What are the best games of all time? It’s a contentious conversation by design, one that we thought we’d take on in celebration of the video game industry turning 50 years old. 

In collaboration with the Golden Joystick Awards, GamesRadar+ has assembled a list of what it believes to be the ultimate games of all time. With millions of titles to choose between, we came to our final shortlist after considering influence, innovation, legacy, social impact, critical reception, and enduring playability. The result is a list of the 50 best video games that spans eras and genres; a selection that respects the games that defined the past and those that we believe will be consequential to the industry’s future. 

There’s always a degree of subjective interpretation with these sorts of endeavors, so that’s why we opened up the process. The entries that make up the top 20 were shortlisted by a panel of industry experts and luminaries, and voted on by the viewers of the Golden Joystick Awards, while the remaining 30 were voted on by the senior editorial team here at GamesRadar+. We took care to include just one game from each series, with exceptions made for those that have significantly pushed beyond the boundaries of 2D or 3D – thanks for making things more complicated than they needed to be, Nintendo. 

Release: 1991 | Developer: Nintendo

Want to see a fight? Trap 30 Zelda fans in a room and ask them to decide what the best of the lot is. While a 3D Zelda game ultimately made it higher up in these rankings, A Link to the Past deserves its place in the hall of fame too. The adventure’s shift between the Dark World and Light World is a transformative mechanic that Zelda games have returned to again with good reason, while difficulty was fine-tuned to push you with every boss – encouraging you to explore and understand Link’s powers and equipment without screaming a hint into your pointy ears every five minutes. Everyone loves A Link to the Past, from nostalgic Nintendo babies to speedrunners, and if you don’t, you should probably go back and play it again. It is, after all, the best of the 2D Zelda games.

34. Dishonored 2

Year: 2016 | Developer: Arkane Studios

Dishonored 2 is everything a sequel should be. Arkane smartly reunites players with the original game’s protagonist, Corvo Attano, while expanding the scope of play with a second playable character in Emily Kaldwin. Everything Dishonored did well, Dishonored 2 just does it better – its intricate world-building, multi-tier mission structure, inventive skill combinations, and array of intelligent puzzles. Throughout, there’s a real sense that the city of Karnaca is a living, breathing beast which exists independently of the player’s actions – be that in full stealth mode without killing a single enemy, or high chaos while offing as many foes as possible. Clockwork Mansion is not only one of the best levels in the Dishonored series, but one of the most innovative levels in the history of video games.    

33. Dead Space 2

Release: 2011 | Developer: Visceral Games

Dead Space 2 is the perfect example of a sequel done right. Because everything that the original game did well in 2008 – it was fast, frantic, sometimes disgusting and always super-violent – Dead Space 2 dialed up several notches a few years later. It’s been 10 years since the arrival of Visceral Games’ second entry to the series, and yet few games have captured the claustrophobia of horror with such skill, timing, and finesse since. Dead Space 2 and its predecessor wear their influences on their blood-soaked sleeves, not least those derived from Resident Evil 4, but do so in all the right ways. It’s a mark of deference. Here’s what’s come before; and here’s where we’re taking you now. Dead Space 2 is the pinnacle of action horror, and will undoubtedly hold its own among the highest echelons of the genre in another 10 years from now. 

32. Stardew Valley

Release: 2016 | Developer: ConcernedApe

There’s something so undeniably comforting about Stardew Valley. ConcernedApe may have set out to put their own distinct stamp on the farming sim formula of series Harvest Moon, but the dev ended up changing it forever. Delivering a cosy, pixelated world, you take on a fulfilling role as an office-worked turned farmer who inherits their grandfather’s land. At a surface level the premise might sound simple, but as an open-ended sim with so much to discover and do, it’s anything but. The residents of Pelican, though, are at the heart of what makes Stardew Valley so special. Each neighbouring character has their own distinct personality, and as you develop relationships – be it friendships or romantic bonds – you get to learn their relatable backstories. With scores of updates since it initially launched, Stardew Valley continues to shine as one of the best examples of its genre. 

31. Super Metroid

Release: 1994 | Developer: Nintendo R&D1

Super Metroid was a true achievement when it arrived in 1994 and it’s still influencing the games that you’re playing today. The action stuck to its side-scrolling, exploration-based roots, but evolved in some notable ways. Samus gained the ability to shoot in all directions and our sense of control over the adventure was further improved by the addition of the automap and inventory screen. With state-of-the-art visual and audio design, its creepy atmosphere, and expanded mechanics that encouraged exploration, Nintendo delivered a silent crawl through a hostile alien world that the industry has never quite gotten over. Almost two decades later, and no other entry in the series has ever quite lived up to its brilliance.

30. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Release: 2009 | Developer: Naughty Dog

This was the moment when Drake cemented himself as the most charming of action heroes. Pairing him up with firecracker Chloe Frazer added a new frisson to the treasure hunter’s usual banter, and she matched him at every quip. The sequel was also when it felt like Naughty Dog nailed the cinematic style that has become its trademark , with massive set pieces and smaller moments of emotional punches working together seamlessly. Whether you were shooting off guns and one-liners, scaling the walls of a ruined temple, or fleeing from the monstrous guardians of the fabled city of Shambhala, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves looked incredible and was one of those rare occasions where the execution was just as impressive as the image.

29. Final Fantasy 7 

Release: 1997 | Developer: Square Enix

Final Fantasy 7 was one of the most influential JRPGs to land on the PlayStation, with 3D graphics that showcased just what the CD-ROM could do. A whole generation of players were introduced to the RPG through Cloud and his iconic Buster sword, and all these years later, it’s impact is still very much being talked about today – thanks in part to the release of Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Its impressive sense of world-building, classic turn-based combat formula, and in-depth story work together to create one very engrossing JRPG. With a cast of characters that have cemented their way into popular culture, Square Enix delivered an experience that’s legacy will live on for a long time to come. 

28. Red Dead Redemption 2

Year: 2018 | Developer: Rockstar Studios

Red Dead Redemption 2 is as epic as video games come. Set several years before the events of its series forerunner, Red Dead Redemption 2 takes place in a gorgeously-rendered, massive interpretation of the American midwest at the turn of the 20th century, and follows the trials and tribulations of outlaw and gang member Arthur Morgan. With that, expect countless heists, shootouts, hunting, horse riding, and bounties as you strive to keep the American Frontier era alive. Much like its sister series Grand Theft Auto, falling foul of the law is governed by a tiered wanted system which you’ll inevitably max-out more than a few times. Simply the best western game there is, and one of the best sandbox games ever made. 

27. Mass Effect 2 

Release: 2010 | Developer: BioWare 

There are few sequels that are quite as excellent and beloved as Mass Effect 2. BioWare killed off Shepard in the opening minutes of the iconic protagonist’s return and gave the series a rebirth in a figurative and literal sense from that moment on. Pitted against impossible odds in a high stakes overarching suicide mission, each crew member fighting alongside you aboard the Normandy brings something to the table, and it’s all too easy to form bonds thanks to their unique personalities. With refined combat, stellar character-driven storytelling, and choices that carry life and death consequences for the characters around you, Mass Effect 2 succeeded at taking the series to new starry heights in a way that few sequels do, and it’s arguably become the quintessential space-faring RPG. 

26. God of War

Release: 2018 | Developer: Sony Santa Monica

After Mariah Carey, it’s hard to imagine a more impressive comeback than the one Kratos was able to pull off in the 2018 reimagining of God of War. Gone was the frat boy tomfoolery of the original series, instead, we got an unbelievably rich tapestry of emotion, Norse legend, and sharp bladed satisfaction. This new Kratos was just as deadly and as physically able to carve a path through the world and its warriors as before, but now we actually cared about why he was doing it, and become utterly entangled in his relationship with his son Atreus. Tears and blood were shed, in no small part thanks to the incredible performances given to the lead roles by Christoper Judge and Sunny Suljic. 

25. Resident Evil 4

Year: 2005 | Developer: Capcom 

In 2005, Resident Evil 4’s tweaks to the familiar survival horror formula seemed subtle. But, some 16 years later, the impact it’s had on horror games, and video games across the board, cannot be understated. From its fast and aggressive hordes of infected villages, to its over-the-shoulder camera perspective, so many games, spanning so many different genres, have drawn inspiration from Resident Evil 4’s makeup, which is why it’s considered one of the best games of all time today. By switching to a first-person perspective in its most recent outings, Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil Village, Capcom’s enduring survival horror series has been revitalised – but there’s a strong argument to be made that Resident Evil 4 is Resident Evil at its very best. 

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