The PC Gamer Top 100

PC Gamer

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These are the games we love. The international PC Gamer team has spent hundreds of hours sweating over this list across timezones—meticulously drawn from the PC's decades of history, these are the games we've decided you absolutely need to play today. It's as simple as that. If you've played most of these before, well done—you have dedicated your life to a worthy cause and deserve a small ceremonial jig. If some of these games are new to you, that's great too. This list has been democratically compiled by us, reflecting the diverse tastes of our writers and contributors. The PC Gamer Top 100 sums up the amazing legacy of PC gaming's past, and the great games available today. Enjoy.

How the list was constructed

One does not simply pluck the top 100 out of thin air. No, there is a method to the madness, and the method is this: each contributor submits an ordered list of their 15 favourite PC games—the games they love the most that are still perfectly playable and brilliant today. Each vote then contributes a point score to the chosen game. The number 1 pick receives 15 points, the number 2 14 and so on. The totals are totted up and games with a higher score naturally achieve a higher place in the list. After a bit of debate to shuffle equal-scoring games into place, the whole thing is finalised and we start writing.

The judges

Samuel Roberts has yet to meet the game he couldn't defeat in one-sided hand-tohand combat.

Tim Clark would do almost anything for a Hearthstone booster pack—but he won't do that.

Evan Lahti is constantly trying to trick everyone else on staff into playing Arma. Fool us once, Evan...

Tyler Wilde teamkilled you, sure, but you were the one standing in the middle of his artillery strike.

Chris Thursten probably likes your game if it's got a wizard in it. Or possibly a spaceship. He's not fussy.

Tom Senior possesses an unslakable thirst for middling action-adventure games from three years ago.

Cory Banks thinks his perfect RPG would put him in a party with corgi wizards. One day, Cory, one day.

Phil Savage was born to conquer the world by gradually clicking on hexagons. All the hexagons.

Andy Kelly became king of the novelty games after a freak Kickstarter accident in 2012.

Wes Fenlon will be available for a bargain 75% off in the next Steam Sale. This offer won't last.

Tony Ellis wishes they'd make some new games so he didn't have to keep writing about Deus Ex every year.

Ben Griffin approaches you and whispers: “I could show you the world in 4K.” Don't touch his hair.

Emanuel Maiberg is still in early alpha and may change significantly over the course of development.

Philippa Warr wasn't allowed to include puzzle classic Avocado Pusher in the PC Gamer Top 100.

Richard Cobbett knows more about point and click adventures than anyone alive. Only the undead know more.

Ian Birnbaum is a niche sub-genre that is growing increasingly unpopular. Perhaps going F2P would help.

John Strike treats military shooters like an artform. You know, one of those artforms involving lots of guns.

Craig Pearson has defended more flags than you've had hot dinners. You could say his interest is flagging.

Onward to the top 100.

100 THE CURSE OF MONKEY ISLAND

Release year: 1998 Last position: New entry

Andy The radical change in art style—particularly the lanky new Guybrush—didn't appeal to everyone, but this lavish, handdrawn Monkey will always be my favourite. It had the colourful sparkle of a Disney animated film, but better jokes, and ditching the wall of verbs for a Full Throttle all-in-one menu made the adventurin' itself much more streamlined. Emanuel The crest of the LucasArts adventure game golden age. It was beautifully drawn, and had just as many great jokes in the logic of its puzzle design as it did in dialogue.

99 COMPANY OF HEROES 2

Release year 2013 Last position New entry

Tom The torrid campaigns of WWII's Eastern Front are a great fit for Company of Heroes' brutal RTS formula. The deformable snow and sudden cold snaps reflect the bitter Russian winter, but the chance to harness the rumbling might of USSR heavy armour proves even more exciting. The sequel slightly overcomplicates the original's nearperfect blend of micromanagement and broad strategy, but it's still breathless, loud and superbly tense.

98 SPLINTER CELL: CHAOS THEORY

Release year 2005 Last position New entry

Craig The first properly emergent neck-snapper, and the co-op is basically Mission Impossible. I keep coming back because it humanised the man in the shadows: he's glib and silly in the face of nuclear weapons, kidnaps guards and talks about monkeys and Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

97 KINGPIN: LIFE OF CRIME

Release year 1999 Last position New entry

John The foulest language and fattest arms ever to grace the PC, and what a great combo. Within the first couple of minutes you're beating a man to death with a lead pipe so you can steal his crowbar (instead of paying a dollar for it), bribing a bum with whisky and trading stolen goods for pistol accessories. A huge hit for rap fans, Kingpin's soundtrack was created by Cypress Hill and the game even had cameo character voiceovers from the big man B-Real.

96 FREESPACE 2

Release year 1999 Last position 68

Richard The sad thing is that while it deserves its title as best space sim of the last ten years, that's partly because there hasn't been much competition. But the fans updating it and keeping space stocked with missions ensure it's still well worth checking out, even now that both Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous are finally making space awesome again.

95 STARBOUND

Release year 2013 Last position New entry

Tyler It's mildly crazy that an incomplete Steam Early Access game is on this list, but being 'complete' is relative. If you define 'complete' as 'big, fun, and exceptionally well-crafted' then Starbound is far more complete than plenty of other games. 2D block building and crafting is primarily a Minecraft offshoot-genre and Starbound isn't the first or only game to do it well, but I think it's the best designed and most fun. Craig There is a mod that adds beekeeping. It's pretty sweet.

94 THE SIMS

Release year 2000 Last position New entry

Philippa The original was the best. My favourite part was the minigame where you had to prevent your child being removed by social services. Harder than Dark Souls, that.

Samuel I'd never played anything like it at the time. Nothing else brought out my sociopathic tendencies in quite the same way.

93 PLANETSIDE 2

Release year 2012 Last position 35

Andy On your own PlanetSide 2 is lonely, confusing, and not much fun. Band together with friends and it becomes one of the most thrilling large-scale online shooters on PC. Watching rows of tanks fire at each other across a vast, icy canyon as infantry clash below and aircraft streak overhead is about as exciting as multiplayer gets.

Chris It's an incredible spectacle—an increasingly rare example of a game that feels like it's using all of your PC's horsepower. I agree that it can be a bit of an empty experience playing by yourself, but it still transmits that feeling of playing the best action-game cutscene you've ever seen. Where Call of Duty relies on scripts to crash its helicopters just so, PlanetSide 2 supplies you with all the dynamic space helicopter crashes you'll ever need.

Tyler Get two friends and a Liberator; you will know fun.

92 ASSASSIN'S CREED IV: BLACK FLAG

Release year 2013 Last position New entry

Tom Your crew cheers when you return to your ship, sing sea shanties as you sail and watch tentatively as you hop onto an island for the odd assassination. Assassin's Creed at its most joyful and adventurous.

Chris It's a great fantasy executed brilliantly, which is what helps it overcome the series' customary sci-fi waffle and all that unnecessary Ubisoft cladding. UPlay deleted my saves, but I forgot about that when I got out onto the open sea again.

91 OPERATION FLASHPOINT: COLD WAR CRISIS

Release year 2001 Last position New entry

John Starting with the PC Gamer demo disk, then onto the full version a couple of months later, this was the game I launched a clan for, which is still chugging along in Battlefield today. The enormity of its islands and range of vehicles were what made it special at the time, but its mapping and modding abilities have been its true legacy, in the form of a thriving community that still exists in the Armed Assault series today.

90 KERBAL SPACE PROGRAM

Release 2013 Last position New entry

Phil The simple satisfaction of constructing a rocket ship, and the helpless horror of watching it crash and burn. Kerbal Space Program's appeal lies in both these things. It's a test of engineering and a lesson in abject failure, all set against the majesty of space.

Wes For the first three hours of my Kerbal aerospace career, I strapped together as many rockets as I could and laughed as they exploded mid-takeoff. The next three hours I spent learning the ropes of ship design and experimenting with aerodynamics. And then I actually tried to achieve a stable orbit. And then I shot for the mun. And suddenly, oops, I had played 30 hours of Kerbal Space Program. At least I was a little smarter.

Ian So much of gaming is 'serious' and 'gritty'—but KSP is built with almost child-like awe.

89 CALL OF CTHULHU: DARK CORNERS OF THE EARTH

Release year 2006 Last position 98

Tony Frantically clawing my way out of the decaying Gilman Hotel, the murderous Innsmouth-folk hacking down doors to get at me... that remains one of my all-time great gaming experiences. Perfectly set up by the ominous, slow-paced investigation that precedes it, perfectly balanced by the manhunt through the dark and windy streets that follows. DCotE has its faults, but its standout moments beat those of any other horror game out there.

88 QUAKE III

Release year 1999 Last position 44

Evan Speed. Marksmanship. Purity. No FPS matches the height of Quake III's skill ceiling. Fast player movement, easy-to-learn, hard-tomaster weapons, and stripped-down action make Quake the most sportlike FPS ever created. The athleticism on display in high-level Quake is matched only by Tribes; when you're in the zone, every +1 to your K column is a result of juggling fluctuating math for gravity, distance, sight lines, rocket trajectories, or the quad-damage refresh time.

87 ASSASSIN'S CREED II

Release year 2010 Last position 88

Tony I have a bit of a thing for renaissance Italy, and this is the game that lets me have adventures there, and climb all over its wonderful architecture. It's a world full of history and colour, more vibrant than any number of fantasy settings. E Venezia? È bellissima.

Samuel I hated the original Assassin's Creed, but Ezio proved to be far superior company to Altair. And yes, its interpretation of Venice is still the series' most impressive locale. Also: beating up the evil pope.

86 VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE—BLOODLINES

Release year 2004 Last position 89

Philippa Pick your way through vampire politics, pursue curious questlines and, if you're playing now, revel in the community's bug-crushing efforts. Bloodlines is a masterpiece of immersive storytelling—a flawed but rare gem.

Chris It's a shame that its launch issues held it back from wider appreciation. It's a beautifully structured immersive sim with a phenomenal sense of place. I still secretly like the Lacuna Coil song from the credits.

85 BATTLEFIELD: BAD COMPANY 2

Release year 2010 Last position New entry

Phil Why did Battlefield's multiplayer stop being so destructive? Sure, Battlefield 4 does a decent job of depicting mapchanging catastrophe, but Bad Company 2's demolitions feel more targeted and immediate. The most intense moments come while crouched in a house, defending the team's M-COM station. At any moment the walls can erupt in a shower of concrete and attackers pour in through the newly created entrance. It's better than watching a skyscraper fall over. Again.

84 BROKEN SWORD

Release year 1996 Last position New entry

Andy Broken Sword tied history, mythology and modern crime together brilliantly—and years before Dan Brown even lifted a pen. This adventure game was wellwritten, atmospheric and beautifully drawn. Later sequels inexplicably turned George Stobbart into a stubbly action hero, but here he's the goofy but shrewd patent lawyer who finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy involving secret societies, the Knights Templar, and an illtempered goat.

83 X-COM / UFO: ENEMY UNKNOWN

Release year 1994 Last position New entry

Richard The remake was cool, but nothing else has ever quite hit the level of making you feel like you could take on an alien invasion, nor as glad that you'll never have to. It's a game where success and failure balance on a knife-edge from the first incursion, before turning into a righteous snowball effect as you turn the enemy's weapons against them. And the enemy was still actually unknown. Not like the new one. They're Sectoids, silly.

82 ULTIMA VII

Release year 1992 Last position 90

Richard If you've been impressed by an RPG in the last 20 years, be sure that on some level it owes a tip of the hat to this one. Epic, political, and the last game to be able to get away with ye olde English. It's Lord British's masterpiece.

Tony It's livelier and more interactive than those later RPGs ever managed, too. It's like lifting the lid off a fantasy ant farm: all those little NPCs scurrying around, going to work, tutting about the weather. An amazing backdrop for an all-time great adventure.

81 TOTAL WAR: ROME II

Release year 2013 Last position New entry

Tony It's all about the battles. The epic sieges that start out all clockwork precision and superior numbers, and collapse before your eyes into a desperate last-minute struggle for possession. The vast, empire-changing conflicts that end up balanced on one wavering unit of legionnaires, while all you can do is gnaw your mouse cable and watch.

80 SUPREME COMMANDER: FORGED ALLIANCE

Release year 2007 Last position 23

Tom Imagine if the SupCom lineage had continued. Imagine the scale and beauty of giant robot warfare powered by modern graphics cards. An inspiring thought experiment, but unneeded. Supreme Commander's huge battles were way ahead of their time, and Forged Alliance added some of the game's most memorable units, like the satellite that zaps bases from orbit. Master the deliciously nerdy base management and you're rewarded with kilometre-wide battles that span land, air and sea.

79 NO ONE LIVES FOREVER 2

Release year 2002 Last position 60

Chris Is 'immersive sim' the right way to describe a game where a man says “I'll drive, you shoot” while pointing at a child's tricycle? Is 'secretly better than Deus Ex' something you immediately associate with throwing lipstick grenades at matinee adventure goons in purple jumpsuits? I don't know, but it probably should be, because No One Lives Forever 2 is my favourite immersive sim and it is secretly better than Deus Ex.

You play Cate Archer, super spy, in a sharply written '60s-set action comedy that never drops a beat. Fantastic stealth, gadgets and level design belie the lighter tone, and its random guard conversations are the best ever written. Also, you get to kill a lot of mimes. It's Deus Ex by way of Archer starring one of the PC's great female leads. You should play it.

78 GRAND THEFT AUTO IV

Release year 2008 Last position New entry

Ben Once the maudlin missions ran their course, endless fun was found shoving Liberty City wise guys down massive concrete stairs and marvelling as they tried and failed to find their footing. While other games' brainless ragdolls continue to flop and flail, Rockstar cut the strings and blessed their NPC puppets with Pinocchio brains.

Andy Some missions were a drag, but Rockstar's parody of New York was incredibly atmospheric, and who doesn't love the Euphoria physics.

77 DON'T STARVE

Release year 2013 Last position New entry

Tim I mothballed my save around the 375-day mark, having survived cruel winters, dog ravagings, and at least three deerclops attacks. The only reason I stopped is because this is a game about discovery. About waking up in a hand-drawn world as brutal as it is gorgeous. Few games I've played have elicited the same thrill of “ooh, that's what this does!” Couple that with the relentless pressure of just trying to keep yourself warm and fed, and you have a game with an almost unique flavour. Sudden death flavour.

76 COMMAND & CONQUER

Release year 1995 Last position New entry

John I poured my childhood into Dune 2. C&C took broad strides on from that, introducing those brilliant commando missions, grenade throwing troops, tight Tiberium budgets that made every penny count and the unforgettable cutscenes. Everyone remembers when Kane put a bullet through Seth's head in the middle of one of those briefings. What a moment.

75 BASTION

Release year 2011 Last position New entry

Ian The soundtrack is amazing, but I had more fun with the reactive narrator. Having a storybook voice narrate your every move was an irresistible hook that drew me into a wonderful story.

Chris Bastion is special because it's a tremendous action game—all about mixing and matching weapons and powerups to suit the situation—that exists in harmony with a subtle and affecting message. And, yes, the soundtrack is amazing.

74 WARHAMMER 40K: DAWN OF WAR

Release year 2004 Last position New entry

Emanuel I loved the universe, but from the sidelines, because I didn't have the patience to play it with dice and rulers. Dawn of War gave me the brutal RTS I always imagined, and it kicked the genre in the ass by luring players out of their turtled bases with capture points.

Tom The Sisters of Battle strap an organ to a truck and call it a tank. When it's played, missiles fire out of the pipes and kill the enemy. This should be number one, frankly.

73 DOOM 3

Release year 2004 Last position New entry

John Yes, it was about 90% metal pipes, but I still love it. Its decidedly heavy, metallic feeling is reminiscent of the first two Quakes and typical of id, who've always been ambassadors of the best-feeling shotguns in gaming. It was also one of the first games to use real-time shadows. Coupled with a host of creepy, scratchy sounds it struck the right balance between terrifying and brutal, from which the FEAR games would later draw much inspiration.

72 THE ELDER SCROLLS IV: OBLIVION

Release year 2006 Last position 73

Philippa Of the hours I poured into Oblivion those spent on the Dark Brotherhood questline were the best. They peaked with Whodunit, a creative killing spree at Summitmist Manor where you convince the other guests you're entirely innocent.

Chris I played Oblivion for 90 hours, spent 120 hours modding it, and then never played it again.

71 FAR CRY 3

Release year 2012 Last position New entry

Tim I've forgotten the bros-go-on-a-bad-holiday plot, but what has stayed with me is that feeling of freedom while crouching on a tropical knoll, looking down at a camp full of goons, and considering all my glorious, murderous options.

Chris It's a far better shooter than its predecessor, but I did miss Far Cry 2's more inspired ideas—the buddy system, the factions, and so on. Then again, this game has deadly systemic tiger violence.

70 STALKER

Release year 2007 Last position New entry

Craig Games generally don't scare me, for I am Scottish and therefore the manliest of all men, but Stalker's ink-black night and Russian indifference to player survival is more effective than a hundred carefully choreographed scares from other survival horror games. I've returned to it many times, because I love being alone in the dark with a broken gun, drinking vodka. Which is also because I am Scottish.

69 FEAR

Release year 2005 Last position 62

John Arguably scarier than Doom 3 the year before, FEAR used light, shadow, sound and overlay effects to convey disorientation and confusion. The combat and shooting was some of the best I'd played on PC up to that time. Bad guys' guns would still blast away after they hit the floor and Max Payne-style bullet-time meant you could savour every gruesome moment of the combat.

68 BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY

Release year 2011 Last position New entry

Samuel Playing through City's 25 hours of Asylum-beating story content (minus the Scarecrow bits) was just the start, for me. The challenge rooms, particularly the combat maps, encouraged me to dig really deep with the many combos you can build out of Batman's armoury. Arkham's melee fighting is about opportunity and experimentation. And the environment proves the idea that handcrafted detail, not size, makes the most effective open worlds.

67 EMPIRE: TOTAL WAR

Release year 2009 Last position 69

Tom After an inauspicious launch, Empire: Total War has evolved into one of Creative Assembly's best. I've always valued the scale of Total War's grand strategy, and Empire's depiction of multiple theatres of war strung together by dozens of trade routes results in one of the series' most complex and rewarding maps. The cartoon livery of the time sits uncomfortably with the violent boom of a gun-line opening fire. Bravado turns to despair with every round of rank fire, and it's brilliant.

66 LEAGUE OF LEGENDS

Release year 2009 Last position 34

Wes League of Legends takes the intimidating, rewarding, maddening complexity of Dota and simplified it just enough to appeal to millions of players, becoming the most-played game in the world in the process. A smart free-to-play economy keeps players coming back. LoL is the lanepusher of the common man: deep enough to be a competitive sport, approachable enough to suck up the free time of teenagers everywhere. Tip to avoid immense teenage wrath: always ward Baron.

65 EVE ONLINE

Release year 2013 Last position 12

Andy A complex, uncompromising space sandbox light years ahead of any other multiplayer game. Everything that happens in EVE, from giant space battles to buying and selling resources, is driven by the players. CCP only step in under very strict, and rare, circumstances. It's a game notorious for its unchecked scamming and piracy, but that kind of player freedom is what defines it. It's a ruthless online universe that trades instant accessibility for rich, rewarding, and bottomlessly deep systems. Many will stumble at the first hurdle as they're presented with a baffling UI and seemingly endless tutorials, but get past that and you'll find the most unique massively multiplayer game in the world. You'll never forget your first fleet operation or the first time you tentatively fly into the lawless, terrifying nullsec.

64 BRAID

Release year 2009 Last position New entry

Ben There are six uniquely puzzling worlds in Braid, and they're all masterful. Time and Decision introduces a shadow of your character who replays your last action. Time and Place binds time to movement—go left to advance and right to regress. The word 'genius' is overused, but using it in Braid's case seems completely justified.

Tony I certainly felt like a genius for completing the thing. Braid forced me to think in whole new ways, not just once, but again and again with each new world—the buzz you get off of that is indescribable.

63 FIFA 13

Release year 2012 Last position 42

Ben FIFA 14's boggy midfield battles and overlong animations left me pining for the snappy pace of its predecessor, a more arcadey game, perhaps, but then you always feel in control. There are few games I consider myself expert at, but after 500 hours, I like to think FIFA 13 is one of them.

62 THE SECRET OF MONKEY ISLAND

Release year 1991 Last position 67

Wes Insult swordfighting. Inventory metahumour. The definitive SCUMM interface. Not only is Monkey Island one of the smartest, silliest adventures ever made, it established the tone, technology and style of every LucasArts game that came after.

Ian It's the game equivalent of my favourite adolescent comedy. Endlessly quotable and equal parts silly and profound, there are ideas here about plot, self-awareness and cleverness that resonate through all of modern gaming.

61 COMMAND & CONQUER: RED ALERT 2

Release year 2000 Last position New entry

John Red Alert 2 was the shiny, jolly younger brother of Westwood's high-budget and much more serious-feeling Tiberian Sun, which came a couple of years before it. The budget costume department and absurd acting are what made the narrative so brilliant, particular respect going to Yuri's flimsy false moustache and the mystery of how it never fell off.

Wes Command & Conquer's FMV cutscenes were the first groundbreaking dramatic storytelling for an RTS. With Red Alert, they got campy, and that was the best decision Westwood ever made. RA 2 imbues each althistory unit with exaggerated personality, from Tanya to the Chrono Legionnaire to the grinning Kirov. The music, missions and characters are still the most bubbly and memorable of the series.

60 UNREAL TOURNAMENT 2004

Release year 2004 Last position 59

Wes Remember when first-person shooters shipped with 100 maps? And ten game modes? And were really, really fast? Unreal Tournament 2004 is the crescendo of that era of shooter design, and nothing has topped it since. Tyler After-work instagib is a PC Gamer tradition, and I never want it to end. Evan Yeah, instagib is what holds up most. It's pure marksmanship with a level playing field played at high speed. Other than Quake III, nothing challenges your reflexes so directly and relentlessly.

59 FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS

Release year 2010 Last position New entry

Ian By taking the series back to the West, New Vegas became the updated version of Fallout and Fallout 2 that I always wanted. The bleak loneliness of the desert has never been more fun to explore. Craig It's the PC's greatest postmodern Western: I play as a wandering gun, bringing order to the dusty plains, living the life of a Stephen King character, while wearing a stylish hat and sharp suit.

58 FINAL FANTASY VII

Release year 1998 Last position New entry

Andy A grand, sweeping RPG that mixes surreal humour, genuine heart, and fun tactical turn-based combat. The materia magic system is still a pleasure to experiment with, Nobuo Uematsu's emotive score is absolutely heartbreaking, and that moment still plays my heart strings like a cheap fiddle. Excuse me, I have something in my eye.

Samuel Scrap those stupid MIDIs and I'm in. FFVII has aged better than any other entry in the series.

57 SAINTS ROW 4

Release year 2013 Last position New entry

Richard I loathed Saints Row. Horrible, mean-spirited rip-off. Skip forward a few years, and to my shock, Saints Row IV was easily my game of 2013. The silliness speaks for itself. It's one of the funniest games around. But it's also one of the warmest, the Saints ending their story as a family who have each others' backs to the end of the world and beyond. To be part of that, just for a while, is an honour and a joy.

56 RETURN TO CASTLE WOLFENSTEIN

Release year 2001 Last position 49

John My favourite first-person singleplayer campaign by far. With lashings of inspiration from films such as Where Eagles Dare and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Return to Castle Wolfenstein explores the Nazis' dabblings with the occult and fearsome technology. The game is brimming with hidden Easter eggs, booby traps and a German soldier desperately trying to deliver a consignment of posh cheese.

55 MONKEY ISLAND 2

Release year 1991 Last position New entry

Richard While it's not the laugh-riot people sometimes claim, Monkey Island 2 is a blistering reminder that adventure games were once the trendsetters and pioneers of PC gaming. Created by legendary designers at the top of their game, its atmosphere, characters and humour remain the benchmark that designers across the industry still aspire to reach, and the love and care in every pixel show off why. When a simple library-card catalogue can make you laugh harder than many supposed comedies, you know you're playing something special. It's also still the game I point to as a demonstration of many comedy writing rules. And in terms of details? It literally took years before I spotted what LeChuck's hat on the box actually was. A game that can still surprise years later is a game that more than earns its place here.

54 CAVE STORY+

Release year 2011 Last position New entry

Wes Put this on the Super Nintendo and it would only be the second best open-ended 2D adventure on the system, behind Super Metroid. But on PC, Cave Story+ is king: a remastered indie landmark, set in a brilliantly interconnected world dense with secrets and power-ups. The shooting, jumping, levels and pixels all feel like they were handtuned to perfection for years and years. Because, in fact, they were.

53 HOTLINE MIAMI

Release year 2012 Last position 95

Samuel My most replayed game on this list by far. While my interest in the fluff story has faded, my obsession with nailing the combo windows has not. The soundtrack is probably responsible for about 50% of its continued appeal. Ben It makes you feel at once delicate and dangerous, like that scrawny druggy who comes up to you on the street begging for cash. From the pulsing soundtrack to the acid-grime visuals, the aesthetic intoxicates while the savagery disgusts.

52 LEFT 4 DEAD 2

Release year 2009 Last position 9

Wes The real star of Left 4 Dead 2 is Ellis's buddy Keith. Remember that time Keith drove his car off a cliff and broke both his legs? Classic. Evan I keep saying it every year, but if you haven't modded it with your friends you're missing out on one of the most bottomless treasure troves of free content in PC gaming.

Tom L4D2's zombies flow over obstacles with the screaming fervour of a mob of Justin Bieber fans. Blasting the undead back with an auto-shotgun is endlessly satisfying.

51 COMPANY OF HEROES

Release year 2006 Last position 19

Tom A beautiful marriage of realtime strategy and late '90s WWII movies, Company of Heroes is still an essential PC game. The transition from fraught infantry scuffles to tank battles is perfectly paced, the dynamic cover system that forces you to adapt to changing terrain has only been attempted since in Company of Heroes 2. Relic carved out a new direction for real-time strategy games back in 2006, and nobody's beaten it since.

50 BATTLEFIELD 4

Release year 2013 Last position New entry

John Launch day was a disaster, the first few weeks a write-off and the months that followed a painful reminder that people will leave if something doesn't work. Almost a year later, the few in my clan who still play are enjoying BF4 in its golden years. Though netcode is still a problem, I've racked up 400 hours enjoying those wacky shooting-a-jet-with-a-tank Battlefield moments that you never forget. Visually, the game and all of its DLC packs have been incredible, matched only by the game's pace and action.

49 OUTCAST

Release year 1999 Last position New entry

Richard For the five people who could actually play it at launch, Outcast was an eye-opening glimpse into the kind of game we now take for granted, years before anyone else could even think about pulling it off. Its sprawling organic 3D worlds made it look like a tech demo, but every bit as much care was given to the action-RPG within. Populated by AI considered revolutionary at the time, this was a real place with a real sense of life; goofy in the classic tradition of French games, but absolutely serious about giving us a Legend of Zelda game to be proud of. And it pulled it off splendidly.

48 ARMA 2

Release year 2009 Last position New entry

Evan Arma's simulation of what it's like to shoot a gun, fly a Harrier, or jog endlessly through the Czech Republic isn't so much about its authenticity, but the way it stimulates unforgettable co-op antics with my friends. I've never been so happy to be in a helicopter when it's hit by an anti-air missile, if only because I get to yell “Eject, eject!” very dramatically.

47 FRONTIER: ELITE II

Release year 1993 Last position New entry

Craig The only reason my words are here is because of Frontier. It made me want to tell people about my adventures in the stars, as I worked from a merchant to a lethal military assassin, and finally struck out to see what the billions of star systems were hiding. I still can't quite believe it existed in 1993.

46 DUKE NUKEM 3D

Release year 1996 Last position New entry

John More than just rude Doom with jetpacks, this was a product of the action-movie industry, referencing the Alien, Terminator and Die Hard films while the Duke himself was equipped with the lines of Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry. Brave, vulgar, violent and never forgettable.

Emanuel Duke's juvenile jokes are a distraction from what made it great: its creative, multi-tiered levels and awesome weapons. Design-wise it could teach today's corridor shooters a thing or two.

45 DAY OF THE TENTACLE

Release year 1993 Last position 32

Richard Adventures come in many forms, and DotT is the height of the 'puzzle box' type—an intricate collection of gears that connect so well, you don't even see it happening.

Ian This was the first time I realised that games could be funny. The absurdity and whimsy on display as Purple Tentacle works to outsmart a bunch of teenage misfits is still entertaining two decades later.

44 HEARTHSTONE

Release year 2014 Last position New entry

Tim The whiners will say it's too simple, or too pay-to-win. Both wrong. I'm too ashamed to admit how much money I've dropped on card packs, but suffice to say more Legendaries is no guaranteed path to Hearthstone success. The only sure route is the relentless practice required to understand how cards synergise with each other, which plays are optimal, and how to counter the brutally strong copy/ pasted decks that dominate Ranked play. Short version: it's eaten my life.

Samuel It has a decaying effect on my wellbeing but I somehow still love it. One of the most generous free-to-play games out there.

43 SPELUNKY

Release year 2009 Last position 33

Wes Some gamers can play Spelunky exclusively for months, the way others play Counter-Strike or Dota. But Spelunky isn't a competitive game—its enemies, environments and items just work together so well, you can play for hundreds of hours and still discover new things.

Evan I love that it lets me be as agile and risky or clever and careful as I please. Imagine what gaming would be like if a generation had grown up playing this instead of Mario?

42 THE WITCHER 2

Release year 2011 Last position 30

Wes Where the first Witcher was rough but promising, Witcher 2 is polished to a beautiful shine, packed with interesting quests, morally corrupt characters and a fascinating mystery that ties deep into its lore. It's greatest strength is the uncompromising darkness of its world: there's rarely a right or wrong choice, just a hard one.

Richard Gave it an 89% at launch. Stand by that, quite a bit was a mess. But its updates since would easily push it into the 90s. Please let Witcher 3 be great at launch.

41 ARMA 3

Release year 2013 Last position New entry

Evan You haven't shot a gun in a videogame until you've used math, binoculars, map-reading, and a pile of intuition to knock someone down at 1400 meters with a scope. What's more PC than an open-world sandbox that honours your ideas?

Ian It's greatest strength is the freedom it gives you. Altis feels like a real place, and the community constantly surprises me with new things to do.

40 MAX PAYNE 2: THE FALL OF MAX PAYNE

Release year 2003 Last position 74

Samuel Remedy's most confident game, and a type of shooter that's unnecessarily out of fashion now.

Emanuel Max Payne was defined by a cool gimmick, but this revealed Remedy's real speciality: grounding over-the-top action with believable characters and environments.

Andy The twisted journey through the Address Unknown theme park is Max's greatest moment. A dark, pulpy comic book tale with brilliantly kinetic gunplay.

39 GUILD WARS 2

Release year Last position New entry

Phil For all of the social promise offered by MMOs, it's amazing how many fall apart when you try to play with friends. That Guild Wars 2 doesn't is why I've spent nearly 500 hours playing it—hanging out with pals while also maybe killing a dragon. The lack of a subscription means it doesn't feel like an obligation; the level downscaling makes it easy to group with anyone; and, even if playing alone, the multitude of events ensures there's always someone to maybe kill a dragon with.

Chris When Guild Wars 2 was released, I was convinced that it marked the end of the World of Warcraft formula—from quests to subscriptions. That wasn't quite right, as it turned out, but this is still the best game in its genre. Combat is fast, clear, and skill-based, and players have freedom to chart their own course through the world.

38 FALLOUT

Release year 1997 Last position New entry

Ian I invite you to marvel at the care poured into Fallout's iconic setting. The retro-future art style, where 1950s vacuum-tube tech evolved into plasma rifles without ever inventing the microprocessor, is deep, charming, and inviting. Just getting the chance to explore that world made it a childhood favourite of mine. I'm more than a little relieved that it's still fun today.

37 CRUSADER KINGS 2

Release year 2012 Last position 51

Ian If you took chess and zoomed in—way in until you could play politics with every knight's wife and every Bishop's ward—you'd have something close to the depth in Crusader Kings 2's medieval Europe. When you add mods that bring the political machinations of Westeros, Tamriel and Middle-Earth, you've got a feudal kingdom simulator unlike anything else in gaming.

36 BATTLEFIELD 3

Release year 2011 Last position New entry

Ben I spent £3,000 on a PC in 2012 because I thought the world was ending. When it didn't I wasn't even disappointed, because I had BF3. Sixty-four players packed into Metro station, rendered at 4K resolution and moving at 120 fps, is a revelation. I'll never forget my teammates' cries of thanks as I racked up medic points by continually reviving them against their wishes. I think it was thanks.

Emanuel The perfect balance of simulation and goofiness. It makes war a big sandbox where anything can happen, like shooting a rocket at jet fighter while parachuting.

35 PLANESCAPE: TORMENT

Release year 1999 Last position 22

Cory The story of an immortal's redemption in spite of so much emotional wreckage was told so well I hardly remembered to stop and hit monsters. And I didn't have to.

Tony For me it was the setting as much as the story. Sigil is the dusty, exotic refuse heap at the centre of the multiverse, populated by the sweepings of every heaven, hell and neutral plane ever described in an AD&D monster manual.

Richard Could be shorter though. “What can change the nature of a man? Booze.” Done.

34 WORLD OF WARCRAFT

Release year 2005 Last position 15

Richard While it's creaking at the seams now, WoW is still the MMO closest to my heart. So many adventures, so much loot. And so much more fun in Hearthstone/ Heroes of the Storm.

Cory Thank God WoW changed what it means to make a modern MMO—I don't know if I could have keep making EverQuest-style corpse runs for this long.

33 MIRROR'S EDGE

Release year 2009 Last position New entry

Ben Hi, I'm Ben, and I love all the things that you hate. Did you hate the combat in Mirror's Edge? I loved it! Did you hate the stop/start parkour? Loved it! The story? OK, that was rubbish, but the rest of the game? Loved it!

Samuel Forget the story—Faith is a silent protagonist to me, as I skip the animated cutscenes and just focus on free-running and showing off with wall kick combos. DICE was always a Battlefield factory to me, but Mirror's Edge taught me that this studio is full of innovative artists.

32 DISHONORED

Release year 2012 Last position 40

Chris I played Dishonored until I understood all of its levels backwards, and it kept impressing me the whole way. Its implementation of first-person stealth is the best since Thief II, and dozens of complementary systems provide huge room for player expression. It's also an ace action game, and that's not a trick many pull off.

Andy The closest a modern game has come to Deus Ex. I played the entire thing without killing or alerting any guards, and it's probably the most fun I've ever had with a stealth game. Dunwall was a joy to blink around, with its rich, stylised art and sense of culture and history. If we never return to that world, it'll be a damn shame.

Phil For me, it's about the movement. Corvo's power lies in how slippery he feels, whether clambering over Victorian architecture or effortlessly tormenting guards.

31 THIEF II: THE METAL AGE

Release year 2000 Last position New entry

Cory I love Garrett's fragility. Trying to stand toe-to-toe in a fight was suicide, and a well-timed blackjack was hard to pull off. Also, I wish every game had water arrows.

Craig Not enough games allow you to move at your own pace. Thief II lets you skulk, sneak, and listen to pick your moment, but in vast mansions where you were never quite sure you couldn't be spotted.

30 RISING STORM

Release year 2013 Last position 66

Tyler A multiplayer shooter where I can press a unique key to bolt my rifle is something special. It's not a sim, but the fidelity makes it fun even when I miss a 100-metre Springfield shot and eat artillery.

Evan The best case ever made for asymmetry. No one does weapon handling better than Tripwire.

29 PAPERS, PLEASE

Release year 2013 Last position New entry

Philippa This dystopian document thriller is not so much 'fun' as it is 'challenging', 'unnerving' and 'bleak'. As a border guard for a communist state your job starts simple but events soon lead to tighter entry requirements. Some visitors' stories lead you to bend the rules but every one you take pity on means less money for your starving family.

28 FALLOUT 3

Release year 2008 Last position 63

Samuel The Capital Wasteland is bleak and wonderful—it's Bethesda's most evocative environment to date. I love the way it naturally draws the player toward new landmarks. Crossing this decaying, postapocalyptic Washington DC while John Henry Eden reels off pro-Enclave propaganda from my Pip Boy is Fallout 3, to me—even though I'm aware New Vegas was tonally more in line with what fans of Fallout 1 and 2 were hoping for.

27 DOOM

Release year 1998 Last position 43

Cory It's the Barons of Hell that made me love Doom. E1M9, when the floors around me shook and sank, unleashing two horrible demons that wanted to swallow my soul. I dodged, weaved, and eventually made them eat some rockets. It was the best.

Richard How many pioneering games are still this much fun 20 years later? Wolf 3D? Quake? Please. Doom still holds up, from its iconic monsters to the sly cleverness of its maps and the splatter of that rocket launcher.

John Beyond it simply being years ahead of its time when released, Doom somehow achieved fantastic level design too—despite the restriction of not being able to overlap rooms. Keying in IDDQD, IDFA and running loops round the monsters until they killed each other is one of those cherished childhood memories.

26 DIABLO III

Release year 2012 Last position 96

Tom Diablo is about the purity of endless monster killing and fast character-building. The series was created for fans of RPG combat who don't want to sit through reams of quest text, who'd rather kill hundreds of monsters and be crowned a hero at the end. Action-RPGs are about combat systems, not stories, and Diablo III has the best of the lot. I've lost hundreds of hours experimenting with its vast collection of skill combinations.

25 CIVILIZATION V

Release year 2010 Last position 20

Phil Civ V's one-more-turn addictiveness is technically a cheat born of overlapping busywork. But over the course of a campaign, its strategic versatility results in some compelling 4X decision-making.

Samuel I could play Civ forever, and V was my favourite since II. The add-ons combat the repetition that eventually sets-in, too.

Tyler Steam Workshop has also been great for Civ V, with mods that add everything from new civs to better unit graphics. I play as Canada.

24 BALDUR'S GATE II: SHADOWS OF AMN

Release year 2000 Last position 27

Andy The first proper RPG I ever played, and it consumed my life.

Cory I should have been playing real D&D in 2000, as is the right of all college freshmen. Instead I explored Amn, and I don't really regret any butt-kicking for goodness.

Phil After the first game's slow progression towards its titular metropolis, Baldur's Gate II is (almost) instantly generous in its design. Amn is huge, vibrant, seedy and packed with things to do. It's the yardstick by which I've measured all subsequent RPG cities.

23 ALPHA CENTAURI

Release year 1999 Last position 38

Tom Mind worms, futuristic units and evocative faction leaders make Alpha Centauri's campaigns more memorable than historical Civ. It presents a moody vision of our future, in which humanity responds to hardship by shattering into extremist fragments. It's fascinating to watch those factions clash, ideologically and on the battlefield.

Richard And nothing is more satisfying than destroying Sister Miriam. Again and again and...

22 SYSTEM SHOCK 2

Release year 1999 Last position 39

Cory Shodan is my favourite villain of all time, and that's largely because she spends so much of my time on the Von Braun as my ally. She's not only evil, but arrogant, and every stab she makes at my humanity makes me want to reboot her that much faster.

Richard Shodan vs GLaDOS. Make it happen, someone.

21 GRIM FANDANGO

Release year 1998 Last position 28

Philippa A charming love story, great characters and the best noirmeets- Day-of-the-Dead art direction I've ever seen in a game.

Tom The controls were horrible and the fire swamp was ass, but Grim is so warm, funny and smart its flaws just melt away into gooey nostalgia.

Andy Inspired art, brilliant voice acting, and one of the best soundtracks in PC gaming history.

20 THE WALKING DEAD: SEASON 1

Release year 2012 Last position 82

Ben After playing I wondered: why did I feel more for the cast of a pointand- click than any other virtual characters in recent memory? Oh right: because they're well-written.

Phil The standard complaint is that your choices don't affect the bigger plot. My counter is that those choices affected me.

Richard It's sad that simply having heart and humanity can make a game stand out so much from the crowd. But here we are, I guess.

Ian I know you're supposed to replay these games, but I refuse to go back. What happened, happened.

19 PORTAL 2

Release year 2011 Last position 48

Andy Exploring the history of Aperture, seeing the visual style shift as you move through different eras, that was great visual storytelling.

Wes It's a master's thesis on game design. It takes one idea, and studies it as deeply as it can, and every feature it adds serves to underline and improve its core.

Samuel Stephen Merchant's performance is a rare example of voice acting being fundamental to the success of a game. A West Country English accent in a popular videogame? How quaint!

Ian Merchant is great as Wheatley, but my love will always go to JK Simmons's spitting, furious portrayal of Cave Johnson.

18 MINECRAFT

Release year 2011 Last position 8

Tyler We didn't know we wanted it until we had it. And then we spent lifetimes punching trees.

Philippa Minecraft rarely sustains my interest for more than a few hours. What I love is seeing what other people have built—I'm far happier as a Minecraft tourist!

Craig My girlfriend and I moved in together in a server before we moved in together in real life. It was a good primer, as our flat is full of spiders.

Ben Minecraft really is what you make it. During my first brush with the game it was a lifestyle simulator, myself and a mate blissfully tending a farm by day and sleeping under the stars by night. As I pushed further into skeleton-infested caves in pursuit of riches it became a dungeon-looter, and once I'd crafted the weapons to fight back, a rollicking actioner.

17 DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION

Release year 2011 Last position 11

Samuel Jumping off rooftops and performing an Icarus Landing into black-and-gold streets—Revolution contemporised Deus Ex while only slightly condensing its systems. My favourite game of the last few years.

Andy A faithful sequel, but also one that wasn't afraid to break away from its predecessors. Some of the best art direction on PC.

Tom You can spike two men at the same time with a retractable arm chisel. Best game ever.

16 DOTA 2

Release year 2011 (beta) Last position 21

Chris Dota 2's developers are the stewards of something bigger than themselves: a game so absurdly complex and competitively exciting that it could have only come from a modding community. It is the prodigal child of PC gaming.

Philippa I have spent more time playing Dota than I have on the rest of this Top 100 combined. Wizardly showboating and dickbaggery combine in endless permutations. In every match I learn something new.

15 DRAGON AGE: ORIGINS

Release year 2009 Last position 24

Samuel It's the most complete BioWare game in terms of narrative scope and player expression.

Chris It's well structured despite its long length, which I suspect is why so many people remember it fondly—it really feels like a journey.

Cory As fun as your companions are, I love Origins' combat more than the story. Pausing and setting orders before my party destroys a wave of darkspawn never gets old.

14 COUNTER-STRIKE: GLOBAL OFFENSIVE

Release year 2012 Last position 37

Evan Few FPSes have a matchmaking system today, and fewer have the pedigree for balance and tight map design that GO inherited. Playing GO five-on-five is as close to a team sport as you can get on PC.

Chris Matchmaking is the key. It opens up the experience of playing LAN CS to an online audience, and that's what got me back into the game after a ten-year absence.

13 BIOSHOCK INFINITE

Release year 2013 Last position 16

Tony Putting the action literally on rails was at once a great metatextual pun, stupid good fun, and the most original thing to happen to FPS combat in years. And Infinite is full of innovations like that.

Samuel So the story doesn't survive logical scrutiny: I kinda don't care. I think Columbia is a triumphant creation. The pacing of the setpieces and story beats shows what rare talent resided at the incomparable Irrational.

12 DAYZ

Release year 2013 Last position New entry

Evan By simply trusting players to find their own fun in a high-fidelity milsim playground, DayZ stimulated a whole culture of gangs, doctors, hitmen, and survival roleplaying.

Andy The most fun I've ever had in an online game, and the most powerful anecdote generator on PC.

Philippa The only game where I've started a book club and traded trinkets with anonymous strangers for the release of a kidnapped friend.

11 FTL: FASTER THAN LIGHT

Release year 2012 Last position 18

Samuel The Advanced Edition has renewed interest, and rightly so—there are more outcomes than ever in this spaceship strategy sim.

Tom Micromanaging the internal processes of a beleaguered spaceship cleverly centralises the drama around your crew members. Weep as they die horribly again, and again.

Cory The constant surprises are my second favourite part. Suffocating Mantis invaders is first.

10 DARK SOULS

Release 2012 Last position 46

Wes Where most games bend over backwards to give us what we want, Dark Souls makes us earn every victory. This attitude pervades every aspect, but especially combat: mastering the speed and reach of a weapon is a large part of why we play Dark Souls over and over.

Ben I'm a sucker for a good virtual world, and Lordran is a place of unimaginable, unforgettable beauty. When a seemingly random door reveals itself as a link between two areas, you have to stand back and applaud the artistry and execution.

Tom “Moreish despair” is the core emotion I experienced playing Dark Souls. You walk into a world that's slipping into entropic darkness, and all that's left are mindless husks, and the remnants of a magnificent civilisation you'll never see. I'm getting sad just thinking about it.

Cory Too often, I'll try to rush through a fight or an area, and I'm punished every time. I take a breath, calm my nerves, and try again. It's a very Zen-like experience for me.

9 PORTAL

Release 2007 Last position 14

Cory Look past the meme-worthy songs and the geek-culture-defining in-jokes, and there's a pretty brilliant puzzle game here. I loved wrapping my head around how to use blue and orange portals to break the laws of physics, especially the momentumbased puzzles. That this was a sideproject is just astounding.

Tony If they'd just given us a game where we could solve puzzles by opening holes in reality, that would have been enough. A lot of developers would have played it safe like that. Portal takes that concept and hits it side-on at 150mph with the freight-train of wonderful that is GLaDOS, and when you pick yourself up from the wreckage you find you've been smashed right into another, bigger game.

Ben That's it. The best bit, for me, was disobeying the charmingly demented AI GLaDOS and going on the run through Aperture's back rooms. I loved its fourth-wallbreaking effect, as if Valve never meant for this. They did, of course, and that's why they're lovely people.

8 MASS EFFECT 3

Release year 2012 Last position New entry

Evan Number eight? C'mon, guys. Don't do this to me.

Chris I loved it heart and soul because it had both of those things. As someone who was tremendously, novel-readingly invested in the series, I don't think I've ever felt this rewarded by a game. And yes, that includes the original ending. Lower your pitchforks.

Samuel The sense of finality was really something. I almost tear up just thinking about Liara resting her head on Shepard's shoulders. It's not weird. You're weird.

Tony It's got the drama and the characterisation that made the previous games so memorable, but an urgency, and a poignant sense of things coming to an end, that's all its own. It also has Citadel.

Richard Citadel is my favourite DLC ever.

7 TEAM FORTRESS 2

Release year 2007 Last position 4

Tyler I take competitive shooters seriously—most of the time. In Team Fortress 2, I'm allowed to be an idiot, and I've always had fun running around with a Huntsman bow telling everyone I'm Robin Hood. No one gets mad. Everyone has fun.

Evan It's become a bit cluttered with content and features at this point, so I'm surprised to see it this high. That said, TF2 is a textbook on how to integrate whimsy and personality into a multiplayer game without undermining much of its competitive focus. Every class in TF2's zodiac has a meaningful relationship—mechanically and thematically—to the others.

Craig I had to go cold turkey a few years ago, but the recent Conga Line taunt has brought me back to TF2. That says it all.

6 XCOM: ENEMY UNKNOWN

Release year 2012 Last position No change

Tyler I get that X-COM loyalists take issue with it, but this is XCOM, no dash. It's great for different reasons.

Evan I love what fragile dioramas the levels are. You can relish the outcome of your choices—like cracking open a gas station with a rocket to give your sniper an angle.

Tom RIP Sergeant Yolo Swaggins. Impaled by a Chryssalid, zombified, and shot dead again by his own men. XCOM generates the best heroes.

Phil XCOM: EU encourages you to be cautious, to protect the soldiers you've worked to advance. I love that XCOM: EW makes you risk lives to get its cool mechs.

Cory I had a distinct emotional attachment to every one of my team's squaddies. When ace sniper Tyler “Mad- Eye” Wilde was cut down by a plasma rifle blast, I cried. Just a little.

5 BIOSHOCK

Release year 2007 Last position 7

Chris I'm a bit red-faced about how meaningful I thought BioShock was at the time. Looking back, it's not the most subtle implementation of political metaphor you'll ever encounter, but it is tremendously effective and atmospheric—and it proved that games could set their sights high and achieve critical and commercial success. The FPS genre is now getting to the point where it needs its next BioShock, its next creative leap forward. That's a testament to the extent of Irrational's original achievement.

Wes BioShock's combat could be as simple as walking around bashing splicers in the head with a supercharged wrench, but it could be so much more than that. Combining traps, plasmids and specialised ammo to booby trap a corner of Rapture—before leading a Big Daddy to its unwitting doom—was just as satisfying as ferreting out an item cache or following BioShock's brilliant story.

Evan Ryan is the centrepiece for me, not Rapture. Irrational created a villain that you fear, respect, and come to understand despite being invisible to you for 99% of the game. It's a wonder we don't see more Shodanised antagonists.

Samuel For a generation of people who'd never played System Shock 2 and for whom this was their first Irrational title, BioShock was something else. It was the idea of interactive environmental storytelling without cutscenes that impressed me so much. I also thought Ryan was terrific—but BioShock is about Atlas for me.

4 DEUS EX

Release year 2000 Last position 5

Andy The first game I played that gave me a real feeling of freedom. Deus Ex rewards exploration and experimentation, with huge, detailed levels that are rich with things to do, AI to exploit, secrets to find and vents to crawl through.

Phil There is a guy acting suspiciously near Jock's helicopter. I have noticed that he is acting suspiciously, but I don't do anything about it. I figure there'll be a clearly marked moment in which to register that I have noticed him acting suspiciously. There isn't. In Deus Ex, unlike in other games, action speaks louder than cutscenes.

Tony Human Revolution has the looks, but Deus Ex is the better game. It's more freeform, it's more untidy and open-plan. The sheer scale of its environments enables a level of freedom modern games just don't seem able to repeat.

3 HALF-LIFE 2

Release year 2004 Last position No change

Chris Nobody has paced a singleplayer shooter this well since. That's the key to Half-Life 2's genius: that you are always moving, always being given new guns and gadgets, always being shown something new. At launch, that was combined with environmental detail and physics tech that you'd never seen before. Now, it's a paean to level design.

Evan I'll be the odd man out: I don't think it holds up this well. The clumsy physics puzzles, the loading screens, the vehicle sequences that don't belong in an engine that hates vehicles, the mundane enemy design. More of its modern appeal is owed to Valve's terrific sound design and grounded sci-fi aesthetic.

Tony I'll defend the vehicle sections: attaching wheels to Gordon Freeman was an inspired idea. The speed increase made the game faster and more fun, the freedom of movement opened up the world and made it a bigger, more believable place. Simply getting to the next setpiece became a pleasure in itself. Especially with Alyx Vance sitting in the passenger seat beside you. Half-Life 2: part world-saving adventure, part scavenger hunt with a scientist's hot daughter.

Phil And I'll defend the clumsy physics puzzles, because the flipside is enjoyable physics combat. Take Ravenholm. Played straight, it's a tense and eerie survival vignette. Played with the gravity gun, it's a playground of flying buzzsaw blades and radiators. Both are valid, but it's that variety—and Half-Life 2 is a game filled with variety—that makes it worth replaying time after time.

Andy The peak of Valve's environmental storytelling. You slowly learn about the Combine, and what they've done to the Earth, through clues in the world, dialogue, and other details. But the dialogue is always natural, and you don't have to sit and wait as characters reel off endless exposition.

Samuel I didn't like the driving sections at the time either, but I can forgive a game of otherwise such unparalleled variety and ambition. Half-Life 2 is still a masterpiece.

2 THE ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM

Release year 2012 Last position 1

Ben Skyrim has the best mods. There are epic mods that add new armour, new followers, new monsters and entirely new lands. There are tweaks that clean up the UI and remove loading doors from cities. My favourite is Fus Roh Dance, which makes anyone you shout at spontaneously boogie. It's the game that keeps on giving.

Tom I always have a modded-up copy of Skyrim on my hard drive because I sometimes still get sudden, overwhelming urge to go back there again. Loaded up with script-extenders and advanced shaders, it looks gorgeous, but still retains a sense of mystery. One day I'll have raided every dungeon and had every conversation, but that day is still years away.

Andy A game I still come back to, despite having played it for close to 300 hours. Pick a direction and walk and you're bound to come across something interesting in this colossal, detailed world. After the fairly generic fantasy of green, pleasant Cyrodiil, the frozen north of Skyrim was a welcome change, where pseudo-Norse mythology created a place that felt ancient and storied.

Ian I almost always avoid playing as a wizard in fantasy games, but the Mage's College storyline in Skyrim sucked me right in. Unlike the sometimes-janky melee combat, wielding the elements always feels smooth and powerful. It's my favourite evil-sorcerer experience.

1 MASS EFFECT 2

Release year 2010 Last position 2

Ben Give me a sci-fi suit of armour, an assortment of alien pals, total command of my own spaceship, an arsenal of futuristic weapons, the face of a Dutch super model, and free rein to go wherever I want in the galaxy, and I'm happy. Honestly, it doesn't take much.

Wes Mass Effect 2 dropped the deeply customisable weapon system I loved in Mass Effect. I also missed Mass Effect's optimistic tone and wide-open, explorable galaxy. It's a testament to Mass Effect 2's loyalty missions that I think it's the best game in the series. By making characters the focus of the game, BioWare spent most of its time developing the Normandy's crew into an amazing cast of characters I'm deeply attached to years later.

Evan This is BioWare character design at its best, but it's hard to imagine ME2 without its captivating score. Jack Wall's pounding synth (and ponderous electronica, out of combat) defines the aesthetic of the game for me as much as any character, chapter, or art asset.

Cory The loyalty missions gave me not only a stronger sense of each teammate's strengths, but a window into their motivations. I want an entire game of Jack side-missions.

Chris I was almost heartbroken by this—I loved Mass Effect, and at first glance I worried that its sequel had removed too much, become too slick. The repetitive structure of the companion missions; the last-minute sweeping changes made obvious not only by the game's unused files but the abrupt shifts in focus imposed by the Illusive Man. But I also appreciate how important ME2 was to the overall series. BioWare stepped up the environmental design, the combat, and the performance of each character. The game hosts some of the best writing in the series despite being thematically limited (it's a space adventure that is entirely about daddy issues) and lacking its predecessor's sense of escalation and discovery. It's probably the best game out of the three, but—overall—I think it's the least interesting. The Lair of the Shadow Broker was very good, mind.

Samuel Fuck you, Chris! This is a leaner, refined sequel that offered the most interesting narrative choices of the trilogy, with a fantastic, shocking intro. I didn't mind the original's cast but I never truly had an affinity for them—Thane, Miranda and Grunt were a different deal for me. The DLC was like an anthology of sci-fi stories featuring these characters, each with a killer ending, especially Overlord and Kasumi—Stolen Memory.

Andy This was the Captain Picard simulator I've always dreamed of. I'll never forget that feeling of being on the CIC of the Normandy, my own spaceship, with a galaxy full of possibilities spinning in front of me. BioWare created a cast of characters with genuine personality, making the suicide mission at the end one of the most intense experiences I've ever had in a game. If someone died, that was it, and it made every decision weigh on you as much as they did Shepard.

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