100 Tribes II
RELEASED March 2001 | LAST POSITION Re-entry
Chris T: In almost all of the great competitive shooters, movement is just as essential as aim. This is the reason that Tribes II remains such an important game to me: it combined exciting spinfusor rocket-duels with a sense of momentum that has never been matched in any other game. It’s hard to go back to plodding around Call of Duty after skiing down a sci-fi mountainside at 250km/h. The series’ persistent commercial failure is almost a badge of honour. Tribes was only ever going to play to a small, dedicated crowd, but that’s pretty much what ‘special’ means.
99 Spider and Web
RELEASED February 1998 | LAST POSITION New entry
Tony: Every time you screw up your infiltration mission in this deceptive text adventure, you wake up back in the chair. “No,” the Interrogator says, “that’s not how we caught you. Try again.” And you’re whirled away into another flashback. In spinning the story of your capture and downfall, can you somehow turn it into a story where you win?
98 Sam & Max: Hit The Road
RELEASED November 1993 | LAST POSITION Re-entry
Chris L: Ridiculous puzzles, oddball characters, and a disturbingly accurate portrayal of roadside America feature in this 2D LucasArts adventure. Two freelance cops, one a wry dog in a suit and the other a violent, naked rabbity thing, investigate the mystery of a missing bigfoot. Includes country music and the destruction of the west coast.
97 Mirror’s Edge
RELEASED November 2008 | LAST POSITION 33
Samuel: A unique, arty first-person platformer from a studio renowned for shootymen series, Mirror’s Edge makes parkour traversal and jumping feel convincing in a gorgeously stark dystopia. It’s a divisive game, sure, and the combat is particularly contentious – but a game this original with these production values is well worth celebrating.
96 The Stanley Parable
RELEASED October 2013 | LAST POSITION New entry
Phil: A game about games; a story about stories. That sounds unbearable, but The Stanley Parable is a wonderfully funny exploration of choice and consequence. As you walk through the halls of a deserted office building, a narrator vocalises your next steps. Do you follow, or rebel against the story? Whatever you choose, hilarity follows.
95 Left 4 Dead 2
RELEASED November 2009 | LAST POSITION 52
Evan: I can point to a dozen little features I love about Left 4 Dead 2. The toylike guns. The way its gushy gore tech preserves the act of splitting open basic Infected. The absurd rock stage finale (complete with pyrotechnic weapons) at the end of Dark Carnival. Ellis. Among all of the stuff that forms L4D2’s identity, its structure is one of the most underappreciated.
Whatever map you’re on, whatever your skill level, almost every Left 4 Dead 2 match produces a narrative with a seamless but clear beginning, middle, and an end. Usually it’s a series of highs and lows: “Just as we found a grenade launcher Coach got pulled out the window by a Smoke. But then Rochelle threw a Molotov and we barely made it to the elevator!” I think we take for granted how rare it is for a multiplayer game to reliably produce those kinds of digestible vignettes; it’s something that even Evolve failed to do.
94 Gone Home
RELEASED August 2013 | LAST POSITION New entry
Tyler: You return from a college trip to a storm and an empty house. Your family is missing and the phones are out, so you poke around their stuff – books, notes, diary entries, secrets – to discover what’s been going on in the past year. It’s an eerie, emotional puzzle that happens in your head, where experience and empathy piece together a thoughtful coming-of-age story.
Chris T: Gone Home proves that a challenge doesn’t need to be something that registers on the screen. There are no threats or countdowns. This is a meditative game, as much about your attention to detail and ability to interpret information as anything else – but it is definitely, nonetheless, a game.
93 Alpha Centauri
RELEASED February 1999 | LAST POSITION 23
Tom S: In turn-based strategy games the story is normally entirely of your own making, but Alpha Centauri strikes a magic balance that allows your faction’s tale to unfold in parallel with the awakening of the planet. It’s also remarkably atmospheric, thanks to some excellent writing and consistent visual design. From the UI to dialogue and even tech descriptions, there’s a hard sci-fi credibility to Alpha Centauri that most strategy games lack. Even now, my negotiations with Chairman Yang and the environmentalist, Lady Gaia, are lodged in my imagination, part of a corner of space that I will never forget.
92 Hotline Miami
RELEASED October 2012 | LAST POSITION 53
Tim: It’s testament to the brutal efficiency of this first game that it only took a few tweaks to the formula for the sequel to feel bloated and substantially less fun. Still, the splattercore joys of the original remain undimmed. Stab, slam and blast your way through gaudy floorplans. Die, rinse (the blood out) and repeat. The very rawest of feedback loops.
91 FreeSpace 2
RELEASED September 1999 | LAST POSITION 96
Tyler: One of the best space combat games ever. The graphics are dated (that’s what mods are for) and the tutorial is a bit painful (“don’t touch the controls until you are told to do so”), but beyond that it’s a perfect mix of simulation and arcade, with a great story. For the longest time, Freespace 2 kept the glory of the space sim genre alive all on its own.