70 Final Fantasy IX
RELEASED 2016 | LAST POSITION New entry
Daniella: A true JRPG classic and a highlight of the Final Fantasy series, it finally came to PC this year, wearing a shiny HD jerkin. The backgrounds are a little shonky and showing their age, but this tale of love, war and riding airships grips you at every turn, more so than even FF7 (yeah, I said it, fight me). Added Boosters to speed up battles or skip them keep the pace feeling modern for those playing it for the first time.
69 Doom II
RELEASED 1994 | LAST POSITION 73
Chris L: I mentally swap Doom and Doom II just about every time I consider which is the better of id Software’s two genre defining first-person shooters. The original’s level design is probably superior, but Doom II was bigger, blastier, and more ambitious. Plus, it gave us the double barrelled super shotgun, still one of the most satisfying boomsticks in all of games. Doom II did something exceedingly rare: it kept intact what we loved about the original while changing just enough to feel like its own separate experience.
Shaun: Just like Chris, I waver between Doom and Doom II as my favourite. But when it comes to modding and level creation, Doom II is better because (a) it has the super bloody shotgun, (b) it has more monsters, (c) the skyboxes are better and (d) landing three rockets into a Mancubus is the best stress reliever.
68 World of Warcraft
RELEASED 2004 | LAST POSITION 31
Steven: Blizzard’s fantasy MMORPG had an enormous impact on not just the genre, but popular culture as a whole. Its influence was so widespread that there was even a time when it was cool for celebrities to talk about their characters.
World of Warcraft was so influential, it effectively killed the potential for an entire genre. Its financial success warped expectations and buried just about everything that followed in its wake. Before World of Warcraft, MMORPGs were unique and messy, but now they’re all dying to fall in line and march to Warcraft’s drum.
People will fight to the death over its future, but all that serves to highlight is how, even in its old age, WoW still demands so much attention. Even as its subscription numbers begin to shrink and people start to lose faith, one thing’s for sure: World of Warcraft will not go quietly into the night.
Matt: Adding World of Warcraft to this list is like endorsing peanut butter after a triple bypass, but if it wasn’t brilliant, I wouldn’t have played it until my legs turned blue. No game has kept me as engaged in the relentless, self-defeating pursuit of nothing quite like this one.
I spent weeks getting excited about a Paladin’s hammer. I wasted a month pretending to be a highwayman in Darkshire. I created a guild named after the Teutonic Order—the Templars were already taken—despite it making shit-all sense in the context. And despite knowing that it’s terrible for me, I can’t hear that menu music without getting a swell of nostalgia and a creeping, inescapable desire to go back.
Even after losing days, weeks and years to this monstrosity, there’s still loads I don’t know and things I still want to discover. Just writing this makes me want to start playing again, so I’m going to stop before I slide back into a world of herbs, auctions and grinding for mounts. Screw you, World of Warcraft. You’re amazing and I hate you.
67 Far Cry 2
RELEASED 2008 | LAST POSITION 78
Chris L: Plenty of games succeed at making the world seem cold, but this open-world FPS is the only one that feels convincingly hot. Standing in the blistering sun near the brittle trees on the arid landscape you can almost feel the sweat trickling down your neck. The gunplay is chaotic and fun, and few shooters have felt so immersive before or since. Even fewer have been brave enough to cast the player as someone who, ultimately, isn’t a hero.
66 Burnout: Paradise
RELEASED 2008 | LAST POSITION New entry
James: No arcade racing game has ever felt as freeing. It nailed precise, fast driving that gave equal rewards for first place and ten-car pileups. Paradise City is what I visualised playing with Hot Wheels as a kid, a jungle gym of huge ramps and winding highways populated with fun stuff to throw my metal body into. It allows for aimless meditative driving, intense improvisational races, and playful destruction.
65 Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines
RELEASED 2004 | LAST POSITION 63
Chris T: A cult nocturnal vampire adventure occupying the middle ground between a BioWare RPG and Deus Ex. A bit of a technical mess—you’ll want the community-made patch—but it’s still atmospheric and brilliantly written.
Wes: The first time I tried to play I found it impossible. It was my fault: I was playing a Malkavian, a clinically insane vampire other vampires brushed off as a nuisance. How many RPGs give you that kind of freedom?
64 Life is Strange
RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION New entry
Chris T: A bittersweet episodic adventure with shades of Twin Peaks, Veronica Mars and Donnie Darko, Life nonetheless has its own voice. There’s a sincere, funny, and characterful heart to this tale of time, friendship and the apocalypse.
You can rewind events to undo your mistakes, which turns the trial-and-error pattern of most adventure games into an aspect of the plot itself. There are some incredibly tense set-pieces, too.
Protagonist Max and her best friend Chloe are believable leads, negotiating young-adulthood, family life, loss and friendship. In particular, it’s nice to see a game put the experience of young women front and centre.
Tony: When it comes to emotional colour, most games are a five-year-old wielding fluorescent marker pens. This one is a moody teenager who’s discovered pastels. The result is uneven and overwrought, but sincerely felt. It’s a game of pleasantly melancholy hues: the trials of college life, the lost security of childhood, the heartache of intense adolescent relationships. It’s easy to mock, but a lot harder to pull off, which is why Life is Strange has my respect for succeeding as far as it does.
Phil: It has a few duff moments, but what episodic game doesn’t? It succeeds because of the interesting, nuanced friendship of its two central characters. You want them to succeed.
63 Rollercoaster Tycoon 2
RELEASED 2002 | LAST POSITION New entry
Daniella: Who knew cleaning up vomit could be this much fun? This management sim lets you control all parts of a theme park, including designing your own rollercoasters and choosing how many people you want to humiliate by dressing in Panda suits. The second game builds on everything in the first, and you can forget anything that came after—this is still the best coaster sim you can buy. Until Planet Coaster comes out of Early Access, that is.
62 Homeworld Remastered
RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION New entry
Tom S: One of the most beautiful and challenging RTS games ever has been adoringly remastered by Gearbox, rescuing a classic from obscurity. The singleplayer missions can be brutal for the unprepared, but they tell a powerful story of loss, recovery and revenge that’s surprisingly emotional. It helps that the sight of a full fleet gliding into battle is such an incredible spectacle. Simply one of the best space opera PC games out there.
61 Diablo II
RELEASED 2000 | LAST POSITION New entry
Jarred: Diablo turned the ASCII-based, randomly generated dungeons of the old, geeky Rogue games into an action-packed clickfest. Watching the animations as dozens of monsters explode, searching for better loot, and levelling up have become standard fare since then. New environments and the continued story kept things interesting in this sequel, and for me it remains the high point of the series.