20 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
RELEASED August 2012 | LAST POSITION 14
Evan: In a couple of years, Valve has taken what was originally meant as a way of repackaging CS for last-gen consoles and transformed it into the premier modern competitive FPS on any platform. Integrated skill-based matchmaking (and, let’s be honest, thousand-dollar knives) has reinvigorated the CS scene.
19 Alien: Isolation
RELEASED October 2014 | LAST POSITION New entry
Andy: It took a while, but in 2014 we finally got the Alien game we always dreamed of. The one where we’re cowering, terrified prey. Inspired by Ridley Scott’s subtle, masterful original film, rather than James Cameron’s action-packed sequel, The Creative Assembly created one of the most terrifying horror games on PC, with an inspired retro-futuristic art style.
18 Dota 2
RELEASED July 2013 | LAST POSITION 16
Chris T: Valve’s lane-pushing masterpiece brings out the best and the worst in its players. This is dazzlingly complex competitive team strategy acting as a stage for human drama. It’s a big-money professional sport, a hobby, and a way of life. Soon, with the addition of custom games, it’ll become a game development platform too.
17 Kerbal Space Program
RELEASED April 2015 | LAST POSITION 90
Phil: KSP is deceptive. It’s a game about building rockets, and using them to send bumbling green aliens into space. Yet behind this quirky charm lurks a powerful and realistic physics and space engineering simulator. Kerbal Space Program challenges you to learn actual rocket science – if only to keep those guys alive just a little longer.
16 Planescape: Torment
RELEASED December 1999 | LAST POSITION 35
Tony: Imagine a fantasy RPG set not in another formulaic medieval Bavaria, but a world where grotesque metal buildings bake under an alien sun, and the tavern regulars include demons and wanderers from every plane in the AD&D Monster Manual. Now imagine that when you respawn, the world doesn’t. That your previous actions and bad choices have left a trail of corpses and devastated former companions behind you. Now imagine that you’ve been doing that for a very long time. Congratulations. You’re in Torment.
Andy: I’ve never been taken anywhere by a videogame that’s quite as weird, fascinating, or surreal as Torment’s world. It’s built on the foundations of the Infinity engine, with a similar interface and feel to games such as Baldur’s Gate, but it couldn’t be more different. It’s famous for its walls of vivid, evocative text, and rightly so. It’s a game brimming with amazing writing, painting its bizarre world in rich, minute detail. I also like how in almost every case, it’s possible to avoid conflict through dialogue or other means. Planescape: Torment is one of the smartest, darkest RPGs ever made, and there’s been nothing else like it on PC, or any format, since.
15 XCOM: Enemy Unknown
RELEASED October 2012 | LAST POSITION 6
Evan: Three years later, I’m realising how crucial Enemy Unknown’s art is to its appeal. It is soft and serious, a Saturday morning cartoon hurled against its will into an alien invasion. It’s toylike and gritty – your operatives stand stoic in the barracks, unsmiling, as you dress them up in bright red armour and slap a mohawk on them. Record stores, gas stations, and abandoned bars are perfect dioramas: it’s inherently fun to blast and break familiar spaces with combat.
Samuel: As good as turn-based strategy gets (until XCOM 2 comes out), this is empowering and great fun.
14 Portal 2
RELEASED April 2011 | LAST POSITION 19
Tyler: It’s not as compact and essential as Portal, but it’s an excellent companion and a much grander realisation of its humour and brilliant puzzle design. The gels are a great addition, but leaping through portals, making trick shots and dunking your own body, is still the star.
Tom S: Portal 2’s co-op mode understands players so well. There are puzzles clearly designed to let your partner screw you over with the press of a button, but you can hug and make up with co-op emotes afterwards. GLaDOS’s attempts to turn you against one another play into the little soap opera perfectly.
13 Crusader Kings II
RELEASED February 2012 | LAST POSITION 37
Phil: You’re a feudal lord, or maybe even a king. Congratulations, you are now consigned to a life beset by plotting, backstabbing and assassination. Your only defence? Plot, backstab and assassinate right back. Get past the dry delivery and you’ll find a gripping strategy about the twisted relationships of powerful people.
Chris L: What I love is how personal the game becomes, rare for a grand strategy game. Instead of a faceless leader, you’re a person, an individual, and your life is tangled up with friends, enemies, and family. It makes the smallest struggles feel just as important as the largest.
12 Mass Effect 3
RELEASED March 2012 | LAST POSITION 8
Chris T: However you feel about the controversy that followed the ending, Mass Effect 3 today is a love letter to fans. It’s a game about endings, about seeing characters you’ve spent dozens of hours with get their moment in the spotlight. Coupled with its DLC, it’s a staggering achievement in interactive cinematic storytelling. Also the multiplayer is very good. Nobody expected it to be, but somehow, it is. You can play as a tubby little Volus. Incredible.
11 Thief II
RELEASED March 2000 | LAST POSITION 31
Chris T: I’ll always value Thief for the sense it gives you that you’re breaking into real, lived-in places – not game levels. This is what has always made the series special. Garrett is a reluctant hero: most of the time, your objective is to simply get into someone else’s building, steal their stuff, and get out without being spotted. This is a lot simpler than Deus Ex, No One Lives Forever or Dishonored, but somehow more compelling – and the sense of vulnerability you feel when you know you’re about to be caught is unparalleled. Thief II’s approach to combat is bleakly realistic: if you choose to stand and fight an armed guard in this game, he will kill you.