The 100 best PC games of all time

50. Neptune's Pride

Release Date: 2010

Last year: New entry

Tom S: Neptune's Pride somehow distills an elegant and simple set of rules into the perfect betrayal simulator. Attacks take days, defeat is a long and painful process and there's no way to win without backstabbing your fellow players. It's a dark work of brilliance that tested my friendships as much as much as my strategic ability.

Ed: Neptune's Pride is like the “I Know what you did last summer” dark secret between me and my friends. We all pulled off some spectacularly dirty tricks, and no one person walked away completely untarnished. Beneath its simple surface, it's a dark game of charades that spill into even the non-gaming world. At one point I'd set alarms to go off throughout the night at 3 hour intervals, so I could wake up, make some moves and check that no-one was moving against me. Which of course they were, because they'd set alarms for the exact same reasons.

49. Battle of Britain 2

Release Date: 1999

Last year: 70

Tim S: Dozens of WW2 flight sims deliver thrilling, challenging dogfights. Only one, this one, manages to make those dogfights feel earth-shatteringly important. In the amazing unscripted campaigns every downed Dornier and savaged Stuka is a personal landmark, a step - a tiny step - towards British salvation. "Per Ardua ad Astra" indeed.

48. Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance

Release Date: 2007

Last year: New entry

Tom: The stars of the first Supreme Commander weren't the massive experimental units, for the most part. There were three tiers of deathbots before you got to those, each five times more massive, devastating and expensive than the last. It was about building dozens of factories, and streaming out enough deathbots to dominate enough of the map to produce enough mass to afford the next tier up. Then: stream out more.

On a 25 square kilometer map, that's just a very satisfying, physically simulated version of a normal RTS. On a 6,561 square kilometer map, it's an apocalypse. Your mind goes into overdrive trying to manage eighteen separate assault groups, balance and defend dozens of income sources while ramping up production to meet your snowballing wealth.

But throughout it all, the game takes care of the boring stuff for you: units defend themselves intelligently while moving, they organise themselves in optimal formations and stay in them come hell or high water. With three clicks, you can tell hundreds of air transports to ferry everything each of your ten factories produces 40 kilometers across the map, avoiding that anti-air on the southern peninsula, then returning to pick up anyone still needing a ride.

Forged Alliance took it further, stripping away useless interface clutter, letting you copy vast chunks of your base to be replicated elsewhere, and adding a whole new race with a strategic bomber the size of Corfu. It still looks great today, it runs marvelously on modern machines, and every gamer should play it properly at least once. It doesn't have to be on a 6,561 square kilometer map, but it should be on the biggest one you can comfortably manage.

47. Battlefield 2

Release Date: 2005

Last year: 36

Norm: Thanks, Battlefield 2, for almost getting me kicked out of university. You made me care about game stats and rankings over grade point averages, and taught me that a kill-to-death ratio of under 2.0 is shameful. The 71 first-place Gold Medals I earned are still a badge of honor in my online gaming career.

Craig: I never cared about my K/D ratio or gold medals or badges of honour. I was too busy running for the jets, taking them high into the air and jumping out. Private Human Missile Pearson reporting for duty, sir!

Tom: I cared passionately about my kill-to-death ratio. My distaste for the enemy was nothing on my livid, roaring hatred for anyone on my team one place higher up the scoreboard than me. NO. GET DOWN. There is a MEDAL for topping that shit, and I MUST HAVE IT.

I did win some medals - I was a Medic, and I'd supplement my kill count with dozens of revives on dead players. I felt pretty good about myself. I'd even lead squads, risking my neck for my men - so long as none of them were scoring higher than me.

Then, after a long and happy career, I looked at my stats page. Kills to deaths? Not good, but that's ok, I was a Medic. Score per minute? Not good, but that's ok, I did a lot to help my team that wasn't always rewarded. Wins to losses? Oh. Oh God.

Apparently I acted as some kind of bad luck charm, or perhaps just a terrible-teamplay charm, because having me on your side made you about 15% less likely to win. In a 64 player game, that's impressively bad.

Rich: I was a medic too. Medic-five!

46. Star Wars: TIE Fighter

Release Date: 1994

Last year: 73

Dan: Face it: the Imperials' fighters are just plain cooler than the Rebels'. Need proof? Just listen to the sounds that each makes when they fly by. An X-Wing goes “whoooooosh!” A TIE Fighter goes “WRRRAAAAAAARWAR!” Winner: TIE Fighter.

Rich: They got the noise from mixing an elephant's scream with a car driving on a wet road, dont'chaknow. I still maintain X-wings are cooler, because you get to say “lock S-foils in attack position”. Oh dear, I've started talking about Star Wars again.

45. The Sims 3

Release Date: 2009

Last year: New entry

Troy: Also known in my house as the mistress collection game. It's often derided as a game about eating or peeing, but The Sims is really a game about humanity and how we choose to fill our time. The Sims captures the ennui of life, the thrill of love and the quest for the right living room set to match the wallpaper. We measure our lives in coffee spoons, and frequency of woo-hoo.

Graham: My favourite thing to do was to visit the graveyard and explore the catacombs beneath. You wouldn't be able to see what was happening, but choices would pop-up asking you whether you wanted to turn left, turn right, open that chest, explore deeper, turn back, and so forth. Sometimes you'd come out with a flashy, valuable artefact, and sometimes you'd come out covered in mud, traumatised into a life-long desire to hang out in graveyards. That's life.

Cooper: Load up The Sims. Play for ten minutes. Look at the clock. Realize it has actually been six hours. This describes an average encounter with The Sims, a game that truly shatters the barriers between “hardcore” and “casual” gamers. Casual gamers will enjoy living out their wildest fantasies, while the hardcore crowd builds mansions comprised of nothing but swimming pools and acting out psychological experiments by removing all of the doors from a house.

44. Planetside

Release Date: 2003

Last year: New entry

Rich: I used to fly escorts for the New Conglomerate. I'd stand next to my royal blue reaver gunship on my spawn island, nonchalantly rifling through my inventory - a pilot for hire. A fat-bellied dropship would rumble by, jet engines superheating the air directly below it. “Anyone want to take a base?” I'd spit out my imaginary gum and hop into my craft's cockpit, gun the engines and lift off. As the rest of the squad dropped in on the target from the sky, I stayed above, bursting high value tanks and buggies with missiles and lancing incoming troops with my chaingun. When the job was complete, I'd fall into formation and deliver my allies home. In Planetside, my feet never touched the ground. I miss it terribly.

43. Medal of Honour: Allied Assault

Release Date: 2002

Last year: New entry

Rich: The cradle of life for the modern FPS. Allied Assault understood pacing and the deployment of cinematic moments better than nearly any of its predecessors, and set the seedbed for the global takeover of the Call of Duty brand. I'm not sure whether that's a good or bad thing, but in 2002, this kind of fresh, film-infleunced, globe-trotting man-shoot was the pinnacle of shooting mans.

42. Mass Effect 2

Release Date: 2010

Last year: New entry

Chris: I remember playing through the beginning and exclaiming "holy #%$@!" as I gazed at a planet from a hole in the Normandy's shattered hull. ME2 was filled with these cinematic moments. Battling the final boss—a skyscraper-sized metal skeleton—was better than a ride at Six Flags.

Dan: Possibly the best ending level (the part before the giant Terminator) of any RPG ever.

Rich: It made you feel like you were assembling a ragtag bunch of the universe's best and badassest desperadoes - and you were their leader. By this point in the series, my Shepard had a mythology and a defined moral compass: getting to imprint that on the deepest, best thought-out sci-fi galaxy in recent memory is a teenage dream come true.

Tom: The claim that 'Y is back and Xier than ever' never excited me until the Y was the Shepard I made for Mass Effect, and the X was 'high-polycount'. I am basically in love with her, so getting to play that character again in a much prettier game, with more satisfying combat, was total nerd overload.

Rich: You're not as in love with your Shepard as I am in love with Tali. Oh, Tali.

Tom: Fuck Tali. I did exactly the right thing on her loyalty mission, but because my fancy speech skill wasn't high enough yet, she hated me for it. Later: "A suicide mission? For someone with technical skills? I know just the twat."

Tom S: The thing I remember about Mass Effect 2 is the M-920 Cain Nuke Launcher. I made that goddamn gun as soon as I could, and I carried it around on my goddamn back for the entire game, but never encountered anything large enough to warrant the ridiculous overkill of a nuclear explosion. Then I saw that end boss. I whipped the cannon off my back and one-shotted it in the goddamn eyeball. It was the best of days.

41. Doom

Release Date: 1993

Last year: New entry

Richard: Playing Doom, it's hard to remember it was released in 1993. Its engine may be obsolete, but it's still an amazingly fun game, with satisfying weapons, an array of unforgettable enemies, and some of the best music ever. You might download it for a retro-kick, but you'll soon be sucked right back into its hellish clutches.

Chris: For me, Doom was all about the sounds. The rocket launcher's foom-pa!, the Baron of Hell's growl, the unmistakable (and terrifying) noise from the Cyberdemon's mechanical legs—this was the first game that I needed speakers and a decent soundcard to play. The Imp fireball's swoosh still gives me chills.