Despite being someone who plays more games than I’m openly willing to admit, I’ve always struggled to choose which are truly my favorites. While a couple tend to stay in the top 5, they fluctuate from week to week. With that in mind, and considering my Sunday feels rather tame, I figured I’d sit down and definitively look at the answer. So, without further adieu, here are the 10 games that I truly believe are the best in the medium.
10) Half-Life 2
I was admittedly a bit late to the party on this one, but it’s phenomenal to see how Half-Life 2 still holds up to this day. Valve got so many things right with it, including many new ideas at the time which flourished. It’s one of the few true sandboxes for first-person shooters, and one that influenced so many games going forward. A ranking not in my top 10 would be ludicrous
9) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
This was by far one of the games I played the most as a kid. After getting it with my first console (an Xbox 360), I was truly blown away by the over-the-top action on offer. Not to mention that multiplayer was tight (shoutout to my fellow ACR abusers). The campaign I found was good as a good, but it’s something I’ve come to appreciate as time goes on. It may seem weird in this day and age to put a Call of Duty game in a top 10 list, but this had to make it here.
8) Borderlands 2
You may call my father insane for letting me do this, but as a young kid playing through the original Borderlands, I quickly fell in love with its looter shooter mechanics. It was a genuinely difficult decision between the first and second games, but Borderlands 2 is more than deserving of this spot. The inclusion of a villain who could only ever belong in a Borderlands game, plus the true refinement of everything Borderlands wanted to be, made this arguably a perfect sequel that I still return to time and time again.
7) Grand Theft Auto V
This may be a bit of a controversial pick due to the mess that the online mode is right now, but I still love coming back to this game time and again. In fact, as of writing, I’m binging the game again with some close friends and am having an absolute blast. It’s hard to not enjoy every aspect of its open world, combined with a satisfying grind (at least when hackers or assholes aren’t having their way with you). That’s not to even mention the single-player, which is perfect for both those who couldn’t give a damn about the story and those who enjoy being heavily invested. Truly the highest point of the series yet, I just hope the security is a little better than a few pieces of duct tape the next time around.
6) Left 4 Dead 2
There’s a good reason we saw a huge zombie craze during the late 2000s and early 2010s. Left 4 Dead 2 is absolutely fantastic in many ways, from its incredibly satisfying gunplay, hand-crafted masterpieces of maps, varied modes, and that oh-so-sweet workshop support. There’s very little wrong about the title, all issues of which I can’t remember off the top of my head. If there’s a co-op shooter I like to come back to constantly, it’s this.
5) Titanfall 2
As a kid, I was surprisingly disappointed with the original Titanfall. The multiplayer was just fine, while the campaign…well, let’s just say the word campaign might as well be a joke. Going into Titanfall 2 knowing there’d be an *actual* campaign, I was intrigued but didn’t have a whole lot of hope. What I came out with instead was one of my favorite games ever. Titanfall 2’s campaign offers a fairly solid story, sure, but its levels are so masterfully crafted. I like to compare it to the style of the recent Mario games, where it’s just fresh idea after fresh idea that’s just so fine-tuned to be absolutely perfect. And that multiplayer is something to die for. Few FPS games have captivated me so well. If they ever make a Titanfall 3, it might be one of the few games I actually preorder (I know that’s a taboo word these days but still).
Anyone who knows me knows that I and stealth games generally have a mediocre relationship. I can enjoy them, sure, but they often feel very boring as I wait for the enemy’s patrol route to make him stare at a wall. Dishonored is everything but that. The combat is so beautifully refined, and the chaos system leaves the door open for both those who want to sneak in the shadows, and those who like making their battlefields a beautiful dance of blood. It’s hard to find a more satisfying game.
3) Portal 2
On the game’s 10th anniversary, it feels only fitting I include Portal 2. While Portal felt awesome in its use of the puzzle mechanics, Portal 2 elevated everything in such a perfect way, one few but Valve could accomplish. The hilarious and charming cast of characters, use of fresh mechanics constantly, and the included beefy co-op mode, all offer incredible amounts of fun. I think most would agree with me in saying this is one of the best, if not the best, puzzle games to ever exist.
2) Life is Strange
Yeah yeah, I hear what you’re saying “Shawn, will you ever shut up about LiS?” and to that, I say, no :). This is by far some of the best writing I’ve ever seen from a narrative title, with a wonderful cast of characters and a twist that you literally will not see coming. This game is fantastic in every way, offering up various moral dilemmas and some of the most difficult choices gaming has to offer. If you can handle this sort of thing, you’d be doing yourself a serious disservice not playing through it.
1) Doom (2016)
It’s hard to put into words how much this game deserves the top spot here. I don’t think I’ve ever binged a game so intensely, and for so many good reasons. Its mix of simplicity, carnage, and satisfaction is so beautifully crafted that it’s hard to find a better game. I could glory kill demons for days and not get tired. Hell, I honestly might replay it after writing this. If you haven’t played Doom 2016 yet, please do yourself a favor and play it. I promise that, if you enjoy FPS games, you won’t find one more fun (or if not, play Eternal and enjoy the much more fast-paced carnage).
Oh, and a few honorable mentions before I go
A Way Out — Phenomenal co-op title that I was very tempted to put on this list. Intense and heartfelt in all the right places.
Dishonored 2 — Beautiful and stunning game that does so much right. If it wasn’t for the first game’s impact on me, this would’ve easily taken its spot.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 — Quite honestly a spiritual Left 4 Dead 3. Slaying rats has never felt so good.
Payday 2 — Very enjoyable to play with a few friends, and more than enough depth from the initial offering alone.
A Hat in Time — The best platformer I’ve ever played. Every bit of adorable and frantic anyone could ask for.