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PC Gamer's Best 100: 50-01

Ten men, 100 games, and every one a winner.
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The concluding part of our Top 100, containing every entry between 50 and 1.

The first part, containing entries 100-51, can be found here.

50
Unreal Tournament 2004
2004

Unreal Tournament is more than FPS deathmatch. It comes laden with extras: vehicles, alternative fire-modes, objective-based play, even a futuristic take on rugby called Bombing Run. And with the mod support, you'll never run out of things to play - even for the original (and best) version.

Tom:"It just bristles with vicious, oddball weaponry. Even its shotgun is a ricocheting shrapnel-belcher. The glob-spitting Biorifle and the Shock Rifle's connecting fire-modes make it the most satisfying and intricate competitive game out there."

49
Star Wars: Tie-Fighter
1994

Set shortly after the battle of Hoth, TIE-Fighter lets you release your inner bad-ass. Flying the far-cooler-than-an-X-Wing ships, many missions had you working for the Vader himself. Get hold of the special edition for the improved graphics.

Tim:"Grip the shaft. Don the mask. Breathe heavily. Yes, there's something deeply sexual about becoming Lord Vader's right-hand pilot. Deeply sexual, and fun."

48
Warcraft III
2002

Everyone thinks Blizzard make cartoon games. That's not entirely true. Behind the hand-drawn animation of this RTS is the dark tale of a prince driven mad by his own shortcomings, and his descent into genocide.

Tim:"Warcraft III's highlights are in its multiplayer matches. Alongside the standard RTS base building and resource collecting, you have to level up your heroes and hunt down the enemy's. It leads to fantastic Benny Hill-style chases as hordes of skeletons rampage after over-sized cows."

47
Beyond Good & Evil

2003

Sure, you beat stuff with a stick, but beautiful heroine Jade is far more interested in capturing bads in a photograph. A fantastic action-adventure game wrapped ina remarkable story, with a pig that'll make you cry.

John:"Jim and Cobbett pestered me to play this for the longest time, and I thought they were made. They weren't. And so what if I cried a bit when Pey'J got into a bit of bother. DON'T JUDGE ME."

46
Guild Wars
2005

What do we like to do in MMO games? Punch each other in the face, and accompany our friends on epic adventures and last-ditch assaults. Guild Wars boils off the fat of massively multiplayer games, leaving pure fun. The world-instancing can make it feel like the game's treating you and your chums as true heroes.

Kieron:"Guild Wars is a gamer's game, all pure interactions and room for personal expression and strategy. You don't have to pay a subscription fee either, which makes it a sensible gamer's game."

45
Far Cry
2004

'Club Tropicana, Trigens are free. Fun and sunshine, there's a gun for everyone.' Releasing the FPS from its murky corridors, Far Cry's mutant-infested islands gave us a minor revolution of AI, freedom and, most of all, foliage.

Tom:"The freedom to scout out your objective, tag enemies, then boat around the entire area to pick the perfect angle of approach through the hilly, dense jungle works as a satisfyingly methodical appetiser to the hilariously OTT action."

44
IL2 Sturmovik
2001

Oleg Maddox and his band of former Soviet flight engineers wanted to play combat flight sims. They looked at what was available. They decided they were all rubbish. They did their own. It wasn't rubbish. Arrogance isn't arrogance when you're actually right.

Tim:"I was astonished by this. The last flight sim I played before Sturmovik was Strike Commander - voxel landscapes and all. But this is amazing - you can navigate your way to your objective by following the line of the forest and the edges of hills! And the latest version has crazy rocket planes of the type that every Lego-obsessed boy built in his bedroom."

43
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory Co-op
2005

Co-op sneaking takes on a new level of orchestration. The only multiplayer game where you get to allez-oop, perform synchronised wire cutting on bombs, or simultaneous throat cutting on opponents. Oh, and you get to lower your partner upside down on a rope so he can use a keypad.

Craig:"Every six months or so, Tom and I load up Chaos Theory's genius co-op and Jack Bauer our way through Korea's rogue military peons. This game is a piece of friend-boosting, pipe-dangling, neck-snapping awesomeosity."

42
Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar
2007

The moment your race masters the faster-than-light drive, the galaxy is their oyster. That's when you step in, and Ð often Ð step in it. You're not alone in this turn-based interstellar empire-builder, and alien relations can get very interesting indeed.

Tom:"The bizarre and often bitter communications from the races controlled by GalCiv's extraordinary AI give the average match more plot, character and fun than most scripted campaigns."

41
F.E.A.R.
2005

Japanese horror flick-inspired F.E.A.R. makes strong men wet themselves. Designed to freak you out, rather than constantly assault you with traditional FPS onslaughts, there's little spookier than the appearance of that little girl in red at the end of a corridor.

Craig:"It's therapy, mostly. Have a bad day, load up F.E.A.R. and watch grisly violence unfold in slow motion. It's come closer to nailing first-person combat than just about any other game AND has a shotgun that can bisect a man."

40
Peggle
2007

The crazed simplicity of dropping a ball through pegs has fascinated us since Victorian arcades. Add pinball physics and a sneeze of colours, and you've got the casual game that captured everyone's fevered mind.

Craig:"Extreme Fever. Fever Score. Getting that perfect final shot, and humming along to Ode to Joy, the rainbows, and the unicorns makes EVERYONE happy. If you are not happy, you are broken."

39
Ultima Underworld II
1992

Underworld didn't just give us the first 3D game world. It gave us the freedom of action we expect from modern first-person RPGs, too. And it did it 15 years before Oblivion. No game since has raised the bar half as high.

Tony:"Monsters, magic, a map that drew itself. Eight worlds full of 3D adventure. You could pick stuff up! You could throw it! Putting even half these things in one game was impossible at the time. Good job no one told Looking Glass."

John:"This was the first game my dad and I played on PC. I soon started my own save games to experience my own private version of the story. It awoke a part of my brain that I've been trying to satiate since."

38
SimCity 2000
1993

The secret behind Maxis' success was to create a compelling and intelligent city-building sim, then pepper it with silliness. Who can forget their first UFO, the llama obsession, or the deranged Arcology designs?

Jim:"It's pistols at dawn if you dare to suggest that this isn't the best SimCity game. Seriously, if you're going challenge me then I'll fight you in the woods. And I'm a cracking shot with a flintlock."

37
Rise of Nations
2003

Busy, busy, busy. Huge amounts of city managing and warfaring to do, and little time to do it. Along with the front-line RTS work, there's research to be managed, cities to craft, and economies to balance.

Tim:"I once read that a human mind can keep track of five different threads of thought at the same time. Rise of Nations asks you to keep track of ten variables and ideas at once. That makes us super-human."

36
GTR 2
2006

Put simply: the best racing game in existence. Unsurpassed physics and car modelling are combined with scarily realistic racing, to ensure g-forces that'll keep you pinned in your chair and make you GTR's bitch.

Tim:"When the developers came down to show us this, halfway through the demo the lead designer slapped himself on the forehead Ð he'd just realised that they hadn't modelled the way fuel sloshes in the tank. It was fixed in a patch."

35
Darwinia
2005

Bordering on the spiritual, this celebration of all things Amiga, and indeed all things wonderful about videogames, has a timeshare condo in our hearts. Guard the little green stick-sprite-men! THEY MUST SURVIVE.

Tom:"Each part of the life-cycle of this race of evolving artificial intelligences is the focus of a level, so by the end of their moving little story you've seen the genius of it first-hand."

34
City of Heroes
2005

Massively multiplayer games so often fail at making you feel important. City of Heroes doesn't have tht problem. Just walking down the street, you'll come across a mugging, a damsel in need of rescuing. From that point on, you don't walk. You swagger.

Kieron:"Not the deepest 'real' MMO in the world, but my favourite. Part of my heart will remain beating up The Clockwork, wearing only the finest spandex, forever."

John:"You can keep your flying. It's all about the jumping. Leeping 400 yards at a time, over tall buildings. the original Superman had it right. Sometimes I boot it up just to go for a bounce."

33
Homeworld
1999

Why we fight: that's the important bit of an RTS. In Homeworld, you fight to survive and exact revenge Ð cutting a swathe of violence across a galaxy while searching for your home planet.

Tim:"I love the final line of Homeworld. A scientist named Karan S'jet allowed herself to be the organic computer at the heart of the K'shan mothership, dedicating her life to bringing her people home. 'Karan survived extraction from the mothership core. She insisted that she would be the last person to set foot on the Homeworld.'"

32
STALKER
2007

Stalker is a strange breed of first-person tourism; feeding you horrific sights from the ruins of Chernobyl. Mutants and bounty hunters all want a piece of the valuable wreckage. Can you survive with your humanity intact?

Jim:"Exhumed from the poisoned compost of the Soviet Ukraine, this is a mythological, radioactive, vodka-fuelled drama, where decay provides a kind of imaginative fertility. It's the scariest game on the PC."

31
Counter-Strike: Source
2004

It's all about the sick click of a bullet meeting skull. Near-perfect level design with a compelling idea: men in blue versus angry men in headbands make for a game that we're still playing, some ten years since its inception.

Graham:"It's the 21st century equivalent of chess: you pick your strategy and live or die by the moves you make. But when it's all over, you start again. The stakes are the same, but now you can do it better, and smarter, and get revenge. So you play it again, and again, and again."

30
Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War
2004

It's about zeal. Send one squad against another in any other RTS and they'll lie down and take pot-shots. In Dawn of War they sprint headlong at each other, screaming, drawing knives, claws, fists and swords, and clash in a whirlwind of hatred and geysers of hot, sticky blood.

Jim:"'EVEN IN DEATH I STILL SERVE!' The Warhammer dreadnoughts are alive (or undead) and ripping the guts out of space orks. that alone guarantees my hopeless devotion.

29
Day of the Tentacle
1993

Nerd slacker Bernard, and his housemates Laverne (a medical student scared of blood) and Hoagie (a heavy metal roadie with the IQ of a sandwich) have a problem. They've been separated by 400 years by a time-travelling toilet. Genius in adventure form.

Graham:"Laverne is stuck in a tree. How do you get her down? Simple. In the 18th century, you use Hoagie to convince George Washington to cut down the tree, freeing Laverne in the future. In a world of gibberish puzzles, Day of the Tentacle is beautifully logical, but is no less funny and irreverent for it."

John:"Still the funniest game of all time. And all the more-so for being clever. Temporal rather than lateral thinking is the key, and because it's a cartoon it simply cannot age."

28
Baldur's Gate II
2000

BioWare's love for roleplaying shines through in this conventional fantasy RPG, which nevertheless pushes the genre as far as it will go. It's epic in every sense of the word, a monster of a game that has purists purring.

Ross:"If you're going to do a fantasy RPG, make it like this. It hardly puts a foot wrong, with reams of excellent dialogue, a decent story and some truly memorable moments."

27
Ground Control
2000

Drop the base building from RTS games and all that's left is dramatic front-line combat. Ground Control did exactly that, placing you at the forefront of a quasi-religious sci-fi war. Cruelly ignored, but still brilliant.

Jim:"You need reasons? The plunging dropship, the earnest female protagonist, the titanic artillery, the cyber-cool snipers, the fighting retreat, the scissor-paper-bomb tactical tension. Timeless genius."

26
Psychonauts
2005

Ridiculously packed with imagination, the platform adventures of young brain explorer Razputin leave no background detail without something to explore, no conversation without a wonderful gag, and no brain without a brand new, elaborate and intricate world to fall in love with.

John:"We must have been extra good to be allowed such a treat from wunder-developer Tim Schafer. SO damned funny, but just as importantly, honest. Even harrowing in places. THIS is what games are capable of being, you lazy developers."

25
Eve Online
2003

Most online games split their population into many servers. EVE doesn't Ð it's the sum of thousands of players all conniving, fighting, plotting and trading in one intergalactic space-war. Complex and ambitious, EVE rewards the patient and the clever.

Jim:"If cats are the opposite of dogs, then EVE is the opposite of World of Warcraft. There are striking similarities, but ultimately our relationships with them take on very different tones."

24
Mafia
2002

Freely roamable cities are ten-a-penny these days. Lost Heaven is unique. A living, vibrant 1930s American city, with classic motors to race, mobsters to whack, and a brilliant and brilliantly acted story to explore.

Tony:"ÔMafia' isn't a secret criminal organisation, it's a film genre. Mafia understands this. You're not playing a game, you're playing a movie. A lavish, epic movie of honour and betrayal in 1930s USA."

Graham:"You enter your friend Paulie's apartment to find him crumpled over his bed, bullets put in his back by his boss. By your boss. Blood is everywhere. You freeze. Then you run. Suddenly nothing is the same: the entire world has become a threat, and you're alone, and you're terrified."

23
System Shock 2
1999

SHODAN has a plan. She's tasted what it's like to be a mother Ð she created the collection of psychic zombies known as the Many. Now she's going to try being a god, using the faster-than-light drives on her spaceship to rebuild the universe to her satisfaction. A first-person RPG like no other.
Kieron:"I'll never forget, when reviewing this, Mark Donald begging me to turn down the sound as the monkeys' ululations had him petrified. Happy days."

22
Knights of the Old Republic
2003

Four thousand years before the events of the films, and the Star Wars universe is still full of naughty Jedi trying to take over the galaxy. This is Bioware at their peak, with an extraordinary crew of companions, and quests that challenged your morals as much as your reflexes.
Ross:"The fact that it's Star Wars is almost incidental: what's key here is the convincing characters and dialogue, married to the entertaining action."

John:"I finally believe that there's something worthwhile in Lucas's universe if it can inspire the interesting and evocative tales told by this gang of Jedis. And HK-47 rocks out loud."

Tim:"Every time Mission speaks, I want to punch the screen. It's a testament to just how good the rest of the cast are, that I rate this so highly."

21
the sims 2
2004

Craig just wet himself. It doesn't matter that much: we'll just lend him a mop. The thing is, Craig is our slave Ð he cooks food and tidies up after all the other PC Gamer housemates, while they get on with their happy, productive lives. That's what The Sims is about: deviant social strategy and engineering.

Tim:"When I bought a house (in the real world), I worked out where I was going to put all my furniture by building a scale model in The Sims 2. I'm well aware of how geeky that is."

20
Operation Flashpoint
2001

Death can strike from anywhere, and at any time. From the sniper huddled in the forest, to the laser-guided missile launched from a mile away. Operation Flashpoint proves that war is both incredibly unfair and brutally entertaining Ð often at the same time.

Craig:"Operation Flashpoint is function over form: it's ugly, devoid of any emotional involvement and has the sort of storyline you'd expect from a hardcore Czech military simulator. But it absolutely drives home the fact that you're a bag of meat up against flying, burning metal. Every bullet counts, every action is a step closer to death. Don't make the mistake of assuming this is just a shooter Ð it's closer to conscription."

19
Sacrifice
2000

The gods are at war, and you, the most powerful of magicians, are their pawn. For your service, you'll be granted unlimited power, and an army. All you need to do is collect souls from the dead, and reincarnate them as horrific creatures: bulbous pigs, swarming mutant birds, or carrion eaters that grow enormous chainsaws. Oh, and cast the occasional volcano at your opponent's altar. The weirdest game on the PC by a significant margin is also one its most overlooked. Recommended to all students of the strange.

Jim:"I want unsettling, surreal experiences in my life. And I want to laugh. And I want to see carrion-souls extracted from cadavers with giant syringes. What other games do all that, eh? Exactly."

Kieron:"There's a universe where the huge success of Sacrifice changed the face of videogames into weird and wonderful shapes. It isn't ours. Weep."

18
The longest Journey
2000

For a while, you're just living: a restless art student in a drab modern world, haunted by vivid dreams. But soon dreams turn into hallucinations, hallucinations turn into reality, and you find yourself shifting between two opposite worlds. The problems of each, and the rift between them, become the focus of an extraordinary narrative, crafting a mature and thought-provoking allegory for a world - our world - bereft of imagination.

John:"I received an email from a reader recently telling me how this game changed his life. Not that he'd enjoyed it loads, but that he was a changed person for playing it. The furious importance of imagination is so powerfully evoked that it becomes evangelical."

Tom:"It's all about story, but it couldn't be a book or a film, because games can tell stories like no other medium. Nothing else can depict epic tales like this in such vivid visual detail."

17
Quake III Arena
1999

Quake's success lies in the precision twitch of a railgun shot, nailing its single pixel target from half a mile away. In the predicted path of a rocket, slamming headlong into your best friend as he rounds a corner. And in the glorious speed Ð the rhythm of death, respawn, death, respawn, quad-damage. Quake III is a perfect game, in which every item and every weapon sees significant use, where every conflict is face-first and played at furious pace. The ultimate deathmatch.

Jim: This is the Olympiad of twitch. It literally made me the man I am today, due to getting me sacked from an unpromising career in financial reporting. Nothing matches its functional purity.

16
Anachronox
2001

It starts as sci-fi film noir and already it's like nothing you've ever played before. Your mouse pointer is in the game: it's a little flying gadget called a LifeCursor. Pet a Time-Minder, and this cuddly alien creature remembers that moment with affection in the trans-dimensional matrix of its mind. That's how you save the game. From here on, this adventure/RPG just gets weirder, and funnier, and more inventive.

Ross:"A deliciously mad curio, this. As though Tom Hall just said, ÔGames have too many rules. Let's break some. No Ð let's break them all!' then scampered away, cackling, and did it. Everyone remembers Ion Storm for Daikatana when they should remember it for Deus Ex and this."

Tony:"After your exciting adventures on the planet Democratus, the planet Democratus joins your party. The ruling council had so much fun they shrank their planet down to the size of a spacehopper to tag along. That's not the best bit. You can still visit Democratus. Everyone you talk to there has seen your subsequent adventures happening in the sky. They think it's a soap opera, and criticise the plot. Best. Game. Ever."

15
Hitman: Blood Money
2006

It took four sequels until we finally played the definitive Hitman game: Blood Money is it. Its masterstrole was to introduce myriad ways to make your kill look like an accident - over and above the usual poisons, sniper-rifles and silenced pistols. Why do so few games let you drop chandeliers on paedophiles while dressed as a Nazi general?

Tom:"My best kill was Skip Muldoon. I fed him a poisoned cake with a bomb in it, slit his throat while he ate it, shot him six times in the back of the head with his own gun, then clicked the detonator. Blood Money gives you more options than ever before, and there's no reason not to take them all at once."

14
GTA: Vice City
2003

Billie-Jean on the stereo, wind through your hair, hog between your legs. That's the simple thrill of Vice City: sitting back on your chopper, weaving through the streets of pseudo-Miami, feeling like you own the place. And in a way, you do. From the first drug deal gone bad, to the final take-down and act of revenge, Vice City becomes a home, a place etched into your memory. You know the curve of the streets, the shortcut alleys, and the perfect ramps for leaping cars. Timeless genius.

Graham:"I don't want to be a mobster, a drug kingpin, a pimp or a hood. I just want to do wheelies on an airport runway. The neon-coloured streets and Kool and the Gang soundtrack are perfect backdrops to my joy-riding, stunt-biking antics."

Tim:"All that was missing was Phil Collins. Good job we can import mp3s into the game's radio stations."

Ross:"All the GTA games are great, but Vice City nails a perfect balance of light and dark, humour and ultraviolence. The setting is perfectly self-contained; bright, sexy and optimistic Ð and all the details fit too, with surely the best soundtrack (music and dialogue) of any game ever. Crucially, the missions are also pleasingly daft.

13
Fallout
1997

Turn-based combat, a fixed isometric zoomless perspective and it's nevertheless one of the most atmospheric games the PC has ever seen. The contrast of horror and humanity is stark in this game: you'll end up hating and caring about NPCs more than you ever thought possible.

Alec:"Sometimes, the thought of playing anything with elves in it ever again makes me want to claw my brains out. Fallout is how I make the bad thoughts go away Ð a smart, witty RPG in a visually inventive setting with zero traces of Tolkien tedium."

Ross:"Seeing Bethesda's homage has reminded me why this was so great. Bags of atmosphere, dark humour, style and it absolutely nails the post-apocalyptic setting. The turn-based combat seems archaic now but even here its genius shines through, allowing for well thought-out use of weapons. Number three has a fantastic head-start."

12
Half-Life
1998

Deep in the cavernous laboratories of the Black Mesa Research Facility, a dimensional rift has opened. Aliens are pouring through, the government has come to clear up the mess, and you're a bespectacled scientist with a beard. A watershed moment for PC gaming, Half-Life looked upon the industry and re-modelled it in its own image. It was beautiful.

Jim:"In 1998 I played Half-Life through end-to-end three or four times. Then I sat for the best part of a month, watching my friends queue up to play it through on my PC. No one ever quite got over the marines."

Alec:"Half-Life gives me stories to tell. Half-Life lets me say Ôremember that bit when...' to other gamers and have them nod in enthusiastic accord. Half-Life makes me feel like Indiana Jones Ð it's a proper, ever-shifting adventure."

Graham:"I devoted half a decade to it. I learned how to design levels, wrote about it on community websites, joined clans and worked on mods. I devoted half a decade to its beautifully crafted world, and when I was finished, I started again with its sequel."

11
Thief: Deadly Shadows
2004

Softly softly we creep, through this steampunk nightmare. Thief's genius is in its avoidance of clichs: it could have had us robbing banks or cracking high-tech mansions. Instead, we're playing in the dark of a twisted medieval city, where zombies and monsters patrol alongside the guards. And it's terrifying. Who will ever forget creeping around The Cradle, the orphanage-cum-madhouse haunted by the ghosts of its own atrocities?

Kieron:"Thief is the greatest stealth game ever. The Cradle is its greatest level."

John:"There's so much more to it than just The Cradle, but it's still that level that stands out most in my memory. I remember Kieron telling me about it beforehand Ð not spoiling it, but hinting at the horrors. And then the fear each time I passed it. Then, finally, finding I had to go in. I was so hyped I had to Alt+Tab out to calm down."

10
UFO: Enemy Unknown
1994

UFO has so much of what we love about PC games in it: the strategy of the ground missions, the management of your base, cash flow and research, the roleplaying of training up and specialising your soldiers, and weeping like a child when a favourite dies. Yes, it looks as old as the hills (though retains a cartoon charm), but it still plays fresher than almost anything else that begs passage through these pages.

Tim:"Desctructible everything. That's the difference between modern takes on the X-COM games and the brilliant originals. It was knowing that the barn in front of you contained several bales of hay, a civilian, anda terrifying psychic alien. Sod the friendly fire: just blow the side of the door off and spray indiscriminately."

Alec:"To play UFO now requires skulduggery with DOSbox, but the largely-the-same-but-harder sequel, Terror From the Deep, is available on Steam for just a couple of quid."

09
Planescape torment
1999

Any discussion of the importance of narrative in gaming will call upon Planescape. Interplay were at their absolute peak, with guru designer Chris Avellone at the helm, and the D&D licence at their disposal. The result is an RPG that subverts its own genre: this is a game where your main character is invincible. It's a triumph for plot over combat, intelligence over brawn, and it's astonishingly funny.

John:"What stands out most clearly in my memory is the feeling of having just read a brilliant book, but one I was in control of."

Ross:"I just loved the way this turned fantasy RPG stereotypes on their heads. It's hard to pull off a world that'll be unfamiliar to most gamers, but Planescape does it by being so consistent. One of the darkest, cleverest games you'll ever play and scarcely tarnished by time."

08
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
2006

Freedom's funny: technically you've got it in plenty of games, and America, but somehow it's just not much fun. The total freedom Oblivion offers is mind-freeingly wonderful because of where you are: the most crisply realised high-fantasy world ever crafted, woven with intricate stories and bristling with killers, liars, thieves, zealots, warriors, lunatics, dukes, vampires and darker things altogether.

Tony:"Other RPGs drag you by the nose through someone else's story, bending and buckling your sense of freedom to fit a predefined shape. Oblivion asks you to scramble through one sewer and that's it. You're free to write your own story in a world of options and adventures."

Tom:"Despite the intro sequence's best efforts, there's never any pressure in Oblivion. That's its charm. Every time I go back to it, I spend a moment trotting through the gently swaying grass, wondering which snippets of overheard stories I fancy pursuing next."

Ross:"Give them freedom but make sure they know where to go: that's got to be the mantra for any modern RPG. Ignore the main quest in Oblivion entirely and you could still have masses of fun for 100 hours or more, just pickpocketing callipers and paralysing goblins."

07
Company of Heroes
2006

So few strategy games properly show the impact of your actions. Company of Heroes remembers how important it is for players to understand why they won, and especially why they lost. In this recreation of World War II, artillery barrages churn giant funnels of mud into the sky, shearing arms and legs from the poor troopers below. From your eye in the sky, you watch and control it all, alternately wincing and cheering as your troops come under fire and overcome their opponents.

Jim:"As a theme, World War II should have been exhausted by its overuse in videogames. I mean, come on, let's give Normandy a rest, eh? Yet it only takes a few minutes of playing this for us to realise that games can re-invigorate and re-imagine any conflict with drama and intensity. I can't think of a game that has left me so exhausted."

Tim: It's the violence with which a successful attack erupts that sells CoH to me. A well timed Panzershrek doesn't just take a chunk out of a Sherman's health bar Ð it disables its treads or demolishes its turret. It is ferocious and utterly brilliant."

Kieron:"Its genius is in its precision. It's the greatest game of toy soldiers the world has ever seen."

06
Battlefield 2
2005

Without sacrificing the usual bloodlust of competitive gaming, Battlefield adds a second dimension: camaraderie. Every soldier has various ways to do right by his brothers in arms, and the game slyly encourages you to form smaller teams to make this possible, necessary and fun. It's the guilty secret of the violent gamer: no shot is quite so satisfying as the jolt of a defibrillator to the chest of a fallen friend.

Tom:"The crispness and physical fidelity of Battlefield 2's world makes everything that happens within it utterly convincing. When a fighter jet clips your helmet, it looks, sounds and moves so much like an actual fighter jet that you nearly jump out of your seat. It recreates the gritty hell of desert-nation combat mercilessly well."

Jim:"I don't really have the heart for competitive FPS games these days, so getting on Xfire with a bunch of mates and dropping into games of Battlefield 2 is a much-needed release of frag-hunger. This is a game that I will never, not in 50 years, ever have enough time to master. I wish I could split off into a parallel universe where hunting snipers was my true vocation."

Craig:"Three men, one server. BF2's a great shooter, but for me it'll always be about how Tom, Steve Williams and I turned it into a playground full of death. We'd hop in helicopters, jeeps and jets and pull the most ludicrous stunts, such as ejecting out of a plane, skydiving and getting back in it again before it crashed."

05
Medieval II: Total War
2006

What happens on the battlefield shapes the kingdom. That's the key feature of the Total War games: we spend most of our time planning and building empires in the Civilization-style map, until, provoked or just for kicks, our armies march out from our castles and onto the field. There, we directly control their fate: running cavalry into the backs of archers, or luring horses onto the points of our spears.

Ross:"The combination of two game types still seems genius today, seven years after Shogun first did it. I love getting one over on the AI on the battle maps: sneaking light cavalry around the flanks to rout the infantry I've pinned in combat. But the campaign map is a thing of beauty. I love writing my own stories of exiled generals, rogue states and papal assassinations."

Jim:"Like most games journalists I am, at heart, a frustrated Byzantine tyrant. Medieval II has allowed me to crush my enemies, besiege Popes, erect vast citadels, and find a reason for quoting Machiavelli. This Prince among games might not boast historical realism, but it seethes with the kind of mad pomp that was the spirit of Medieval conflict."

Kieron:"Total War is the most defiantly 'PC' game series out there, mashing together the two great staples - turn-based and real-time strategy - into something whose every line of code screams I AM A PC GAME! FEAR ME! It's wrong. Don't fear it. Love it."

Tim:"I've been playing a randomly generated battle a day for the past month. It constantly throws up new and fascinating situations to test my tactical nous: from defending a river crossing to holding off a swarm of Aztec warriors in the snowy Russian steppes. The Aztecs fled, if you're interested."

Tony:"Total War's Alexander taught me well. I know how to capture a city with a small, specialised force, I know how to win a battle against daunting odds. What I don't know is how to please the bloody Pope. His Moaniness is a constant thorn in the works, a spanner in my side. He stops me conquering my enemies, he bonfires my generals - and he makes life far more interesting in the process."

04
Civilization IV
2006

Civilization was already deliriously entertaining: combining a race up the technology tree with world domination and inter-empire diplomacy. But Civ IV just ran away with the concept, introducing religion, culture and a superb multiplayer mode. Responding to your best friend's aggression with a perfectly timed oil painting* - and converting his cities to your empire in the process - never gets old.

Kieron:"In the beginning was the word. And then the sentence. Then the paragraph. Anda series of other developments, until we got the book. Then the . Then the computer. Then the computer game. And then Civilization. Then three more. And lo! It was very good."

Tim:"One of my favourite gaming memories is of convincing Kieron to attack a developer friend of ours in an online multiplayer game, and then charging into Kieron's undefended territory as the Mongols, sacking his empire while his back was turned."

* The 'culture bomb': a world of art so impressive it inspires all who witness it to switch allegiance.

03
Half-Life 2
2004

This is the work of professionals. It's the most perfect, gleamingly well-crafted and cinematic shooter ever created, and even its groundbreaking predecessor can't keep pace with this level of expertly crafted 21st-century entertainment. However far games expand along the online, freeform and social axes, the intensity of the experience will never beat Valve's blistering (and regularly expanding, with the Episodes) white knuckle rides. And we're all allowed to fancy Alyx.

Jim:"the warmth with which Barney, Alyx and the other Half-Life 2 characters were portrayed says something to me about the depth of Valve's talent. While this might be the last great FPS, there's no way we can doubt its fidelity and intelligence when we're faced with characters that contain this much humanity and gentle humour."

John:"Half-Life 2 is still the only FPS to truly understand that set-pieces belong in the game, not the cutscenes. It's a game that doesn't need to force a story upon you through wobbly acting, but instead crafts a narrative through its world. And that's why it is magnificent."

Tom:"Most developers think 'pacing' means 'let up when the player's had enough'. Valve know that's when you need to push people harder than ever. Each one of Half-Life 2's diverse chapters lasts just a little bit longer than you're prepared for, and you emerge from each one exhausted but satisfied, and eager for what's to come."

Craig:"I'm in love with the gravity gun. I call it Angelina and mentally polish it every night. It's such a simple change: unbolting every item from the world, and giving you the ability to pick up and propel things at faces. Dong-g-g-g, radiator. Blammo, toilet. I even play deathmatch regularly, and I'm a confirmed hated of twitchy shoot-everyone games. In fact, screw work, I'm off to play now.

Ross:"From a development point of view, I have to grudgingly admit Valve are a good example of what you can do with lots of money and, more importantly, a relaxed attitude to release dates. If the results are this good, I'm happy to wait."

02
Deus Ex
2000

It's the big one: the game that must be namechecked in every conversation about emergence, player freedom and greatness. And it did most of it just by making levels less like levels: as you trot the globe in JC Denton's shaded secret-agent specs, your missions take place in, well, places. You're given a building, and the surrounding grounds, and you've got to work out a route for yourself.

Tom:"It's about coming up with a plan, screwing it up, and laughing as you die. Your box of tools is big, guns, grenades, hacking, mines, sedatives, pepper spray, cybernetics - but your body is weak, so even neutralising a couple of goons takes some thought. And when that thought goes disastrously wrong, it's always entertaining. Failing has never been so much fun."

Kieron:"There are many great games in this Top 100. Only one of them made me - and unfortunate fellow travellers - devote years of our lives to making a mod for it. It's this one. Pretentious yet populist, radically inventive yet radiantly accessible, its beauty remains untarnished."

Tony:"I can still remember my bewilderment on first stepping ashore on Liberty Island. It was all so... open. Where was I supposed to go? What was I supposed to do? This was supposed to be a level? I tried things. Things happened. And in my head, gears suddenly whirred and meshed into a new configuration. I could do, within reason, whatever the hell I wanted. Games ahve never been the same since."

01
World of Warcraft
2005

/played: 31 days, 17 hours, 31 minutes. The fate of all games, according to game philosopher Raph Koster, is for us to become bored of them. The greatest games are those that never stop entertaining us. World of Warcraft is that game: the sheer length of time and energy we've devoted to exploring its continents and dungeons is a testament to its excellence. From fighting dragons and demons deep underground, to scrapping with other players in the deliriously entertaining arenas and battlegrounds, to just trading and bantering with your friends in the chat channels and auction houses, there's always something to do.

Other MMORPGs survive with a niche audience, but WoW appeals right across the bord. More than two years - 31 days of continuous play - later, our enthusiasm has yet to wane.

Alec:"The real reason I've played this longer than any other game is because of its sense of humour. It has a deep understanding of how to make hats funny that takes my breath away, while uber-geeky in-jokes like the NPCs modelled on He-Man or named after supporting characters from Carlito's Way amuse me utterly."

Tom:"The tour group walking around the Draenei capital are all named after past hosts for the Dax symbiont in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."

Tim"I am that numbers nerd, the RPG loon who obsesses over an extra +3 chance to hit. I didn't used to be like this. But the gentle slope of WoW's levelling curve has hooked me - I enjoy exploring the specialisations of each class, tooling up my character with high-end weapons and carefully crafted armour. This is WoW's legacy: it's changed my life."

John:"For me, it's about exploration. And WoW is so huge that this is enough to satisfy. Those moments when not only the scenery and buildings change, but the mood changes colour, are breathtaking."

Ross:"I've been drawn back to this repeatedly for more than two years and I still feel like I'm only scratching the surface. Every time I get bored with one thing I realise there's somewhere else to explore, another group to go questing with, more loot to find. If playing games is about living in other worlds, this is the best I've found."


PC Gamer Magazine
// Interactive
               
 
Read all 23 commentsPost a Comment
Nice list... not that I agree with most of it - but that's the point; right?

However I'm not sure that Peggle should be in there, not because it not a good game, it obviously is, but it just too different a type of game. How do you compare it, to, say, TA. If you include that, were are all the other little 'puzzle' games: tetris, Armadillo Run etc.
ta56636 on 13 Aug '07
WOW no.1? No way, it may be super popular but it's not actually that great a game. Deus Ex all the way. Nice to see Thief: Deadly Shadows in there, i think it gets overlooked a lot, the 2 previous games were also excellent.
maugrim2712 on 13 Aug '07
Where is GT Legends ?
Christopher Low on 13 Aug '07
Where is GT Legends ?

It didn't place.
Graham Smith on 13 Aug '07
Not a fan of WoW either, but you cant deny the number of hits its got, biggest ever onlinr game i think :? and where was Ghost recon or Stronghold.. :!::?:
SleepySheep28 on 13 Aug '07
WOW should definitely not be allowed anywhere near the top 100 as MMORPOROROORGYs have done obscene amounts of damage to PC gaming. all those people who would have been happy to play new games now don't bother buying any because they are too busy wasting time in WOW. everyone who plays WOW: you have RUINED IT. RUINED IT! :cry:
Anonymous on 13 Aug '07
It didn't place.

The best racing simulation ever seen on the PC fails to make it into the PCG Top 100 ? :shock:
Christopher Low on 13 Aug '07
I can't beleive this is done by video game experts. I loved WoW played it for 3 years but it is not no.1 Its sad to think that an extremely well polished game can beat original ideas, brilliant storylines and novel like atmospheres and characters.

Its like a cold hard corporation beating the small homely shops. It's like the "Da Vinci code" beating Shakespere or "Great expectations" I really hope that when devs look at world of warcraft they won't say to themselves ok lets just make this game very well polished and give them the same thing to do over and over again with a reward at the end.

Although my favourite genre, in no way should an MMO be no1 game of all time.
Zael on 14 Aug '07
1) Why is HL in here? Wasn't it declared at the start that only one game per franchise/series would be entered?

2) I collected some statistics about myself regarding this list...

Games not tried:
(games on this list I haven't had the chance or will to try. I may have played another game from a specific series) 31
e.g. WoW
Games tried, but not played: (games in this category were given a go, maybe through a demo, but no great time investment) 19
e.g.: M2:TW
Games played, not completed: (these games I either gave up on or just hadn't had the time to finish) 14
e.g. Oblivion
Games completed: (I either finished these games, or, if they don't have an ending, played the heck out of them) 35
e.g. HL2

what is your score?
zipdrive on 14 Aug '07
However I'm not sure that Peggle should be in there, not because it not a good game, it obviously is, but it just too different a type of game. How do you compare it, to, say, TA. If you include that, were are all the other little 'puzzle' games: tetris, Armadillo Run etc.

It's every PC Game ever, so they probably could have been options. They just weren't of what the writers thought were amongst the best 100 games ever. There are thousands upon thousands of games to consider. Masq got in, and Toribash was also considered.

As for stats:

Games not tried:
25
Games tried, but not played:
8
Games played, not completed:
(I'm terrible for this) 28
Games completed:
33
PCG The_B on 14 Aug '07
My own impressive record with respect to the PCG Top 100 is as follows:-

Not played: 81
Played demo: 6
Played, not completed: 4
Completed: 9
Christopher Low on 15 Aug '07
I was going to say I can't believe you haven't played 81 of that list Chris but that got me interested enough to work out my own stats. What surprised me is there's an awful lot there I haven't even touched either:

Not played: 65
Played demo: 11
Played, not completed: 7
Completed: 17

I also expected the 'played but not completed' mark to be a lot higher. Maybe this shows that all the games I never bothered completing aren't much cop anyway :P
shed on 15 Aug '07
No Starcraft? Eh? You wot?

I know Starcraft is an old game, but it's the second best selling PC game of all time (behind The Sims), and they've taken 10 years to come out with a sequel because the original has lasted so long. It's still being played (and not just in South Korea). How could it not make the Top 100 games? Did the piece of paper they wrote the word "Starcraft" on get blown under the table when they were shuffling through the other papers?

J
Jezcentral on 16 Aug '07
Yeah..I just deemed it worth registering for the first time to also say "No Starcraft?"

As they said, it's their opinion, but no Starcraft, Doom, Castle Wolfenstein, etc

Valiant effort though. Quite a few on their I haven't tried, so I'll look them up. Thanks.
Anonymous on 23 Aug '07
Don't agree what so ever. But then again its their opinion - not mine. But I do agree with WoW at number 1 though, there is so much to do and if you actually read the quests you are given there is a story to allot of them (not the ones where some chef guy wants you to go bring him 10 tiger meats and 5 hot spices). And there is such a variety of animals to kill, places to see, dungeons to explore and treasures to loot.
FAXA on 13 Sep '07
WoW #1? it's a good game and all, alot of ppl do play it... but best of all.... i don't think so.
1st of all i don't care who you are if you can't reconize StarCraft as one of the top 25 at lest, then the list is truely flawed. *hence the top spot WOW lol. WoW is a great game, but not ground breaking and not original. Example: Everquest is not better then WoW now, but it was ground-breaking. I would put Everquest way above WoW, even though WoW is clearly better now thanks to other mmorpgs.
on a side note* i belive all mmorpgs are just "Virtual Skinner Boxes". see website for meaning (http://www.nickyee.com/eqt/skinner.html).
Where's the creativity in somthing like that?
Morcrid on 23 Sep '07
I simply had to make an account here, for one reason: Dues Ex at Number 2.
All hail Ol' JC
Anonymous on 5 Nov '07
System Shock 2 is 23?!?!?!?!

-Questioning top 50 list-

Only reason I won't complain further is because Deus-Ex is 1st (ignoring WoW).
Waldino on 3 Apr '08
I was reading 50-1 and thinking 'this is much better than the crappy PC Zone Top 100!', then as I continued reading I thought 'Wow! PC Gamer really knows it's stuff!'

- But then I saw they had listed Half Life 1 AND 2, when that shouldn't be allowed, and then, horror of horror - WoW was number 1! Above X-Com, above the Half life's, above System Shock 2!

So I went back to what I was thinking before I started reading - how dumbed down PC games are now - how they have sold out to the publishers and how any morality has left gaming media to leave it bereft of any meaning - and I realised it was the Number One reason for the state of PC gaming today.

Thanks PC Zone and PC Gamer, for bringing my hobby down to it's knees, and probably, in a couple of years, killing it off entirely!
humorguy on 23 Dec '08
It's a sad day when I walk into a game store and find every pc game (except WoW) in the bargain bin. Only console games line the shelves anymore
=(

thanks for reminding me of some great oldschool pc titles tho. Thief ftw
games like Silver and Dungeon Siege are worth looking up as well =D
samwyze55 on 4 Mar '09
Not played: 50
Played just demo: 0
Played, not completed (or not played a lot): 10
Completed (or played to death): 40
excluding the games of the series included, like I never played Medieval

fav games ever: HL series, Rome Total War, TOCARD2, N
Armoreska on 15 Dec '09
Besides for it being the most boring game of all time, one of the most unoriginal, it is also the lamest rpg ever made. Sure its a landmark to the gaming industry but so was Sid Meiers Pirates! and you don't see that ranking number one on a bunch of lists. Seriously, Oblivion and Fallout 3 were extremely superior games and both of them were ranked lower than WoW? Get the hell out of here. All that is PC Gamer sucking up the worst thing that's happened to gaming since D&D...oh wait a minute, haha. Isn't WoW kinda based off of D&D? Wow man, pretty pathetic. Personally, I'd rank Devil May Cry 4 over WoW and DMC4 was a pretty lousy game. Also, Deus Ex played terribly on the PC and Company Of Heroes was just another tired, boring strategy game. Idk if it was just me, but the controls on the PC for Vice City were dreadful. I think its time we all got a top 100 list that's worthy of being viewed by the public. PC Gamer, keep your opinions to yourself because you obviously have no idea of what a top ten game is...besides for Half Life 2 and Oblivion. And Oblivion was obliviously ignored by the fools at PC Gamer for the top three!

Fave Games: Final Fantasy VIII, Oblivion and Fallout 3 <3 ;)
classicmints on 31 Mar '10
Where thef**k is Halo?!?
TheDarkFragment on 21 Jul '10
Read all 23 commentsPost a Comment
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