The 100 best PC games of all time

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80. Grim Fandango

Release Date: 1998
Last year: 40

Ed: Dark, funny and full of more class than a classy cruiseliner filled with first class cabins that host round the clock classes teaching the class system. Grim Fandango is set in a limbo world of the dead, yet is full of appreciation for the deeper concepts of life. It is a tale that progresses so naturallly and wonderfully that by the end I was strangely moved, and ended up feeling more at peace with myself. If you’re crap at adventure games play it with a guide, though don’t rush through it too fast. Instead, take some time and allow yourself to soak up the story and atmosphere.

Tom F: I'll second that - using a walkthrough just lets you enjoy the characters, the mood of the place and the fantastic visual imagination. There's really no sense torturing yourself with the puzzles, they were never the point.
The amazing thing about Grim Fandango, apart from all that, was that your journey ended up being four years of your life. You reach a dead end in your search for Meche, and suddenly it's a year later and you're running a swanky club. Something felt very real and personal about that.

Tom S: One wonderful scene in Vena Cava has you mumbling nonsense rhymes into a microphone in a room full of dead beatniks. In many ways Grim Fandango is like a beat poem, drawing almost random elements together and fashioning them into something strange and inspired. It opens with a tale of corporate dysfunction set in aztec skyscrapers on the Mexican day of the dead, and goes on to tell a story of love, corruption and posthumous redemption in one of the most imaginative worlds I’ve ever encountered.

79. Galactic Civilizations II

Release Date: 2006
Last year: 74

Tom F: My graph is bigger than your graph, sing it.

Tom F: OK, that's not helpful.

Tom F: I was going to say something about the sense of adventure that exploring and expanding across an undiscovered galaxy gives you, how its AI opponents feel like aggressively intelligent minds as passionate about victory as you are, the way custom building every ship in your fleet gives you extraordinary tactical flexibility and a personal attachment to your empire. Then I got distracted by a graph.

78. Crysis

Release Date: 2007
Last year: 76

Graham: There are two reasons why Crysis is great. One: it’s smart. The suit powers are a clever way to give you wonderful choices about how to approach the game, letting you play as a cloaked killer, a speeding train, or a human wrecking ball. They’re all fun, and when used in combination make you a free-running tank. Two: it’s so, so dumb. Like a lot of games, Crysis has the subtlety of a Bruckheimer action movie, but it’s unique in having the scale to match. As you travel across the game’s tropical paradise, mountains crack open, space ships blot out the sun, and nuclear explosions astonish.

Cooper: Crysis got a bad wrap because of the insane gaming rig necessary to play, but if you had a computer that could run it, Crysis was one of the best in the genre. The visuals were, obviously, stellar, but it was much more than that. Over time, the gameplay became... customizable. You could stealth in the middle of a group of enemies, grab one by the throat, throw him, drop a trip-mine, and run away before they even knew you were there. You were Batman mixed with the Predator mixed with The Flash, and it was freaking incredible. The expansion, Crysis: Warhead, turned down the plot and turned up the over-the-top gameplay, so, you know, it was also awesome.

Dan: I threw a turtle at a chicken.

Craig: That turtle had one day left till retirement. :(

77. Command & Conquer: Red Alert

Release Date: 1996
Last year: New entry

Dan: An opening cinematic that begins with a time-traveling Albert Einstein whacking Hitler and ends with the stirring Hell March theme, cinematics star a sexy spy and Joseph Stalin, and some of the best over-the-top superweapons ever to grace a fast-paced RTS make Red Alert one of the most memorable games ever.

Graham: I always preferred the sequel, for its Ray Wise opening (“I don’t give a wooden nickel about your legacy!”), but the original was similarly fantastic. In a world where still people struggle to make worthwhile singleplayer RTS campaigns, developers could do worse than aping Red Alerts silliness.

Chris: The reason to keep FMV alive. Hell, the cutscenes in Red Alert were better than anything in the new Transformers movies. I almost felt bad for Stalin when Nadia poisoned him. Almost.

76. Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn

Release Date: 2000
Last year: 25

Richard: While the original was pretty shaky, Baldur’s Gate 2 took everything Bioware had learned about making RPGs and produced a classic – particularly the second chapter, which simply cuts your party loose to make money via hook, crook, or epic adventure. And when you’ve finishedn it, the expansion, Throne of Bhaal, manages to be even better.

Troy: All the Mass Effects and Dragon Ages in the world can't escape the shadow of Bioware's sprawling D&D epic. It had class specific hero quests, a giant world filled with loot and villains and dragons, and a second chapter that went on forever so you could explore the world before being rushed to the ending. It also gave birth to the now de rigeur and frequently annoying relationship mechanic, so it's not all perfect. But when I am asked about my favorite RPG ever, BG2 is the easy and expected answer.

75. Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri

Release Date: 1999
Last year: New entry

Richard: Civilisation usually ends with a trip to Alpha Centauri. This is what happens next, as humanity breaks up into philosophical factions and sets out to tame the hostile unknown. With its mix of hard-science, genuine personality, and one of the most advanced strategy worlds ever, we’re still longing for a sequel.

Tom S: It’s Alpha Centauri’s personality that made it stand out. Each of the faction leaders had their own curious foibles. Lady Diedre had that Mind Worm fetish, Chairman Yang had his thing for nerve stapling his citizens and Colonel Santiago wanted to reinvent diplomacy by killing everyone who disagreed with her. They were all as mad as each other, and it was a pleasure to meet them all, and then annihilate them.

74. Burnout Paradise

Release Date: 2009
Last year: 75

John: I almost never replay games. I’m too busy and handsome. I’m on my fourth go through BP. And I don’t even like racing games that much. It’s madly splendid, letting you smash through, jump over, and race down for ever and ever and ever. Although if I ever hear Paradise City again I might blow up the Earth.

73. Zuma's Revenge!

Release Date: 2009
Last year: New entry

Evan: Peggle for men.

Rich: What is Peggle for, then? Unstoppable global hyper-men?

Evan: Unicorn-loving billiards players. Zuma is the only PopCap game on our list because it takes the best mechanics of the dev’s other games and raises the tempo. You’re a Aztec frog-gun that spits colored balls into a snaking line of more colored balls to make matches. So like Tetris, it’s subtraction by addition--played with a time-limit--and it generates the same sort of narrow triumphs and almost-had-its. The feeling of nestling a ball just where it needs to be, in the nick of time, matches the emotion I get from a game-winning Counter-Strike headshot.
Tom: Peggle is better. This game is let down by its pegless design philosophy. No pegs is not nearly enough pegs.

72. Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger

Release Date: 1994
Last year: New entry

Andy: I remember being blown away by game’s demand for over 30MB of hard disk space. Thirty freaking megabytes! What were those insane Origin developers thinking? I only had a 105MB drive in my 386 to start with. Once I got over my initial shock I was lost in this space romp for weeks. The cinematic cutscenes gave Mark Hamill a much-needed career boost (such as it was) and the space combat was as addictive as crack.

Rich: Mark Hammill went on to play Cock-Knocker in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. Wing Commander, what did you do.

71. Spelunky

Release Date: 2009
Last year: 51

Tom: I am not kidding or exaggerating or any wronger than usual when I say this is one of my ten favourite games of all time. Other games have randomly generated levels, but Spelunky is the only one where the randomised elements are the ones that produce the puzzles, hazards and mechanics of the game. Each one it generates isn't just aesthetically fresh, it's something you have to think about in a new way. A genuinely endless adventure.