The 50 best videogames of all time
It could’ve been 200 – or 500 – but in the end we made our trigger-happy game reviewers Joe Griffin and Ciara O’Brien narrow their best videogames of all time down to just 50 . . . Plus, we talk to celeb gamers Jason Byrne, Mike Ross and Ed Smith about their all-time highs
Round one . . . fight! When we were compiling this list we were surprised at how many games appeared from years and decades gone by and at the variety, from the dark to the joyous, from dense digital worlds to simple puzzle games. This is a new medium, of course: when cinema was the same age, audiences had yet to experience sound or colour. But some games and characters have already entered the public imagination, whether it’s Street Fighter’s Chun Li or the infinite appetite of Pac Man.
Sorry if you think some entries are undeserved or that others should be here. Some beloved titles fell just outside of our top 50, such as the God of War series, while other bestsellers, such as Mortal Kombat, were dumped onto our unofficial overrated list.
Let the furious debating commence!
50 Tomb Raider (2013)
The latest in the archaeologist adventures was as feisty and likeable as Lara Croft herself.
49 North and South (1989)
Turn-based strategy in the American Civil War was slapstick, amiable and droll.
48 Minecraft (2009)
A genuine – ahem – game changer; the DIY world-building affair has unlocked the imagination and ingenuity of a generation.
47 Heavy Rain (2010)
This atmospheric, morally murky noir challenged how we view storytelling.
46 Civilisation ((1991)
Hey, nobody said building an enlightened population was easy, but this enthralling franchise asked gamers to create societies from scratch.
45 Quake (1996)
Scary, fast-paced and dynamic 1990s shooter.
44 Bioshock Infinite (2013)
An instant classic that blended thrilling combat and sumptuous graphics with mind-bending sci fi.
43 Limbo (2010)
The most vulnerable videogame hero of his generation starred in this haunting and challenging monochrome platform game.
42 Resistance 2 (2008)
1950s America re-imagined as an alien invasion, bringing conviction, pathos and innovative weapons.
41 Journey (2012)
Poetic and lovely exploration odyssey that changed how you view objectives in gaming.
40 Gravity Rush (2012)
A captivating and weird third-person superhero yarn. It made the most of the Playstation Vita’s abundant capabilities.
39 The Secret of Monkey Island (1990)
Ron Gilbert’s point/click swashbuckler advanced adventure games with neat storytelling and enough one-liners to sink a ship.
37 Strider (1989)
Side-scrolling futuristic game with imagination to spare and odd, otherworldly combat.
36 Dance Central 2 (2011)
The best Kinect game, in our opinion, was precise, cheerful and bursting with colour and energy.
35 The Last Ninja 2 (1988)
Clever puzzles and tactical game-play defined this innovate Commodore classic.
34 Little Big Planet 2 (2011)
Rewarding and warm platformer and game-building kit with an infinite supply of free levels.
33 Rock Band (2007)
Once beloved, now forgotten fame-simulator. It’s better to burn out and all that.
32 Bulletstorm (2011)
Debates still continue about whether this decadent, bloody and addictive first-person shooter/whipper was knowing or just dumb.
31 Plants vs Zombies (2009)
This undead vs greenery tower defence game proved that zombies could be comical and . . . cute?
30 Dishonoured (2012)
Classy steampunk stealth game with dazzling, oil-painting graphics and inventive gameplay.
29 Battlefield 3 (2011)
Arguably the best in the visceral, elaborate first-person war franchise.
28 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
Enormous role-playing game with a fantasy world that feels as varied and vast as our own.
27 Angry Birds (2009)
World-conquering avian-catapulting app – divisive, but undeniably significant.
26 Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (2010)
Our favourite in the franchise introduced the practice of assassination delegation.
25 Zuma (2003)
Puzzle/action game that combined twin-stick shooting with Tetris-style puzzle. A pitiless time sponge.
24 Gears of War 2 (2008)
This uber-violent, third-person shooter was too bloody for some. Hey, it’s not called Gears of Kittens!
23 Driver: San Francisco (2011)
Sorely underrated car chase game is like a cross between Inception, Life on Mars and GTA.
22 Peggle (2007)
Genius in its simplicity; this variation on pinball is mercilessly compulsive.
21 Mirror’s Edge (2008)
Relentless first-person combat game: a huge influence on both cinema and gaming.
20 Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011)
Thoughtful, elegant action/sci-fi that mixes fascinating questions with a compelling conspiracy story.
19 Borderlands 2 (2012)
Cheeky and riveting game with comic visuals, first-person combat and guns. Lots of guns.
18 Street Fighter IV (2009)
We don’t know where they got the international stereotypes, but we’re happy to punch, kick and electrocute our way across the globe.
17 Soulcalibur 4 (2008)
This outrageous, sometimes hilarious combat series is still the best beat-’em- up franchise for our money.
16 Space Invaders (1978)
The oldest game here and still a template for some shooters, for better and worse.
15 FIFA 12 (2011)
A new engine and more convincing tackles kicked this franchise into the big league.
14 Pac Man (1980)
Pill-chomping, ghost chasing, classic still plays very well – this time mostly on mobile machines.
13 Resident Evil (1996)
Third-person survival horror had it all; gunfights, scares, and some unintentionally funny voice acting.
12 Mariokart (1992)
Decades after its debut, this Nintendo racer still takes the chequered flag as the party game to beat.
11 The Last of Us (2013)
The highest entry for a 2013 game boasted pathos, imagination, and hideous plant-like zombies.
10 Half Life 2 (2004)
Gruesome, but intelligent and hugely significant entry to the horror sci fi canon.
9 Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)
Utterly charming, lively and cinematic third-person treasure-hunting odyssey.
8 Metal Gear Solid (1998)
The first chapter in the satisfying and almost comically complex stealth spy saga.
7 Super Mario Brothers (1985)
Positively iconic Nintendo platform that has aged like fine wine.
6 Red Dead Redemption (2010)
Rootin’, tootin’, shootin’ western with a melancholy and grace that the genre deserves.
5 Mass Effect 2 (2010)
This morally intricate space opera has everything: rewarding and stirring third-person combat, a fascinating and smart sci-fi story and a smorgasbord of memorable characters.
4 Portal 2 (2011)
Clever, dark and very funny, this first-person puzzle game managed to be cerebral and gratifying. It boasted not one, but two classic game villains; Wheatley and GLaDOS.
3 Tetris (1984)
Easily one of the most addictive and widely played games in history, this humble Russian puzzle title has an influence that ripples today and is still frequently ripped-off. (Ahem . . . Candy Crush!)
2 Halo 3 (2007)
The apex of the epic sci-fi first person shooters boasted smooth, slick, ground-breaking gameplay and one of the most memorable soundtracks in gaming history.
1 Grand Theft Auto 3 (2001)
Of all the GTAs that could’ve been here, number 3 has more than earned the spot. It’s hard to picture a world (and not just a gaming world) without this franchise, and GTA 3 threw us into a controversial, bratty, but hugely ambitious 3D open environment. There are many games on this list that wouldn’t be here without GTA 3, and the world would be a much duller place without it.
JASON BYRNE Comedian
“I played loads of arcade games as a kid. I remember getting a pound off my dad [to go]. Once your pound was gone that was it! I used to go to Dundrum Bowling Alley so my main gaming days were there. There was a game called 1942 I played. My kid doesn’t understand that you could keep going [all the way through], earning new lives. So for 1942, I clocked that game! I ended it. I think it took me two hours to go all through the levels. I remember my mates got me Coke and chips at the counter and fed me!”
MIKE ROSS Rugby player for Leinster and Ireland
“I played a lot of Quake in my youth, and then moved on to the Battlefield series. Battlefield 4 has to take first place. It encourages team work – you simply won’t win without it. You don’t have to have a teenager’s reflexes either: even if you’re not a great shot you can be an invaluable asset to your team by healing, resupplying or laying down covering fire. And flight sim nuts can dominate the air and really help win a game. In other games you can run around and be a one-man army, but in Battlefield 4 you won’t last long if you try that.”
ED SMITH Presenter of Ed’s Indie Disco on Today FM
“Portal 2 sticks in my mind as the most ingenious and frustrating game I’ve ever played. It looks beautiful, is very atmospheric, has a great story and there’s even music from The National hidden away in there. Its genius is its simple premise and incremental difficulty. Ongoing chatter can be annoying in games, but Stephen Merchant’s company was calming and added a nice dash of humour. It’s compelling: once I completed it, I felt like I’d swum the Channel, only with robots and lasers instead of waves and fish! An astonishing game.”