10: Jagged Alliance 2 (1999)
Developer: Sir-Tech Canada
It’s incredible to think that nobody has taken Jagged Alliance 2 on, face to face, and come out on top. There are other games with a strategic layer and turn-based tactical combat, sure, and there are plenty of games that treat mercenaries, guns and ammo in an almost fetishistic fashion – but is Jagged Alliance 2 still the best of its kind?
Doubts creep in every once in a while and, inevitably, that leads to a swift reinstallation and several days lost in the war for Arulco. Jagged Alliance 2 IS still in a class of its own and despite the years spend in its company, it’s hard to articulate the reasons why it has endured. The satisfaction of gaining territory in the slow creep across the map is one reason and the tension of the tactical combat is another. Even the inventory management feels just right, making every squad the equivalent of an RPG’s party of adventurers.
But it’s the character of the squad members that seals the deal. It’d be easy to dismiss them as a cluster of bad jokes and stereotypes, but each has enough personality to hang a hundred stories on – remember the time Fox bandaged Grunty’s wounds in the thick of a firefight a turn before he bled out, or the time Sparky made an uncharacteristically good shot and saved an entire squad’s bacon? If you don’t, go play Jagged Alliance 2 and make some memories.
Notes: The Jagged Alliance 2 v1.13 mod is one of the greatest examples of post-developer support. It’s a huge community-built expansion of the base game’s concepts and content that continues to receive updates fifteen years after the initial release.
What else should I be playing: The first Jagged Alliance has its charms but Silent Storm might be the closest thing to a true spiritual successor. Avoid any sequel, remake or spin-off after the second game.
Read more: Our look at the 1.13 megamod