10 Half-Life 2
PC, Xbox / Valve / Valve
Dan Hedley: "The atmosphere, the relentless pace, the immense pleasure of killing Combine guards with a urinal..."
Gary Milburn: "It raised the standard for any game that is trying to create a believable atmosphere. The detail, immersion and interactivity are quite simply the best you can get right now. And those black spider-like headcrabs made me foul myself repeatedly. Which was nice." [What is it with you lot and toilets? - Ed]
Neil Anderson: "In no particular order: the gravity gun, the combine, the pacing and near perfect level design, the enigmatic, drip-fed back-story, Gordon's moustache, Ravenholm, Father Gregori, the spine-tingling isolation of the highway, the crossbow, the uniformly great voice acting, the levels outside the citadel, the levels inside the citadel, the g-man, the witty script, our benefactors, commanding the antlions, the crowbar and, of course, Lamarr. Superb all round."
What we said: "Never before has a game shouted 'ten out of ten' to us from the opening seconds to the last, and if this is a sign of what's to come in the next generation, then we're not likely to be changing our hobbies any time soon. If there's another game out there capable of evoking such consistently bewildering and dizzying excitement then we're not aware of it."
9 Pro Evolution Soccer 5
PS2, Xbox, PC / Konami / Konami
Abdullah Al-Awadhi: "Hours and hours of gameplay alone and with friends. A game that you will play forever, or until Pro Evolutions Soccer 6 is released."
Seb Merhej: "Everything. Especially the fact Chelsea are licensed. Makes my day." [Until they change their entire team ten minutes later. - Ed]
Tom Prior: "Pro Evolution Soccer 5 is finally a proper progression of the series which any intelligent gaming football fan will appreciate."
What we said: "PES5 is very much an 'and how!' kind of game. It hasn't pandered to the majority. The bar for entry into the Master League hasn't dipped - indeed, the only noticeable reflection of its increased stature is that it licenses more players than ever - including a couple of English teams, Arsenal and Chelsea - and is as up to date squad-wise as any new version has been. Where before it could be distilled and fell into patterns quite easily, it's closed ranks - only by picking the right players, looking after them and putting them to their best use, can you win on higher levels, or against the best players. Everyone, on their day, can wave a footballing wand - but it'd take an act of supreme luck for a newcomer to show up a master. Indeed, one of the things PES5 does best is to punish the indolence and complacence of the average thrill-seeker. And, rather neatly, that's also the reason it's close to toppling an empire."
8 Battlefield 2
PC / EA / DICE
Chris Rayment: "This game gives me motion sickness, but I still play it. For hours. It's mighty hard and there are some proper idiots in-game, but when it comes together there isn't any gaming experience like it."
Daniel: "What's that? Jeeps can't blow tanks up by ramming them anymore? They can if you cover the jeep in C4 first! Multiplayer open-plan FPS at its best."
Mark Butler: "I love this game the most for its amazing ability to get people to actually play as a team properly on public servers. I have never experienced such an amazing pick up and play as it was meant to be played game before, superb work all round and totally great graphics!"
Stefan K: "Yesterday I drove a buggy over a cliff at full speed, bailed out, pulled my parachute, watched the buggy nearly hit an enemy APC. Landed myself. Stole another buggy, drove it into the water for no good reason, stole a boat, drove it onto land, stole another buggy, drove it over another cliff. Watched it land on a roof, fall off and hit me in the head."
What we said: "Despite the fact that play on an open server is never going to reach the optimum quality, the game's designed to encourage squad-based behaviour. For new people, you may join a squad just to get the extra spawn point, probably nearer the action. However, once you start to use it, and find yourself in an organised team, and see them moving from point to point and covering each other, it's a natural instinct to start to conform to their behaviour. And the second you start doing that, the game transmutes from a load of people just running around a map into something that feels like a real, tactical game which demands both mental and physical skill."
7 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
PS2 / Konami / Konami
Ewan: "I love all the MGS games and this was amazing due to the amount of stealth and realism that was involved. I also loved the superb storyline and how I got to see where the roots of solid snake came from, and the cut-scenes just made the game that extra bit better."
Scott Thompson: "Great story, amazing cut-scenes, fantastic gameplay. What more could you want! Loved the camouflage aspect and killing or trapping your own food is genius. All the bosses had unique traits and were very entertaining. The CQC (close quarters combat) wasn't just a good idea, it was implemented really well too. The environments were awesome and it provided a well rounded challenge (if you had it on anything other than easy mode). Snake is the hardest bloke ever!"
Rune: "It's absurd, funny as hell, incredibly exciting, and packed with interesting characters and brilliant ideas - executed beautifully. And the ending quite literally brought tears to my eyes."
What we said: "Even as the credits scroll up the screen, the game is still waiting to spring another surprise on you, as it always is, but the crucial difference between the storytelling of Metal Gear Solids 2 and 3 is that in the jungle you always genuinely think you know what's going on, only to have your interpretation turned upside down five minutes later. That's what we loved about playing Metal Gear Solid all those years ago on the PlayStation. On that basis, if you lose yourself in the jungle you'll find the experience is comparable to Shadow Moses. High praise. Only poor pacing early on, a frustrating mechanical legacy and a sense that Konami still hasn't quite cracked the union of storytelling and gameplay prevent this scoring higher. Still, it may not be a dream this time, but don't be too surprised if it interferes with your sleep patterns."
6 World of Warcraft
PC, Mac / Blizzard / Blizzard
Alan: "Initial teething problems aside, this is technically excellent and the breadth and depth of gameplay is simply exquisite. Where else can you play an Undead Warlock who makes cloth armour to enchant them to sell them to hundreds of other players for profit so she can spend the rest of the time fishing and cooking by the lakeside as a PVP battle rages on over yonder. Absolutely brilliant."
Andrew Kellard: "Apart from being able to play it on my Mac (an infinite amount of brownie points right there, trust me), it achieved that rare feat of actually occupying my thoughts outside of allotted gaming time. The blend of social/co-operative dynamics coupled with shamelessly addictive gameplay represents everything I love about computer games. There's also a special sense of achievement as you progress through the game that only MMOGs seem to produce - I think it's partly to do with seeing other players attain 'end game' status and all the benefit that brings, but the community aspect plays a huge part in it, too. Your guildmates (one of the few online games I've played where you can find a decent guild within your first hour of play) give advise, help with quests and provide support on your journey to be a flash, show-off git. As sad as it is, those first few moments as I rode on my new mount are held up there with the first time I did a loop-de-loop with Sonic or mastered drifting in Mario Kart... man, my inner ten-year-old is going to batter me for saying that."
Drew Lenton: "I no longer have to bother having a life."
Fredrik Pettersen: "I hate it as much as I love it, but I have to face the fact that I started playing it in March, and all of a sudden it was July. That only happens with truly great games. And drugs."
What we said: "Up to this point, while having the larger publisher's money behind them, massively-multiplayer games have primarily been developed by teams who have done nothing but MMOs. There are exceptions, but most MMOs have the stink of people who, on a general game design front, don't quite know what they're doing. Blizzard, more than almost anyone else who works primarily on the PC, know what they're doing. To generalise, their expertise is in sheer polish and finesse. They don't make the world's most imaginative games... but they've got a solidity which is hard to reject. The idea of an MMO being made by people who know what they're doing is especially attractive."
5 Shadow of the Colossus
PS2 / Sony / Sony
Aaron: "It gives you a warm feeling inside."
Alberto Vera: "From start to finish, Shadow of the Colossus inspired the imagination and captured my attention. A finer musical composition to a video game there has never been. I would love to see this on a next-gen machine, but I'll settle for whatever else, just as long as there are more games akin to SotC."
Graham West: "The sense of place. It's just you in this stark, barren, worn-down domain as you take on these equally worn-down adversaries. As you ride to each encounter it feels like a documentary with the shaky camera and stripped down audio. The ending goes so well with the story's desperate premise, too."
What we said: "Shadow of the Colossus' succeeds not through the layers of complexity, hand-jamming combos or by show-off pyrotechnics and unfathomable, forgettable plot-lines. Its a masterfully understated, beautifully simple, engrossing ride that's as palpitatingly thrilling as it is serenely calming. It's also one of the most consistently compelling and memorable games we've ever played (or witnessed, for that matter). Once you've finished it, you'll sit back and flick through the stand-out memories lodged forever in your mind's eye. You might even feel motivated to play it on the unlockable hard mode, or time attack and try and earn the 16 secret items tucked away for the determined slayer of colossi. Or you might just sit and talk about it with your friends, and express your infectious joy over how you've just played one of the videogames of your life."
PS2, Xbox, PC / Atari / Quantic Dream
Andrei Alexandru: "First time in years I got THE FEELING. The one I got when playing Bioforge at 14. Itching to get home and see what happens next."
Brett Munslow: "Fahrenheit changed the way I think about videogames. If you had told me a game would have done that at the beginning of the year, a sarcastic laugh was all you would have been able to raise."
Nick Richards: "In a year where I didn't finish that many games it was great to play something that had a definable beginning, middle and end, no matter how strange the end may have seemed. Also the Po-Mo David Cage tutorial at the start was Rock and Roll funny, more producers should make games."
What we said: "Scoring Fahrenheit with your head you'd could slap a seven on it and feel confident that it sits comfortably in that zone where it did some very cool things that didn't quite come off. But if we did that it would imply that there are many other games out there today in the genre you'll enjoy more, which is obviously complete nonsense. With that in mind we had to follow our hearts and award Fahrenheit the nine it deserves for being probably the most enjoyable, forward-looking and thoughtful piece of videogaming we've played in this or in any year. We never thought we'd say this, but it's a real step forward for the adventure game genre. Now try sticking that quote on the box."
3 Mario Kart DS
DS / Nintendo / Nintendo
Bea: "As much as I loved SotC, the reason I play games is to enjoy myself. Mario Kart DS is the best time I have had with video games since the SNES version - high speed, high thrills, high fun. Leave the deep, depressing stories to books and movies."
Lee Moore: "Only heroin is more addictive. Saved me through the most boring holiday of my life."
Rick Lindeman: "It is the first time online multiplayer works for me and clicks."
Stewart Salmon: "Classic Mario Kart gameplay, easy DS and Wi-Fi link up, smooth graphics - I haven't been obsessed with a game for ages - I was starting to feel a bit jaded with games but this has me playing all night. My Wi-Fi playing even extends to while I am sat on the lav! Think about that next time you are online."
What we said: "The beauty of Mario Kart DS is that it's really, genuinely practical to play with other people, wirelessly or online. There's not much more to say. Except that if the DS in Mario Kart DS stands for anything, perhaps it's "default state", because it's hard to imagine a time when I'll be reluctant to return to the multiplayer racing - and as long as there are people who feel likewise, it'll be a game that richly rewards anyone's investment."
2 God of War
PS2 / Sony / Sony
Chris Davidson: "It's fast adrenaline pumping mayhem with amazing graphics and beautiful thundering music. The combo system is also brilliant and very flexible, combo into and out of nearly everything and block works great to, which is good as it's necessary. Then there is the fantastic bosses with their button tap mini games, there's just so much that's great about this game."
Ian Hannigan: "EVERYTHING!!!!"
Nawaf Abdulla: "Kratos is one of my fave characters in a video game. The visuals are something I never thought would be possible on a PS2. The soundtrack is AMAZING and the voice acting is spot on. Although the gameplay is nothing original, it still is loads of fun. The Blades of Chaos is an awesome weapon and not only can you pull off some amazing 3-digit combos but you can also look good doing it. The game is also not only about heavy combat but it also has some puzzles and a share bit of platforming a la PoP. Everything about this game is perfect and its undoubtedly the most fun I had in a game this year."
Aayus: "It was so absolutely kick-ass that I bought it twice!" [Glad someone did. - Ed]
Ahsanul: "I just love the way it amazed me visually and the plot being wrapped around beautiful Greek mythology. As I progressed I fell in love with the abilities I possessed through Kratos. Kratos has to be satan's angel and yet we let ourselves be taken on this mysterious journey which fulfils our curiosity in so many enormous lengths. The set pieces and atmosphere are just awesome and the boss battles and puzzles just smack you in the face and astound you. My jaw dropped when I realised I was [spoiler cut!]. It just does not suffer in any department offering me the greatest joy I had this year. Ultimately I was allowed to enjoy this immense work of art during my summer holidays without any worries from any other commitments. It probably sounds sad, but a videogame made my summer one of the most memorable to date." [Not sad at all. If only we had stuff left to play in the summer. - Ed]
What we said: "When the dust settles on the PS2 era and it's time to sit back and reflect upon the system's best games, God Of War stands out as an absolute colossus that towers over the competition - on any format. It not only deserves to become part of any gamer's (not just PS2 owners') collection in the immediate future, but will be held aloft as one of the true greats of this generation. It's not often a game just comes along and floors the competition, but that God Of War does so in such breathtaking style is incredible. For the love of God, buy it."
[Editor's note: God of War produced more comments beginning with variations on, "What is there not to like?" than any other game in your countdown.]
1 Resident Evil 4
Cube, PS2 / Capcom / Capcom
Brendan: "Blockbuster. It's like being in a movie, from the set-pieces, to the pacing, to the overall story. AND: chainsaws!"
Christopher Wells: "An amazing new slant on the Resident Evil formula which managed to consistently enthral from start to finish."
Colin James Clarke: "Got it in Feb (import), I was instantly blown away, it reminded me of playing Mario 64 or Street fighter 2 for the first time, this was something new and I had nothing to compare it to. This is the best game not just in 2005, but the best game ever on the current gen consoles."
Darren Taylor: "Amazing. I've never played a genre defining game like it before, and I don't suppose I will again. Graphics were out of this world, gameplay and framerate smooth and sublime, the story was gripping and intense, great characters and bosses, and extra content added replayability."
David Gormley: "Fighting an oversized fish and getting terrified when the final ganado you just spent your last bullet on, sprouts a plaga from his neck. Resident Evil 4 is the kind of game that makes you wonder how anyone could buy any other game without experiencing its epic story. Without doubt a highlight of this generation and better than any next-gen game I have so far played on my Xbox 360."
Jonathan: "It's one of those games where you look forward to every devious enemy and when you are defeated, you know it was your mistake as you hadn't worked out what to do. The graphics are no longer 'graphics' and create an amazing, gritty world and the controls use its shortcomings to create real tension as you need to keep a calm head when everything is saying panic!"
Lee Tonks: "The story's pap, the few puzzles they decided to put in are rubbish, it's not even remotely scary and the final 'jetski' sequence and bonus games are crap (despite what everyone else says), but it's inventive, it's beautiful and it's bloody good fun to play. Which is all you could really ask for, I suppose! Capcom are teh r0xx0r5!!1"
Max Dyckhoff: "A new take on survival horror that grows above and beyond anything in the genre. One of three games I have been literally unable to put down this year, staying up far too late and really being drawn into the environment. The number of memorable moments throughout the game is astounding, and the game never keeps on offering more excitement and new experiences. Men with chainsaws ripping through doors! Dropping rocks on giants! Monks with rocket launchers! Ooh, I'm slightly moist now, I think I'll go and play it some more."
Mike Brady: "No other single-player game made me play 72 hours straight."
Singularity: "What more is there to say, really? Nothing, so I won't."
What we said: "Yes, most players will have justifiable issues with the camera and controls that simply don't exist in most games (and really shouldn't exist here), but once you get into the groove after an hour or so you really do adapt and just get on with enjoying a fabulous 25 hours-plus of non-stop entertainment. In short, it's the biggest, by far the best looking, arguably the most enjoyable and least frustrating Resident Evil game we've played and it was worth every torturous minute to savour what will rightly become regarded as a true masterpiece of the horror genre."