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The 100 best games ever

70. XCOM: Enemy Within

XCOM: Enemy Within looks confusing in screenshots and videos - with all the little icons and aiming percentages - but it's actually quite easy to play. You don't lose a game of XCOM because you didn't understand what was happening, or because you forgot how to command your characters. The game doles out all the information in a way that's easy to understand. Instead, you lose because you made a mistake.

Maybe you charged your elite troops into a bad situation, or clumped them all up only to get wiped out by a single grenade. Whatever the reason, you understand why it happened. The action is framed within a classic alien invasion scenario that gives enough context without getting in the way of the fun. And since it comes from the same house as Civilization, you know it has that oh-so-addictive, one-more-turn effect that'll keep you up until the wee hours of the morning.

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69. Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag

Who'd have thought the best AC game to date would be so... un-Assassin's Creed-y? That's not to say that Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag doesn't offer all the hallmarks of the stab-happy series; there's white hoods, sneaking missions and ancient MacGuffins aplenty. But it's the new elements that make this swashbuckling story so captivating. Boiled down to two words? Sailing, y'all.

Fleshing out a small feature of AC3 into a fully-fledged part of your adventure, AC4 gives you a vibrant 17th-century Caribbean to explore and a ship all your own to rule it with. In doing so, Black Flag becomes one of most compelling pirate stories ever told, tightly embracing the role-playing tenant that the adventure you make for yourself is far more memorable than any pre-scripted mission.

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68. Worms Armageddon

Team 17's very British turn-based battler is a true curio, something that could've only come from the mad minds of late '90s games developers. Here you play a squad of fighty worms as they attempt to eradicate the opposing team by blasting them or knocking them into water. "But they haven't got any arms!" you shriek into our faces. True, but that doesn't mean these invertebrates can't use artillery.

There's exploding sheep, banana bombs, kamikaze pigeons, and sacrilegious holy hand grenades, all taking chunks out of the level as they go off. You can use grappling hooks, jetpacks, bungee cords, and scaffolding to reach new vantage points, and when you want to rub your opponent's' nose in it, do a bit of disrespectful skipping. Just make sure you don't let your exuberant trooper get prodded off a ledge to his or her watery death.

67. Thief 2: The Metal Age

The first Thief practically invented the stealth genre as we now know it. But Thief 2 does everything the original did, only better. Despite his wish for a simple life of grand larceny, Garrett once again finds himself ensnared in an intriguing plot full of pagan cults and evil machinations. The sheer atmosphere of the shadowy stages, which blend a gothic setting with steampunk inventions, more than makes up for any ancient-looking polygons.

But most importantly, the AI in Thief 2 is remarkably smart, with enemies that feel like thinking entities that you must react to instead of simply manipulating. Every area in the complex, non-linear level designs feels like a new logic puzzle, which can only be solved through the proper mix of cunning and the ability to adapt when your best-laid plans go to hell in a handbasket.

66. To the Moon

Ok, so it's more of a visual novel with sprite trappings than a full-blown RPG - but wow, what a story. Wrapping up themes as weighty as death, memory, love, loss and the interpersonal toll of mental illness, To the Moon is a game which will likely take you about three to four hours to polish off, but will stay with you forever.

Two doctors are tasked with delving into the memories of a dying man and reordering them to make his dream of reaching the moon come true. As they dig deeper into his past, however, his dream seems strangely at odds with some of his most treasured memories. You don't have any real control over how events unfold, but To The Moon is an outlier for gaming storytelling which pretty much every other title on this list could learn from.

65. SSX3

SSX the third polishes up the series' already stellar board-based acrobatics to create an enthralling, accessible, yet fiendishly demanding rollercoaster playground. Then it explodes the whole concept outwards to create a full-blown video game holiday. In both concept and execution, the three interconnected peaks of the sprawling Big Mountain resort are a staggering achievement, mind-blowing in 2003 and still a joy to explore now.

One huge, alpine open-world, littered with race tracks, stunt parks, and trick runs, its eclectic atmospheres - from crisp, woodland backcountry to pulsating neon cities - is matched by its breadth, depth, and the sheer joy of just being there. Once you've tried a 25-minute run from the mountain's peak to its base, taking in every area in between, you'll realize that SSX3 isn't just the best snowboarding game ever - it's among the greatest games period.

64. TowerFall Ascension

Four-player TowerFall is the best thing you can do with a lunch break - yes, even better than lunch itself. It's a frenzied mini-tournament that takes place in short, frantic bursts of rapid-fire arrows, where winning is a combination of luck, skill, and other people's mistakes. Up to four archers, each with a quiver of arrows, fight for supremacy in a tiny space filled with platforms, item chests, and a ton of ways to die.

There's something for everyone: the retro-inspired aesthetic draws in the older, nostalgic crowd, while the chaotic, fast-paced action grabs the attention of the rest. Its accessible, easy controls (jump, fire arrows, repeat) make it perfect for beginners, but genius rule variations and tons of unique battlefields will keep you brawling for years. TowerFall is a simple premise executed brilliantly, as the best games often are.

63. F-Zero GX

The 12-year-old F-Zero GX not only still looks incredible, running at a ludicrously slick 60fps, but plays that way, too. Learn the tracks and train yourself to look past the eye-watering pace, and you'll enter a zen-like state of almost precognitive proportions. Where you see the upcoming corner, the loop, and the vital boost pad, unpracticed onlookers only see a blur.

With no weapon pick-ups in sight, the focus is kept strictly on white-knuckle racing. Besides, it's not like the game needs much inter-craft combat, as the courses themselves put up a fight, with harrowing cylinders suspended over flames, slippery glass roads snaking through futuristic cities, and routes littered with mines. Wonder why Nintendo hasn't made a new F-Zero? Because GX already exists, and it's still brilliant.

62. Spelunky

Computer-generated levels usually can't hold a candle to the ones that've been carved out by actual human beings. Imagine how lame Super Mario World would have been if Miyamoto's expert designs were replaced with a different set of jumbled-up eyesores every time you booted it up.

But Derek Yu's potholing platformer pulls it off. Spelunky's randomly-generated stages create a sense of wonder and exploration that pre-crafted levels simply can't compete with. There's a sense that you never quite know what's lurking around the next corner, and leaping before you look can quickly bring your latest adventure to an end. Not to mention the fact that the action is underpinned by hidden secrets and clever thematic twists that make the game as deep and absorbing as its near-endless cave systems.

61. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

The trouble with most co-op games is that you have to rely on other people (ugh) or AI 'bots with the intellect of a raisin. But Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons neatly sidesteps this by giving you control of both its titular leads simultaneously: one mapped to each analog stick. Essentially, you are your own co-op buddy - and it works wonderfully.

Directed by Swedish filmmaker Josef Fares, it's a brief game crammed with detail, character development, and cute set-pieces, whether you're tricking a blood cult or hiding from a yeti. This fantastic fairy tale of familial relations is bold, cinematic, and entirely unmissable for anyone with a heart that isn't made of icicles.