20. Half-Life: Alyx
Released 2020 | Last position New entry
Tyler: I don't like the horror aspects. I'm a wuss, and handling zombie corpses in VR makes me too nervous. Handling all other things with the Gravity Gloves, however, is fantastic. It's like you're Thor and everything is your hammer.
Chris: Alyx doesn't really do anything groundbreaking when it comes to how you interact with the world in VR. It's interactions are super-satisfying, like Tyler said: using the grabbity gloves to pull things into your hands, reloading guns, examining objects. It all works great without feeling like anything particularly new.
But where it's most impressive technically is how well it does locomotion and smooth movement. I've never had any real motion-sickness in VR, but I do get tired of it pretty quickly. I get headaches, I become hyper-aware of having controllers in my hands and a computer strapped to me face, and usually 30 minutes is as much as I can stand before I want to take off my headset for a break. I found Alyx so comfortable in VR that I had several sessions that lasted over two hours long, something I've never done in a VR game before. At no point did I feel like I needed a break or a breath. Whatever it does under the hood is incredibly impressive.
And that's excellent because it's also incredibly engrossing. I was skeptical a game sandwiched between Half-Life 1 and 2 could do much story-wise, but I'm happy to be proven wrong. Half-Life: Alyx completely invigorated a storyline I've been invested in for over 20 years with some genuinely thrilling revelations.
Emma: I suffer from motion sickness and I'm so grateful for the effort that Valve put in to make Alyx feel as comfortable as possible. As Chris mentions, it's so easy to sink a few hours into it without realising how long you've been playing. The story is incredible, and I'm excited to jump in for a second playthrough when the weather gets a little colder here in the UK—playing VR in this heat is horrible!
19. Into the Breach
Released 2018 | Last position 6
Jody: Not even XCOM: Chimera Squad's missions are perfectly bite-sized like Into the Breach's snacky levels. Strategy games are usually life-devouring posture-killers. Not Into the Breach. Move mechs, trick giant insects into smacking into mountains, and you're done. One step closer to saving a world, time left to walk the dog.
Evan: Snacky, as you say, but surprisingly grim! Ben Prunty's music and the tiny word bubbles emerging from the fragile buildings you're charged to protect convey a mood much bleaker than their bits. Mechanically and narratively Into the Breach is a textbook example of what can be achieved with a less-is-more approach.
Phil: The way I play Into the Breach, it's almost like Sudoku for someone with a Steam account. I'll spend long minutes pondering a turn, staring at the screen while the real work plays out in my head. "If I move him there, I could… no, wait, because then… ah, but if…" It's a tactics game that tells you all of the terrible things that are about to happen, and lets you take the time to work out how to prevent them all.
18. The Sims 4
Released 2020 | Last position New entry
Chris: It'll cost an arm and a leg to keep up with all the expensive add-ons, but there's simply no other game quite like The Sims series. Whether you play casually or devotedly, it remains an utterly absorbing, occasionally morbid, often hilarious dollhouse, person simulator, and story generator.
Katie Wickens: I know The Sims was originally designed as a middle-finger to consumerist culture and has now contorted into the very thing it despised, but I can't help getting sucked into the intricate slew of home and garden design features. The building cheats and extensive modding community make this game one of my all time favorites. So many stories to be woven, mysteries to be uncovered, crimes to be solved. This game has it all. Still, I’d wait for a sale before you spend your life savings on it.
Emma: I'm a long-time fan of the Sims, but I try to stop myself from playing it too often as it's ridiculously easy for me to become addicted to it all over again. One thing I'm still terrible at is looking after pets, though. My beautiful pink pugs always run away.
17. Apex Legends
Released 2019 | Last position 24
Phil: For the longest time I thought battle royales weren't for me. Apex Legends changed that, by encouraging me not to hide away like a coward, but to embrace the speed, maneuverability and lethality of its design and go looking for a fight. I'm a convert—I've already logged 180 hours since March, and I won't be stopping anytime soon.
Jacob: There are few games I'd take in lieu of Titanfall 3, but Apex Legends is a worthy replacement. It completely reshaped my opinion of battle royales up until that point, which were often long drawn-out exercises in scavenging up until a rogue sniper sends you back to the lobby. Apex Legends offered fast-paced action, a tighter map (which breadcrumbs gear and points of interest any which way you go), team respawns, superb gunplay, an inventory system that doesn't suck—you name it, Apex Legends had it, and has been improving on ever since.
Emma: Apex Legends has become part of my daily routine. Every night after dinner I'll clock in to grind through a few more battle pass challenges. Each season has introduced viable new legends, as well as interesting changes to the map, such as the bunkers in Season 5. I'm also enjoying the fact that Respawn are continuing to drip feed the characters' backstories into the game, too. The week that Forge was announced before being brutally killed by Revenant felt like a dramatic, twisted soap opera, and I'm all for more drama.
What's most impressive about Apex is how long it's managed to retain my attention for so long, and how every season feels like its best yet. Season 6 just introduced crafting, and it really helps to alleviate some of the boring downtime of other battle royales. I've also become a Rampart main for the time being, and have even gravitated towards entirely different weapons this season. I can't wait to see what Respawn adds next.
16. Yakuza 0
Released 2018 | Last position 15
Jorge: You come to Yakuza 0 for the Japanese '80s crime drama, but you'll stay for the over-the-top fights and wholesome character moments as you try to improve the lives of the citizens of Kamurocho. Also, seeing the series' beloved protagonists, Kiryu and Majima, in their awkward 20s struggling to figure out what kind of men they want to be is surprisingly relatable.
Andy K: The origin story of Majima Goro, as told in Yakuza 0, is honestly one of the best storytelling experiences a game has ever given me. His early chapters, where he’s working as the manager of a cabaret club in Osaka, are incredible: particularly his introduction, where he deals with a drunk customer using nothing but extremely good manners, soundtracked by a swing band. You’ll know what I mean when you see it, and you should, because this is an exceptionally entertaining game set in a dense, vivid portrayal of 1980s Japan. It breakdances on the line between absurd and serious in a really masterful way, and it’s the perfect introduction to a truly one-of-a-kind series.
Phil: The series has slowly been making its way to PC—Remastered Collection when, Sega?—but, if you've never played one before, Yakuza 0 is the place to start. It's a prequel, which helps, but more importantly it's the absolute apex of the series' drama, humour and social commentary, embodying its '80s with singular dedication. What I'm saying is: the money flies out of people when you punch them.
15. Hitman 2
Released 2018 | Last position 9
Fraser: You can kill someone with a homing suitcase.
Phil: You can! And it's the reason Hitman 2 is one of the most satisfying stealth games around. Look behind the thematic window dressing of a stoic assassin causing trouble in a series of neighbourhoods and you'll realise that Hitman 2 is a procession of puzzle boxes built on rigidly consistent rules. You're rewarded for discovering and manipulating those rules—learning how the sandbox will react and tailoring your approach to exploit it. It's a rare and beautiful game where breaking your own sense of immersion makes for a more mechanically enjoyable experience.
Andy K: I love walking slowly through one of Hitman 2’s impossibly dense maps, looking for cracks in the security to infiltrate, disguises to change into, people to follow, and targets to kill. These moments, the calm before the storm, are what make the series special for me. The planning, the anticipation, and, naturally, the on-the-fly changes of plan as you make a mistake and chaos erupts around you. It also helps that the levels look so beautiful. IO Interactive’s environment designers are some of the best in the business, and Hitman 2 is a killer showcase for their talents. The Isle of Sgàil is a personal highlight: a crumbling old castle perched on a rain-battered island in the North Atlantic, playing host to a creepy secret society party straight out of Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.
14. Doom Eternal
Released 2020 | Last position New entry
Wes: Doom Eternal spikes my adrenaline so hard I'm exhausted after an hour. If you've ever pondered the videogame equivalent of slamming a 16 oz. Monster Energy, then juggling chainsaws while riding a unicycle across a burning rope suspended over a hellmouth, well, here you go.
Harry: Doom Eternal's frantic relentlessness is exactly what I'm looking for in a shooter. Juggling resources and living every second on the edge of death is a great way to unwind and few other games require quite the same undivided, hysterical concentration. While Eternal didn't change enough to give it the impact the 2016 reboot did, it didn't really need to. That intoxicating cocktail of hardcore metal, intricate map design, and gruesomely cathartic glory kills is as exhilirating as ever, in necessarily short bursts.
James: Doom 2016 is still great! Go play that if you want to breathe between headshots, if you want to remain fully conscious and aware while ripping up demons and sticking it to the man (the man is hell). But Doom Eternal is a vastly different experience. Doom 2016 wants you to feel cool and sweat a bit. Doom Eternal kept me in a lizard-brained panic, balanced precariously between frenzy and despair, an FPS automaton of pure instinct for 15 damn hours. It's a painful, cleansing experience. Doom Eternal aged me.
13. Kentucky Route Zero
Released 2020 | Last position New entry
Rachel: Cardboard Computer took seven years to release all five episodes of Kentucky Route Zero, and yet it was worth the wait. This evocative adventure about the struggles of rural America are more relevant today than ever. Kentucky Route Zero is an anthology of stories from the road, tales of lore and mythos intertwined with the tough truths of working class folk. Miners, electricians and store clerks take centre stage telling stories of survival during economic hardship. The magical-realism enhances these tales and, as dreamlike as it can be, Kentucky Route Zero stays firmly grounded in respect for its characters. It's a powerful story that conjures a damning portrait of America and those who are forced to wander its lost highways.
12. XCOM 2
Released 2016 | Last position 13
Wes: XCOM 2 sticks around year after year because it's such an endlessly flexible sandbox, but the Chosen, stars of its must-have expansion, really make it for me. They're nasty, vengeful alien commandos who show up to make your life hell time and again. They made me miserable, but in return I tracked them to their hideouts and relished the chance to finish them off after so much torment. Evil's just more fun to fight when it has a face you can punch.
Robin: I reviewed XCOM 2 back when it came out, and honestly I’ve never really stopped playing it. All its different layers of randomness—especially with the expansion and some choice mods—just make it endlessly replayable for me. It’s this big, intricate, shifting puzzle that I never get tired of unpicking.
11. Planescape: Torment
Released 1999 | Last position New entry
Jody: I first played Dungeons & Dragons in the 1990s, before it got cool or had rules that were good. Even then Planescape was a wildly imaginative setting—a multiversal city run by squabbling philosophy gangs. Torment takes that setting and emphasises its urban grottiness, with magic tattoos instead of platemail and charms made of flies.
The heroes are scuffed-up too. There's a thief who is part-demon and voiced by Sheena Easton, a pyromancer who is punished for lighting fires with eternally burning skin, and you, an amnesiac corpseman who wakes up in a morgue. D&D can be fun when it's elves and dwarves, but it's even better when you're a man who drinks embalming fluid instead of healing potions.