19 World in Conflict
Very modern RTS, with none of your old-fashioned base-building and resource management. From the Swedes behind previous fave Ground Control comes this tale of alternate history, in which '80s Russia invades '80s America, and the explosions blossom like smouldering flowers.
Tim says "I love World in Conflict's multiplayer modes - which feel closer to a team FPS than a standard base-building strategy game. Close matches, when your friends are screaming for artillery and air support, while enemy armour is inching toward your final capture point, are nothing short of exhilarating."
Jim says "This is one of those games where the graphics versus game design argument breaks down: simply watching the storm of ordnance devastating the map is some kind of visual enlightenment. This is how vicious and beautiful war really is. It makes me shudder, and it makes me want to keep playing."
18 The Longest Journey
The proof that games are a perfect medium for rich storytelling, Funcom's classic adventure weaves a tale of coming of age, the threat of capitalism, and most importantly, the importance of imagination. A couple of poor puzzles cannot hinder one of the greatest gaming stories ever told.
John says "I've never heard of it. Ho ho. This is the game that changed my life, changed who I was. And I'm not the only one. It's a testimony to the need for vivid imagination in an increasingly controlled, corporate world."
An antidote to every serious, po-faced, formulaic game that's just like all the others but with better graphics, Anachronox is not only wonderfully inventive and imaginative - it actually all hangs together as an excellent game too. It's all the things we like: sci-fi, RPG, adventure, silly, well-written, subversive, brave and very funny.
Tony says "Ion Storm created the sort of exotic, noir-ish sci-fi world I'd seen in chic French graphic novels but never, ever, in computer games. Then they filled it with enough ideas, fun and imagination for 50 games made by any other developer."
16 Armed Assault
From the originators of Operation Flashpoint comes this no-frills soldier-simulator which, to our minds, surpasses that earlier outing. There's a singleplayer campaign but it's in multiplayer that the game comes alive: a thriving community creates whole wars. It's brutal and unforgiving; and utterly thrilling for that.
Craig says "Finally playable, and finally showing the potential it had when it launched. I've crawled slowly towards towns filled with rolling tanks and patrolling soldiers, and watched all hell break loose before I even got there."
15 Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor
We love to champion the unfashionable, and GalCiv is the one wearing socks with sandals. But this defiantly turn-based, 2D strategy knows exactly what it's doing. You must conquer your galaxy by exploring, settling on planets and developing better technology than the aliens you meet, but it's all done with style and humour.
Tom says "GalCiv unfolds at the cusp of war: when there's galactic peace, the blue touch paper has already been lit. Once it's broken out, always one party is negotiating for its end: either through diplomacy or bigger weapons. That's why matches end up being personality clashes with gaming's most extraordinary AIs, rather than dry tactical wrestling for resources."
14 Thief II: The Metal Age
It rode the fin de siecle wave of stealth games, and we reckon Thief II was the best of them, with more consistently great level design. Just as terrifying as its sequel (host to the legendary Cradle level), Thief II presents a huge, pseudo-medieval world and the freedom to do what you want in it - though you'll probably want to steal stuff.