#15: Animal Crossing (2001)
Actually to be honest it's the DS Animal Crossing, Wild World, that was the one I fell in love with but whether you played that, the original, or the recent Wii City Folk (published in Australia under the lamer title Let's Go To The City), it's pretty much the same game. There's no action in Animal Crossing, or narrative in the traditional sense of the world. There's not really any goals, other than a few collections to complete. It's pure social play; you interact with and build friendships with the quirky animals who live within the game, explore and decorate your town, and then share your achievements with friends. It sounds like a kids-only proposition but instead it's deeply compelling and it's one of the most memorable titles Nintendo's ever produced.
#14: Braid (2008)
Braid isn't about time-bending puzzles, retro game homages or a demand for infuriating precision, although it has all those things. It's about emotions, and the game's final level is one of the most powerful ever included in a videogame. The game presents, through gameplay, a hypothetical - what if time ran backwards and allowed us to take back our mistakes - and then goes on to show what mistakes we might take back.
#13: Crackdown (2007)
Crackdown rediscovers what we knew about videogames when they were first born - that the sheer act of virtual movement should be inherently enjoyable, whether or not that movement has a goal or destination. Roaming the streets and rooftops of Crackdown in giant building-spanning leaps is the the most perfect single item of gameplay ever created. Were the game to be nothing more than jumping from rooftop to rooftop it might still be one of the best games of the decade.
#12: Half-Life 2 (2004)
Half-Life 2 is an amazing achievement in and of itself - excessive time spent in sewers and trainyards notwithstanding - but when you add in its two episodic expansions it becomes very near immaculate. The breathtaking set-pieces alone, from the game's beginning to the introduction of Dog through to the heartbreaking finale of Episode 2, are the very best gaming has to offer, but on top of that the characters of Half-Life 2 are some of the most astoundingly realised in a virtual environment. Their expressive faces and realistic eye movement engage you on a subconscious level that others do not and Alyx Vance becomes one of those few creations who is not merely a character but a companion.
#11: Desktop Tower Defence (2007)
Credit for creating the tower defence genre technically goes to a Warcraft custom map but credit for perfecting and popularising it rests entirely with Desktop Tower Defence. The gameplay is simple - use limited resources to buy stationary turrets in the hope of shooting down a line of advancing invaders before they cross the screen - but despite the obscene proliferation of imitators, DTD remains one of the kings of this quirky genre. It's exemplary of the rise of Flash gaming and it's easily possible to put more hours into DTD than many fully-fledged retail games.