The best of the best. The 100 games you must play. Our favorites. The greatest. We love lists. We love arranging things in order of excellence. Some might say our entire reason for existing is to attach a declarative number of quality to the hard work of thousands of game developers. On with the show!
100. IL-2 (2001)
We got really excited when we played IL-2 Sturmovik for the first time purely because we could use our Track-IR head-tracking thingy to glance at the map sewn into our virtual pilots knees. And then work out where we were by comparing it to the scenery outside the cockpit.
99. Mirrors Edge (2009)
It lets you be an urban ninja, which is reason enough to love it, but its the citys polished dystopia that keeps it so firmly in our minds.
98. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)
Big, brash, and questionable in its ethics, it should be an easy game to hate. But its just so slick, so planned, it demands everlasting, if grudging, respect. Bumping it up to Veteran difficulty and plowing ahead is one of gamings great trials of strength.
97. Anchorhead (1998)
Atmospheric and absorbing, but nevertheless a game with puzzles to solve, this is everything thats great about interactive fiction.
96. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (2005)
Is it the exquisitely designed single-player game, or the hilarious co-op? Screw it: both are great. Outside of Thief, this is the best stealth game ever made.
95. Jagged Alliance 2 (1999)
Managing your own A-Team of international mercenaries, each with his own specialities and unique personality, makes for some of the best tactical strategy combat this side of the X-COM series.
94. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II (2009)
Space Marines are the finest action figures PC gaming has ever had. DoW2s cover mechanics and loot/leveling create a fine environment for paper doll play, picking out what jump pack or power sword to put in their hands. The star, though, is the free Last Stand mode, in which you and two friends face increasingly dangerous waves of malevolent beasties. Avoid falling over to get the high-score. Its that mode, despite being so simple, despite being so cut down, that has hooked us. It is the Dawn of War equivalent of tower defense, and it proves, as ever, that the real-time-strategy game still has places to go, and new mechanics to explore. You should try it.
93. Far Cry 2 (2008)
Take its idiosyncrasies as a given, relegate the respawning enemies to the back of your mind youll find theres not much to match the thrill of the best laid plans of mercs and men going awry. Explosively awry!
92. Audiosurf (2008)
Screensaver, MP3 player, game, giant willy-waving scoreboard. Audiosurf is all of these things mashed together to create something thats totally its own, and something that really infuriates people who only enjoy music superficially.
91. Uplink (2001)
All geeks know that hacking doesnt happen like it does in the movies. Uplink made us believe that it does.
90. Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth Of Worlds (1992)
One of the most important games ever, and as inventive with the Ultima universe as BioWare were with the Star Wars tales. But so antiquated that its now very hard to play. It was first-person! You could pick stuff up and throw it! Your armour wore out and then you repaired it! With your repair skill! The sheer verisimilitude of UWIIs little world was like nothing wed ever seen before, and still impresses.
89. Rainbow Islands (1987)
Bub and Bob are perennial modern heroes. Rainbow Island is a magical platform game, based around the simplest of urges. Upwards, ever upwards... Its videogames manifest destiny incarnate. You shoot rainbows to destroy bugs and collect fruit. You walk on top of those rainbows to ascend platforms. Its an incredibly simple game, but the colourful graphics and insanely catchy music just imprinted themselves on our DNA.
88. Outcast (1999)
Its the closest the PC has ever came to having a Zelda of its own grown organically from the first principles of the PC.
87. Kings Bounty: The Legend (2008)
The best PC-only game of 2008, and yet no one played it. We will hunt down and kill those who didnt, with our snake-and-bear-and-zombie-and-fairy-and-mad-dwarf-scientist army.
86. Grand Theft Auto (1997)
Its incredible how innocent something that was once so controversial now feels. GTA 3 and its sequels are obviously important, but theres something about GTA 1s mechanics-above-all approach that makes it the freer, more replayable pedestrian murder simulator.
85. ZangbandTK (1989)
Rogue-derived games are at the root of so much thats brilliant in PC gaming. If youve had enough of the watered-down cocktails you sip in the mainstream, you should head towards the hard liquor brewed in a bathtub for a real hit. Start with ZangbandTK, because its got all the strength and wont sear your throat as much as the nastier brews.
84. Tomb Raider II (1997)
The first Tomb Raider dazzled us with its massive escarpments, Jurassic era cameo, and a beautiful, acrobatic and fearless heroine, but it wasnt until Tomb Raider II that the series hit its stride. Thats when an even more improbably-dimensioned Croft went Indiana Jones on us, jumping a motorboat through the windows of a Venetian bridge and blasting immortal warriors back into pottery shards.
83. Supreme Commander (2007)
Feels like the most PC strategy game ever because were not just about nerdy stats and squinting at intricate interfaces, were about ridiculous ambition, impractical scale and rampant hubris. SupCom exemplifies all five of these things, and does it with amphibian robot death-spiders wielding backmounted gigalasers of hypergenocide.
82. Solitaire (2001)
A true retro classic.
81. SimCity 2000 (1993)
Cities are staggering, beautiful, things. Theyre also bastards. SimCity games always captured the latter, but 2000 is the best at balancing endless frustration with the compulsion to create a more perfect city. Its also the only one in the series to capture a little bit of that futurism, letting you build arcologies and then prompt a mass exodus into space. More games should end on a mass exodus to space.
80. Gothic II (2002)
A spiritual successor of sorts to the Ultima series, Gothic II features a beautifully detailed nonlinear 3D world. NPCs live their own lives, complete with uniquely independent daily schedules, personalities, and urination?
79. Out of This World/Another World HD (1991)
After our 32nd retry of pretty much every single level, we were scorched with bitterness having paid for the privilege of playing this game. And yet, we felt a little sucking chest wound where our heart had been after we finished the game and realised that wed never again see the friend wed made or feel as alive as we did when we were in constant danger in an incomprehensible world. Now available in higher resolutions.
78. Tetris Friends (2008)
The best version of that block arranging minigame, ever! And its totally free to play at tetrisfriends.com. The PC wins.
77. Star Trek: A Final Unity (1995)
A Final Unity captured the humanistic spirit of the The Next Generation series in a fascinating, mysterious and multifaceted adventure game backed up by the entire cast, Picard and all.
76. Crysis (2007)
Tanks roll across open fields. A jungle is encased in ice. Mountains crack open to reveal alien ships. A nuclear missile is launched. Alien space ships are explored, battled and defeated. A man touches a screen, and ripples of light trickle out. Games so often try to ape the big budget action movies of directors such as Jerry Bruckheimer and Roland Emmerich, but Crysis is the first to appropriately capture their scale and enormous attention to detail.
75. Burnout Paradise (2009)
Theres so much to smash, and it remembers you smashed it. It celebrates that you smashed it! Its just non-stop fun. And there are multiple minigames in Burnouts online modes.
74. Galactic Civilizations II (2008)
Managing two hundred billion people is complicated, and GalCiv isnt as simply presented as its Earthly inspiration, Civilization. But the excitement of setting out to explore a procedurally generated galaxy of mind-boggling size does so much more for us than an ordinary world map. The scarcity of fertile planets out there makes your brushes with alien races much tenser. Its a game that dwells on the knife edge between peace and war: were all friends at first, but take that f---ing planet just because you got a colony ship to it one turn before me and you will be on thin f---ing ice, fish-thing.
73. Star Wars: TIE Fighter (1994)
The way in which TIE Fighter melded proven space combat game models with the fiction of the Star Wars universe was a thing of remarkable balance. Seldom has a Star Wars game handled the material this sensitively, and rarely in games does being the bad guy end up feeling so noble.
72. Freespace 2 (1999)
A better space-sim than TIE Fighter? Yes. Maybe its because the enemy spaceships are vast laser prickled continents. Or maybe its because its plot is fresh and weird. Or maybe its because Freespaces space is gorgeous richly coloured starfields that stretch out to infinity. Impeccable.
71. Cave Story (2004)
This is a brilliant example of the lock-and-key approach to platforming: progress formed from constant upgrades of equipment and deep exploration and backtracking. Theres more tragedy and triumph in those little pixels than youd think, too. Getting the good ending is one of our greatest gaming achievements.
70. Battle of Britain II (1999)
At the heart of BoB2 is a dynamic campaign engine more sophisticated than most wargames. Every plane and squadron that fought during Britains Finest Hour is painstakingly tracked, every fighter available for first-person flight. Factor-in superlative flight modeling, massive dogfights, and lively radio chatter and youve got an endlessly replayable sim.
69. Wolfenstein Enemy Territory (2003)
The Engineer and his fix-o-spanner. Mr. Field Ops and his ammo crates. Dr. Medic and his life-giving syringe. All combine to make a team shooter that leans more heavily on the teaming than the shootering.
68. Starsiege Tribes (1998)
Base defense. A gun that shoots exploding Frisbees. Flying troop transports. Remotely-controlled turrets. Learning how to ski with a jetpack. Tribes was years ahead of its time. Dynamix figured out battlefield roles before Team Fortress Classic or BF1942. The maps were vast and the flight thrilling.
67. No One Lives Forever (2000)
NOLF provided us with a suitably powerful and versatile arsenal, and bravely crafted a game that was equal parts shooter, adventure and comedy.
66. MechCommander (1998)
Diablo with Mechs. Its a purer expression of what BattleTech is (squad tactics, leveling up your pilots) than even MechWarrior 2.
65. Sid Meier's Colonization (1995)
The old one, not the dry-as-Bibles remake. Its from an age when sequels (as this was to Civilization) meant thoughtfulness and brave difference, not just doing the same thing with more bells. It turns a small slice of Civs gigantic scope, the colonization of the Americas, into a triumphant narrative.
64. Carmageddon (1997)
A game in which mowing down pedestrians was a legitimate strategy was inevitable. That Carmageddon would pull it off with such elan was unexpected. Launching off an overpass onto the hood of an incapacitated opponent brought satisfaction matched only by Olympic victories and sex.
63. Braid (2008)
In an interactive medium that currently steers us from one no-brainer decision to another as if we were mildly retarded, Braid is smart and joyfully bastard-hard. Games havent made us feel frustration and triumph like this for a long time.
62. Beyond Good & Evil (2003)
A global conspiracy. An underground resistance movement. A protagonist who sets out to discover new life instead of destroying it although shes not above kicking ass when necessary. Oh, and a pig with jet boots. Where most action-adventure games leave us to adopt the bitter truth of violence as the inevitable solution, BG&E made us enjoy feeling virtuous.
61. Anachronox (2001)
Your cursor is an upgradeable in-game item that flies around the room a LifeCursor. Your dead secretary lives inside it. One of your party-members is a miniaturized planet you can still visit. Eight years on, were still waiting to play another game half as wildly inventive, arty and adventurous as this one.
60. Street Fighter IV (2009)
As nasty and fast as the blows can be, theyre nothing to the desolation of realizing your opponents just out-thought you. A test of muscle coordination and practice, yes, but also a test of guts and smarts.
59. PlanetSide (2003)
What did you do in the war, Daddy?
What didnt I do, son. I was an escort pilot, protecting the swollen dropship flying next to me and its precious, fleshy cargo. I was a mech trooper in a MAX suit, digging in and clearing the skies. I was a tank gunner, taking shots as targets threatened weaker allies. I was a soldier, boy, and so was everyone else.
58. Space Giraffe (2008)
Ignore the snipers and try it, because you wont find a better shooter than this in the rest of your life. Audio and visuals blend into a twitch-prompting shell around the best idea for a little ship anyones had: you garden as well as annihilate. The PC version has a "less headf---ing" graphics option too.
57. Flight Simulator X (2006)
An ample selection of aircraft, and honestly the best compromise struck by the series, or any sim, of being accessible and nuanced - an Xbox 360 controller is actually a workable alternative to a fancy joystick. There are fans who build replica cockpits in their garage just so they can play this game. Thats PC gaming.
56. Eve Online (2003)
Spectacular in its ambition to create a functioning galaxy of space-war and political intrigue EVE is formidable in its challenge, and unprecedented in the freedom it offers players. Nowhere else can a true multiplayer world be said to have been created with this breadth and complexity.
55. Dungeon Keeper (1997)
In the high watermark of management games, you are the evil king of an underground lair. Dungeon Keeper should have spurred a vast movement towards making that static genre into something bolder.
54. Star Control II (1990)
It combined the space adventuring of Starflight (or Star Trek) with the simple combat of Asteroids, and populated its open-ended universe with aliens including xenophobes, pterodactyls and talking blobs.
53. Command & Conquer Red Alert 2 (2000)
RA2 was the epitome of the resource-harvesting model of RTS design. Everything up to that point felt lacking. Everything since has been overcomplicated by gimmicks disguised as progress. Theres also never been an RTS with more character.
52. Combat Mission Beyond Overlord (2000)
Before CM:BO, PC wargames were dusty, hexagon-littered creatures. Battlefronts dramatic 3D depiction of the liberation of Europe changed all that. The extra D, the tension-fuelling WeGo turn structure, and the resourceful, cautious AI still impress.
51. Spelunky (2009)
Its impossible to memorize Spelunkys procedurally generated levels, making it instead a game about the logistics of exploration. Spelunky forces you to stop and consider, and makes you feel smart for succeeding.
50. The Secret of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (1991)
Still makes us laugh. Funny without seeming to try and manages to cram so much character into so few pixels. Guybrush is still a star.
49. Dragon Age: Origins (2009)
A world with so much depth youd think it had been created a hundred years ago. Weve played it for 100 hours, and well play at least 100 more, and thats just the original content. Hundreds more hours of DLC are planned.
48. Aliens Versus Predator (1999)
This is and always will be one of the most atmospheric, ageless and frickin frightening first-person shooters ever made.
47. The Longest Journey (2000)
It was a tremendous, epic fantasy, grounded by a central character with whom we could immediately relate from the moment of her first utterance on finding herself on the edge of a precipice dressed only in her underwear: This is so not appropriate.
46. Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl (2007)
Even the bugs of this joyfully grim FPS are memorable. The double-whammy of environment and viciousness means the original Stalker is endlessly replayable, while industrious modders have it looking better than most of todays ultro-games.
45. Left 4 Dead (2008)
The first co-op shooter that actually forces you to cooperate. Never before had a game brought four people so together in pants-shitting terror.
44. Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis (2001)
It blew open the doors for open world games, and still creates tension like few others. Its clear why gamers are still fanatical about Flashpoint.
43. Diablo II (2000)
Pure input/output. The gold standard that finger-murdering fast action-RPGs are still compared to almost ten years later. It satisfied our bloodlust and gearlust natures with its visceral action, not to mention its ridiculous cow level.
42. The Sims 3 (2009)
Its a suburban what-if machine. What if I hit on my neighbour? What if I have kids? What if I explore this crypt? The answer to each is usually funny, dramatic and calamitous. The Sims 3 finally tones down the tedious baby-sitting elements, leaving you free to toy with the soap opera.
41. Peggle (2007)
The missing link between gamers and the rest of the human race. Dropping tiny balls onto pegs can hypnotize the entire planet.
40. Grim Fandango (1998)
No game none, ever, anywhere, ever breathed more life into its characters than Grim Fandango. A film noir adventure game set in the Mexican Underworld, it introduced us to the lovelorn dead, the greedy dead, the weasly dead, the slick douchebag dead, the beautiful, intelligent and fatalistic dead, and a twitchy-eared demon whos handy with cars. Also dead.
39. Sacrifice (2000)
If Terry Gilliam made an RTS, itd be a lot like Sacrifice. Warped, hilarious, innovative, brilliant. From some of the best large-scale devastation in games to some of the finest puns (The death-cow-from-above Bovine Intervention, indeed), this is one of the PCs most precious artifacts.
38. Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle (1993)
Games can be funny. Very, very funny. The reason they arent? Because games developers think they can write the jokes. Thats why Tentacle writer Tim Schafer is a rare creature to be treasured. This remains his very funniest moment, along with some of adventurings finest puzzles.
37. Darwinia (2005)
Replace the refreshing polyhedral art with a bleak World War II setting, the touching story of an infected computer with a bland campaign, the indie charm with an unskippable EA logo itd still be one of our favourite strategy games. The actual mechanics are inspired, smart and fun.
36. Battlefield 2 (2005)
The dust-chucking, ear-splitting chaos of BF2 is all about squads. Leading three or four men to work tightly together, whether friends or strangers, with the help of some smart interface touches. Its the best of the tactical play seen in high-level Counter-Strike, but set against the thumpingly dramatic context of a far larger war: vicious, terrifying and fought entirely by other players.
35. Football Manager (2009)
Its at its best as a muse to terrace songwriters. Inspiration for a tune never flows as readily as it does when lionizing some striker with a funny name youve nabbed from a League 1 club.
34. Company of Heroes (2006)
Just when the thought of playing another World War II game was enough to make us want to do a paradrop sans parachute, along came Company of Heroes. It has the most polished visuals, sound and tactical combat weve ever seen in an RTS.
33. Mass Effect (2007)
Explore the galaxy, vanquish evil, and maybe experience a little alien-on-commanding-officer lesbian sex along the way.
32. Mafia (2002)
While the GTA series earned its high-fives by fusing brisk, crackling dialogue with credible cities, Mafia achieves something arguably loftier. By the end, players are left with a sense of sad, ironic regret thats rare even among literature.
31. Frontier: Elite 2 (1993)
In Elite, weve been a spy, a smuggler, an assassin, a slaver, a military courier, a recon agent. Weve flown down into the atmosphere of a planet, photographed a military base, all for the Empire!
30. Homeworld (1999)
Homeworld put all the Star Wars/Star Trek battles going on in our heads right up on screen, rendered with graphics that were revolutionary at the time. Theyre not too shabby ten years later, either.
29. Max Payne 2 (2003)
Max Payne 2 proved that the blackened heart of film noir was inherited by PC gaming after its neglect in Hollywood. It was ruthlessly cynical, gritty and morally ambiguous, and some levels served up more hallucinatory images than Payne himself could have worked up in his Valkyr-inspired nightmares. The slow-motion blam-blam-blam is fun, too.
28. BioShock (2007)
Its not about exploring the underwater city of Rapture grim and dripping as it is but the people. We cant think of another game where weve actually cared about what the villain was trying to accomplish. BioShock is conflicted, sad and captivating.
27. Doom II (1994)
This was id Software not caring about anything other than making a game that was pure, flat-out fun, a trick theyve only managed to repeat with Quake III.
26. Knights of the Old Republic (2003)
From its opening genocide to its climactic galaxy-changing decisions, KotOR is a game about big themes seen from an extremely personal perspective. While some of the Dark/Light themes have been overplayed since, this was the time they were relevant in a world defined by the Force. A stellar story, combined with characters fleshed out to the brink of reality.
25. Baldurs Gate II (2000)
It was the realisation of a dream pen-and-paper roleplayers have had since the dawn of gaming: to play actual AD&D on their PCs, with all its cherished gubbins of THACOs, kobolds and Cure Light Wounds spells. But it was something else as well: the introduction of high production values and rounded, human characters to a genre which, thanks to BioWare, has never looked back since.
24. Ultima VII: The Black Gate (1992)
Technology finally caught up with the ambition of Ultima, to create a huge and highly interactive world where chatty NPCs scurried around opening the curtains. It had an intelligent story, too, about the dangers of surrendering freedom to an ostensibly benevolent but oppressive higher power.
23. StarCraft (1998)
Beautiful asymmetry. The Terrans, Zerg and Protoss are so different from each other, yet so intricately balanced that theyre still battling for dominance more than a decade later. The staggering possibilities for unique interaction make the action unpredictable and surprising.
22. Quake III: Arena (1999)
Ferociously precise multiplayer combat from id Software, and arguably the pinnacle of their creative powers. Realism takes a back seat to create something that is pure videogame: an abstract conflict demanding skill and dedication.
21 - ArmA II (2009)
ArmAs authentic representation of what its like to shoot a gun, fly a Harrier, or jog endlessly through the Czech Republic isnt so much an experience in military realism, but an excuse for incredible co-op antics.
20. World of Goo (2008)
Its so phenomenally clever, so consistently inventive, and so brilliantly funny. It manages to be cute without being cloying, sad without soppy, and difficult without frustrating. Its the pinnacle of puzzle games.
19. Hitman: Blood Money (2006)
Nothing you can do with an assault rifle or grenades will ever be as satisfying as drawing a silenced pistol from your jacket and shooting someone in the back of the head then getting away with it. By concentrating on social stealth evading suspicion, rather than detection Hitman asks you to commit a more heartpounding deceit than the likes of Thief. Blood Money is by far the most accomplished and open-ended embodiment of that dark lie.
18. Unreal Tournament 2004
The comparisons to Quake III have become increasingly absurd as this more outlandish series rolls on. By 2004, it had become primarily a vehicle-heavy, open-air battlefield game about warring over a tactically intertwined network of nodes. Its closer to Battlefield, except that the basic shooting is slick, quick and gratifying enough to make a superb deathmatch game.
17. Portal (2007)
The puzzle game at its heart is mind-expanding, intensely clever and kinetic. What elevates Portal so far beyond that is the queasy mix of menace and comedy from being at the mercy of such a wildly malfunctioning villain. GLaDOSs masterplan is emotionally confused, ill-hidden and even slightly cute even when shes asking you to die.
16. System Shock 2 (1999)
Apart from being a sleek and uncommonly successful mix of action and roleplaying, what sticks with us most about System Shock 2 is how strong that sense of being on a spaceship was. When we think back to our time sprinting away from cyborg ninjas and zapping things with a laser pistol, we dont think of it as levels. We picture the entire Von Braun, hulking and boxy, drifting through space while our little horror story played out within its clean metallic decks.
15. Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)
Possibly the most convincing depiction of a place in any game ever. Player freedom and great storytelling in perfect harmony. Funny as hell too.
14. World of Warcraft (2005)
If you want to understand why World of Warcraft has been such a success, consider just how broad a game WoW is, how much there is to do. Its not just the biggest game in the world by player count: its the biggest by number of activities.
13. Counter-Strike: Source (2004)
This is pitch perfect clan warfare, demanding tactical thinking, lightning-fast skills and intimate map knowledge. Its the ultimate test of clan teamwork and communication. Its mass appeal speaks for itself.
12. Sid Meier's Civilization IV (2006)
Civ IV added so many new dimensions to the already vast number of possibilities the previous games offered that it could easily have gone off the rails and become mired in its own bloat. But it didnt somehow, Firaxis made a game that actually lives up to the claim of letting you reenact thousands of years of civilized history, and they made it impossible to stop playing.
11. X-COM: UFO Defense (1994)
Attention everyone who wouldnt vote for X-COM: youre dead to us. In fact, were going to start it up right now, name a recruit after you, then send you alone and unarmed into an alien base swarming with Chryssalids. There, in the moments before youre stung and reduced to a drooling zombie incubator out of which a fully formed monstrous alien will soon burst, you will experience the suspense that made this one of the greatest PC games of all time.
10. Fallout 3 (2008)
Bethesda make their games with refreshingly little regard for what games are supposed to consist of: a series of carefully judged challenges and rewards. Instead they make a place, and expect you to figure out how to survive there. Thats especially well suited to the awful wasteland of the Fallout series. Leaving the safety of the vault puts you in a nightmare of ash and ruin so boundlessly harrowing that we were earnestly joyful to come across a radio signal, tune in, and hear a human voice.
9. Thief II: The Metal Age (2000)
There are compelling arguments for the other games: Thief 1s weirdness, Thief IIIs stand-out levels. But theres more focus on stealing in Thief II, and while we adore the world, the story and characters, were in it for the glint.
8. Planescape: Torment (1999)
The smartest RPG of all time, with one of the finest stories told in gaming. Being the Nameless One is a chance to revel in cynicism, sarcasm and dark humour.
7. Fallout (1997)
It kicks you out of a safe, sheltered Vault life and into a harsh, deadly world full of brutal humour, great choices, and memorable locations and characters.
6. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006)
It gives you a massive fantasy world, gorgeously rendered and freely explorable, but it doesnt guide you through it. The arguments youre drafted into, the settlements you stumble across, the Dark Brotherhood: all distract from the central plot, but all add immeasurably to the experience.
5. Rome: Total War (2004)
Perhaps its something to do with the way the ancient era was depicted, or perhaps its down to the dramatic twist of the factional civil war within the Roman empire, but this remains the finest of the Total War games. Glorious, visionary, elegant.
4. Half-life (1998)
It takes you on a journey, and holds your attention completely from start to finish. The finest example of gripping narrative through play rather than exposition. This is gaming as story rather than story in games.
3. Team Fortress 2 (2007)
Its remarkable enough that TF2 can have nine classes and still make them all so different to play. That they all tessellate so satisfyingly, that their tools are expanding over time, and that each new map gives them all a new part to play, is a genuinely incredible accomplishment.
2. Half-life 2 (2004)
Valves masterful sequel was a turning point for the linear first-person shooter. It was the game that did everything so right that it diminished the accomplishments of every other contribution to the genre, and it seems to challenge anything that followed to do things differently or perish. Character, setting, physics, combat, puzzles: its nothing less than an object lesson in great design.
1. Deus Ex (2000)
This weird truncated Latin name pops up every time people talk seriously about what games can be or do. Most of us disciples will tell you its because of the options: you can evade, hack, shoot, stab, lure, trap, poison, disable, schmooze, and each of these is viable improbably often in its 20-hour tale. But you get into muddier waters if you ask why it hasnt been surpassed.
Its all in that first mission. You can walk all around the Statue of Liberty and choose your own way in. Its not about choice in the binary sense of either/or, left or right. Its about being part of a big, dynamic gaming machine and changing how it works from within. And then later, the doors open and youre in Hong Kong. F---ing Hong Kong.