20 Team Fortress 2
RELEASED 2007 | LAST POSITION 4
Phil: Not as new or flashy as Overwatch, but age has its benefit. What other class-based shooter has such a breadth of stuff to do? You have the many, many maps, the library of weapons, and modes ranging from co-op robo-smashing to experimental grappling hooks. TF2 ’s history is found in dialogue, across battlegrounds, and in Valve’s hilarious comics and short films. Also, and this is key, it’s still a really good multiplayer game.
Evan: TF2 struck, and continues to strike, a perfect balance between being an FPS with great depth within each of its nine, ever-evolving roles, and a game that you could hang out in comfortably for hours at a time, casually catching up with friends as you plotted your next Kritzkrieg. Overwatch ’s six-on-six, short-round intensity can’t give you that. It’s the first multiplayer game to have cohesive, lovable lore.
19 XCOM 2
RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION New entry
Chris T: The gradual reinvention of this sci-fi strategy series took some big strides here, from the inverted setting (you’re invading the world to free it, rather than freeing the world from invaders) to the nitty-gritty of class balance and mission design. It’s let down a little by a weak conclusion, but there are many brilliant successes (and terrible tragedies) to be enjoyed on the way.
Tom S: It’s an extremely strong survival game that masterfully applies pressure for the majority of the campaign, successfully expanding on Firaxis’s 2012 reboot of the series. Breaking stealth to initiate a chain reaction of offensive abilities feels amazing every time.
18 Mass Effect
RELEASED 2008 | LAST POSITION 49
Chris T: It’s not an overstatement to say that Mass Effect overturned two genres at the same time. Thanks to BioWare’s sci-fi epic, every action game is now an RPG and every RPG is now an action game. The original is a classic for its music, big ideas, and its phenomenal final act—a series of well-orchestrated crescendos the sequels failed to match. As the series prepares for its return next year, this is well worth revisiting.
RELEASED 2007 | LAST POSITION 3
Tim: It’s testament to BioShock’s eerie sense of discovery, and the lasting impact of its big reveals and ambiguity, that few first-person games since have left anything like the same impression, which perhaps partly explains Irrational’s own eventual disintegration. How do you top that first Little Sister choice anyway?
Chris L: It combined so many things so well: horror, action, exploration, and story, not to mention giving us so many different options for combat and character building. Rapture remains one of the most memorable and intriguing locations in games. Shame about the water damage.
Andy: The descent into Rapture is unforgettable, the music swelling as Ryan’s introduction video slides away to reveal the city in all its eerie, ominous glory. The ecosystem and the variety of ways to battle its residents make this one of PC’s smartest shooters.
16 Alien: Isolation
RELEASED 2014 | LAST POSITION 19
Andy: The retro-futuristic aesthetic gives it a brilliantly unique visual identity. The fiendish intelligence of the alien and the oppressive atmosphere make it one of the most effective horror experiences.
Angus: The horror starts at the loading screen: the tiny Sevastopol Station hanging in the blackness of space, dwarfed by a gas giant. It epitomises the old line that in space, no one can hear you scream. That won’t stop you though.
RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION 24
Wes: Devote months to mastering its platforming physics, its many moving parts and many secrets, and you’re only left with a deeper appreciation for how everything interlocks. Understanding how a random jungle enemy can wander into a shop, pick up a boomerang, and trigger a shopkeeper’s rage doesn’t stop those kinds interactions from being endlessly entertaining.
Shaun: I’ve died over 3,000 times but I’ve only completed the game twice, but I don’t really play Spelunky to beat it. I play it for the moments Wes describes, to witness its countless simple variables interact in funny and often enlightening ways.
Phil: Spelunky mitigates its randomness through its many possible objectives. Do you aim for Olmec, for the City of Gold, or just one of Tunnel Man’s stupid requests? There are hundreds of smaller successes along the way.
14 EVE Online
RELEASED 2003 | LAST POSITION 26
Tyler: EVE is the ultimate social sandbox, which is why more people care about it than actually play it. It’s the ongoing story of real struggles and losses, pirates who build giant citadels on the far side of wormholes, saboteurs and double agents, wars that span months and grudges that span years. It’s a political, economic, warfare sim that remains unmatched in its breadth and drama.
Chris T: Very few games create history. There are record-breaking success stories, certainly, and someone will one day write a history of esports—but never in the sense that EVE creates history. This impenetrable space politics sim has seen friendships turn into alliances, rivalries turn into year-long wars featuring thousands of players. EVE is important because success and failure in EVE matters in a way that it simply doesn’t in other games: first in the world to build a Titan, or one of the new Citadels? That’s an astonishing feat of planning, logistics, personnel management and spycraft that can’t be replicated by just any player. It’s this that makes EVE so impenetrable, but also why it’s important that it exists.
Steven: I’ve never felt more morally conflicted by a videogame than EVE Online . Watching the wreckage of a lowly mining barge drifting in space while its pilot sits in his escape pod, helplessly captured by my warp disruptor. He begs me to let him go. It’s in that moment of his desperation that a tiny drop of humanity bleeds through the blackness of the virtual galaxy around me, and I can’t help but feel a sting of guilt. Somewhere, on the other side of my computer screen, someone is angry and hurt because of something I did, and I can’t get that thought out of my head.
13 Deus Ex
RELEASED 2000 | LAST POSITION 8
Tony: Within the boundaries of its huge maps, this untidy and increasingly ugly cyberpunk adventure let me go anywhere and try anything. The modern prequels look prettier, but they compartmentalise their freedom into little boxes.
Phil: Deus Ex’s freedom applies to the story too, rewarding you for paying attention and not simply accepting what you’re told. It’s still the most immersive of the immersive sims.
12 Dota 2
RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION 18
Chris T: An astonishingly deep team-based action-strategy-RPG thing that has become a secret language for hundreds of thousands of players. Dota 2 will always repel a certain number of people who try it—God knows I’m never getting the PCG team to try it again—but it remains one of the deepest and most gratifying competitive experiences you can have. Every other MOBA is a paddling pool: Dota 2 is an ocean.
11 Kerbal Space Program
RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 17
Phil: Space travel is predicated on complicated equations, technological advancement and brave, hardy astronauts. Not here, though, where space travel requires trial-by-error tinkering and green imbeciles. The equations are accurately modelled, but Kerbal ’s success is that it gives you the freedom to learn from your own mistakes. You build a rocket, fly it, and then build a better rocket that’s less likely to spin out and explode.