The 100 Best Games To Play Today

80

Quake III

Id Software
Activision
PC

Id’s minimalist cyber-gothic deathmatch game remains at the summit of the studio’s multiplayer achievements. The taut, balanced shooting leans heavily on unrealistic acrobatics and is all the more interesting for it.

 

While Carmack’s technology was a large part of the appeal when it first arrived, the true value of Quake III was in crowning the deathmatch with a game of unwavering precision. It was down to modders to complete the vision, however; it’s unclear whether their multifarious insights will be put to work in Quake Live, a browser-based version of the game now in beta.

79

Pac-Man Championship Edition

Namco-Bandai
Xbox 360

There’s nothing wrong with plain old Pac-Man, but it took Championship Edition to show us just how right he still is.

 

The basics stay – Pac-Man, ghosts, dots, power pills, fruit and a maze – but it’s all about how CE toys with them.

Mazes morph, paths of dots grow, ghosts accelerate, power pill patterns change – all governed by collecting fruit. Every game begins with a mind to the hi-score by chaining ghosts and ends with the panic of sheer survival.

The best thing about Pac-Man: CE isn’t the sense you’re playing with a classic, it’s that designer Toru Iwatani was doing the same.

78

UFO: Enemy Unknown

Mythos Games
Microprose
PC

Base building, turn-based strategy, RPG-like squad development, resource management – UFO: Enemy Unknown could have been sprawling, but smartly interlocks it all into singularity. Building the base that houses the squad that’s equipped to attack the alien base to capture the commander to research him to advance the story – UFO puts you in charge of everything.

 

Such involvement lends missions great consequence and enthralling tension, with every solider both vital and mortally vulnerable.

77

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

Nintendo
In-house
N64

The first time Link screams in agony, you know this is different.

 

In staging the last three days of Termina, the face of the moon leering overhead, Nintendo took the opportunity to build Zelda’s most intricate town, so you can watch it fall apart over and over. Or you could learn what people are going to do before they do it and accompany them on their lonely vigils.

Of course there’s a bigger picture, but this is the only Zelda that isn’t so much about saving the world as it is about saving its people.

76

Planescape: Torment

Interplay
Black Isle Studios
PC

Sometimes, you’ll try to zoom out to alleviate the pixellated graphics. Nothing happens, and now you know the only way in which this spellbindingly original RPG has been superseded by today’s games.

 

Words don’t age like graphics engines, and it is out of words that Sigil is woven – exploring through dialogue a dusty, bustling city baking under an alien sun at the nexus of life, death and a million different planes besides, each far from the medieval realms of conventional fantasy.

Stories, nightmares and mysteries unfold, and the greatest mystery of all turns out to be you.

75

F-Zero GX

Nintendo
Amusement Vision
GameCube

Newcomers can be forgiven for being terrified by their first go. Extraordinarily twitchy and fast, F-Zero GX is all about holding the thumb rigid on the GC stick, only allowing it to move in the most minutely controlled increments. It’s only then that you can pull off the smooth cornering required to truly compete on its spectacular tracks.

 

And, even then, the speed at which the courses wheel from horizontal to vertical and then about upon themselves, all at 1,000kph, means you’re still far from feeling comfortable.

But that’s exactly what you’re here for. F-Zero GX’s flashing neon and hairsbreadth between success and failure are some of gaming’s greatest thrills.

74

Puzzle Quest: Challenge Of The Warlords

D3
Infinite Interactive
Various Platforms

There’s a lot standing in the way of Challenge Of The Warlords being any good – the menus are cheap, the artwork and story cheaper still, and it’s blessed with more than its share of bugs – but it can nevertheless suck you in for entire days at a time.

 

This weird chimera, the result of shoving a match-three game into an RPG world, may not initially seem likely to be a viable plan for world domination, but when the powerful addiction of moving blocks meets the class-A narcotic of level grinding, it’s clear that humanity never had much of a chance. A work of twisted genius.

73

Frequency

SCE
Harmonix
Playstation 2

The plastic guitar is a great way to draw people in, but it’s also an obstruction. Take it away, multiply the phrases by eight and dive headlong into darkest electronica and you have Frequency, Harmonix’s answer to Tempest.

Hypnotising the eyes, ears and fingers in equal measure, it’s a sharper and more expansive beast than sequel Amplitude. The moment that earns its place here: when you realise your conscious mind stopped matching the beats 30 seconds ago, handing over to your all-too-seldom-tapped inner gamer.

 

72

Skate 2

EA
Black Box
PS3/Xbox 360

With quiet confidence EA brought polite revolution to the world of skating games, effortlessly upstaging Tony Hawk’s, a series steadily ground down by a punishing schedule of yearly iterations.

 

Skate 2 may not have added any new twists to the original, but it does have the good grace to double the available tricks, with the result of the analogue Flickit system bringing a potent sense of physicality to the controls, while the mature presentation ensures you’ll never land your ollie in a grimy puddle of  focus-grouped youth-culture posturing.

71

OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast

Sega
Sumo Digital
Various Platforms

It was the game everyone wanted until the moment came and the party moved elsewhere. Arcade perfect and decked in red, white and blue that only Sega and Ferrari could dream up, OutRun 2 was left in Burnout’s wake.

 

But it didn’t hamper the stunning PC version and the best reason to mod a PSP to full clock-speed – Coast 2 Coast refused to be ignored. Sun-seekers and joyriders call it home, its crystal lakes and epic drifts an escape from war-torn deserts and space marines.

sssss