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10. Lego Marvel Super Heroes [official site] (2013)

Developer: TT Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive

There’s some argument for just filling this list with TT Games’ Lego exploits. So many of the so very many games they’ve made have been of exceptional quality. Picking one to represent the entire series here is a tough choice. Probably the best, most solid, coherent and entertaining game in the whole run is Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4. Certainly the most well known and well championed is the original Lego Star Wars. But we’ve picked Marvel Super Heroes for being the best all-round experience, and the game that best captures what the series is perhaps most for: a game to be played by adults and children together.

The big difference here is the enormous open city of New York built for the game, which as well as providing the doorways for the various missions, also is jam-packed with little details to find, extra challenges, hidden heroes, and 80,000 billion collectibles. For kids, this giant playground is, well, a giant playground. For adults, it’s a bits-gathering dream.

Plus, this is TT at their joyful finest, cramming in a multitude of Marvel comic characters, and reinventing each in plastic form. It teases the tropes of each hero, plays off the recent films, and seems to be bursting with an uncynical desire to happily spoof.

Some have complained that the city isn’t GTA – no, of course it isn’t. But if you’ve a kid that can hold a controller, then you need to be sat down in front of a screen together, stat.

Notes: There are an incredible 150 Marvel heroes in the game, all playable, and each with unique abilities.

Read more: John’s review of the game.

Where can I buy it: Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: Aside from the other seventeen TT Games titles in the series? Nothing. There are seventeen other titles in the series!

9. Just Cause 2 [official site] (2010)

Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Eidos/Square Enix

Find a hot-air balloon hidden in the mountains, fly it to a skyscraper, jump off and land on a passing helicopter which you commandeer and fly into a radio tower, leaping off at the last moment to parachute onto the back of moving car. THAT’S what more of gaming should be about. That’s what Just Cause 2 is about.

The open-island nonsense-em-up action madness was always going to be hampered by its plot, but not enough to stop it from being one of the most entertaining playgrounds gaming’s ever offered.

In some senses, you’re playing as Rico, a man charged with bringing down a despotic dictator of a small island, by dismantling its infrastructure and blowing up his bases. In another sense, you’re stealing passenger jets and seeing how high you can fly them before watching them nosedive into a petrol station.

With its Chaos-based system of escalating responses from enemies, it gets too hard, too fussy later on. But try to complain about that for long when you can grapple an enemy to a gas canister, shoot the metal, and watch him whizz and flip around like a deflating balloon.

Hopefully Just Cause 3 will bump this game out of the chart, and remove some of the qualifications while it’s at it. In the meantime, JC2 is ludicrously fun.

Notes: JC2 was released as a single-player game only. Fans responded by creating a multiplayer mod, which was spotted by Square and officially picked up and added to the game. It took three years, but it’s now fully integrated, and lets thousands of players play on a single server.

Read more: John’s review, Walking away from explosions.

Where can I buy it: Steam.

What else should I be playing if I like this: For more free-form carnage, Saints Row IV is even sillier. To smash up cities, perhaps some Prototype 2.

8. Max Payne [official site] (2001)

Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: Gathering Of Developers/Rockstar

Max Payne needs to be remembered, and indeed played, within the context of its first appearance. It is a game that requires exegesis before hermeneutics. Because this still fantastic third-person action shooter has been ripped off by ten thousand games since. In that light, it’s hard to play the game today without improperly inferring a sense of its being derivative.

Shake off that feeling, and allow yourself to just enjoy what’s immediately in front of you, and you’ll realise why Max Payne still deserves its spot in this list. The absolutely ludicrous tale of a man avenging the death of his wife and child by killing pretty much everyone else, while growling near-unintelligible one-liners, creates a film noir spoof that’s so ridiculous it deserves a spoofing of its own.

It’s a game that understands film in a way that’s all-too rare. Dolly zooms infest dream sequences, the lighting is evocative throughout, and it riffs gleefully on both the Matrix and John Woo’s back catalogue. It also gave us bullet time, and for that we should be forever grateful. And, as testament to the finesse with which Remedy made their silly, brash game, few have used the gimmick better since.

Notes: The game was originally going to be called Dark Justice. Which would have been awful. Remedy claim the bullet time concept was in place before The Matrix had been released, and the game was originally meant to be released in 1999, the same year as the film.

Read more: John’s retrospective for Eurogamer.

Where can I buy it: Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: Obviously the sequels, but you can find bullet time in the FEAR series, and the console-only Red Dead Redemption.

7. Tomb Raider: Legend [official site] (2006)

Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Eidos Interactive/Square Enix

Obviously Tomb Raider’s in the list. But which one? For many, the first they played is the one that holds up the best. Tomb Raider II perhaps? Nope, it has to be Legend. Here’s why:

Core obviously ran Tomb Raider into the ground. Angel Of Darkness was a well-documented disaster, a combination of over-ambition and publisher rushing, and the series’ reputation was done. Crystal Dynamics did something extraordinary: they recognised why the games had been so popular beyond the tits and made a game that celebrated that. And then were brave enough not to stop there, but poured in a whole heap more lore and purpose to the mad, murderous grave robber.

As you play through the huge, beautifully constructed, and puzzle-packed levels, in your ear you’re joined by some other characters, the brand new Alister and Chronicle’s Zip. Both work for Lara (as opposed to being lazy, demeaning father figures as the more recent games have devastatingly resorted to), and were superbly voice-acted by Greg Ellis and Alex Désert, alongside Keeley Hawes’ Lara. And they were hilarious.

This is especially the case in the game’s strangest moments, set in a Cornish museum about King Arthur mythology. Poor Alister is driven crazy by the misinformation on display, in the working animated dioramas, the banter making a wonderful backdrop to this calm sequence before the action picks up again.

CD have never bettered their opening to Tomb Raider, with its breathtaking waterfalls, mountain-sized puzzles (literally) and wonderful script. This is Lara’s finest moment.

Notes: Doug Church, the man behind a bulk of Legend’s design, is now working at Valve, last associated with CS:GO. The game sold 4 million copies, out-selling the more recent reboot by over half a million.

Read more: John’s retrospective for Eurogamer.

Where can I buy it: Steam.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Legend is the first part of a trilogy, followed by Tomb Raider: Anniversary, and somewhat concluded by Tomb Raider: Underworld. Don’t expect narrative satisfaction, however.

6. Resident Evil 4 [official site] (2005)

Developer: Capcom Production Studio 4
Publisher: Capcom

Resident Evil 4 squeezes every drop out of its character’s limited capabilities. While it occasionally feels like the jocular action spin-off that nobody thought Resident Evil needed, there are plenty of old-fashioned scare tactics thrown into the mix and even when helicopters are strafing the ground and rockets are flying, the combat is built around scarcity of resources rather than endless explosions.

The opening village sequence is beautifully paced, demanding a steady hand and steadier nerve. It’s far from a microcosm for the rest of the game, which expands weirdly and wildly in all directions like the parasites spilling out of Los Garados’ skulls. The village does introduce the strange stumbling block of the controls though, which can seem too stodgy when first encountered. They’re perfectly pitched though, allowing for precision but always denying the total fluidity that would break the game’s mood.

Whether you grimace through the cutscenes and dialogue or enjoy the silliness of it all, Resident Evil 4’s scope and variety put almost every other action game to shame, taking in boss fights, tense shootouts, frantic escapes and good old-fashioned bug blasting. By the time the credits roll, it’s easy to forget that you’ve gone from that opening village mob attack to battles against blind monstrosities in a castle dungeon and, of course, the Regenerators. Usually cited as Resi 4’s greatest concession to pure horror rather than the action-horror hybrid that takes up much of the running time, Regenerators are best left a mystery to those who haven’t encountered them. The clue is in the name, of course, but nothing is quite as simple as it seems.

Notes: The only game that has ever sold a system to this particular RPS writer. In this case, the Gamecube when Resident Evil 4 first released as an exclusive.

Read more: Our review.

Where can I buy it: Steam.

What else should I be playing if I like this: The Evil Within and the re-release of Resident Evil 1 are essential showcases of Shinji Mikami’s talents as a game director, though both hew closer to horror traditions. The Evil Within does a fine line in stealth action, however, quite unlike anything else you’re likely to play.

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John Walker


One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I tried to leave, but they won't let me. If anyone reads this, please send help.

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