10 Fallout: New Vegas
RELEASED October 2010 | LAST POSITION 59
Samuel: Last year I tried to break Fallout: New Vegas by declaring war on everyone. I shot my way out of Mr House’s casino and I insulted Caesar to his face and killed most of his mates. Even so, the main story of this strong successor to both Fallout 3 and the original Black Isle games still offered ways to continue the story. On that level, New Vegas offers a more interesting main quest than Fallout 3 with greater scope for player expression. The world, too, showed us a seedier side of the post-apocalypse.
RELEASED October 2007 | LAST POSITION 9
Tom M: “Now you’re thinking with portals,” isn’t just a cute line from a trailer; it’s a genuine accomplishment. The original Portal essentially asked you to rewire your brain and change how you think about moving through 3D space.
Chris L: To my mind, the perfect game. Hilarious writing, challenges that escalate at just the right pace, and a boss fight that lets you put everything you’ve learned to use. Its short running time definitely left players wanting more, but also meant it never had the chance to grow stale.
8 Deus Ex
RELEASED June 2000 | LAST POSITION 4
Tony: Deus Ex is all about freedom of action, and none of the sequels made me feel as free as the original. Its maps were huge, with none of the constraining stealth-loading and subdivision we’re lumbered with today. You could walk all around the Statue of Liberty before choosing your own way in. And that freedom – Liberty, if you will – to find your own way through a problem was part of the aesthetic at every level.
Phil: Deus Ex is an ugly game with poor combat, laughable voice acting and appalling AI. And yet, despite those incontrovertible facts, it’s once again near the top of this list. That’s how good it is. It’s 2015 now – we have amazing graphics and giant, complex open worlds – and Deus Ex is still one of the best games of all time. It will remain so until someone can genuinely improve on its wonderfully intricate level design.
7 Grand Theft Auto V
RELEASED April 2015 | LAST POSITION New entry
Tony: It’s the best open world bar none. Incredibly detailed when you get up close, incredibly varied when you pull back. Mountains! Windfarms! Vineyards! Lumber mills! Half the time, it’s enough simply to drive around this incredible world-in-a-bottle and stare. When I do feel like tackling a mission, the freedom to at least choose which Hauser movie-stereotype I play goes a long way to fixing the one-note characterisation that dogged the previous games.
Samuel: There is no greater pleasure to be had in videogames than quickly stealing a military jet from Fort Zancudo and evading all the anti-aircraft missiles on the way out. A generous masterpiece from Rockstar, GTA V looks stupidly beautiful on PC.
RELEASED October 2012 | LAST POSITION 32
Chris T: The do-it-your-own way stealth FPS is a genre close to my heart and important to PC gaming as a whole, and the first half of Dishonored is one of the best examples of the form ever made. Each of these assassination missions is a network of social interactions, security protocols and inventive architecture that amount to a delicate machine. Your job is to break that machine using versatile gadgets and magic powers, and doing so conveys a powerful sense of creativity and control. You really do own your ideas in Dishonored, and although the morality system is a little underbaked, the feeling that you did it ‘your way’ remains. Years after the game’s release, the very best players are still finding new ways to kill people in it.
Chris L: The quality of Dishonored’s level design really becomes apparent on subsequent playthroughs. No matter what combination of powers you’re using, and how you choose to tackle each target, each level still feels custom tailored just for your style.
Samuel: Samuel can be such a dick. I killed him, because Dishonored gave me that freedom. It’s exactly what a modern immersive sim should be, although I agree with Chris T about the morality system.
Lady Boyle’s Last Party is everything that Dishonored is good at in one level: confident art direction, stories within stories and multi-layered level design that necessitates several playthroughs. One thing in particular the game gets right over some other immersive sims is that it makes every form of interaction feel fun, whether you choose to play in a stealthy way or more aggressively. While the morality system offers narrative consequences to your actions, there’s no fun-penalty if I decide to shoot a guy in the head. And I like doing that as a player. Never being caught might be the default win state, but it’s still great to put a sword through a guy. And if you do lean more towards ‘ghosting’ a level, enemies who turn to dust when you slit their throats, crossbow darts and spring razors all make your hard work worthwhile.
Tony: Dishonored has all Thief’s transgressive thrill of sneaking around someone else’s mansion, learning its little secrets, but it delivers a whole lot more besides. Because here you are powerful. Scary. If you’re caught by a guard, it’s bad news for the guard, not for you. Mainly because he’s dying screaming as he’s devoured alive by magic rats.
5 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
RELEASED November 2011 | LAST POSITION 2
Tyler: Skyrim is a playground. I never really cared for the story, and maybe it’s not the best Elder Scrolls on its own, but it is a massive, moddable fantasy world in which I can embrace vampirism, stick buckets on shopkeepers heads, and fight dragons. That’s irresistible to me, and modders have done a huge amount of work adding items, cities, dungeons, and islands, earning Skyrim a position near the pinnacle of Steam’s top concurrent player list for four years.
Chris T: I spent hundreds of hours completely lost in the world Bethesda built, forbidding myself from installing mods so that I could see the campaign through ‘properly’. Then I retired that particular Dragonborn and lost another few hundred hours to breaking the game with mods in exciting and complicated ways. A peerless sandbox.
Tim: I spent maybe an actual month crafting an axe that could one-shot any creature in the game. After that I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was the best of times.
Phil: Skyrim is a brilliant adventure toolbox. Bethesda’s systems-based design lets you do as much or as little as you want. Maybe you’ll take residence in a town, and never leave that town, and murder everybody in that town. Or maybe you’ll visit every corner of the map and become the head of every major institution in the land – even the evil ones.
Tony: Endless adventures are hidden away in this game, like hoards of buried gold. Also there are actual hoards of gold.