20 – SimCity 2000
Release Year: 1993
We're now at the business end of the Top 100 list as we enter the Top 20 and at 20th place we have the classic city building game SimCity 2000. While the very first SimCity was responsible for laying the groundwork it was SimCity 2000 that added greater complexity to the franchise as well as an attractive isometric viewpoint instead of the old top-down view of the original. Players could now earn rewards at certain population milestones (including arcologies at very high populations) and zone land into different shapes and sizes instead of simply plonking down square-shaped zones like the original. SimCity 2000 also allows for connections to neighbouring cities as well as the building of underground infrastructure such as water pipes and subways. You also have more freedom when it comes to budgeting as you're able to enact ordinances and even tax specific industries at different tax rates. It's no wonder the game was used as an educational tool for geography classes across the globe.
19 – Starcraft
Release Year: 1998
Coming in at 19th place is what I believe one of the best RTSs of all time. While I bet some Warcraft fans will disagree with how high Starcraft is on the list, Artanis begs to differ:
"What do I look like? An Orc? This is not Warcaft in space! It's much more sophisticated! I know it's not 3D!"
Starcraft took what was good about Warcraft and then not only applied it to just any sci-fi setting but a Space Western sci-fi setting where redneck humans living on the frontier worlds of the Koprulu Sector have to wage war against the nightmarish Zerg (a Hive-mind race similar to the Arachnids in Starship Troopers) and the honourable Protoss (an advanced, telepathic race of aliens with a strict honour code). Each side not only looked quite different from each other but played differently too meaning each side suited a different play style. The game became immensely popular (especially in South Korea) selling millions of copies and is even responsible for adding the term "zerg rush" to the gaming lexicon.
18 – Portal
Release Year: 2007
If you take a game like Half-Life 2 and then got rid of all the combat segments and just focused on environmental and physics puzzles you'd end up with something that looks a lot like Portal. The game's main feature is the "portal gun" which grants the player the ability to generate entry and exit portals on particular walls of each map. While at first the puzzles are quite simple they start to become more complex as the game progresses, such as generating horizontal force through the use of gravity. The game has loads of humour too and one of the best villains in a computer game in the form of the brilliant yet dysfunctional AI, GLaDOS. Add one of the best credits songs ever and you've got yourself one of the best games of all time – two of the judges on the panel definitely think so.
17 – Mass Effect
Release Year: 2008
Bioware was no stranger to sci-fi RPGs by the early 2000s thanks to the release of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic but they decided to go one step further and develop their own IP; in 2008, that game would be Mass Effect. The game had everything a sci-fi RPG fan could wish for: a huge galaxy to explore, a cool spaceship, crewmates you actually care about, quality voice acting, multiple endings and a soundtrack inspired by sci-fi films of yesteryear such as Blade Runner and Dune. While some aspects of the interface are clunky and on release it had terrible activation-based DRM, there's no denying the game's greatness and without it, we'd never be able to enjoy the exploits of Commander Shepard.
16 – Deus Ex
Release Year: 2000
This cyberpunk FPS/RPG is often considered one of the best PC games ever made. It also happens to be the only game me and two mates can all agree upon as being an awesome game, despite having different gaming tastes. It's probably because it has something for everyone: it's a First Person Shooter but you don't need to go in guns blazing (in fact you might be penalised for doing so) and sometimes the stealthy, non-lethal approach is the best option. The game also has role-playing elements where you're able to invest points in augmenting your body with superhuman traits which again allows you to approach problems in a different manner. The game is ultimately every nerd's dream with just about every conspiracy theory you can think of becoming a reality, so much so that not even the X-Files could compete. No wonder the game has sold millions of copies, won several awards and an entire franchise.
15 – Diablo
Release Year: 1996
While hack ‘n' slash RPGs, action RPGs and MUDs have been around for a long time, these elements wouldn't work together so perfectly until 1996 when Blizzard released a point ‘n' click, dark fantasy action RPG called Diablo. The game had 16 levels that you and up to three of your friends could descend vanquishing legions of monsters on the way. While this is by no means revolutionary, up to that point it had never been done with such high-resolution graphics and with such a memorable soundtrack composed by Matt Uelmen (the "Tristram" theme has survived in one form or another in every Diablo game). Two of the judges on the panel invested many hours in the game, probably because the game was so addictive; you're always on the lookout for high value loot, a better weapon or better armour. The game was a huge success for Blizzard and resulted in two sequels as well as a whole bunch of imitators such as Sacred, Titan Quest, Dungeon Siege and Torchlight (just to name a few).
14 – SimCity
Release Year: 1989
Almost every SimCity has made this top 100 list (with the exception of 2013's SimCity) but the highest ranking one at #14 is the 1989 original that started it all. While it seems very basic by modern standards the impact that SimCity would have on the gaming industry was profound. SimCity was one of the first games that didn't have any defined objectives, no win or lose conditions and as such was defined as a "software toy" by creator Will Wright. Most publishers didn't think the game would work if it didn't have any goals or scenarios to beat (and eventually scenarios did creep into the game) but the resounding success of the game proved them wrong. Not only that, but Will Wright's fledgling company Maxis would continue to make sandbox games like SimCity for a couple of decades with one of them becoming the best-selling PC game franchise of all time. All of this would not have been possible if it weren't for SimCity and consequently we owe a lot to Will Wright and his original creation.
13 – Civilization V
Release Year: 2010
Civilization V is the first game on this Top 100 list to have been rated as one of the best games in recent years by all judges and one of the best games of all time by one judge. While Civilization V probably isn't the most revolutionary of all the Civilization games, it did incorporate some interesting changes such as a hexagonal grid and the inability to create "stacks of doom". As is normally the case with Civilization games, the vanilla version was okay but it only starts to really shine once the expansion packs are released, especially the latest one, Brave New World (BNW). With BNW you get a whole bunch of crazy civilizations (e.g. Venice which doesn't even get settlers) along with revamps to how trade, culture and diplomacy work. All the judges have enjoyed many fun multiplayer games of Civ V (when it works) and still continue to play the game to this day.
12 – Freelancer
Release Year: 2003
Freelancer is the first game on this Top 100 list to be rated as one of the best games of all time by three out of the four judges on the panel and it makes perfect sense when you consider Star Citizen a game that is being developed by the same designer has managed to generate more than $85 million in crowdfunding. There are hundreds of thousands of fans out there that were so impressed with Freelancer that they want a spiritual successor to it and are willing to pay good money for it too. So why is Freelancer that good? It's because it's an updated Privateer with better graphics, multiplayer and a stirring soundtrack by James Hannigan. Everybody likes a space trading simulator with high production values and that's exactly what Freelancer is. The game also has the ability to be played quite easily with a mouse and keyboard which helps make the game more accessible to those who wouldn't normally venture into the realm of space sims.
11 – Guild Wars
Release Year: 2005
If the Choicest Games Top 100 list were comprised of games purely based on playtime, Guild Wars well and truly deserves its place. I have sunk many hours over several years into this game, even forming a guild that has survived to this day (albeit quite a bit smaller than it used to be, as well as becoming game agnostic). While the game has been labelled as an MMORPG it's actually more like Diablo with respect to instanced combat areas. The game also has MMORPG-style social features with towns acting like in-game chat rooms. This is not entirely surprising due to many ex-Blizzard employees making up ArenaNet, the developer of Guild Wars. Other things that were great about this game were the fully fleshed out PvP features such as Guild versus Guild (you could even win real money playing in global tournaments), rewarding gameplay thanks to a "Magic: the Gathering" style system where you had to pick a deck of eight skills prior to combat and a top notch soundtrack thanks to Jeremy Soule.
Due to the game having so much content and not requiring a subscription fee (like many traditional MMORPGs) the game was a hit selling several million copies and winning many awards. In fact, the game was a breakthrough for the MMORPG market since it demonstrated that you didn't need to have a traditional subscription model in order to provide a AAA game due to its clever mix of instancing and persistent areas which most likely kept maintenance costs to a minimum.