40. Caves of Qud
RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION New entry
Steven: This open-world adventure roguelike is one of the most ambitious games I’ve played. Forget the ASCII- inspired graphics for a second because Caves of Qud takes the intricate social simulation of Dwarf Fortress and packages it up in a sci-fi world where sentient bean stalks trade water for the locations of lost religious sites. It’s a world brimming with mystery, brought to life by sparkling prose, and rooted in a diverse RPG where you can shoot lasers with your mind.
39. Grand Theft Auto 5
RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 38
Samuel: Its roleplay scene and relentless sales keep GTA 5 from fading away, and while GTA Online’s updates have slowed down in the last year, the fact it’s getting a casino update six years after its original release shows what staying power it has. And if you’re picking it up for the first time this year, it’s still Rockstar’s best singleplayer campaign in terms of set pieces and pure entertainment. That said: I’d love to play a new one before I turn 40 (which gives Rockstar nine years).
38. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
RELEASED 2012 | LAST POSITION 20
Evan: Other than its ongoing fling with the battle royale genre, CS:GO has resisted the breakneck pace of updates and change-for-change’s sake that we see in the other multiplayer giants of gaming. 20 years later, our kids are making the same plays we were in 1999: pop-flashing banana, rushing B, scoring lizard-brain flicks with our AWPs down mid, and spending a non-trivial amount of our lifespans in the comforting tans of Dust2.
It’s strange to advocate against constant progress in an era where Fortnite thrives based on its latest weird grenade, seismic map event, or absurd emote. Comparing them, it’s tempting to knock Valve for not kitchen-sinking every possible feature, idea, and improvement into CS:GO in order to reach a giant audience, and instead relying so heavily on the community to produce the new stuff. To some extent it feels like the studio didn’t take full advantage of the game’s golden years in 2014-16.
But what we’ve got has been what most Counter-Strike players have always wanted: stability and consistency in one of the purest competitive FPSes that has ever existed. Global Offensive remains the best esport of this decade.
RELEASED 2013 | LAST POSITION 16
Wes: Still the pinnacle of randomness, AI and environment clashing in a seemingly simple but truly deep platformer. There’s room for so much expression in Spelunky’s simple jumping, whipping and bombing. Do you creep along with utmost care, or devise wicked traps for shopkeepers? Are you crazy enough to use a teleporter that can warp you into the floor? If you’ve never made it all the way to Hell in Spelunky, give it a shot before Spelunky 2 arrives.
Chris: Spelunky would be great even if it was just 16 levels of platforming, but there’s so much more to discover: Hell, The City of Gold, The Mothership... It’s a rare game where beating the boss isn’t the biggest challenge.
RELEASED 2017 | LAST POSITION 27
James: I’m running out of ways to describe Fortnite, because it’s a battle royale that is also a dozen other things. The item and weapon pools grow and change almost weekly, two years in. Airplanes came and went. The Storm Flip creates a bubble of purple hell or blue sky sanctuary depending where you toss it. The baller is a hamster ball with a grappling hook. OK? OK. Every week I think Epic is out of ideas but it still manages to flip the meta on its head. Beyond battle royale, Creative mode has produced hundreds of fascinating custom levels, ranging from low-grav Unreal Facing Worlds recreations to Toy Story 4 prop hunt maps and race tracks and official Weezer nightmare islands and downhill skating modes that get turned into official game modes.
35. Forza Horizon 4
RELEASED 2017 | LAST POSITION New entry
James: It would be so easy for Forza Horizon 4 to be terrible, but it welcomes players of any skill level into its open world car fantasy with open arms. Accessibility makes FH4. Dozens of switches and pulleys create a spectrum of difficulty from Mario Kart to Gran Turismo levels of simulation. I err toward Mario Kart—I’m a fan of going fast with few repercussions, taking my Surge soda liveried van off cliffs to pose for photos. Pump up the bad EDM, because this is where I want to die.
34. Dark Souls Remastered
RELEASED 2011| LAST POSITION 9
James: I’m never going to tire of running poor travellers through the fruitless cycle of life and death amidst the ruins of long gone civilizations and decrepit castles. Please replace my blood with broken ramparts and skeletons and grim prose. And please do it in high definition without community fixes required to make it happen. Remastered doesn’t reinterpret Dark Souls, but it finally gives PC players a stable, accessible version of the classic, unrepentant action RPG about dead/dying gods and the dark nature of humanity.
Wes: Still the purest example of FromSoftware’s ability to create a tight, winding Metroid-like world in 3D, with secrets and horrors around every corner.
33. Company of Heroes
RELEASED 2006 | LAST POSITION 37
Tom: Our favourite RTS has climbed a few places this year because we remembered how much we like RTS games. It’s a quiet era for the genre but Company of Heroes still delivers. The two core factions are beautifully designed and balanced. The destructible maps still feel novel, and there are some classic missions in the singleplayer campaign that stand up to repeat play. It’s aged a little visually, but the sound design is still remarkable. Explosions rarely have this sense of crunching impact, and the way gunfire distorts as you sweep across the battlefield is perfect.
Fraser: The best Band of Brothers game, and one of the last big leaps for the genre. More than a decade on, it’s still a bold blockbuster of an RTS.
32. Assassin's Creed Odyssey
RELEASED 2018 | LAST POSITION New entry
Fraser: I didn’t think I had another one in me, but here I am, almost 100 hours later, still playing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. It’s huge, and it’s the most fun I’ve had with the series since it started. I live in ancient Greece now, with my boat, my bird and my big biceps. I have no complaints.
Samuel: Odyssey is closer to a BioWare game than Anthem is, which is weird, but good news for people who enjoy light blockbuster roleplaying games. Assassin’s Creed is on a hot streak.
31. Cities: Skylines
RELEASED 2015 | LAST POSITION 25
Chris: There’s depth to Cities: Skylines if you go digging for it – particularly when it comes to managing (and mastering) the traffic simulation – but I’ve always opted for more of a chill, breezy, soothing city building experience. I just want to place my zones and see the buildings come to life, watch the city grow, and follow the teeny tiny people as they inhabit the neighbourhoods that spring up. With nearly two dozen paid expansions and thousands of free mods, it’s not hard to find something new to add to your latest city, whether it’s a new challenge or just some cool new buildings.
Wes: I gave my uncle, a lifelong contractor, a copy of Cities: Skylines, and he stopped renovating his house, he was playing it so much. He was watching Youtube videos and called to ask me what mods are. I love that the game that has become the PC’s de facto city-builder is so customisable and has all those official expansions, too. And for people who don’t play tons of games, it’s still good for a few hundred hours even without the add-ons. Modest system requirements are a big plus, too.
Andy: Skylines grabbed SimCity’s ball and ran with it, becoming the best city-builder you can play on PC. I love how flexible is, allowing you to make small towns as well as sprawling metropolises.