8. GTA 5
Probably the biggest evolution Grand Theft Auto has enjoyed since it went 3D, GTA 5 takes the essence of what has always made the series great, dismantles it, and rebuilds it with a new, fresh, altogether more thoughtful, and entirely reinvigorated structure. The three-protagonist set-up does far, far more than simply mix up the characterisation, building sophisticated dramatic irony as three separate storylines twist and conflict, all under control of the player. Even better, it’s now finally possible to play GTA any way you want to, and have it make sense. Between naive nice-guy Franklin, aggressive family-man Michael and benevolent psychopath Trevor, suddenly all play-styles are catered for without breaking the integrity of the game’s stunningly realised world.
As for that world... never has an open video game setting been so expansive, so richly varied, so cohesive, and so utterly, vibrantly reactive. It takes days--weeks, maybe--of immersion to truly realise its nuances, but for now, just know that in terms of form, feel and function, it’s the closest games have yet come to recreating the real world.