50 Max Payne
RELEASED 2001 | LAST POSITION 69
Samuel: The Payne games hold up because developers don’t make shooters like that any more. It’s all cover shooting these days, but bullet time offers an empowering experience like nothing else—Max Payne was largely responsible for that phenomenon and no other game topped it. It still feels sweet to land headshots with dual berettas, and the shlocky, fourth wall-shattering noir storyline is a lot of fun. Its best remembered level is the nightmare sequence where Max follows the trail of blood and screams to his dead wife and child, but the whole story is full of interesting twists and turns, depicted through gorgeous comic book panels. The sequel is fantastic, too. How about a fourth entry that dials up the noir again?
49 Valkyria Chronicles
RELEASED 2014 | LAST POSITION New entry
Tom M: This is probably one of the most ‘PC’ JRPGs in existence. It’s a strategy game at heart, a peculiar blend of turn-based tactics and pseudo-realtime combat set in an alternate reality WWII. Nothing about the themes and genres it combines should work on paper, but the concoction that resulted is one of the most compelling and unique tactics games ever made. It took six years to make it to PC, but it was worth the wait.
48 Medieval II: Total War
RELEASED 2006 | LAST POSITION New entry
Matt: I’ve spent thousands of hours wrestling with France, unifying Spain and healing the Byzantine Empire, but Medieval II still feels full of surprises. Unlike later Total Wars, it’s alive with accidental stories. Nothing feels forced. I can go back to a save I haven’t played for years, look over the map and remember every charmless princess and useless prince. It’s history brought to life, with the bonus of being able to change the bits I hate.
RELEASED 2014 | LAST POSITION 25
Tim: Hearthstone remains in a strange place: hugely popular to watch and play, yet hardly taken seriously by anyone, including some of the pros who play it competitively. Nonetheless, as seen with Overwatch, no developer does polish quite like Blizzard, so it’ll be fascinating to see whether Gwent or The Elder Scrolls: Legends, both of which come with built-in fanbases, are able to seriously challenge the mad RNG king.
46 Dragon Age: Origins
RELEASED 2009 | LAST POSITION 26
Samuel: Oh thank God, a less controversial Dragon Age game. This bridges two generations of BioWare RPG, and in many ways is the most complete game the studio has made, offering an all-encompassing vision of Thedas and its inhabitants. The deep, strategy-focused combat system is fantastic, too.
Chris T: A big comforting fantasy novel of a game. If Dragon Age: Origins had a smell, it would smell like old library books.
45 Guild Wars 2
RELEASED 2012 | LAST POSITION 47
Phil: You can’t fault it for its generosity. It’s a free-to-play MMORPG with no subscription options, funded by its paid expansion and a microtransaction store that avoids exploitation. It offers a huge, beautiful RPG world, a fast, responsive combat system, and event chains that encourage the formation of ad hoc groups. Guild Wars 2 takes the restrictions once thought inherent to the MMO genre and removes them.
44 The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
RELEASED 2002 | LAST POSITION 60
Steven: Morrowind will always be my favourite Elder Scrolls—even if it hasn’t aged well. If there’s one key aspect of this open-world RPG that continues to set it above all others, it’s that Morrowind’s island of Vvardenfell is a fantastically alien landscape I never want to leave.
Matt: Everyone remembers their first Elder Scrolls game, and Morrowind still stands out for me as a bold, open, alien experience, with the best main quest.
43 Arma 3
RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION 45
Evan: I’ve loved watching Arma mature from Operation Flashpoint to become one of the most popular games on Steam today. Bohemia’s milsim platform unifies many of the things we consider to be at the heart of PC gaming: a play-how-you-want philosophy, ridiculous fidelity and scale, passionate player communities, huge modding potential, and software that pushes the limits of your CPU and GPU. All that congeals in an experience that’s as serious and cinematic or silly and light as you want it to be, depending on who you’re playing with and what scenario you’ve loaded up.
Some of Arma ’s maps, like Chernarus, are based on satellite-modelled terrain. That authenticity lends Arma this rare feeling of natural beauty, and it makes all the difference when you’re double-timing it to link back up with your squad, falling from a smoking helicopter, or idling behind a rock for ten minutes waiting to ambush a convoy.
Phil: I love the Zeus mode, which lets a player build multiplayer scenarios on the fly—placing vehicles, soldiers and buildings in response to the successes and failures of the team below. We played it in the office, with Andy as our omnipotent overlord, and I got that same feeling of malevolent intent as from Left 4 Dead ’s AI director. Only worse, because it was Andy.
RELEASED 2011 | LAST POSITION 88
Daniella: Usually lumped together with Minecraft, it’s often dismissed as the ‘lesser’ world-building game. By idiots. The 2D perspective and pixellation takes a little getting used to, but it’s a lot more adventurous than its famous cousin, with a greater range of biomes to explore, bosses to fight, and oddities to discover. Here the zombies wear anoraks when it rains, flying fish are angry with you, and your ultimate aim is to fight a Lovecraftian god.
Tom M: Five years later, they’re still updating Terraria. Despite it being at least three times as big as on the day it launched, the developer has never sold DLC or charged for a content patch.
41 Baldur's Gate II: Shadow of Amn
RELEASED 2000 | LAST POSITION 30
Andy: I love it when games make you feel like a stranger in a strange land, and BGII does this brilliantly. Transplanting the hero to Amn against their will is a brilliant device to change the setting, and it’s one of the most vibrant, interesting places I’ve explored in an RPG—particularly the giant city of Athkatla. It’s a huge game, with complex characters, hundreds of hours of questing, and a deep turn-based combat system.