Craig says "I'll never forget the wedding level, where I managed to sneak a bomb into a Bible and blow up the bride, groom and minister. Just one of about a gagillion inventive deaths the game made possible."
7 The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Roleplaying, 21st century style. It's notable that this was one of the most successful games on the Xbox 360, reassuring us that all gamers are secret goblin-fanciers at heart. But on PC, the vistas of Oblivion's vast world are breathtakingly beautiful. Better than that, it's a world packed with stuff to do and things to find.
Tom says "That rolling, forested landscape might look like merely a prettier version of standard fantasy lore. But explore it for a while and you find it's riddled with secrets, darkness and the bizarre. Murder mysteries unfold for real, party guests are stripped naked, drug dealers sneak from town to town, and in Border Watch, it rains burning dogs."
It's only a few hours long. You shoot no guns. There aren't even any living enemies. Yet Portal, the game of logic and spatial puzzles, is perfectly made: hilarious dialogue from your disembodied tormentor and a twisted atmosphere of dark torture and tongue-in-cheek humour. Essential.
Graham says "The best comic writing since Monkey Island coupled with a fresh idea strong enough to carry the entire game. But what gets lost among the kitschy in-jokes about cubes and cake and songs is how big a heart it has. Portal is about machinery and empty science labs, but it manages to evoke more feeling than games five times its length."
5 Medieval II Total War
Scale is always an issue for strategy games. Do you focus on small skirmishes with no overall view of the war, or the campaign with no visceral battlefield action? Total War devised a method of doing both, taking us to the battlefield when armies clash, but retaining that Europe-wide vision of political machination, and strategic manoeuvring.
Though we love Rome's Romans, Medieval II wins out as our favourite due to its greater polish and feature list. Whether you're taking the Scots on a Crusade, or landing your Turks in Denmark, Medieval II always offers all the majesty we could desire on the management side combined with the bloody rush of battle.
Ross says "I can spend hours just analysing the campaign map, particularly at the latter stages of a campaign. Where is the enemy massing? Where is a weak settlement, just begging to be taken? And when the New World is opened up for conquest, can I afford the resources to take advantage of it before the competition?"
Tony says "Other games let me play armchair general, but only Total War lets me play the general in the field: coolly ordering vast, regimented multitudes into battle, or frantically charging a tattered cavalry remnant into the breach in a last, desperate throw of the dice. From my armchair."
4 World of Warcraft
The massively multiplayer genre came of age in 2005 when Blizzard unleashed World of Warcraft. Not even they could have anticipated its success: currently ten million people make it their regular home from home.
It has also shown that a geeky fantasy setting is no barrier to widespread popularity, even among those who don't consider themselves hardcore gamers. It's a huge undertaking, to take a gnome, night elf or orc on the epic journey across scores of hours towards the highly complex end-game, filled with incredibly challenging co-operative quests. It has inspired many imitators, but none have come close to WoW's level of polish, visual flair, or delicately balanced design.
Tim says "WoW can devour you. I'm glad that I reached my own personal goals in Azeroth: to reach level 70, to see most of the dungeons, and to knit myself a smart set of clothes. My priest can't wait for Wrath of the Lich King to be released."
Ross says "I knew when I reviewed this that it was something special. Even now, nearly four years on, I'm still discovering things about WoW that surprise and please me. It could be the design of a piece of armour, a character's incidental dialogue, or just the way a squirrel moves. WoW is here to stay."