. I bought my first PC in the mid-1990s. As a Mac person, there weren’t many games available (thank you, Steve Jobs), so I only played a few titles on my roommate’s machines. They always had to kick me off whenever they came home.  When I got my own, I relentlessly played FPS and strategy games.

One of the more interesting comments that you make in the book, and one that I was curious about while reading, was the following: “Writing stories is so easy it seems nearly half the people in the industry want to do it[…] it’s unreasonable to expect players to follow a storyline, detailed or subtle.” Do you think games are ever capable of delivering complex and subtle stories, or is it beyond the medium’s scope?

I honestly doubt stories will become more subtle for most genres. Most games pull the player’s attention to non-story elements like socialization, user interface, goals, and combat tactics. Looking for things is rarely fun. It’s just too hard to expect the average player to follow nuanced stories… and you never want to risk players becoming confused with your plot.

You use the phrase “computer games” throughout the book instead of the more commonly used “games.” Was there a semantic reason for this?

Ranchers and farmers are in the agricultural industry, they have a completely different set of concerns.

There’s a huge difference in developing computer games versus console games. It’s so much easier to make games for a console. They’re far more predictable, and optimized for specific types of games. Developers are influenced by all kinds of games; pen-and-paper RPGs, tabletop board games, card games, handheld devices… and all of them are very different to produce. I didn’t want to lump everything into the “games industry.”

You mention early on that you’ve suffered “a neurological problem in [your] hands that hinders [you] from using a computer for significant lengths of time.” Given the increasingly interconnected nature of modern society and how much time you spent on computers during your career in the games industry, how hard was it to adjust?

I played FPS games before I became a level designer. I played up to 14-16 hours a day when I had the time. That’s without stopping, BTW. I would eat leftovers between matches. I was nuts.

John Staats World of Warcraft

Blizzard and Nintendo have always seemed like analogous companies to the outside public. Both spend large amounts of time and money crafting games that have long-standing appeal and excellent quality. Both don’t worry about winning the public relations war and, instead, depend on the endemic quality of their games to do the talking for them. Did anyone ever make that comparison inside of Blizzard?

It was a very conscious effort to avoid distractions. There’s so much temptation for some people to jump into every conversation, there was a company-wide mandate to keep your mouth shut. We had Bill Roper for our spokesperson, and if the public thought he personally made all our games, that was fine with the developers (he wasn’t even a dev!). This lets every member of the company, as a whole, take credit for the collective products. Other industry developers will weigh in on every conversation, and journalists will seek out the same developers for opinions. On top of the risk of crossing wires with the company’s official opinion, so much exposure could create jealousy.

At one point in the book, you mention that an acquaintance of yours, Scott Hartin, had worked making console games in Japan and hated it. Was this a common complaint among those who had worked in Japan?

He’s the only person I know who’s worked there, and it was something he said in passing. I thought it such an interested idea, that different cultures tend to work in different ways. Who knows? Perhaps it might have just been the studio he was in, that made them work that way.  

Ragnaros and the Molten Core raid have emerged as a large part of the lore surrounding the vanilla release of World of Warcraft. It’s also something that you mention receiving compliments from fans about. What part of Molten Core are you the most proud of?

I’m proud that we ninja’d it into the shipping game without the producers having it on our to-do list! It was a passion project Jeff Kaplan rallied people around. I’m glad he did. We were working on so many bugs after we shipped, there’s no telling how long it would have taken to update the live servers with a content update like MC.

As a historian, having an oral history of one of gaming’s largest and most influential games is an incredible resource. In the beginning of the book, you say that you struggled with compiling your development diary because, to a large degree, you were afraid of underrepresenting some of your hardest co-workers. In the end, why do you think more oral histories, such as your book, aren’t published?

I can absolutely tell you it’s because the author needs to take notes. I can’t do a sequel to The WoW Diary because I stopped taking notes after we shipped. There’s just no way, I’d get everything wrong, or release a bland, broad-strokes version of how things went down. That’s where my book stands out, the details make the story vivid.


World of Warcraft

Blizzard released WoW Classic back in August. What are your thoughts on it?

I’m surprised they did. No one has ever done something like this before. Redoing someone else’s work doesn’t sound like a fun project for developers, who are in nature, creative people. It just isn’t fun to walk in someone else’s footsteps. I’m also keenly interested to see how it plays out. Do they relaunch expansions? Does it affect the retail version? I honestly don’t know, but my popcorn is ready!

Blizzard has been criticized recently for their communication with players. How different does it feel when you are on the corporate side of that relationship?

No one is criticized when your games stink. LOL! Seriously though, complaints never stop, so it’s never a big deal. Whether it’s about lawsuits or controversy, Blizzard usually takes the high road, and disengages from distractions; it lets them focus on what they want to be known for… making good games. I’m glad to see they’re still doing this.

Final question. As something of a hardware nerd, I’ve got to ask, how did developers handle the rapidly progressing technology of the late 90s and early 2000s, when Moore’s Law was in full effect? 

Blizzard games sell well because they target low-end systems. Most studios weren’t, and aren’t, smart enough to realize this. Most studios want to be the first kid on the block to have a shiny new feature. While the industry chased after expensive features that narrowed their audience to customers who had top-end computers, the savvy companies focused on the low-end machines. To answer your question, Blizzard avoided the Moore’s Law trap.


A big thank you to John Laats for agreeing to be interviewed and providing us with a review copy of his book. If you’re interesting in learning more about John Laats, his work, you can find him at his website.

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Indie Games Spotlight – Looking Ahead to 2020




Indie Game Spotlight

The year is coming to an end. The holidays are just around the corner. We’ve already published our list of the best indie games of 2019 and now it is time to start looking forward to 2020. In what is sure to be our last Indie Games Spotlight of 2019, we take a look at some of the indies set for release next year. This issue includes a student project that led to the creation of an indie studio; a story-rich and fully narrated puzzle game; and a comedic occult adventure game that takes place during World War II. All this and more!


Imagine, “if Limbo and Portal had a weird baby.”

Aspyr and Tunnel Vision Games announced that their long-awaited, award-winning puzzle game, Lightmatter, arrives on Steam on January 15, 2020.

Lightmatter is an atmospheric, first-person puzzle game set inside a mysterious experimental facility where the shadows will kill you. The game tells a sci-fi story about a maniac inventor who has created the ultimate power source called Lightmatter. Players must explore the facility in an attempt to discover the hidden plot while facing challenging puzzles that require mastering different light sources to survive.

Not only does the game look great but what’s even more impressive is that Lightmatter originally started out as a university project where a group of Medialogy students wanted to explore lights and shadows as the primary gameplay mechanic in a puzzle game. After creating a 15-minute prototype, the team offered it as a free download on Reddit. To their surprise, the game became an overnight success with thousands of downloads and multiple accolades from game conferences around the world. It didn’t take long before they created Tunnel Vision Games with the mission to take the light/shadow concept further and turn it into a fully-fledged game. The rest, as they say, is history.

Nine Witches: Family Disruption

Nine Witches: Family Disruption

Investigate the Occult

Nine Witches: Family Disruption is the comedic occult adventure game you’ve been waiting for. From Blowfish Studios and Indiesruption, the game takes place in a rustic Norwegian village on the fringe of World War II, where a supernatural scholar investigates the Nazi’s plan to conjure a dark ancient power and strike a devastating blow to the Allied powers. Players must investigate their plots by communing with a variety of eccentric characters from the realms of both the living and the dead. It’s your job to unravel a mystical mystery and put a stop to the Okkulte-SS’s evil schemes before it’s too late.

Nine Witches: Family Disruption was born from my desire to blend world history with magic and my personal sense of humor,” said Diego Cánepa, designer, Indiesruption. “I’m grateful Blowfish Studios are using their powers to help me bring the game to consoles and PC so this story can be enjoyed by players across the world.” If you like indie games with beautiful, retro-inspired pixel art and a comical story dripping with gleefully absurd, dark humor, you’ll want to check this out. Nine Witches: Family Disruption summons supernatural hi-jinks to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam for Windows PC in Q2 2020.


Explore a mysterious ship.

Ahead of next year’s anticipated release of Filament, Kasedo Games & Beard Envy have revealed an exclusive look into the making of the upcoming puzzle game with the first in a series of short dev featurettes. Developed by three friends in the front room of their shared house, Filament is a story-rich and fully narrated puzzle game centered around solving sets of cable-based puzzles whilst exploring a seemingly abandoned spaceship. According to the press release, Filament lets you freely explore the mysterious ship, solving over 300 challenging and varied puzzles in (almost) any order you like.

If you’d like to learn more, we recommend checking out the short episode series which explains the complexity and variety of puzzles and offers an insight into how the game was made. Filament will release for PC and consoles next year.

West of the Dead

The Wild West has never been this dark.

Announced at X019 in London, West of Dead is a fast-paced twin-stick shooter developed by UK-based studio Upstream Arcade. The game stars Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Sons of Anarchy) as the voice of the main protagonist William Mason, a dead man awakened with only the memory of a figure in black. His existence sets into motion a chain of events that have truly mythic consequences.

Thrown into the unknown procedurally generated hunting grounds of Purgatory, your skills will be put to the test as you shoot and dodge your way through the grime and grit of the underworld. No one said dying would be easy and West of the Dead will surely test your skills. The battle for your soul will take place on Xbox One, Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC in 2020.

The Red Lantern

Survive the Alaskan wilderness in this dog sledding, story-driven, rogue-lite game

We first took notice of The Red Lantern during a Nintendo Direct earlier this year and ever since we’ve been impatiently awaiting its release. The Red Lantern is a resource management game where you and your team of five sled dogs must survive the wilderness and find your way home. Set in Nome, Alaska, you play as The Musher, voiced by Ashly Burch (Horizon: Zero Dawn, Life is Strange), as she sets out to train for the grueling Iditarod race.

The game combines rogue-lite elements into this story-driven adventure game, where hundreds of different events can occur—like fending off bears, resisting frostbite, attending your dogs, or receiving a signature moose-licking. This might be the first and last dog-sledding survival game we will ever play but that’s fine by us because judging by the screenshots and trailer, the game looks terrific. The Red Lantern is Timberline Studio’s debut game and is funded by Kowloon Nights. The game will be releasing on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch in 2020.

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The Best Games of the 2010s




Best Games of the 2010s Best Games of the Decade

The 2010s have spoiled us with an abundance of amazing games released year after year, and with the decade quickly drawing to a close, some would argue it is the best decade for video games yet. The choice of AAA titles, MMOs, indies and even mobile games is simply overwhelming. In no other decade have we had so much variety and so much to choose from making it extremely hard to pinpoint what our favourites are. Truth be told, many of us still have some catching up to do. Not everyone has played every game nominated below, and how could we considering some of these games require hundreds of hours of our time to complete? Thankfully we have enough writers on staff to be able to cover it all, and as expected, none of us seem to agree on every winner. It wasn’t easy to choose from our many favourites but we narrowed it down to one winner and five special mentions for each year. At last, here are the best games released in the 2010s.

Best Games of the Decade


2010) Mass Effect 2

Bioware’s Mass Effect announced itself as a different kind of game. The natural evolution of games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old RepublicMass Effect offered gamers a whole universe of possibilities. Depending on their choices, their protagonist could be a cocksure rogue or an unrepentant optimist, a cold pragmatist or a warm confidante. Regardless of your choices though, what Mass Effect really offered was the chance to enter a world and experience it in your own individual manner.

Mass Effect 2 doubled down on this prospect in a way that was almost inconceivable. Giving players a bigger galaxy to explore, more characters to journey through it with, and more refined gameplay with which to devour it, Mass Effect 2 arrived as the sequel that fans never even dreamed was possible. A game with so many different possibilities for outcomes that there was an ending designed as if the player had died in his quest, there was literally no wrong way to play Mass Effect 2.

While the sequel ended up having to pull back on these ambitions, Mass Effect 2 still remains a game that made players believe that literally anything was possible, and for that reason alone, it remains a one of a kind, unforgettable experience. (Mike Worby)

Runners-Up: Call of Duty: Black Ops, God of War III, Red Dead Redemption, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, Super Meat Boy


2011) Dark Souls

Like Mass Effect 2Dark Souls is less an original prospect in and of itself, and more the perfectly refined version of a very good idea. Hidetaka Miyazaki may have hit upon a gold rush with his experimental action-RPG Demon’s Souls, but it was Dark Souls that really hit paydirt. Transporting the hybrid single-player/multiplayer experience into an ever-growing open world that devoured itself like an ouroborosDark Souls didn’t just perfect the experience that its predecessor had plotted out, it laid the groundwork for an entire genre.

Players still relentlessly speed run, troll, experiment with and redefine what Dark Souls is, and what it means to them, nearly a decade after its initial release. Check Twitch or YouTube on any given day, and you’re likely to find dozens of gamers re-exploring the world of Lordran, and seeing what it might offer them in this reincarnation of its virtues and faults, concepts and confines. Such is the result of a game so endlessly replayable that it doesn’t even ask before plonking you back at the beginning after those end credits. After all, why not spend a little more time in this world? (Mike Worby)

Runners-Up: Batman: Arkham City, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Minecraft, Portal 2, Rayman Origins


2012) Xenoblade Chronicles

It’s hard to find a game as niche as Xenoblade Chronicles. A JRPG, published in North America two years after its initial 2010 release on the already-sunsetting Wii, it seemed an unlikely prospect for success. After all, the Wii was perhaps Nintendo’s most family-friendly console, a system designed around casual audiences and motion controls; its successor, the Wii U, was just around the corner. It made little sense to release a JRPG, of all things, when the system was on its last legs.

Despite launching at the tail end of one generation and the beginning of the other,  Xenoblade Chronicles delivered one of the best JRPG experiences in decades. Xenoblade creator Tetsuya Takahashi, with a checkered history of ambitious games that failed to fully deliver on their promises, finally perfected his craft.  A gripping narrative, a spectacular score, and an innovative focus on blending the best of both Western and Japanese RPGs made Xenoblade Chronicles a stunning achievement and the best JRPG to ever come from Nintendo.

Seven years, and two critically praised sequels, later, and Takahashi has yet to recapture the magic in the original Xenoblade and rekindle the pure, unadulterated sense of exploration and adventure that made it such an enjoyable experience, a testament to how unique and incredible this JRPG truly is. (Iszak Barnette)

Runners-Up: Diablo III, Far Cry 3, Hotline Miami, Journey, The Walking Dead

The Best Games of the 2010s

2013) The Last of Us

With The Last of Us, the cinematic-loving geniuses at Naughty Dog proved themselves once again as one of the most accomplished development teams in the world. The confident and handsome survival thriller was instantly hailed as the new bar for what gaming could and should be moving forward. The Last of Us is Hollywood stuff, of course, and it borrows from dozens of carefully chosen inspirations, among them George A. Romero’s original Dead trilogy, The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. While the game’s cynical portrayal of survivors turning on each other is a very familiar premise – The Last of Us is also the rare video game that follows a traditional storyline and then improves upon it. Set twenty years after a pandemic radically transformed civilization – The Last of Us follows Joel, a salty survivor, who is hired to smuggle a fourteen-year-old girl, Ellie, out of a rough military quarantine. What begins as a straightforward, albeit risky job, quickly turns into a highly emotional, palm-sweating journey that you won’t ever forget.

The Last of Us mixes traditional adventure, survival, action, stealth, and constant exploration. Amidst the action, the horror and the many layers of modern mythology at work here (all quintessentially American), the game succeeds simply as a parable of what it means to live versus surviving. By the time you get to the last act, you understand why The Last of Us is the stuff of legends. The ending is simply amazing and not because it ends with a bang, but instead, because it ends with a simple line of dialogue. It’s intense and, yes, depressing – and it earns every minute of it.

Exhausting to play but oddly exhilarating to experience, The Last of Us works its way under our skin to unnerve, reside and haunt us. From the rich, complex combat system to the sublime sound design, this game immerses the player from start to finish. The Last of Us proves how far the craftsmanship of making video games has come from the outstanding engineering and art and sound design to the fine direction and performances, and the touching relationship of the two leads. It shouldn’t be a surprise that The Last of Us is our favourite game of 2013 because it works on every level: as a violent chase thriller, a fantastic cautionary tale, a coming of age story, and a sophisticated drama about the best and worst qualities of humanity. There’s something for everyone here to appreciate! (Ricky D)

Runners-Up: Bioshock Infinite, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, DOTA 2, Gone Home, Grand Theft Auto V

2014) Mario Kart 8

Nintendo was so confident about Mario Kart 8 that they implied it could turn the tides of both sales and public consciousness on the Wii U. Of course, Mario Kart 8 didn’t end up doing that, but it did handily exceed the expectations of its legion of naysayers, such as the infamous Polygon pie charts. Five years later and it has not only gone down in the record books as the highest-selling game on that fateful console, but is also the highest-selling game on Nintendo’s renaissance console, the Switch.

While the appeal of Mario Kart remains perennial, Mario Kart 8 is an especially special Mario Kart. Its controls are the most fluid and refined, its visuals the most lush and detailed, and its courses the most vibrant and fully-realized. Moreover, its breakneck 200cc mode, wealth of fantastic DLC courses, and Deluxe-specific battle mode have given Mario Kart 8 incredible replay value, depth, and variety despite lacking an adventure mode. At launch, Mario Kart 8 was the peak of the series, the best modern kart racer, and a game of the year contender. Now, with tons of extra content, over thirty million copies sold, and the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that Mario Kart 8 may become known as the greatest and most popular racing game of all time, kart or otherwise. (Kyle Rentschler)

Runners-Up: Bayonetta 2, Divinity: Original Sin, Hearthstone, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, Valiant Hearts: The Great War


2015) Bloodborne

FromSoftware pioneered a new genre and difficulty standard with their Souls series, but Bloodborne’s their magnum opus. The sordid streets of Yharnam teem with monsters, and hacking through the bloody lot of them is a visceral (and challenging) delight.

I made it through Bloodborne with minimal trouble, felling most bosses in two or three tries. But the last boss, the dude whose name starts with G (no spoilers), kicked my ass to the moon and back. I fought him for a whole weekend, dying upwards of fifty times. I thought I couldn’t do it, that I’d have to throw in the towel, for this was a mountain I couldn’t scale. But then something unexpected happened: I won! I flawlessly dodged his attacks, steadily chipping away at his lofty life bar until he kicked the bucket. The sensation of elation I experienced upon victory was a high that lasted for hours, and that’s when it clicked for me “This is why there’s no easy mode”. (Harry Morris)

Runners-Up: Life is Strange, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Rocket League, Undertale, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt


2016) Persona 5

When it comes to JRPGs, there’s no shortage of turn-based level grind-y time sinkers on offer, but Persona 5 is something different. It’s both unabashedly inspired by its genre brethren, yet wholly unique. Where countless JRPG stories crumble under the weight of “That’s flippin’ nonsense”, Persona 5 serves up a rewarding narrative driven by a wildly loveable band of misfits. Its relationship-building mechanics (that inspired Fire Emblem: Three Houses) are addictive, and its user interface is award-worthy. Every facet of this genre masterpiece is meticulously honed to perfection, and its bigger and better iteration (Persona 5 Royal) can’t come soon enough. (Harry Morris)

Runners-Up: Final Fantasy XV, Inside, Overwatch, Pokemon Sun and Moon, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

2017) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

What’s perhaps most remarkable about Breath of the Wild is just how familiar yet simultaneously refreshing it feels. Breath of the Wild may be the biggest Zelda game to date, but it still feels like a Zelda adventure — in spirit, story, tone and in gameplay. You play as the young courageous Link, the hero of Hyrule, who awakens from a cryogenic sleep chamber inside of a small cave and teams up with the eponymous princess (so to speak) and sets out on an adventure to destroy the horrible fanged, boar-faced Calamity Ganon, a megalomaniac holding Princess Zelda hostage and bent on destroying Hyrule. The narrative setup is more or less standard for a Zelda game, but Breath of the Wild has something that was missing from the series for far too long — perhaps since the original title was released back in 1986.

Much like that original, Breath of the Wild is a game that begs you to keep exploring and it does this right from the start, immediately instilling a real sense of mystery, no matter how familiar you are with the series. As soon as you emerge from that opening cave, you’ll find yourself on a vista, looking out at the beautiful mountains and ruins of a post-apocalyptic, techno-plagued world. And from that moment on, the world is your oyster.

Since its arrival in 1986, the Zelda series has always pushed the technical boundaries of whatever console it has graced and Breath of the Wild continues this tradition (times two). Epic, mythic, simply terrific, Breath of the Wild brought a new kind of experience to fans across the globe. In return, it demands your attention. It’s such a landmark in video games that labeling it a masterpiece almost seems inevitable. Though in the end, most of what makes Breath of the Wild so beloved is Nintendo’s determination to constantly challenge themselves while crafting an unforgettable experience that also doubles as a commentary on the freedom of playing on the Switch. That a game of this magnitude can be playable anywhere you go, is a remarkable feat. (Ricky D)

Runners-Up: Cuphead, Hollow Knight, Horizon Zero Dawn, Resident Evil VII, Super Mario Odyssey

2018) God of War

To take their beloved franchise, turn it on its head, and deliver an experience that surpasses its acclaimed predecessors was no easy task for Sony’s Santa Monica Studio, yet they smashed it! God of War pays homage to its roots, whilst simultaneously bounding headlong into uncharted waters. It embraces modern conventions but utilizes them in a way that feels fantastically fresh.

Kratos’s journey with Atreus through the universe of Norse mythology is a masterclass in both character study and organic world-building, and a far cry from the one dimensional “Kratos angry, Kratos kill things” fare of old. Combat strikes a balance between strategic nuance and gory glee, and the Leviathan Axe feels badass to swing around. Discussing this game is more often than not an exercise in rattling off cool qualities, because there’s just that many things to dig about it. (Harry Morris)

Runners-Up: Celeste, Monster Hunter World, Red Dead Redemption 2, Spider-Man, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Best Games of the Decade

2019 ) Fire Emblem: Three Houses

With three stories that can change depending on the choices taken, Fire Emblem: Three Houses really does allow the player to choose the path they wish. Much like previous Fire Emblem games, what the player does and chooses is at the heart of the game, with benefits and consequences for each action taken. With three different houses to discover, Fire Emblem: Three Houses can be replayed countless times while never feeling like the same game.

It’s easy to get enchanted by all the personality, charisma, and cheesiness the game has outside of battles, that it’s even easier to miss the tactical ingenuity within battles. Fire Emblem: Three Houses has shaken up much of the battle formula from previous Fire Emblem games, creating a much more fragile web, requiring a balancing of personalities and classes that can develop constructively for the rest of the game. This means every brick you place from the start of the game will affect how well your house stands by the end of the game. It’s a clever design that can catch even the most ardent Fire Emblem veterans out there.

But most importantly of all, each story doesn’t feel rushed or out of place. That isn’t just the three main stories but every characters’ own personal story. Some of the characters are a little overly cloy for my personal tastes, but that isn’t to say they didn’t fit the narrative. Their story was woven into the main story without a slip or a bump. It is that Fire Emblem: Three Houses is more than just how the player develops, but how each character develops around them. (James Baker)

Runner-Up: The Outer Wilds, Disco Elysium, Control, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Resident Evil 2

Best Games of the 1990s | Best Games of the 2000s | Best Games of the 2010s

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