Welcome, one and all, to my annual Top 50 Games of the Ever list. This is a list I construct every year, detailing what I think the top fifty games of the ever are, based on what I’m thinking right at the moment I compile it. Yeah.
Last year’s list can be found here. To follow is These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things 2010, in which I go on about the best stuff of the year in a few areas of interest. For now…
50. Team Fortress 2 [Last year: 41]
49. Lara Croft & The Guardian of Light [New]
48. Resident Evil 4 [Last year: 50]
47. Unreal Tournament [Last year: n/a]
46. Quake [Last year: n/a]
45. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time [Last year: 35]
44. Mass Effect [Last year: 15]
43. Dreamfall: The Longest Journey [Last year: n/a]
42. Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker [Last year: 32]
41. Eternal Darkness [Last year: 37]
I imagine Team Fortress 2 might well drop out of next year’s list: I haven’t played it in ages. The new Lara Croft game was a lot of fun. Resi 4 remains the most excellent “traditional” survival horror. Meanwhile, Mass Effect plummets because I don’t actually find it very appealing after that first time through, and both my usual Zelda picks slip lower too. Dreamfall appears out of nowhere, since I only played it for the first time this year.
40. Counter-Strike [Last year: 27]
39. STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl [Last year: 25]
38. LittleBigPlanet [Last year: 14]
37. Unreal [Last year: n/a]
36. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty [New]
35. Galatea [Last year: n/a]
34. Digital: A Love Story [New]
33. Dragon Age: Origins [Last year: 30]
32. Far Cry 2 [Last year: 28]
31. Dear Esther [Last year: 21]
The first STALKER game takes a knock because of the latest one, but Unreal and Galatea both find their way back into the list. StarCraft II’s a new entry, as is the absolutely lovely freebie Digital: A Love Story. Dear Esther, a HL2 mod, makes the cut once again for being extraordinarily powerful, but LittleBigPlanet plunges way down now that the initial joy has very much worn off.
30. Batman: Arkham Asylum [Last year: 24]
29. ICO [Last year: 38]
28. Red Faction: Guerrilla [Last year: 12]
27. System Shock 2 [Last year: 17]
26. Deadly Premonition [New]
25. Drawn: Dark Flight [New]
24. The Witcher [Last year: 48]
23. Half-Life 2 [Last year: 18]
22. Fallout 3 [Last year: 9]
21. The Longest Journey [Last year: 49]
Arkham Asylum might not have been revolutionary, but it is tight as anything. ICO was revolutionary, so climbs higher. Guerrilla remains ludicrous amounts of fun, while Shock 2 remains ludicrous amounts of scary. Deadly Premonition and Drawn: Dark Flight are two of my favourite games of this year, despite both having problems. Half-Life 2 drops further because it isn’t amazing any more. Fallout 3 and The Longest Journey are roughly as good.
20. Mass Effect 2 [New]
19. Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crysis [Last year: 4]
18. Okami [Last year: 22]
17. Fallout: New Vegas [New]
16. Planescape: Torment [Last year: 46]
15. STALKER: Call of Pripyat [New]
14. Left 4 Dead [Last year: 19]
13. Braid [Last year: n/a]
12. Super Mario Galaxy [Last year: 7]
11. Pathologic [Last year: 43]
Mass Effect 2 is definitely better than the first game, but I still never found it to be worthy of the sea of 10/10 reviews it received. Op Flash has had its day now, methinks: let’s hope we’ll have a new amazing military sim soon enough. Okami is just staggeringly beautiful, even today on a PS2. New Vegas is better than Fallout 3 in pretty much every way, while the latest STALKER is the best yet. Planescape, I remembered this year, gets amazing after the lacklustre opening few hours. I forgot to include Braid at all last year. Pathologic jumps to a mega high spot because, while it might be a bit rubbish, it’s also one of the most memorable games I’ve ever played.
10. Grand Theft Auto IV [Last year: 11]
This is the most incredible version of Liberty City, an astonishing open world which convinces at every turn, filled with wonderful characters. It’s let down, as GTA always is, by its mission structure. But it’s still one of the best games in years.
9. Machinarium [Last year: 13]
Pure joy encoded into a .swf file. The story of Josef the robot and his troubles in the city of Machinarium is both hilarious and moving, and the hand-drawn environments are beyond beautiful. This, to me, is the greatest point-and-click adventure made in a very, very long time.
8. BioShock [Last year: 8]
The most philosophical shooter you’ll find. BioShock 2 tightened the mechanics of gunplay, but unfortunately forgot to do much else interesting. An impactful ending couldn’t save the sequel from mediocrity; a dreadful ending didn’t tarnish the first game’s incredible quality.
7. Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind [Last year: 5]
Still, I think, the best fantasy RPG in the world. I bought it on release and was absolutely enthralled from the moment I began playing. I have a bash through both this and Oblivion every now and then, and Morrowind captivates me more every single time with its otherworldly architecture and epic pacing.
6. Spelunky [Last year: 10]
I continue to play it. I continue to have never completed it. This rock-hard Rogue-like platformer regenerates its levels on the fly each time you play, but that’s not what’s so extraordinary: it’s the level of detail, the amount of possibilities its creator Derek Yu has considered, that give it the edge. Genuinely, despite it being an 8mb freebie, I consider it among the most perfect games ever made.
5. Limbo [New]
Playdead’s black-and-white puzzle game is atmospheric beyond almost anything else you might like to consider. Alternately horrifying and hilarious, it’s a journey through a haunting other-world that’s out to stop you with every step. The tension and difficulty ramp up gorgeously throughout its four-hour lifespan, meaning it’s a game that begins excitingly and never outstays its welcome.
4. Grand Theft Auto III [Last year: 2]
I spent so many hours of my youth playing this. GTA3 might not have the polish of its successor, but for turning the series into a fully-fledged, open-world 3D game, it has to win the most plaudits. Besides, I think this is still the most wonderfully witty GTA title, so I’m happy to place it so high up on the list.
3. Portal [Last year: 6]
Three hours long, no ‘enemies’ as such, and only the one gun — with which you can just move yourself around. It’s the puzzle game that broke the rules of puzzle games, and the shooter that realised you didn’t need to have shooting. People talk about Half-Life and its sequel, but for me, this is Valve’s crowning moment: one of the most creative, intuitive and absolutely joyous videogames on the planet.
2. Deus Ex [Last year: 1]
See… yeah. Year by year I change my mind on whether Deus Ex has had its day. This is the second year in three that I’ve given the top spot to something else, and I’m never quite sure whether I believe it myself. Every time I play Deus Ex, those wonderful memories come flooding back: the open-ended mechanics, the intriguing story, that theme music. My excitement for the third game made me think I should probably keep this at number one, but then I asked myself a question: If I were going to sit down and play an immersive sim right now, which one would I want it to be?
1. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines [Last year: 3]
…And the answer, ultimately, was Bloodlines. This has climbed up my lists over the years – number six in 2008, three last year, and now, finally, the top position. It received cautiously positive reviews on release, but its shoddy release state and underwhelming conclusion held it back. But now it’s been fixed by a number of fan patches, and the game that leads up to those final few hours is… well, yeah. I’d say it’s the best ever made.
I’ve never played any of the Masquerade tabletop game, so don’t know how much artistic license Troika were afforded when they digitised this world. But what always struck me about the storytelling and setting is how candid it all felt. Because really, this isn’t a game about vampires: it’s a game about society, culture, and how we treat one another as people living on the planet Earth. Bloodlines’ Los Angeles is humanity in a microcosm. It always fascinated me that so many of the people dwelling within it aren’t human at all.
Bloodlines has shoddy combat, and the final few hours demand that you use it. But before then, it’s a wonderful, rare RPG that puts dialogue first, fisticuffs second. The script is remarkable, the characters breathtaking, your quests more creative than those of any other game. It’s an absolute masterpiece. It is so, so tragic that it ended up being the death of its developer.