Riotous, foul-mouthed, and explosively violent, Bulletstorm’s unapologetic crassness may have been too in-your-face even for the mainstream gaming community, as it sold so poorly on release that publisher Epic declined a potential sequel. It’s a crying shame, because beneath Bulletstorm’s dumb exterior is one of the most intelligently designed shooters of the last ten years. Its weapons are deliriously inventive, from a gun that shoots drill bits to a cannon that launches explosive bolas. The skillshot system is ingeniously designed to encourage creativity in your killing, and its bizarre alien theme park setting is one of the most original locations for an FPS. Even the characters are surprisingly interesting, beneath all the swearing and bravado.
I agonised between this and Don’t Starve as the best survival game to place on this list. Yet while Don’t Starve is more polished and has that delightful art style, I think Miasmata deserves way more recognition than it has received so far, as it sports so many fascinating ideas.
You play a scientist trying to synthesize a cure to a disease on a remote island, by finding and collecting plants and combining them to create various formulas. The game is all about movement, navigation, and vulnerability. Its momentum-based movement system forces you to traverse the terrain with great care, while the maps can only be filled out by performing actual cartography. Oh, and you’re also being constantly hunted by a single monster. It’s eerie, beautiful, and at times utterly terrifying.
48. Condemned: Criminal Origins
Condemned casts you as detective Ethan Thomas on the trail of a serial killer of serial killers, and blends unique (if slightly undercooked) crime-scene investigation systems with some of the most brutal melee combat ever depicted in a game.
What makes Condemned so compelling, however, is its brilliantly dark atmosphere. Its human enemies are more frightening, unpredictable, and dangerous than the monsters of many other horror games, while missions set in BART’s department store and the Library are remarkably designed fear-palaces. Condemned also possesses one of the best jump-scares in the business, featuring a school gym locker, a dead body, and a camera. It still makes me shudder to think about it.
47. The Sims
The legacy of The Sims has been tainted by a million cheaply made expansion packs, but aside from The Sims 4, all of the vanilla games are extremely well made management sims. For me though, the original remains the strongest entry, possessing a cheerful innocence that the later, more aspiration-focussed sequels lacked. From the gentle pastilles of the colour palette to the wonderfully upbeat soundtrack, The Sims remains one of the most quietly relaxing games around. It’s also, curiously, a success that has never been emulated by other designers.
46. Saints Row IV
Whoever would have thought a Saints Row game would be on any kind of “best of” list? But the once cheap GTA rip-off has since surpassed Rockstar’s megafranchise in terms of the sheer amount of open-world fun it offers. A game that lets you play as a cockney President of the United States, Saints Row IV boasts a funnier, more inclusive script, a broader range of weapons and vehicles, and more creative systems than GTA V. What’s more, despite being an unashamed send-up of superhero games, Saints Row IV’s ingeniously conceived movement and combat systems make it possibly the second-best superhero game in existence.