RELEASED 1998 | LAST POSITION 43
Chris L: There’s no need to simply wax nostalgic about one of the most influential and celebrated shooters of all time: Half-Life is still perfectly playable today. Sure, the graphics might make you blanch, but the fun is still entirely intact. The scripted set-pieces are still a joy to witness, the combat still feels frenetic and thrilling, and Gordon Freeman’s transformation from oversleeping scientist to planet-saving action hero is still one of the best experiences in games.
Phil: I enjoyed the funicular sequence almost as much as I enjoyed learning that those diagonal lift things were called funiculars.
59 Pillars of Eternity
RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 48
Angus: This remains the poster child for the RPG renaissance. Though Pillars’ reams of text tend towards the flowery, they bring the sort of colour to the world that physical rendering and the fanciest 3D models can’t. Nuanced party members emerging from unexpected corners make for a lively trip through a classic fantasy world. And if you get tired of roaming? The 15-level megadungeon under your keep should keep you busy.
58 BioShock Infinite
RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION 38
Tony: This intelligent and ambitious game is many things, but one of them is simply a thumpingly good FPS. Lightning and crows stream from your fingers. Bullets and death stream from the peppermill gun of the porcelain-faced George Washington you’re fighting, but that’s OK because you can grab a sky-hook and race through the air in combat that is literally on rails. The battle on Comstock’s airship is one of the most exciting, intense and exhausting I’ve ever had in singleplayer.
Samuel: Never the most popular BioShock in this list, the dreamlike feel of Infinite’s gorgeous environments makes for some of the most effective world building I’ve seen in any game. I think it’s a fun shooter—I don’t like that side of it as much as Tony—but I don’t think anyone who enjoys games should miss getting to experience the floating city of Columbia first hand.
57 Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
RELEASED 2003 | LAST POSITION New entry
Samuel: Still a great in BioWare’s oeuvre, and the best representation of the Star Wars universe in videogames. Set thousands of years before the films, this RPG explores the war between the Sith and the Republic, your place within it becoming shockingly clear over time. It’s still very playable, even if it looks low-fi, and characters like assassin droid HK-47 made far worthier contributions to the canon than the prequels ever did.
56 Hitman: Blood Money
RELEASED 2006 | LAST POSITION 54
Phil: There’s a good chance the new, episodic Hitman game—simply called Hitman—will one day be regarded as the best. Until that happens, Blood Money is the finest collection of intricate stealth murder puzzles around. Do you manipulate the environment, causing your target’s ‘accidental’ demise? Do you pose as one of their guards, and catch them with their proverbial pants down? Do you find a big gun and just shoot everybody? All are valid solutions, although some feel more legitimate than others.
Blood Money stands out because of its levels—both in design and conception. Previous games sent Agent 47 on a scattershot world tour, but Blood Money is more focused, and more interesting because of it. From the suburban home of a gangster, to the White House, Blood Money is a subversive tour through American popular culture.
RELEASED 2012 | LAST POSITION New entry
Tom M: Everything from the puzzles to the art style tricks you into thinking this is a straightforward puzzler. But that clean pixel art is dotted with complexity that makes the world of Fez feel alive and lived in. The puzzles and platforming are easy for those who don’t want to go too deep, but ludicrously hard for the few who keep digging. It’s a game where 100% completion means you aren’t even halfway to finishing everything there is to do. A game that presents you with a funny looking foreign language, and then later demands you decode that language if you want everything the game has to offer. You get as much out of Fez as you are willing to give.
54 Final Fantasy XIV
RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION New entry
Daniella: This takes all of your favourite monsters, locations and themes from the series and puts them in a single, beautiful world to explore. I’m choosing to forget the version that launched in 2010, and only counting everything since the excellent A Realm Reborn. It’s constantly updated so there’s always something new to do, and you ride Fat Chocobos while wearing Moogle slippers. What else do you need in life?
53 Darkest Dungeon
RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION New entry
Evan: Darkest Dungeon clicked for me when I figured out I had to play it like I was a Dark Ages version of Lumbergh from Office Space. Instead of being a protective parent to the adventurers I recruited (as XCOM encourages, for example), I had to become the type of unfeeling boss who rolls up to his battered lackeys and says, “I know you just caught the Black Plague, but yeah, I’m gonna need you to come in on Saturday to fight a bunch of menacing fishpeople.”
Unlike many other ‘campaign’ games, Darkest Dungeon punishes emotional investment in your team. It’s usually in your interest to treat characters like disposable batteries, using them to earn valuable trinkets and resources to upgrade your unsettling estate, then throwing them away when they’re too diseased or mentally devastated to be worth the coin it’d take to restore them.
52 Battlefield: Bad Company 2
RELEASED 2010 | LAST POSITION New entry
John: This was the first Battlefield to use DICE’s Frostbite engine, and it soon proved itself to be a crucial part of a winning formula. Though lacking BF2 ’s urban sprawl, the more rural areas and new Rush game mode gave way to a new wave of tactics online. It was the first Battlefield where destroying buildings, flattening jungles and deploying sheets of smoke really made players feel like they could re-shape each level.
51 League of Legends
RELEASED 2009 | LAST POSITION 35
Wes: It’s still the biggest game in the world for a reason: it took the addictive ingredients of Dota and refined them into a purer, and mercifully simpler, game. It merely takes hundreds of hours to master instead of thousands (and yes, I’m being pretty loose with “master” here), but Riot understood which ingredients were core to the MOBA recipe and which complicated the mix.
The five-man team composition, the three-lane map and jungle, battles over map positioning and gank opportunities, item progression and character roles: LoL honed in on these things and made them fun to play. It may not have the touch of spice added by couriers and denying and the other dizzying layers of strategic depth you’ll find in Dota 2, but it’s still an immensely satisfying competitive strategy game to devote mind and reflexes to.