Out with the old, in with the new
GamesRadar is dead; long live GamesRadar+. As you've probably noticed, our beloved site is giving a warm welcome to new staff who've joined our team from Edge, Official PlayStation Magazine, Official Xbox Magazine, and GamesMaster. With our powers combined, we've successfully formed a 50-person Voltron of awesome games coverage. And what better way to celebrate than a complete do-over of our most cherished, argued-over list? Welcome to the new and improved list of the 100 Best Games Ever.
Forget nostalgia - these are the finest games you can play right now, even accounting for modern standards or series unfamiliarity. To prevent long-running series like Mario and Zelda from unbalancing the list, we're only allowing one game per series (with representatives for both the 2D and 3D iterations if need be). This isn't a compendium of the most important games of all time, either; historic significance doesn't mean diddly if it ain't still fun to play. Regardless of how you feel about our ordering, you have to admit that all 100 of these games are truly excellent. So, which titles do we collectively cherish above all else? Only one way to find out...
100. Alien: Isolation
You usually associate space with sleek modernism. Clean lines and pristine conditions, the sterile interiors of spaceships and orbiting stations all reflect the bleakness of space back at it. Alien: Isolation is different. It's space as seen through a CRT screen. A signal in a haze of static. Seeing the future from the past. As such, it captures the earlier films' spirit perfectly - specifically the original, where a single alien puts up more than enough fight.
It's scary enough for you to hide in a locker or crouch under a table when you hear so much as a blip on your chunky green radar, or ready a flashbang when you see the sharp end of a physics-enabled tail whip round a corner. Even after 15 hours of atmospheric exploration and cowering in terror, Alien: Isolation maintains its survival horror scares until the end.
99. Crazy Taxi
Ya ya ya ya ya! So sings Dexter Holland as the craziest of all the taxis leaps from the 128-bit San Francisco hills and straight into our hearts. While Crazy Taxi is available on everything from PSP to Xbox 360, it's the 2000 Dreamcast original that still shines brightest.
The soundtrack comprises punk-rock anthems from The Offspring and Bad Religion, with both matching the action perfectly. It's got the official licenses for a load of real stores, which sounds insipid but actually serves to give the cartoonish world a surreal twist. And the Dreamcast pad seems to be better suited to the incredibly deep control scheme than any other controller. It's pure blue-sky gaming, with an incredible score system and brilliant game design that's fun whether you're playing it for the first or five-hundredth time.
98. Heavy Rain
The most divisive game on this list? Quite possibly. Held up by some as a step forward for gaming as a whole in terms of interactive storytelling; yet decried by others as a tedious exercise in instruction following that holds both your hands way too tight.
The truth of course lies somewhere in between. Other games have certainly told their tales better, but Heavy Rain undoubtedly creates investment in the player thanks to its deep sense of authorship. But the real reason why David Cage's best game to date has made it in here is because it's different. Different good and different bad, but titles that stray off the beaten path deserve to be celebrated. Especially those which let you tap Square to amputate your own finger.
97. Battlefield 3
There's something about Battlefield 3 that hits the sweet spot for the series. While it doesn't push in new directions as far BF2 did, tell a story as effectively as Bad Company, or have the shiny visuals of BF4, it's just a fantastic multiplayer game. Its class types are well rounded, it balances on-foot combat with vehicular mayhem, it's (mostly) solid online, and the DLC is largely brilliant. Right now, it's a complete package - a brilliant, modern military FPS that still has a healthy community to this day.
The maps represent some BF series highs too. Operation Metro may be an awful meat-grinder, but it's one that clever players can counter. Caspian Border is a delightfully violent playground for big team battles, and Damavand Peak... yeah, it still feels cool to basejump off the cliff with your squadmates. The multiplayer campaign is so fantastic that the forgettable campaign is, well, forgotten. No harm done.
96. Hitman: Blood Money
Your mission: assassinate a senator's son without leaving any witnesses. Simple, right? But there's a catch: he's smack dab in the middle of a bustling socialite party, sipping fluorescent cocktails with a bevy of beauties in a glass-bottomed jacuzzi. How are you going to pull this one off, Agent?
The answer: any way you want, so long as you can keep your cool. You could take down a waiter, dress in his garb and slip a toxin chaser into a fancy beverage. Or you could 'borrow' a Santa Claus costume from a drunken entertainer and gain access to the back rooms, gently nudging the target off a balcony when he goes for a smoke. Alternatively, you could skip the whole 'subtlety' thing and just shoot out the bottom of the pool with a shotgun. Hitman: Blood Money is one of the most gloriously open-ended games ever, and begs replaying to see all the execution methods you might've missed.
95. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
It's called 'Retro Evolved' because the idea is simple: you control a shape which must shoot pellets at other shapes. The steadily increasing difficulty and different behaviors of enemy craft (some dodge your fire, some snake around menacingly, some divide into two when hit) is enough to carry the concept through, but compelling modes provide something extra.
There's King, where you can only fire from random safety zones. There's Waves, which tasks you with destroying horizontal and vertical lines of rockets. And there's the beautifully pure Pacifism, in which players must simply survive against an onslaught of enemies without firing a shot. It's got all the simple purity and chaos that defines classic arcade twitch shooters, with neon visuals that still amaze to this day.
94. TimeSplitters 2
The last great hurrah from the core team behind GoldenEye 007, Timesplitters 2's status as a local multiplayer great remains untarnished in the HD age. Iconic characters (Robofish is banned on the grounds of Oddjob rules, natch), finely-crafted levels, and a memorable suite of weapons (who can forget the brick?) ensures that it's still potent today, topped by cartoony stylings that are surprisingly robust all these years later.
But its appeal extends to its solo offerings too. With modes boasting ideas far ahead of their time (it feels ready-made for online scoreboards and the matchmaking capabilities of today's platforms), TimeSplitters 2 is packed with classic missions and addictive challenge maps that ruthlessly target the 'one more go' mentality. Oh, and it's also home to some of the sweetest, most satisfying zombie headshot rules ever committed to a gaming disc.
93. Dragon Quest 9: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
Dragon Quest mastered its successful formula a long time ago, and on the surface, the series' ninth entry seems to follow the pattern closely. All the essentials are there - a dense-but-approachable job system, complex battles that are simultaneously straightforward and layered, and an all-ages fantasy story that gets surprisingly personal. But Dragon Quest 9: Sentinels of the Starry Skies is also more experimental than any previous Quest.
DQ9's approach to local multiplayer somehow makes turn-based co-op feel as active as Monster Hunter, and the expansive collection of MMO-ish side quests make it feel like the journey is never-ending. It gives it all a modern feel that re-energizes Dragon Quest for a whole new audience, while still satisfying the old one. DQ9 pulls off this delicate balance without breaking a sweat.
92. Unreal Tournament
The fact that a 16-year-old first-person arena shooter is still considered essential should give you some idea of this game's quality. Forget the convoluted lexicon that swamps shooters today - once upon a time, an FPS didn't need killstreaks, supply drops, and attack helicopters to keep it exciting. In the fiery crucible of UT, everyone starts with the same badass Enforcer pistol. You want greatness? You get out there and take it, soldier.
Once you jump into the action, you realize this death-drenched disco has it all: some of the best weapons ever to grace your monitor (Bio Rifles and Flak Cannons for the win), a jump-happy physics engine that rewards verticality as much as as it does speed, AI that's still as deadly and reactive as real players, and a soundtrack that'll have your blood pumping quicker than a handy shot of epinephrine. Godlike.
91. The Sims 2
The Sims changed the face of gaming when it came out 15 years ago, but The Sims 2 smoothed over the original's quirks and made it something truly special. Sims evolved from blocky, robotic lumps of polygons to actual humanoids with aspirations, careers, and babies made through actual (implied) sexual interaction instead of prolonged make-out sessions.
It's the perfect Sims game to play, because unlike more recent versions, the base game is perfectly fine as a stand-alone product, with expansions that simply add more unique content without feeling like necessities. It never tries to be more than what it is - a daft, loveable, completely over-the-top pastiche of real life. And you can totally create a house full of everyone who's ever broken your heart, then set it on fire.