30 Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn
RELEASED September 2000 | LAST POSITION 24
Phil: Thanks to Pillars of Eternity and Divinity: Original Sin, the legacy of the Infinity Engine is more apparent than ever. Baldur’s Gate II was the best of the classic RPGs – a perfect blend of well-written characters, tactical combat, and a world of intrigue and surprise. My favourite part of any RPG is exploring its towns and cities. In the original Baldur’s Gate that meant hours of humouring local yokels during a gruelling trek towards the titular city. Baldur’s Gate II is much more generous. Amn is huge; simultaneously beautiful and seedy. You’re free to explore it from the first chapter, and encouraged to revel in its amazing variety.
29 StarCraft II
RELEASED July 2010 | LAST POSITION Re-entry
Tom S: The most polished and refined example of the RTS format invented by Dune 2, StarCraft II boasts a surprisingly excellent campaign bolstered by inventive unit progression and well-paced missions. StarCraft II’s esports profile might be waning these days, but that doesn’t affect the quality of its beautifully balanced competitive modes.
28 Divinity: Original Sin
RELEASED June, 2014 | LAST POSITION New entry
Wes: Larian thoughtfully updated the classic cRPG with a turn-based combat system that’s intimidating in its open-endedness. That applies to questing, too: you have the freedom to slaughter every NPC you meet. The modern touches of a physics system (try trapping bosses with chairs!) and campaign co-op make for a must-play RPG.
27 FTL: Faster Than Light
RELEASED September 2012 | LAST POSITION 11
Samuel: Every time I boot up FTL I think that this is the time I’ll find I’ve finally seen everything. This is the time that I’ll be bored of the variables, and discover I’ve mastered the combat. But that’s never been the case with this tight space strategy game, which has such a perfect balance of personalisation, light narrative and reactive tactics.
26 Dragon Age: Origins
RELEASED November 2009 | LAST POSITION 15
Chris T: BioWare’s throwback to classic RPGs was a dazzling success. The series has had its ups and downs since then, but Dragon Age: Origins remains a cracking combat system tied to a powerful (and very long) story with characters that will stick with you for a long time to come. Unless you get them all killed, of course. Then they’re dead.
RELEASED March 2014 | LAST POSITION 44
Tim: Despite the endless grousing about RNG, ‘pay to win’, and card balance (or lack thereof), the success of Blizzard’s spin on wizard poker shows no sign of slowing. Since last this list was compiled, the game has cemented its status as a budding esport, while at the same time hoovering up new users thanks to the phone version. One of the reasons it has caught fire on Twitch – regularly placing in the top three most-watched – is that the slow pace lends itself to casters discussing the players’ decisions. Viewers have time to consider what they would do, and the satisfaction of seeing how other lines play out. A bigger reason for the success, though, is that Blizzard’s Team 5 seems to have kept up a most un-Blizzard-like pace with the expansions, with new cards refreshing the meta just before it gets damagingly stale. With that in mind, don’t be surprised if this climbs even higher next year.
RELEASED August 2013 | LAST POSITION 43
Wes: Spelunky is a game you can play forever. Not just because it’s a roguelike platformer, meaning every death sets you back to square one. Or because its levels are randomly generated and infinitely varied. Or because it’s packed with secrets and challenges a diehard community has been discovering and tackling for years. Spelunky’s greatness lies in how all its systems intricately and thoughtfully interact in predictable (yet somehow still surprising) ways. Everything affects everything else, from AI enemies to traps to the physics applied to your friend’s careening body after death. You can spend years mastering its platforming and still delight in moments of never-before-seen random interaction.
RELEASED December 1993 | LAST POSITION 27
Chris L: There are plenty of classics to remember fondly, but few that you’d actually want to play today. Doom, id Software’s seminal first-person shooter, is still great: fast, frenetic, and fun. It also marked the first time I ever shot a friend over a phone line. It was during co-op. It was an accident.
Andy: What can you say about Doom that isn’t already blindingly obvious? It’s a genuinely iconic PC game, which still has a loyal and passionate following today – from people who still enjoy its multiplayer to a thriving mod scene. Its format is perfectly simple: reach the end of the level, killing every demon in your path. But thanks to some fiendishly clever old-school level design and kinetic pacing, Doom is much more than the sum of its parts. Think of first-person shooters and you automatically think of Doom, such is its legacy. Even today, being knee-deep in the dead is still a thrill.
22 Arma 2
RELEASED June 2009 | LAST POSITION 48
Chris T: Arma 2’s dedication to a realistic depiction of military life is its greatest strength and the reason it can be quite off-putting at first – my enduring memory of it is the whistle-thunk sound that precedes being shot from three miles away. Put in the hours, however, and it becomes something very special. It inspired a multiplayer community whose dedication to military protocol verges on historical re-enactment, and its sandbox approach to war formed the basis of many incredible mods. I still mostly get shot from miles away, mind.
Evan: Other than the next entry on this list, no other PC game embodies ‘game as platform’ as much as Arma 2.
RELEASED May 2009 | LAST POSITION 18
Tom M: Minecraft is a game that gives you an endless amount of choice. Want to fight monsters? Sure thing. Want to explore an endless world? Go ahead. Want to stay put and build huge structures? That’s fine too. You are dropped in a procedurally generated landscape, told to punch trees, and the rest is completely up to you.
Shaun: I’ll be the first to admit that I never expected it to transcend niche cult status. Then, suddenly, my ten-year-old nephew was playing it and so were all his friends. I think it’s partially responsible for the PC renaissance, but its influence won’t truly be measurable until all these kids reared on it grow up.