#10: FarCry 2 (2008)
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
There is nothing quite like FarCry 2. Certainly there was nothing in its flawed predecessors to suggest this game was coming. It simultaneously operates on many levels - as a free-roaming sandbox game and as a top notch FPS certainly, but also as a breathtaking safari through the African savannah and as a suprisingly deep and introspective meditation on the cycle of violence that plagues that continent. Long after the game finishes it's the quiet moments that will stay with you, the times spent in the long grass, vision tinged yellow with malaria, as this astonishing virtual world turns around you and without you.
#9: Prince of Persia (2008)
XBox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
The Sands of Time games were perfectly good games, but the 2008 Prince of Persia is a masterpiece. From its opening moments it has a command of storytelling, of metaphor, of pacing that few games can even comprehend from a distance. It has only two characters, it explores them with perfect rhythmn and grace, and it makes every challenge a mirror reflecting back on their relationship. It culminates in a powerful ending that offers the only real and meaningful closure the story could have borne.
#8: Bejeweled (2001)
Bejeweled is a strong game in and of itself but here it stands for that entire uncounted legion of games that have represented the single largest growth in gaming over the past ten years - the casual downloadable market. The match-3s, the hidden object games, the small-scale sims and the entire cyclopean empire of PopCap Games. For the world's x-million serious gamers Bejeweled will be the game on this list that they care about least, and for the ten to twenty times as many people who aren't serious gamers but have nevertheless engaged their credit card to purchase a title or two, Bejeweled may well be the only one they've played.
#7: Mass Effect (2007)
XBox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
I named this my game of the year in 2007 and in purely personal terms I stand by that. In Mass Effect, Bioware brings their long and saluted history in the development of Western RPGs and adds to it a focus, precision and vision that they'd not quite reached before. Mass Effect isn't a playground for players to find their own path; it's a coherent beginning, middle, and stunning finale, a tightly wound story that encourages and supports not mere exploring and levelling-up but honest-to-God roleplaying. It's the computer RPG grown up and it deserves every bit of praise it's received.
#6: Rock Band (2007)
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Guitar Hero came first but Rock Band outstripped its predecessors and kept growing from there. Implementing a full four-player band and supported by two years' worth of weekly song expansions, Rock Band is the definitive music game of a decade in large part defined by music games. Rock Band is going to be the shared cultural touchstone which to a huge cohort of people will represent this decade in gaming; its place in gaming history as storied as Pac-Man, Golden Axe or Super Mario Bros.