40. Dragon Age: Origins
Release Date: 2009
Last year: 49
Josh: DA:O took the core concepts of classic RPGs--compelling stories influenced by player decisions, character and companion development, and tactical combat--and cranked them all to 11. This is the pinnacle of classic RPG design--utilizing modern technology to realize more than we ever could before, while still leveraging our imagination.
Rich: It's really good, but the beards are wonky. Mine doesn't even connect at the cheeks. An RPG this weighty should get the beards right.
39. The Longest Journey
Release Date: 2000
Last year: 47
John: While time has taken its toll on the graphics, and common sense always took its toll on some of the awful puzzles, the story here transcends it all. I'm trying to think of any non-RPG that has characters, even minor ones, so well defined and so fondly remembered. It's about why imagination is important - a subject that has been idiotically under-explored by the medium best designed to approach it.
38. STALKER: Call of Pripyat
Release Date: 2009
Last year: New entry
Craig: I love the world of Stalker, the grim sci--fi and dark humour. My favourite tale from Call of Pripyat I about a graphical glitch encountered, a shimmerring effect that was warping a huge area, too big to be an ingame effect. It wouldn't go away: I reinstalled my drivers, stuck an old graphics card in my machine, reinstalled the game. Then I backed off far enough to see that it was an effect, emanation from a massive gouge in the side of a hill, reaching into the sky, all born from an anomaly the size of a football.
Rich: I remember staring out at three pairs of yellow eyes in the dark. Call of Pripyat's dark is dark - like living in a city then staying out in the country for a while. It's the kind of dark that means you can't see your anomaly scanner a foot from your face. It's also the kind of dark you don't go out in, if you value your skin.
37. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge
Release Date: 1991
Last year: 50
Josh: The rare sequel that outshines its predecessor, LeChuck's Revenge easily had the best writing of the series. I dare you to name another game that lets you compete in a spitting contest (with slo-mo loogie camera shots), build voodoo dolls, cross dress to infiltrate mansion parties, and have your pants fall down after digging up bones in a graveyard.
Graham: Monkey Island 2 is in the Top 100. Monkey Island 1 is not. This is definite proof that Tom is wrong and that the sequel is better than the original. In your face!
Tom: This is definite proof of your mother.
Release Date: 1997
Last year: 7
Rich: The original, and still darkest, take on the end of the world. As one of the survivors of a nuclear apocalypse, you're thrust out into the wasteland in search of a replacement water chip, in this classic RPG. Darker than a black hole, but funny with it, Fallout proves that the end of the world isn't all bad.
Dan: This was the first game that turned me loose in an interesting world and made me feel like I could do pretty much anything I wanted. Don't like that guy? Shoot him in the groin. Want that guy's gun? Steal it. Don't want to fight? Talk your way out of trouble. And the story that comes with it is the best nuclear satire since Dr. Strangelove.
Chris: Instead of castles, elves and magic wands, Fallout had atomic wastelands, super mutants and shotguns. I'd never played an RPG like it. It dropped f-bombs in dialog trees and let you slaughter entire towns if the mood hit you. It also had the best NPC companion ever made: Dogmeat.
35. Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord
Release Date: 2000
Last year: 52
Tim S: TENSION n. (*ten*-shon). Mental, emotional, or nervous strain caused when a CMBO turn ends just as the Churchill VII you've spent ten minutes sneaking into position, fires its last AP shell at the rear of a distracted Tiger tank. If you demand truth and drama from your military entertainment, this and its two sequels, are titles to be treasured.
Release Date: 2007
Last year: 28
Ed: So rare is it to find an FPS these days that wraps setting, story and combat all together in one nice big plasmid sandwich. Even if the final part of the game felt weak, that's only because the rest of it was so incredibly strong. Also, I do like a game where your starting weapons can be useful throughout. Fear me for I have become wrench, destroyer of daddies.
Graham: Ed's right in that so much of the game was great, but the ending felt weak because it was atrociously, stupidly awful. That aside, what I remember most is Armin Shimmerman's commanding voice as Andrew Ryan. Who knew that Quark from Deep Space 9 had that in him?
Rich: I was never sure I was enjoying BioShock as I played through it - the shooting was off, the upgrade paths too linear. I was struck instead by a pervasive sense of /importance/, like it would change something. I think it did.
Tom: Man, you guys are so reserved. This is the best fucking story-driven game I've ever played. Everything short of the last five minutes was a fascinating, creepy pleasure to explore and fight through, for me. I'd customised myself into a creator of chaos, setting everything in the world against each other with decoys, hacks, pheromones and explosives. And as I danced a sick ballet with plaster-cast dancers in Fort Frolic, bloodied wrench in hand and Tchaikovsky blaring, I knew I was in love with a game.
Release Date: 2008
Last year: 63
Chris: Braid's puzzles destroyed my brain, even after I figured them out. Although it had a simple premise (rewind/fast-forward/freeze time), Braid's cleverness was in masking its complexity—including the plot. A year and a half after release, people are still debating what the story represents.
Tom: Braid is a smart, brain-breaking puzzl game, loved by gaming philosophers. Then the videos of Salsa Boy appeared, pressing the 'rewind' button and cracking up like he's discovered comedium. On a pretty basic level, it's just fun to fuck with spacetime. And it's what games should be doing. The industry wastes so much effort making and remaking the same shoddy imitation of an action movie, while Braid shows the world something that could only ever be a game. Time travel movies are a shoddy knock-off version of /this/. The wonky logic of going when you shouldn't only comes to life when it's interactive.
Release Date: 1999
Last year: 30
Dan: The fully 3D space strategy action is pretty much exactly what goes on in my head whenever I watch a Star Wars movie battle scene. I'd be disappointed that it wasn't a licensed Star Wars game, except the impressively emotional story (and the accompanying music) is so brilliantly done that it stands on its own.
Tom S: Platoon can fuck off, this is how you use Adagio for Strings. Homeworld is a beautiful, glacial strategy game that combines the quiet vastness of the cosmos with the fury of dogfighting drones. Its interstellar battlefields were vast, gorgeous and thanks to that haunting sountrack, strangely moving.
31. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Release Date: 2003
Last year: 26
Dan: George Lucas may have beaten the Star Wars franchise to within an inch of its life with his abominable prequel trilogy, but Knights of the Old Republic's epic story is a shining bright spot that proves there's still some life left in that universe - and a reason to call yourself a Star Wars fan.
Rich: What do you do on a spaceship in hyperspace when you're sick of sabacc and holo-chess? Have a chat. The game's planets are intriguing, the quests suitably expansive, but it's the spontaneous conversations that erupt to fill downtime that make this RPG still so vital. Fill your ship with weird aliens and murderous droids, then needle them with questions until they love you.
John: I'm constantly trying to work out whether I want games to offer me choice, or the illusion of choice. KOTOR does a perfect job of the latter, letting you alter your emotional response to the game, rather than your path through it. Smart, funny, and light sabres.