For me, it’s Breath of the Wild, and it’s not particularly close. I think I called it the “game of my life” after I finished playing it, and it is still absolutely that.
There are many things that go into that. I’ve always liked Zelda, beginning with the DS ones, and then the 3DS remakes of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask (especially that one, which is somewhere between #3-5 on my all-time list). I am invested in the story those games tell, no matter how simple it is, and the verbs they use to tell it. And then, with that already going for it, the game just hit my life at the right (well, wrong) time.
And by the that, I mean it hit me in the middle of a, in hindsight, pretty deep depression, during a particularly cold and lonely semester of college when most of my close friends were elsewhere or abroad. Mixed reviews for filling that kind of hole with video games, but the 140 hours I sunk into BOTW over those two months or so did not feel like filling a hole. They felt like discovering a world, learning its peaks and crevices, witnessing moments of immense beauty and melancholy, and in doing so feeling like a version of myself that I liked a little bit more than the one that had enrolled in way too many credits to have something to do with himself that semester.
My clearest memory of that game isn’t even of any of its big moments or setpieces (even though the labyrinths and Eventide are close behind). It was just coming back from a night class around 9pm, settling in for a couple of hours before I went to bed, and combing my way across the Hebra Mountains in the northwest part of the map. There’s nothing essential there. No memories to find, no Divine Beast. Just some shrines and some secrets, but I wanted to find them all, see what was over the next hill or valley, continue this long, soothing, incremental journey. And those couple of hours, out of over a hundred, just stuck with me so deeply they come back to me whenever I think about that game.
And the thing is, that isn’t the way I play games. I’m not a completionist, and I generally lose interest in games once my main tasks are cleared. I don’t play on after endings, and I usually just feel lost without very clear objectives. I’m not really the type of player to spend countless hours playing with systems or combing over the deep details of a world. Breath of the Wild is the one exception, and because of that my relationship with it is funadmentally different than any other game I’ve played (except, maybe, Outer Wilds, which is both the closest thing to it that I’ve played and would be my #2 answer to this question). It made me care about things I don’t usually care about in games. Explore and experiment in ways that felt novel and creative. And it was a source of elation and discovery when I needed it the most.
So yeah. Seems pretty easy to call it my game of the decade.