Max Payne 2
Max may never smile, trapped forever in an overwrought noir universe where he's doomed to suffer and grimace. But as we leap sideways through doorways, blam-blam blowing away goons, or slide along floors backwards, rat-at-tat ripping apart entire rooms of baddies, we can't help but grin.
Graham: "There's no padding here, nothing superfluous. It's hard-boiled action about a man who has nothing to lose and lives perpetually on the edge of madness. With Hitman: Blood Money's sense of humour, with FEAR's slow motion brutality, but before either existed."
Space shooters are the PC's forgotten genre. Freespace was the grand-daddy - a simulation in which every fighter felt like a mechanical, dysfunctional craft, liable to break down at any moment, and every sortie a smaller mission within a wider war.
Tim: "Freespace is an ever-evolving game: it's effectively open source thanks to an enlightened EULA. Free campaigns and a brilliant Battlestar Galactica mod make this an essential download."
The game that defined Kieron's dress sense. Four trenchcoated hitmen taking on an isometric city with flamethrowers. Among other fantastic weapons. Who could forget the Persuadatron? It equipped your party with a 50-person human shield.
Kieron: "It's a phenomenally influential advanced capitalism dark satire set in a living city (with extra miniguns). The road to GTA started here."
Call of Duty
It was the opening to the Stalingrad level that we remember best. Climbing the banks of the Volga, under constant machinegun fire armed with... a belt of ammunition. And nothing else. A deft inverting of the first-person shooter, for at that moment it became the first-person runner.
Jim: "Hmm, I'm noticing that I have a peculiar weakness for Soviet conflict. In this case it's the superb Red Army missions in CoD. Quicksave for Mother Russia!"
Bullfrog's wry grin at cutesy management sims and twee roleplaying games. This time you play the baddies, creating dank caves filled with treasure, tempting brave knights and heroes into your domain. Then you torture them to death. Hilarious.
Alec: "Still dismissed as stereotypical Bullfrog cuteness by critics who should know better (and who should, y'know, actually play it too), it's a genuine subversion of the management formula, very much its own unique and very funny game rather than just Theme Park with farting demons."
Frontier: Elite 2
If you had a galaxy to explore, what would you do? Start a business transporting meat, wine, and the occasional slave across the galaxy? Hunt down pirates? Join the police force? Or just bum around, seeing where in the universe life takes you?
Craig: "Why do I still play this? Because I started with just 100 credits, a ship and frighteningly large universe to explore. And now I am Elite."
You can ride the roller-coasters. Building those long, looping big-dippers was always the most fun part of being a rollercoaster tycoon: an absorbing mix of engineering and art. But in the third version, once you built them you could leap onboard and ride along with your screaming customers. Genius.