#25: Silent Hill 4: The Room (2004)
There's some debate about which is the best Silent Hill; we're all agreed that it's one of the first four games, and if you're one of the luddites who favours Silent Hill 2 then insert it here because only one of them is making the list. Silent Hill is - or was, before its recent misadventures through Origins and Homecoming - gaming's pre-eminent survival horror franchise. With none of Resident Evil's campy schlock, and with a wholly unique and disturbing fog-drenched body-horror atmosphere, it was as a fine bourbon to the cheap beer of its peers. The Room was the one that most impressed me; it starts with you awakening in your apartment to find the front door chained shut from the inside, a mysterious hole in your toilet wall, and a series of bloody handprints visible through the fish-eye lens set into your front door. Out the window, the world seems normal - at first. The set-up brough the claustrophobia and malaise of the Silent Hill world home in a very real way and moved past the film-derived tricks of previous titles to really make unique use of the gaming medium.
#24: Max Payne (2001)
PlayStation 2, XBox
Max Payne may well be the best-told story in a videogame. It's a simple story - a noir tale of violence, madness, crime and revenge - but it's told masterfully, with a confidence and maturity few games reach. That the gameplay lives up to the story is all it needs to be one of the best games of the decade. Much like The Darkness it's filled with a glorious attention to detail but there's a self-assuredness here that The Darkness lacks. The sequel is similarly excellent. My hopes for the forthcoming third installment - not developed by the original team - are low.
#23: Kingdom Hearts (2002)
Either you're the target audience of Kingdom Hearts, or you're not. If you grew up with Disney movies and Final Fantasy games, then Kingdom Hearts will push more buttons than you knew you had. The initially absurd pairing of Goofy and Donald with SquareEnix characters such as Cloud and Squall quickly convinces you of its genius, and the mindbending trip through a plethora of twisted Disney worlds - including a Hundred Acre Wood where Pooh thoughtfully contemplates his own impending extinction - is one of the most memorable experiences delivered by any game, ever. The sequel improves the gameplay at the cost of some of the first game's originality and accessibility; they're equally fine and this entry stands for both.
#22: Beyond Good & Evil (2003)
XBox, Playstation 2
Michael Ancel's masterpiece Beyond Good & Evil is another game that sold poorly despite being critically lauded. Unhelpful cover art and a title with no relationship to the actual game probably didn't help it. But if you take the time to explore what it has to offer you'll find an expansive, heartwarming world, a dynamic, engaging protagonist, support characters who seem to jump out of the screen, and the best use of photography-based gameplay to tell a thrilling espionage story ever made in a videogame.
#21: Left 4 Dead (2008)
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Valve's co-operative zombie apocalypse shooter is one of the most fan-loved games of the decade. Unique, fast-paced multiplayer gameplay and memorable characters combine to make it a gaming icon. A lack of content and less than a year between its release and planned obsolescence don't seem to have diminished the love that people continue to show for Bill, Louis, Zoey and Francis.