You voted, we counted, and here they are: your favourite beat-'em-ups, shoot-'em-ups, RPGs, JRPGs, MMORPGs, RTSs, first-person shooters, over the shoulder shooters, platformers, sims, point and click puzzlers, and much, much more.
2012, Playstation 3
A red-robed figure. A fluttering scarf. A barren desert landscape. Not the three elements you'd immediately guess would combine to form one of 2012's most memorable titles. Nonetheless, Thatgamecompany's third release (after Flower and organism-devouring Flash game, Flow) captured hearts and minds with its simple, speechless odyssey. Unable to communicate save for a single, ambiguous chirp, anonymous players nonetheless forged emotional bonds, united by a common goal. With beautifully stylised visuals and an enchanting, evolving score, this simple saga is one of the PS3's most poignant legacies.
99. Crash Bandicoot
When the original PlayStation was launched in 1995, the gaming industry was still in the throes of idolatry, worshipping at the altars of moustachioed plumbers or cerulean hedgehogs. Sony was lacking any such mascot though and so Crash Bandicoot was born. Cast more in the mould of Sonic than Mario, players guided the mutated marsupial through the usual platforming tropes – collecting items, jumping on enemies, smashing boxes. Groundbreaking visuals set Crash apart though, drawing players into an ever-deepening 3D world. A fierce showcase for the PlayStation's prowess, and compelling gameplay despite its simplicity.
More than simply being the first fully three-dimensional RTS game, Homeworld's legacy lies with its storytelling. Where previous titles in the genre had tied missions together with barely coherent narratives, Relic's space opera told a heart-rending story of galactic refugees fleeing persecution to find their ancestral home. From the initial genocide that sees the death of millions to the final conflict with the Taidan empire, Homeworld made you a part of its tale. Enormous space battles threw fighters, frigates and destroyers together in spectacular fashion, while the sparse, endless beauty of space was perfectly captured by the striking visuals and Paul Ruskay's superb score.
97. Super Mario Galaxy 2
On the surface, it's hard to see where Galaxy 2 improved on its predecessor. It still offered the same core formula of tumbling around planetoids of varying size, gobbling up power-ups and chasing coveted Power Stars. The fact that Mario could now turn into rock couldn't account for this sequel's placement on this list. No, it was the re-introduction of Yoshi, Mario's iconic dino mount, that reinvigorated the game. There are few purer joys in gaming than the child-like glee of snaffling up goombas with an excitable sauropod, then spewing them out as projectile weaponry. Yoshi, we salute you.
96. Team Fortress 2
2007, Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Team Fortress 2 was a modern classic. A brilliantly crafted squad-based shooter, its assortment of bizarre weapons, versatile game modes and numerous maps made it a joy to play. Two things help Valve's offering shine though. One, its wild array of character classes lent a rare but genuine vein of humour – the deranged, bonesaw-wielding Medic being a particular favourite. The second was community. From its earliest roots as a mod for the original Half Life to its subsequent free-to-play status, Valve incorporated player feedback into the game, making for an experience gamers felt uniquely part of. Also, hat95. League of Legends
95. League of Legends
While 'free to play' has rarely gone hand-in-hand with quality, Riot Games' MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) is a very notable exception. The spiritual successor to Defence Of The Ancients, LoL took the MOBA formula mainstream, gaining more than 32 million players to become the most widely-played online game in the world, one with a fierce professional scene. The simple premise (kill creeps, kill towers, kill champions, kill nexus) belies a deeply tactical experience – albeit one with a baffling lexicon and an unforgiving community. Once you know your Junglers from your AP Carries and can successfully push a lane, though, there's little to rival this for competitive online play. Just remember: don't feed, don't facecheck and don't play Teemo.
94. Super Metroid
Super Metroid was an event. Its giant SNES box, twice the size of its shelfmates, marked it as something different, something special. Thankfully, the game inside didn't disappoint. Bounty hunter Samus Aran's third encounter with the alien Metroids was a sprawling, labyrinthine journey, far outclassing its peers in scope. Guiding Samus through the bowels of planet Zebes, all but lost to xenobiological terror, demanded pixel-perfect platforming skills and weapon accuracy. With a surprisingly complex story (albeit one owing a lot to Alien) and a haunting musical score, it stands as one of Nintendo's greatest achievements.
93. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
It's testament to how effective a game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was that it was so well received despite the myriad bugs that plagued it upon release. Part RPG, part FPS, part survival horror, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. saw you make your way in the irradiated wasteland of The Zone: a haven for trigger-happy killers, mutants and spatial anomalies. It's an oppressively bleak experience but one that engulfs you entirely; the fragility of your character and the many perils of The Zone making this one of the most genuinely frightening video games to appear on the PC.
92. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Although Skyward Sword didn't really move the core Zelda experience forward – not until 2013's A Link Between Worlds would the tired formula of 'enter dungeon, get item, beat boss with item, repeat' be overhauled – it made up for it by being drop dead gorgeous. Lush swathes of rippling colour filled this version of Hyrule, as Link travelled between his stunning aerial home of Skyloft to the dangerous lands below. Impressive motion controls also helped elevate this entry above its familiar structure, making for one of the last great games on the Wii.
91. Duke Nukem 3D
While Nukem himself was somewhat sullied by 2011's Duke Nukem Forever, back in his 1996 heyday, Duke was the boss. Breaking the character away from his two-dimensional roots, 3D Realms created an anarchic, irreverent title blithely unconcerned with a coherent story but boasting some of the slickest FPS action yet seen. The game was bursting with movie references (Army of Darkness and They Live among the biggest influences) and unapologetically crass, with Nukem offering singles to jiggling pole-dancers and turning pig cops into bacon. The immensely entertaining 'Dukematch' multiplayer mode prompted eager gamers to cart their old 486 desktops to friends' houses to mix it up via serial cable link-up – trip mines and air ducts providing endless hours of gib-happy fun.
90. Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines
The second PC game to be based on White Wolf's role-playing universe, Bloodlines was as blessed by inspiration as it was cursed by circumstance. Rushed out by Activision after developer Troika Games fell behind schedule, it was released in a semi-finished state on the same day as Half Life 2 (with which it shared Valve's Source engine). Despite all that, Bloodlines was 2004's stand-out RPG, featuring an early open world and embracing the essence of what it must feel like to be an urban vampire unleashed on nocturnal LA. After Troika disbanded, the team worked (unpaid) to squash the bugs and the passionate Bloodlines community picked up where they left off. Triumph from adversity for sure, but what could it have achieved with the full support of its publisher?
89. Max Payne
Forget the disappointing (and disappointingly short) follow-up, the dreadful movie adaptation and even the genuinely good threequel from Rockstar Games ten years later, because the original slo-mo shooter is where it's at. So enjoyable that you'd replay levels over and over just to headshot ever last goon in bullet time, this black and white neo-noirsterpiece was stuffed full of gritty one-liners and despicable bastards to kill, with artistic flourishes like the graphic novel pane "cut scenes" and the final kill bullet cam the icing on the cake. The game was first devised in 1996 – four years before The Matrix brought bullet time to the masses. The developers realised comparisons with the Wachowskis' film were inevitable, though, and opted to embrace the similarity, peppering the game with Matrix references such as the big lobby shootout.
88. Star Wars: Battlefront II
2005, PC, XBOX, PS2, PSP
Covering the military career of a veteran Stormtrooper, from the days of the Galactic Republic through its slow corruption into the nefarious Empire, Battlefront II was at heart the story of a universe going to hell. Comparatively dark fare for Lucas' far away galaxy, but given 2005 had already seen scores of Jedi younglings killed in Revenge of the Sith, this PS2/Xbox action game was positively upbeat. Improving on its precursor by adding playable Jedi and actual space battles, the fast-paced mix of shooting and galactic conquest was one of the most authentic Star Wars games in tone and execution.
87. Left 4 Dead
2008, XBOX 360, PC
While player-versus-player has long been the mainstay of online modes, Left 4 Dead opted for a more co-operative approach. Placing guns in four players' hands, the game set you loose in a city overrun by the dead, reliant on one another for survival. Excruciatingly tense, with some brilliant set-pieces (usually involving a loud noise and a screaming rush of sprinting zombies) Left 4 Dead invited you to play out a Romero movie first-hand, spicing up the action with the occasional super zombie – the witch and the tank being particularly nasty examples. The intangible 'director' AI ensured endless replay value as well, scattering weapons and choke points on a whim so you never knew quite what you were getting into.
86. Heavy Rain
Say what you will about David Cage but with Heavy Rain the Quantic Dreams founder came as close as anyone has to realising that holy grail of an 'interactive movie'. The controls were simplistic and occasionally awkward (by design, we might point out) but the connection between player and game has rarely been as evolved or involving. Pushing through the crowd to find your missing son, driving against traffic at the behest of a serial killer, being strapped down and tortured by man with a drill – the sheer panic that Heavy Rain managed to convey was a revelation to many gamers. This was a game with real consequence, where screw ups had to be borne and the repercussions endured – a key element tragically missing from Quantic Dream's follow up, Beyond: Two Souls. The gratuitous nudity might have grabbed all the headlines but look beyond the photoreal boobs and you'll find a gripping murder mystery and a milestone in pixel-powered storytelling.
85. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
"Wario on a motorbike, is that a giant Labrador puppy licking my TV screen?" is a question involuntarily shouted by many a Super Smash Brothers-er. Revelling in the simplicity of its gameplay – smash controller until opponent flies off the screen, repeat – Nintendo's third all-star button-bashing IP mash-up was a tornado of what-the-fuckery, boasting overwrought battle music, technicolour fireworks and ridiculous special moves. Here, portly blue penguin royalty King Dedede could summon dozens of Waddle Dees to destroy all before him. Here, Ness could shoot meteors at the earth, Diddy Kong could fire peanuts at his foes as he jetpacked across a castle and Falco could plant a tank on someone's head. Here, anything was possible.
84. Grim Fandango
LucasArts' Tim Schafer brought the world a piece of unpitchable brilliance in the late '90s with this one of a kind adventure game: a film noir pastiche set in the Aztec afterlife starring a skeleton travel agent called Manny and a giant orange demon who happened to be the best mechanic in existence. Critics swooned, but almost no-one bought a copy, sounding the death knell of the story-driven puzzle genre and spawning a group of die-hard superfans worshipping the game's dark humour, bonkers but brilliant storyline and harder-than-a-cryptic-crossword riddles. Nowhere else would a gun that fires marigolds be so frightening.
83. Championship Manager
1992, PC, AMIGA, ATARI ST
Created by brothers Paul and Oliver Collyer in their bedroom somewhere in rural Shropshire in the early '90s, 'Champ Man' quickly became the football managing simulator of choice, its addictive combination of stats porn, FLASHING GOAL ALERTS!! and rudimentary match mock-ups resulting in a cultural phenomenon that saw millions of players turning off their computers mid-game when must-win matches didn't go their way. Every year, each new game had a new set of cheap but brilliant unknowns to sign up, and internet forums thrived on finding free transfer strikers good for your first season guiding Gillingham to a fourth place first division glory. Top tip: Rio Ferdinand was a bargain in 1996.
82. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Hideo Kojima is one of a handful of game developers who can rightly be called an auteur, and Metal Gear Solid 4 his oft-impenetrable magnum opus. Bordering on the avant-garde in places, MGS4 can rightly be accused of being overly cinematic, with lengthy cut-scenes (the largest stretching to a near feature-length 71 minutes) dragging events out more than absolutely necessary. No one can deny the game's ambition, though, with a truly epic (if somewhat hard to follow) storyline through which Kojima delivered a thoughtful treatise on the escalating costs of war and the individual sacrifices required to wage it. A heroic undertaking in scope and scale – though one featuring more frying eggs than was absolutely necessary.
81. Dragon Age: Origins
2009, XBOX 360, PS3, PC
After spending so much time in the Forgotten Realms with Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, Bioware struck forth on a quest to a completely original fantasy world with Dragon Age – that is if you ignore the fact that so much of it was influenced by Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. Like the aforementioned D&D titles, Origins was an enormous time sink, sucking players into the world of Ferelden as they built their Grey Warden from whichever class appealed and constructed a party around them. Unlike its disappointing sequel, Dragon Age bestowed the freedom to wander the world and tackle the various sections in any order you liked, whether it was routing darkspawn in the Deep Roads or battling demons in The Fade. Alastair was a little irritating and the Dalish Elf origin story a little bland but minor faults aside this was as close as you could get to Baldur's Gate on a modern console and for that we'll be forever grateful.
One of the greatest crimes in gaming history is that Capcom's breathtakingly beautiful Okami never quite found the audience it deserved. Presented in sumi-e inkwash visuals, the quest of the wolven sun goddess Amaterasu was a highlight of the PS2. Using a Celestial Brush to restore life and colour to the world was both a clever game mechanic and an oddly transcendent experience. Perhaps structural similarities to Zelda caused players to overlook Okami, or that its roots in Shinto mythology proved too confusing, but creator Hideki Kamiya's opus still deserves attention – especially with an even prettier HD re-release on PS3.
79. System Shock 2
It may have sold less than 60,000 copies when it was first released but System Shock 2 remains one of the best RPGs ever made and established a blueprint that shaped the triple-A titles we play today. Played Borderlands, Dead Space or Fallout 3? All of them owe a heavy debt to Looking Glass's space horror, not to mention the BioShock games – System Shock's direct descendants. The RPG elements were revolutionary in an era when Doom and Quake were the litmus test for first-person shooters, the sense of isolation was terrifying and then there was SHODAN. Chillingly voice-acted by Terri Brosius, the demented AI is one of gaming's greatest villains and the second act switcheroo one of its most shocking twists. It's a tragedy that due to complicated rights issues, BioShock is probably as close as we'll ever get to seeing System Shock in any modern form.
Starting off as a Half-Life mod made by a pair of enterprising computer science students, Valve's first multiplayer first person shooter soon turned into a competitive timesuck of epic proportions as hundreds of thousands of gamers were pulled into its vortex of Desert Eagles, dusty landscapes and sniper rifles so powerful they shot through walls. A well-known trick was to swap different weapons in and out mid-load (as it was quicker that way), something that made life easier for the camping bastards who tended to rule most maps' roosts. Think of the words "Counter terrorists win" over a crackly radio – voiced by one of the game's co-creators, Jess Cliffe – and try not get misty-eyed over planting explosives on Bomb Site A.
77. Age of Empires II: The Age Of Kings
That a nearly 15-year old real time strategy game still ranks amongst the best in the genre only speaks to the sheer brilliance of Ensemble Studios' classic. Despite hosts of technical improvements over the first game – sharper AI, more precise control of units, and the small matter of an entirely new game engine – Empires II remained accessible to newcomers and veterans alike. What really impressed though was the unfettered ambition. With thirteen different civilisations to guide, the single-player mode was expansive to say the least, while the multiplayer helped pioneer online gaming as we know it. Tactical genius.
76. Chrono Trigger
Imagine a supergroup of Japanese creators getting together to make the ultimate RPG. Actually, don't bother – it already happened, with 1995's Chrono Trigger. Designed by Final Fantasy's Hironobu Sakaguchi, with characters by Dragon Ball's Akira Toriyama and a soaring musical score by Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu, the time-travelling saga stood leagues ahead of its counterparts. Masato Kato's whimsical story spanned millennia, with a quirky cast – including a futuristic robot, a chivalrous frog knight, and a ferocious cavewoman – belying its emotional depths. With numerous endings and shocking twists, Chrono Trigger withstands the tests of time.
75. Gears Of War
If you listen carefully, you can hear the sound of a Mark 2 Lancer Assault Rifle's chainsaw attachment chugging away in the back of your brain. This is because after you've sliced up your first locust, it'll never leave you. Ever. Though light on depth, Gears Of War was heavy on fun, with the bloodthirsty and explosion-filled adventures of Marcus Fenix and his fellow COG crew spawning several sequels and resulting in whole years of gamers' lives spent on its magnificent multiplayer. A tip of the cap to Lester Speight (AKA Terry Tate, Office Linebacker) for his voice work as Augustus "Cole Train" Cole, the stand-out character and finest Thrashball Player you'll ever meet.
74. Sid Meier's Civilization
The Civilization strategy series has come a long way since you first booted it up via DOS prompt in your dad's garage. Blocky and basic, it was a mix of super green grass, bright blue seas and blacker than black fog of war, but it still managed to tap into your innermost desires to discover bronze working and build granaries. Weeks would go past, playing it. Taxation vs. scientific research ratios would litter your restless sleep. Analysing peace treaties would form most of your mid-meeting daydreaming, resulting in a next turn sneak attack and the concept of "the wheel" as your reward. Now developer politics, graphics upgrades and the availability of RAM bigger than a washing machine have changed the series forever, but the original still stands up.
73. Final Fantasy IX
The last in the JRPG franchise to be released on the original PlayStation, FFIX was designed as a Skyfall-like retrospective that leant more on the series' traditional fantasy roots, eschewing its more "realistic" predecessors FFVII and FFVIII. The result was a kiddier, funnier, more traditional adventure with a fighting system that didn't challenge the grey cells too much. Monkey-tailed thief Zidane Tribale was the protagonist, but the break-out character was the silent black mage Vivi, all yellow eyes and shadowy face, whose inherent cuteness and plot-importance made him stand out as the inevitable tragedy unfolded.
72. Metroid Prime
Cosmetically a first-person shooter, Prime retained the sense of adventure and exploration from the 2D Metroid titles, while perfectly transitioning Samus' morphing abilities into a 3D world. And what a world it was, too – verdant alien rainforests, sterile research facilities, the almost Lovecraftian ruins of the ancient Chozo; everywhere Samus went was full of character and mystery. Although doubtlessly influenced by Microsoft's successful courting of adult gamers with Halo, Retro Studios' reimagining of the Metroid universe was proof the Gamecube wasn't just for kids.
71. Super Mario Galaxy
Mario has always been the centre of Nintendo's universe, but rarely as literally as in Super Mario Galaxy. Serving up the greatest reinvention of the series since Super Mario 64, Galaxy made superlative use of the Wii's motion sensing controls to offer one of the most innovative entries in the plumber's storied career. Fancy tech alone does not a great game make though – it was the sheer joy of bounding around imaginative planets, soaring through space as you're catapulted between them, and the smart introduction of a co-op mode that made Mario's orbital adventure really take off.
70. Dead Space
2008, XBOX 360, PS3, PC
You walk down a darkened, claustrophobic spaceship corridor. Something moves. It's just debris from the crash. You continue, your torch flickering. Something else moves. It's not debris. An unspeakable terror formed of warped flesh shudders towards you, and no matter how many bullets you put into it, it won't stay dead.... Merging influences including Event Horizon and H.P. Lovecraft with an aeons-old mythology of its own, Dead Space is a masterclass in horror, and a highlight of survival gaming. Despite sequels descending into action games with a token jump scares, the original remains the best and most fearsome instalment.
69. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Pick a set-piece, any set-piece. You've got escaping a crashing cruise liner, escaping a flame-filled French chateau, escaping a crashing cargo plane and even a good old-fashioned British bar fight to chose from, not forgetting the fun and games our hero Nathan Drake has in the fabled "Atlantis of the sands" known as Ubar, which swiftly turns into a remarkably sandy run-and-gun shootout of monumental proportions. Outgrowing Indiana Jones and the rest of the movies the series was inspired by, Uncharted 3 proved that games could rival cinema in the action-adventure stakes, and without a nuked fridge in sight.
Who cares about Orcs when you have Protoss to worry about? Well, quite a few people, as this list will soon attest but Blizzard's sci-fi answer to Warcraft developed a dedicated following all its own, from South Korean professional gaming tournaments to internet memes. None of that would have happened if Starcraft weren't an exceptional real-time strategy game in its own right though, one with an engrossing story, intuitive controls and pioneering online multiplayer. Its controversial sequel may have rankled some, but the original still demands attention. Now if you'll excuse us, we have a Zerg Rush to deal with...
1984, BBC MICRO, ACORN ELECTRON
Elite defined the space sim, the trading sim, and the galactic exploration sim, in one go. And it did all this on a BBC Micro of all things, 30 years ago. Calling David Braben and Ian Bell's epic 'ambitious' doesn't do it justice. Players had hundreds of star systems to explore, countless goods to transport and trade, and moral freedom over how to do it all. Mining or bounty hunting? Piracy or military? Peace or war? It was all an option. That it packed all of this into considerably less than one megabyte only makes the game seem more miraculous.
66. Planescape: Torment
You could describe Planescape: Torment as a Baldur's Gate-a-like role-playing game centring on a amnesiac immortal trapped in a never-ending loop of death and memory loss in a fantastic interdimensional reality known as the Planescape – full of fallen angels, half demons, floating skulls, witch hags, glowing green representations of immortality and a universal currency known as coppers – but really you wouldn't be doing it justice. Critically revered but commercially unsuccessful, it's incredibly well-loved by its fans, its stand-out voice work (including Homer Simpson himself, Dan Castellaneta, as a borg-like "fearsome cubed warrior" called Nordrom) and creeping, clanking score still racking up the hits on YouTube.
65. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Time heals all wounds – if not, Metal Gear Solid 2 might not have placed on this list. Hideo Kojima's decision to (largely) replace grizzled series lead Solid Snake with neophyte FOXHOUND agent Raiden was hugely controversial at the time, not least because of the perceived bait and switch of a well-received demo that did feature Snake. However, with fanboy rage in the rear view, it's clear Sons of Liberty moved the series forward. A first-person aiming mode, expanded stealth options, and the ability to shoot from cover were small additions that massively improved Metal Gear's patented tactical espionage action.
64. Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2 provided a masterclass in fear. With protagonist James Sunderland on a search for his long-dead wife, proceedings were already creepy, but the disturbing psychological nature of the game's threats lead to the tightening of sphincters worldwide. While the monstrous Pyramid Head has become a series icon, nowhere is he more terrifying than here, as the manifestation of James' own twisted desires. This was the first time Silent Hill itself became a character, tormenting its prisoners in horrifyingly personal ways, and leaving players with a sense of discomfort that lingers to this day.
63. The Walking Dead
2012, XBOX 360, PS3, PC
Centred on the comic book iteration of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's The Walking Dead, TellTale's episodic adventure game delivered a five-part emotional gut punch to players. Taking full advantage of its release format, choices in each chapter affected the progression month after month, with hard decisions having life or death consequences. With less of an emphasis on the item hunting and puzzle solving of traditional adventure games, TellTale was free to focus on the bond between ex-convict Lee Everett and his ward Clementine as they struggle through the undead outbreak – then rip gamers' hearts out by season's end.
62. Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn
To make a Balder's Gate fan happy, just shout "Go for the eyes, Boo! Go for the eyes!" A smile as big as the Sword Coast will appear on their face, and you'll soon be told about Rashemi ranger Minsc, an ally of the protagonist in both the original role-playing game and its follow-up, who has a pet "miniature giant space hamster" called – you guessed it – Boo. Minsc and Boo are the finest example of the colour and character of this seminal sequel, which boasts about 300 hours of possible gameplay and an in-depth, location-hopping, Tolkien-rivalling story involving the god of war, Bhaal, and his demi-deity progeny.
61. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
2006, PS3, XBOX 360
A broken promise with disastrous consequences. The coming of dangerous creatures from unknown realms. The hunt for a slain Emperor's illegitimate heir. Oblivion certainly embraced the tropes of the fantasy genre, and with the help of a sterling voice cast (including Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean) delivered one of the tightest core stories in Elder Scrolls history. With the vast and awe-inspiring region of Cyrodiil to explore, an almost endless array of side-quests beyond the main events to battle through, and a thriving mod scene for the PC version, there's still phenomenal freedom in Bethesda's magnificent world.
60. Final Fantasy VIII
The eighth RPG in the FF series has you gather together your favourite super-handsome, super-talented super-people with ridiculous names – Squall Leonhart, Rinoa Heartilly, Quistis Trepe, Zell Dincht, Selphie Tilmitt et al. – and have them fight a variety of creatures, witches and army men in a fantastical yet futuristic land. This was the follow-up to Final Fantasy VII, after all. But a joyfully complicated fighting system involving god-like Guardian Forces and the ability to draw spells from enemies combine with an epic story of space stations and giant robots to perfectly complement graphics never before seen in the franchise. Then there's the card collecting mini-game, which was so addictive it's best if no-one mentions it ever again.
59. Kingdom Hearts
The thought of a Disney/Final Fantasy crossover was laughable – until it happened. Kingdom Hearts' greatest success was in merging two seemingly disparate 'families' into one incredibly rich universe. Fans of each faction found something to love, be it returning faces from Fantasies past or adventuring through Disney's best-loved animated movies. Director Tetsuya Nomura didn't just craft a thrilling action RPG; he created a universe with its own continuity and independent characters, one that has attracted a fanbase dedicated to its ongoing story – even if Disney is unlikely to allow certain fan-favourite character pairings to become canon.
58. Warcraft III: Reign Of Chaos
Warcraft III was when Blizzard's hit strategy series cemented itself as high fantasy, charting the fall of noble hero Arthas after his possession by the demonic sword Frostmourne. The introduction of playable Night Elf and Undead races added a ghoulish air to the proceedings, expanding Azeroth's scope and complexity beyond the drawn out rivalry between Orcs and Humans. The series also edged towards the RPG arena, with Heroes capable of learning individual skills and levelling up. Fans couldn't have asked for a better send off for Warcraft's RTS years before World of Warcraft stole the show.
2007, PC, PS3, XBOX 360
Perhaps the best game ever to be bundled with another title for free, Portal first came out as part of Valve's The Orange Box, which also included Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and Team Fortress 2. You play a test subject given tasks by a sardonic A.I. named GLaDOS, with the key ingredients being the promise of cake, boxes with hearts on them and a "Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device" that opens up inter-spatial windows between two flat planes. Test after test after test could prove tiresome, but in Valve's hands it's a one-liner laden masterpiece that ends with a song so catchy it may never leave your mind.
56. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Wind Waker was the bravest Zelda game Nintendo ever made. After Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask proved hits, fans demanded more of the same. Instead, director Eiji Aonuma dared to embrace change, delivering a cute, animated interpretation, with a younger Link searching for his kidnapped sister, not Zelda. Yet naysayers were silenced by ingenious dungeon designs providing memorable challenges, while the same cel-shaded style that drove some to apoplexy yielded stunning visuals, flawlessly capturing the imaginative sea-faring, pirate-filled journey at hand. In hindsight, Wind Waker is an undeniable work of art.
55. The Elder Scolls III: Morrowind
2002, XBOX, PC
Elder Scrolls designer Ken Rolston once said that Oblivion was like an orchestra, but Morrowind was like jazz – perhaps not as technically beautiful but freer, experimental, more open. Players may agree; set in the native homeland of the Dunmer – dark elves – Morrowind always felt a little rougher, more dangerous than its sequels, while simultaneously tapping into the same lore, legends and geography. The central premise hinged on the reincarnation of a legendary Dunmer hero, but the world was vast enough to completely ignore that and live a life of your own choosing. Fantasy role-playing at its best.
54. Call of Juarez
2006, PC, XBOX 360
Murder and familial secrets kick off a blood-soaked search for Aztec gold in old Mexico – a pitch perfect scenario for a gritty Western. Call of Juarez's story develops a certain Tarantino-esque flair, with Billy Candle - a disgruntled drifter, tired of persecution for his Mexican heritage – on the run from the Reverend Ray McCall, a vengeance-driven preacher spreading the word of God from the mouth of his revolver. Chapters alternated control between the two men – uncle and nephew, for added angst – with Billy's emphasising stealthy gameplay while Ray's favoured brute force. The result was a gripping, unpredictable period shooter.
53. Sonic the Hedgehog
1991, MEGA DRIVE
This hedgehog started a war. Sega's original answer to Nintendo's chubby pipe-hopper – the rarely-remembered Alex Kidd – barely survived the '80s, so in 1991, along sped Sonic. With exceptional level design and simple but rapid gameplay caught in his wake, Sonic was an instant hit. He was fast, cool, and epitomised the positive can-do attitude of the decade – and he started winning a LOT of kids over to Camp Sega, creating rivalries that persist even now. Although later Mega Drive entries fine tuned the formula (it's mad Sonic doesn't have his ground dash move here) the original stands as a revolutionary release.
52. Diablo II
2000, PC, MAC
The clink of your enemies' coins, the gulp of a potion quaffed, the "ffft" of an item picked up, the twang of a skeleton archer's bow, loquacious item-identifier Deckard Cain's catchphrase "Stay a while and listen..." – so much of what makes the definitive hack-and-slasher so glorious, so enjoyable, so loved, is the audio content. Sure, Blizzard actually making a "Secret Cow Level" after hearing about the false rumours of one in the original game was pretty neat, but the joy of hearing a regurgitator turn blue as your Azurewrath Phase Blade ices that mother is the real Diablo II paydirt.
51. Shenmue II
Like the Dreamcast itself, the Shenmue series was ahead of its time. Picking up directly after the first game, Shenmue II was an early example of contemporary episodic gaming, continuing Ryo Hazuki's quest to find his father's murderer. Shifting to Hong Kong, the game delivered a stunning impression of the city in the 1980s, and a softening of Ryo's heart as he met the mysterious Shenhua Ling. While the story adopted more mystical elements, embracing prophecy and mysticism, the game's progression benefitted from improved pacing. Shenmue II would doubtlessly rank higher if not for the painful, still-unresolved cliff-hanger ending.
50. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Majora's Mask was victim to its own ambition. The original N64 release pushed the console beyond its limits, requiring a Expansion Pak to even run. Unfortunately, finding one was as likely as locating rocking horse droppings, meaning many missed one of the best – and surprisingly darkest – Zelda games. There was a nihilism running through the game, with Link having a Groundhog Day-like three day cycle to prevent the annihilation of the realm of Termina. Ability-granting masks were also a nice touch, refreshing the otherwise familiar gameplay. If it hadn't inflicted the insufferable Tingle on the world, it would be perfect.
49. Resident Evil 2
Trading the tight, confined halls of spooky mansions and ghastly research labs for a citywide zombie apocalypse, Resident Evil 2 was an escalation of hellish proportions. New protagonists Clare Redfield and Leon Kennedy were better developed than the earlier Chris and Jill, and their respective quests to escape Raccoon City before a nuclear cleansing added an urgency the first game lacked. With significantly improved visuals, Resi 2 created more visceral scares, but didn't forget to include a sense of humour – the post-completion minigame seeing you battling through as a lump of sentient tofu is still an infamous gaming extra.
48. Bioshock Infinite
2013, PS3, XBOX 360, PC
Who are the good guys, who are the bad guys? How does that ending work? What does it all mean? The debates still rage on reddit forums in thousands of different possible universes, but the undeniable truth remains: Bioshock Infinite pushed people's buttons and got people talking. On top of the twisty-turny, brain-boiling meta-ness of it all, there was also an immensely playable first-person shooter in there, with the skyline sections a particular highlight, as well as the ability to unleash a murder of crows at a group of enemies before electrocuting them all with a bolt of lightning. It sounds cruel, but in the context of the game, cruelty doesn't have anything to do with it.
47. The Secret of Monkey Island
"Deep in the Caribbean, the island of Melee." If you're a Monkey Island fan, this should make the game's iconic flute tune play in your mind's ear, and you'll probably be in the mood for a little bit of insult sword-fighting. Playing it just one more time on the more recently updated Special Edition, some of the point-and-click series' puzzles come across a bit rub-the-flamingo-on-the-tree-trunk random, but that's not really what you're here for with the adventures of Guybrush Threepwood. You want jokes, you want insanity, and you want grog, and LucasArts' piece of pirate punnery delivered the first two by the Used Boatload. You'll have to make your own grog yourself, alas.
46. Tomb Raider
1996, PLAYSTATION, SATURN
Allow your mind to forget the water torture-esque "hup!" noise Lara would always blurt out as she climbed up anything, as well as the near-constant thud-thud-thud footfall sounds, clunky camera angles and casual murder of innocent bears, wolves, dinosaurs and bats. Reprimand your teenage self for ogling a string of polygons so perverse that in reality, her waist to chest to thigh ratio would render standing up a genuine challenge. Delete from your memory the sub-par sequels. Remember... the puzzles, and the exploration, and the genuine sense of a real world with real challenges. Remember the strong female role that rivalled the likes of Indiana Jones, and the extraordinarily big leaps she leapt on her way to – "hup!" – finding that one ledge she needed.
45. Final Fantasy X
Narrated in retrospect, gamers knew Final Fantasy X was building to something big from its first moments. No, not the impending conflict with the seemingly unstoppable Sin, but the touching romance between time-lost hero Tidus and the summoner Yuna that eventually culminated in tragedy. Despite the scale of Sin's threat to the world of Spira, X was an immensely close, personal tale, and all the better for it. As the first PS2 entry, it also marked a technological step forward for the franchise, introducing 3D environments, voice acting, and a lively battle system allowing instant switching between all party members.
44. Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros. is a highly interpretable tale. To some, it's the story of one perverted plumber's quest to rub his crotch on as many flag poles as possible, while to others, it's a joyfully daft side-scrolling puzzle game where you jump up and down on both mushrooms and shelled reptiles like an angry toddler. In the former camp's defence, his immediate retreat to a nearby castle where he loses all his money and screams to high heaven only supports the thesis. And though the gameplay has been superseded by the likes of Super Mario Galaxy, the music remains unparalleled, from the underground "duddle-duddle duh duh" to the invincibility theme still heard in Mario Karters' heads whenever they drive their real cars in the real world onto a real motorway.
43. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
2003, XBOX, PC
Forget the prequel trilogy – Star Wars' real backstory lays millennia before Anakin Skywalker ever heard the word 'midichlorians'. BioWare's RPG dove deep into the history of both Sith and Jedi, giving the player the chance of which philosophy to follow. Defeating the powerful Darth Malak and his vast military forces provided the main plot, but your choices along the way – who you help, who you kill, which quests you take – dramatically affected how that goal played out. It also laid the foundation for developers BioWare to create Mass Effect, which likely wouldn't exist without Knights of the Old Republic.
42. Resident Evil
Resident Evil was flawed. It was slow and clunky. Its maddening control scheme reduced movement to a robotic turn-face-walk-shoot. Its voice acting was atrocious ("I hope.... this is not CHRIS' blood!" – even Shatner would be ashamed). Somehow though, these factors all contributed to its appeal. Shinji Mikami's haunted house B-Movie was exactly what the nascent PlayStation Generation wanted – gore, violence, and at least the veneer of 'mature gaming'. The strange puzzles, corporate conspiracy, and sense of overwhelming dread that pervaded the game proved there was depth beyond the splatter, helping launch what would become arguably the definitive horror series.
41. Portal 2
2011, PC, XBOX 360, PS3
Taking the smaller original and expanding it into a larger, more complicated stand-alone venture, Valve brought tractor beams, lasers, light bridges and bouncy paint to Portal's puzzley world, and it worked. Plot-wise, sardonic supercomputer GLaDOS has been trapped in a potato battery while despicable personality core Wheatley (voiced by Stephen Merchant) has taken over a now dilapidated Aperture Science facility. Testing continues. And by combining new features with an engaging storyline (and adding an equally enjoyable co-op campaign to boot), players were given yet more difficult-but-not-too-difficult physics challenges, a narrative that delivered and, thank Chell, a new song from Jonathan Coulton: 'Consider You Gone'.
40. Street Fighter II
Literally every fighting game on the market today owes their existence to Street Fighter II. There had been one-on-one brawlers before, including its own less-popular forebear, but Capcom's 1991 juggernaut popularised the genre. With eight playable characters – a number that would swell over the course of numerous revisions and sequels – each using their own fighting styles, SFII allowed incredibly dynamic matches. Even similar characters such as Ryu and Ken had micro-differences between them that affected play. Such incredible attention to detail and balance became the calling card of the series, and the watermark every fighting game since tries to reach.
39. Mario Kart 64
Looking back, it seems a little strange that Mario Kart 64 is only the second entry in the sub-series, largely because playing it today can still feel new and surprising. The central gameplay remained the same as its SNES originator – Mario and chums tearing up the track while shooting strange weapons at each other – but the greater power of the N64 allowed for intricately designed 3D circuits with elevation, obstacles and hidden shortcuts. Allowing four-player races was the best and worst addition though – some of the friendships broken over Mario Kart 64 tournaments will never be rekindled.
1984, COMMODORE 64, PC
Advertised in the US with the slogan "From Russia... with fun!", this relentless building block puzzle made peons of its victims, forced to forever align the long ones with the square ones whilst dealing with the s and z ones as they inevitably piled up in the corner, angrily staring through the screen. Making matters worse – or better, depending on your levels of Tetris dependence – was the theme, a Ural yodel that has gone on to inspire the likes of 'Complete History Of The Soviet Union, Arranged To The Melody Of Tetris' by Pig With The Face Of A Boy and, um, Scooter.
37. Assassin's Creed II
2009, PS3, XBOX 360, PC
Ezio Auditore da Firenze brought personality to Assassin's Creed's centuries-spanning spat between Assassins and Templars. Modelled on Errol Flynn's dashing swashbuckler archetype, Ezio was a fascinating character – a ladies' man whose suave exterior masked terrible rage. His blood feud with the notorious Borgia family eventually spanned an entire trilogy (also, some stuff happened in the present with a bartender, but no-one really cared), each entry evolving the gameplay of Ubisoft's free-running stealth-a-thons in important ways. But it was here, on our first journey through a stunning recreation of 15th century Italy, that Ezio quietly, slowly took our hearts.
You might have fallen in love with Half-Life during its tram trolley ride opening, or as you were blasting rockets at a sarlacc-like tentacle creature, or, most likely, half-way through crowbarring a headcrab to a splodge of green pulp. The fact is: if you love gaming, you love Half-Life. Sierra and Valve's incredibly ambitious saga of interdimensional rifts, mysterious G-Men and speechless scientists revolutionised gaming as the late '90s knew it, and was immediately heralded as a masterpiece and a sign of what was possible with the art form. Story, substance, excitement, and unforgettable security guard characters – it had it all. Incidentally, either Bryan Cranston or Hugh Laurie should play Gordon Freeman in a movie adaptation (with Sam Rockwell as Barney, Robert Knepper as the G-Man and Bill Cobbs as Eli).
35. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
The original The Legend of Zelda on the NES introduced Link and Zelda to the world, but it's not the most important game in the series. That honour – arguably – goes to 1992's A Link to the Past. Energetic, colourful and vast beyond belief, it did more to define what Zelda IS than any other. Alternate realities, side quests for pieces of heart, the Master Sword – all now hallmarks of the series – made their first appearances here, adding texture to Link's journey to save two worlds. The definitive Zelda for a generation, and as enjoyable now as it was on release.
33. Shadow of the Colossus
Desperation. Loneliness. Heartbreak. Wonder. Love. Shadow of the Colossus was a morass of conflicting emotions and minimalist beauty. Travelling a barren world with naught but the horse beneath you and the sword at your side, Fumito Ueda's stark fantasy world saw players slaughtering majestic, terrifying colossi to save a lost love. With scant dialogue, no conventional enemies, and only abandoned ruins as evidence of civilisation, exploring the vast terrain was a sombre and contemplative experience. A legitimately exceptional title, which only makes the wait for the long-delayed follow-up, The Last Guardian, that much more unbearable.
That bouncing sway as you run, Doomguy's face looking suspiciously left and right, the pop pop pop of the pistol, the slightly lighter brown walls that indicated a secret corridor, the blue mega-armor, the fireball-throwing forever-bellowing spike-shouldered imps, those shadowy pig bastards, the bipedal pig bastards with horse legs, the red-bellied rocket-firing mega-minotaur, ever-so-cuddly cacodemon, the shotgun, the chaingun, the accordion-shaped plasma cannon, the BIG FUCKING GUN, the spiderdemon, that rabbit's head on a stick, the mods, the Bill Gates Windows 95 advert, the sense of overwhelming despair... Doom.
31. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
2002, PS2, XBOX
The only way you'll ever see Danny Dyer working alongside Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo, Dennis Hopper and William Fichtner, Vice City is a unique entry in the franchise's back catalogue. Full of overt '80s pastiches, it repainted Scarface, Carlito's Way, Goodfellas, Blow and – of course – Miami Vice with GTA's twisted brush, and remains the most on-the-nose, date-specific game in the series. Stand-out moments saw protagonist Tommy Vercetti (Liotta) asking a group of angry enemies to greet his little friend, and any time DJ Lazlow said anything on VROCK radio. "Don't forget, Love Fist are in town right now – or is it 'Love Fist is in town'? Whatever. I flunked school cause I'm hardcore."
30. Mass Effect
2007, XBOX 360
The initial teaser trailer for Mass Effect started with the words "BioWare Corp. – The developer of legendary RPGs of the past brings you a spectacular RPG of the future..." – and delivered on its promise. Every race has a fascinating backstory, from the warlike Krogan to the scientific Salarians, not forgetting the entirely A.I. Geth and their nomadic creators the Quarians, making players feel like they've entered a universe as detailed and dynamic as The Forgotten Realms. A clever decision-making Paragon/Renegade mechanic added to the immersion, and new classes in the form of Soldier, Engineer, Adept, Infiltrator, Sentinel and Vanguard made you wish that biotic powers were real. Shame about the tiresome driving sections, but hey, you can't have everything.
29. Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow
1999, GAME BOY
At a time when playgrounds were full of Tazos, Pogs, football stickers, Digimon and Tamagotchi, the arrival of a role-playing game centring on collecting and battling fictional animals was SUPER EFFECTIVE! Helped by the trading card game and kids' cartoon that accompanied it – as well as an ubercute breakout character called Pikachu – it swiftly invaded the minds of anyone with a Gameboy (Color or otherwise). Crack for kids who just couldn't stop collecting things, it eventually boiled down to who had a level 355 Mewtwo, and a level 319 Dragonite, and a level 315 Moltres, and a level 317 Zapdos, and a level 313 Articuno. Or words to that effect.
28. Batman: Arkham Asylum
2009, XBOX 360, PS3
Before Batman: Arkham Asylum, most of The Caped Crusader's computer game appearances – Lego Batman: The Videogame aside – were somewhat lacking. But Rocksteady's re-evaluation of what could be done with The Dark Knight after The Dark Knight was an immensely detailed triumph, pleasing both gamers and die-hard Batman fans with its mix of slick gameplay, strong storyline and more DC Easter Eggs than you could throw a sonic batarang at. Mark Hamill, revisiting the voice role he made his own in the mid-nineties' Batman: The Animated Series, steals the show as The Joker, though the "freeflow" chained combat system is almost as enjoyable.
27. Resident Evil 4
After four main games and several remakes, Resident Evil was running on fumes. At one stage, Resi 4 was going to be the last stop for the series, until the immense success of this last-ditch effort. Gameplay was faster, with the returning Leon wielding his pistol like a savant to disarm and dispatch crazed, weapon-brandishing hordes of Spanish villagers. Infected with disgusting, mind-altering Las Plagas parasites, they became a greater threat than shambling corpses ever were. Later sequels abandoned the final remnants of survival horror in favour of unfiltered action, but RE4 achieved the perfect balance. The series' crowning moment.
26. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
The prequel to the entire Metal Gear series, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is set in 1964, setting up much of what was to come later – notably Portable Ops, Peace Walker and the recent Ground Zeroes – making it a must-play entry in the franchise if only to help untangle the ever-expanding rubber band ball that is MGS. Helping its must-play status is the novel jungle setting, the natty camouflage mechanic and the best story in the series – a tale so slippery that a snake analogy would seem appropriate. The trademark cardboard box, overlong cutscenes, ropey dialogue and fourth wall-breaking humour are all in full effect, and coming at the tail-end of the console's lifetime, it's easily one of the best games released on PS2.
25. Fallout 3
2008, XBOX 360, PS3
Pop open a Nuka-Cola, pour yourself a bowl of sugar bombs and power-up your Pip-Boy 3000, because it's time to get lousy with nostalgia over Vault 101's finest. Taking over the franchise from Black Isle, Bethesda Game Studios hit a huge home run with their immensely detailed take on the post-apocalyptic 1950s-flavoured sci-fi franchise. As The Lone Wanderer, you chase after your scientist father, James (voiced by Liam Neeson), as you deal with the maniacal tendencies of military madmen Enclave and the general threat of mutants, be they ghouls, behemoths or mad Brahmin. The finest feature was the pause-the-game-and-pick-a-bodypart V.A.T.S. aiming system, which is a real perk, though in the context of the game itself, not a real Perk.
24. Super Mario Kart
You always remember your first car – or kart, in Mario's case. This opening lap around the Mushroom Kingdom effectively created the kart racer, providing a blueprint of super-deformed vehicles, deranged tracks, and outlandish power-ups that all latecomers would follow. It made incredible use of the Mode-7 graphical abilities of the SNES, producing a startling near-3D look – it appears quaint now, but at the time the visuals were unmatched. However, Super Mario Kart's greatest accolade was in proving that humanity had never truly known rage before experiencing the ignominy of being smashed out of first place by an unseen red shell.
23. The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess
Twilight Princess is the problem child of the Zelda series. Originally planned for Gamecube, its release was delayed to port it to the Wii, never feeling quite at home on either. It launched after Okami too, making Link's trick of transforming into a wolf seem oddly reverse-inspired. Yet this delinquent surprised, budding into a multi award-winning epic. Taking players between the shadowy Twilight Realm and the familiar Hyrule, it dramatically expanded the Zelda universe with mysterious characters, captivating locations, and fresh additions to the mythology. Newly-matured visuals helped match the darker tone, resulting in one of Link's finest escapades.
22. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
The second in Naughty Dog's treasure-hunting series features all the yellow-ledge-grabbing and cover-cuddling shooting galleries you'd expect, but delivers it all in such a cinematic fashion that you'd often forget you were playing a game. From the opening train wreck escape to the dodge-the-Apache rooftop helicopter dash in Nepal, it's all such a slick blend of dashing derring-do and inventive set-pieces that you can't help but wonder how they'd top it in a film adaptation. Also, someone get Nolan North (the voice artist behind Nathan Drake, as well as Desmond Miles from Assassin's Creed and David in The Last Of Us) an Oscar of some kind, stat.
21. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
2007, XBOX 360, PS3, PC
For better or worse, Call of Duty's ascent to global entertainment powerhouse really began here. It's become fashionable to hate on CoD recently, but 2007's series revamp deserved every accolade it received. Dragging the World War II-era series into the modern day allowed developer Infinity Ward to shake up the routine, drastically changing how gamers approached combat in both single and multiplayer sessions. That considerable effort was put into a genuinely worthwhile storyline is also commendable, with characters John 'Soap' MacTavish and Captain John Price gaining considerable depth over the Modern Warfare trilogy.
20. Super Mario World
It's testament to the magic of Super Mario World's design that comparatively minor additions could result in such an overwhelmingly different affair to earlier Mario platformers. It introduced the powerful spin jump, a new way to beat enemies and reach new heights, and marked the first appearance of dinosaur sidekick Yoshi, entirely changing gameplay by eating and regurgitating foes. Mario's cape was the highlight though – the first time you built up enough speed to launch into the air and fly was a transcendent moment. Suddenly, saving Peach or skull-crunching goombas seemed so petty when you could be soaring overhead instead.
19. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
2004, XBOX, PS2, PC
Thanks to its inclusion of home invasion as a money-making scheme and the infamous "Hot Coffee Mod" that unlocked hidden sexual content, the third 3D game in the GTA series was the most controversial yet – but also the most impressive. Shifting close to 20 million copies for the Playstation 2, it was the biggest selling game in the console's history, and in having such a huge sandpit to play in – encompassing Los Santos (Los Angeles), San Fierro (San Francisco) and Las Venturas (Las Vegas) – it was the last hurrah of outright anarchy before the more neutered next-gen arrived. Where else could you beef up with boxing, jujutsu or wrestling before taking over half the city in a gang warfare minigame? Get with the programme, GTA VI.
18. Mass Effect 2
2011, XBOX 360
"The planet scanning was boring!" gripes aside, Mass Effect 2 was the best in the trilogy for many fans, as BioWare's continuing sci-fi saga made gameplay more user-friendly, whilst expanding the universe's scope generally. Each individual player will have their favourite character – shotgun-toting tank-bred tank Grunt, beautiful biotic Morinth, Drell assassin Thane – but they all pale in comparison to Martin Sheen's The Illusive Man, who steals every scene he's in. Worth playing just one more time if only to throw a singularity near a Collector goon and watch him float into the air as you pick him off from a distance.
17. Deus Ex
'Cyberpunk'. An accurate, if simplistic, description for Deus Ex. A better label might be 'futurist' – as we edge closer to its 2052 time frame, the vision of nano-augmented humans in a corporate-owned nightmare future seems ever less far-fetched. After all, making bold and scarily precise predictions was something the game proved good at. With its emphasis on player freedom in completing objectives, branching story paths through its multi-faceted global thriller plot, and wildly customisable abilities for central character Denton, Deus Ex foresaw the direction games en masse would take. As structurally impressive now as it was on release.
16. Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 is, hands down, the best launch game in console history. It was also a colossal risk for Nintendo, abandoning the safe, established 2D Mario gameplay for untested 3D worlds on new hardware. The gamble paid off though: pirouetting through the colourful stages, and getting to grips with Mario's sublime new movement set and amusing power-ups was a joyous experience. Director Shigeru Miyamoto's genius has rarely been clearer, with every jump, obstacle and challenge integrating into a perfect whole. As influential as any of its predecessors, Mario 64 codified the language that every 3D platformer since has followed.
15. Half-Life 2
2004, PC, XBOX, XBOX 360, PLAYSTATION 3
Where Half-Life had its crowbar, Half-Life 2 had a gravity gun – or, to give its full name, a "zero-point energy field manipulator" – that had the power to pick up almost any object and blast it away from the player's general area. Rusty saw blades could be combined with gas canisters and suddenly an alien was a dark patch of dust on the floor. Gordon Freeman, the thinking man's thinking man, now had the thinking man's ultimate death tool. As well as this fancy piece of killing kit, developer Valve also delivered on story and visual shazam, introducing a new character called Alyx Vance that most (male) gamers alive had fallen in love with in under 10 minutes.
2007, XBOX 360, PS3, PC
Blending conventional weapons with chemically-derived superpowers, BioShock provided a fresh take on the modern FPS – the least of its wonders. On your initial descent into the subaquatic failed utopia of Rapture, a dieselpunk nightmare fuelled by shattered optimism, you're immediately aware you've entered one of gaming's best-realised worlds. Piecing together the city's history reveals a chilling tale of untamed hubris and immoral experimentation. Throughout the game, the choice of saving or sacrificing 'Little Sisters' to harvest their power-sustaining ADAM mutagen tests players' morals, adding a serrated sci-fi edge to writer/director Ken Levine's cutting indictment of Ayn Rand's Objectivist principles.
13. Dark Souls
2011, PS3, XBOX 360, PC
Dark Souls' main claim to fame is how brutally difficult it is. That's deliberate though; director Hidetaka Miyazaki's pushback against the softening of modern games. With ferocious enemies, unforgiving terrain, and fatal traps, every step taken through the cursed land of Lordran is potentially your last. Yet your fate is ultimately in your own hands, failures frustrating but fair. Traps can be avoided, enemies out-manoeuvred, terrain navigated. Each death makes you a little wiser, and you'll soon wade back in with masochistic delight in hopes of uncovering more of the world's hidden, horrifying secrets.
12. Batman: Arkham City
2011, XBOX 360, PS3
Batman is no stranger to games, but the Arkham series has been an outstanding demonstration of the character's versatility within the field. Arkham City is the pinnacle to date, with the notorious Asylum spreading out through Gotham's slums, creating a powder-keg waiting to explode as the Dark Knight's worst villains took control. Open world adventuring suits Batman perfectly, and Rocksteady's careful balancing of gadget-based stealth, brutal melee combat, and thought-provoking detective work made for an absorbing challenge. Filtering the best elements of comics, animation, and film, Arkham City is a distillation of everything great about Batman's world.
11. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
2011, PC, XBOX 360, PS3
In Skyrim, you are dovahkiin, a dragon-born, one of precious few who can speak with the winged wyrms, a man with a dragon's soul, a man who can perform thu'ums or "dragon shouts". In Skyrim, you are the hero of Dreamworks Animation's unofficial serpent-based sequel, How To Maim Your Dragon, and your mission is to kill the flying flame-spitters that have awoken in this Nordic land. In Skyrim, you are forced to hear the phrase "arrow in the knee" over and over. In Skyrim, you are slinging different magic spells from different hands. In Skyrim, you are desperate not to go into work, such is your desire to stay in Skyrim, shouting at dragons. In Skyrim, Game Of Thrones is a joke.
10. Halo: Combat Evolved
Halo's story was essentially 'kill bad aliens' sci-fi pulp. It did, however, reformat console shooters, dragging them into the 21st century with oft-imitated tweaks such as limiting weapon hold or co-op vehicular combat. Surprisingly, Halo preceded Xbox Live, instead utilising the Xbox's system link to allow up to 16 players to battle locally. While the Halo series would become a poster child for online multiplayer, this first game was counter-intuitively one of the last to physically bring gamers together. That series lead Master Chief was so rapidly installed as a gaming icon only speaks to Halo's impact and legacy.
9. Red Dead Redemption
2010, PS3, XBOX 360
Despite a troubled four-year production process, GTA developer Rockstar Games emerged triumphant once more with another open-world tale of criminals and crime, this time at the tail end of the Old West. As John Marston, an antihero distinctly more anti than hero, you must chase down your former gang members lest your family face the consequences from an overeager group of FBI agents. The resulting horsebound opus is a playable Spaghetti Western with more than a few cinematic hat-tips and a roster of non-playable characters that are about 99 per cent utter bastards. The "Dead Eye" shooting mechanic, fluctuating morality system and lifelike horse movement are the biggest lumps of gold in an already glittering pan, with the sheer beauty of the Wild West landscapes worth the price of admission alone.
8. Grand Theft Auto V
2013, XBOX 360, PS3
There's something of an East Coast/West Coast rivalry internalised by the Grand Theft Auto games. After dominating a pseudo-New York in GTA IV, the fifth entry hopped back across 'Murca for a sun-soaked tale of criminal fraternity in Los Santos. One of the most painstakingly realised virtual cities ever seen, it's perfectly possible to spend days blissfully exploring, enjoying bitingly satirical radio stations. Not enough? The complex relationships between three leads – a series first – whose lives are spiralling out of control leads to one of the series' most engrossing stories, capped off by Oscar-worthy performances from its voice cast. Impeccable.
There are numerous ways to describe Shenmue – a real world RPG. An adventure game. If you ask creator Yu Suzuki, he'll say it's Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment. However you define it, Shenmue was a hugely important release. As Ryo Hazuki, wandering the streets of 1980s Yokosuka on the hunt for your father's killer, players experienced a bustling, real environment, filled with nuance and detail. The variable weather system and customisable battle skills were unspeakably advanced, the sense of involvement in Ryo's world perhaps lessened only by Shenmue's over-reliance on quick-time events. Easily the most remarkable, important game on the Dreamcast.
6. GoldenEye: 007
Rare's authentic recreation of Pierce Brosnan's first turn as Bond is one of the few genuinely brilliant movie games. Not a high bar, really, but even without the license, the N64 shooter would still be a legend. GoldenEye almost single-handedly moved the FPS forward as a genre, away from the clunky, cheesy Doom-clones of the time and towards more realistic fare. Its split-screen multiplayer generated some of the most vicious competition living rooms had ever seen, proving that high end shooters were finally viable on consoles. If not for GoldenEye, the current gaming world would be very different.
5. Metal Gear Solid
Many believe Metal Gear Solid to be the first in the series. It's not – the original was released on the MSX2 in 1987 – but may as well be. The 1998 PlayStation revamp made audiences sit up and pay attention thanks to incredible production values, a fantastically bonkers plot, and a contemporary hero in Solid Snake. Hideo Kojima's sharp direction resulted in one of the earliest examples of 'cinematic' gaming. More powerfully, it introduced a generation to stealth as a gameplay mechanic, and showcased the technological ingenuity games could provide. Remember, swap controllers to beat the psychic gimp.
4. Final Fantasy VII
1997, PLAYSTATION, PC
The jewel in Final Fantasy's crown, the defining JRPG and the first of the now iconic franchise to be released in Europe, FFVII was a magical concoction of epic, continent-spanning story and deep, highly tactical RPG. Placing you in the shoes of amnesiac SOLDIER Cloud Strife, the game whisked players on an eco-themed quest to take down a corporate oppressor, save the planet from strip mining of its resources and defeat the game's impossibly cool villain, Sephiroth. And then there was Aeris: from the first meeting with a lonely flower girl in the slums of Midgar to soul-crushing moment she slid, lifeless from Sephiroth's sword. Sudden and devastating, Aeris' death is what most will remember and remains among the most shocking and heart-breaking moments in video games.
3. World of Warcraft
2004, PC, MAC
When Blizzard threw open the gates of Stormwind and Orgrimmar in 2004, they invited players to walk the cobbled streets and ride the sun-baked plains that, until then, they had only ever experienced from the top down in RTS titles. With its colourful, caricatured visuals, huge personality and accessible yet deep mechanics, World Of Warcraft rose to dominate the entire MMO market, boasting, at its peak, more than 12 million subscribers and making an indelible mark on popular culture. From the ballad of Leeroy Jenkins to this unfortunate in-game funeral gank and a thousand machinima videos, Warcraft's reach extends far beyond the set-pieces and encounters scripted by Blizzard. Some deride it as an addictive, life-stealing time sink, while others laud it as a gaming masterpiece of unprecedented scale. Either way, in the ten years since WoW first opened Azeroth to tourism, the impact it has had both on the gaming industry and the lives of its players cannot be understated and below are just a few of the reasons why..
2. The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time
"Hey! Listen! Over here!" Annoyed yet? If the high-pitched chirp of a condescending fairy sends you into a cold fury, chances are you remember the finest game on the Nintendo 64. While Ocarina is full of glorious setpieces, epic bosses, and challenging puzzles, what really made Link's first 3D outing shine was letting players invest themselves in the quiet moments. Riding free over Hyrule Field, uncovering the vibrant world and its lore, seeing Princess Zelda with a personality for the first time, Shigeru Miyamoto's opus was one of the first truly living game worlds. A true masterpiece of the medium.
1. The Last Of Us
Though it only arrived on PS3 last year – and in an updated form on PS4 this month – the impact of Naughty Dog's The Last Of Us was Earth-shattering for gamers and game-makers alike. An over-the-shoulder stealth shooter, but one like no other, this was a game that you never wanted to end, that shook you to your soul, that you really, genuinely, honestly cared about. With more 10/10 reviews than you could shake a shiv at, it scored highly in all aspects: combat, crafting, acting, script, sound design, art design, graphics and more. But it was its story and its characters that really set The Last Of Us Apart: the relationship between Joel, a grizzled zombie apocalypse survivor, and Ellie, his teenage ward, forming an emotional core that left you near-tears come the story's end. No wonder a film adaptation is already in development – we can only pray they do Joel and Ellie's journey justice.