Games the shaped a generation: PC

5. Battlefield 1942
DICE | EA | 2002

A primarily multiplayer team-based first-person shooter set during World War II, with a massive fleet of vehicles and epic 64-player clashes

What made it so great?
The battles, obviously, but what makes those great is a clever balance between action and tension. The enforced delay between dying and respawning makes death a big deal, but it's also not so long that you spend a large chunk of the game away from the fray. You're back in there within a minute, blazing away and fearing for your life all the while.

Packing that many people around a handful of chokepoints and giving each of them a good reason to try to stay alive impressively recreates the brutal chaos of real warfare. And as in a real war, the chaos brings people together: when a stranger saves your skin, you genuinely form temporary friendships right there on the battlefield.

Get ready to play
1942 is a little tricky to come by these days, but you shouldn't need to splash more than $10 to net it second hand from an market seller. There's still a steady core of a thousand or so players thrashing it out online at a given time - they don't know the war's over and we won't tell them if you don't.

Been there, done that?
To sequelsville! Battlefield 2 ships the action out to the Middle-East and China and adds an elegant squad system, order issuing keys and a ranking hierarchy to put soldiers in their place. It's a much more visually impacting and intense experience, but the game is technically clunkier and load times are absurd.