The 12 most incredible games of the decade

Half-Life 2: Orange Box - Valve made the definitive videogame of the last decade
Half-Life 2: Orange Box - Valve made the definitive videogame of the last decade

It's not only the traditional time of year for us to compile our lists of favourite things, it is the time of the decade for definitive lists of favourite things.

Add this to the fact that geeks, tech-heads and gamers just love to compile definitive lists, and you will understand what a job it has been trying to identify a list of only 12 games that could genuinely be described as 'definitive' of that strange decade we are just leaving which we (always slightly uncomfortably) called the noughties.

The last ten years has seen gaming become the number one mainstream entertainment medium of choice for millions worldwide, with Sony's market dominance with the PlayStation 2 earlier in the decade gradually giving way to the new dominance of Nintendo's Wii, the latest rising (and glowing) star in the most recent round of what we all now call 'the console war'.

And throughout it all, the humble PC has retained its foothold as many true hardcore gamers' format of choice, particularly if you happen to be a fan of strategy-gaming or massively multiplayer online games such as Blizzard's mighty World of Warcraft.

On which note, we debated long and hard about WoW's worthiness for inclusion in the following list, on the back of its sales, its 11 million-plus regular subscribers, its overall scope and its developers sense of ambition for what is possible… but we eventually knocked it off the bottom of the list.

As we then did with about 50 other games that a number of our writers demanded should be on there. Which, if nothing else, is proof positive that the noughties were the decade when videogames really started to matter. And while we cannot wait to see what new gaming tech the Tenties (the Teenties?) serves up, let's pay our dues to the games

Strangely, there are no mobile games or handheld console games on our list, which is perhaps indicative of the fact that we are no longer teenagers (Zelda on the DS was utterly charming, but didn't make the final cut). And the fact that mobile gaming, by and large, has been rubbish - with only a few recent exceptions to that rule on the iPhone suggesting a brighter future is hopefully in store for gaming on the go.

There was no real system we employed in whittling down the list to the following12;, we might have made the choice of a particular game because of the media storm around it (GTA), its massive sales figures (Call of Duty), because it was responsible for shifting a console or popularising a new way of playing (Wii Sports) or simply because we smiled a lot when we remembered the fun it had given us (all of them).

12 - Call of Duty (2003, PC)

OK, sure, we can all debate whether or not the original CoD or the most recent outing in the franchise Modern Warfare 2 should have been included in this list, but for the sheer fact that this was the game that utterly redefined war-gaming in the last decade and kickstarted what is arguably the most important and lucrative series in gaming today, we plumped for the original.

Infinity ward's first call of duty game defines modern wargaming

SETTING THE TARGET: Infinity Ward's first Call of Duty game defines modern wargaming

Infinity Ward's masterpiece garnered high scores, with 10/10s and high 90 per cents across the board. The UK's leading PC mag, PC Gamer, summed it up at the time in its December 2003 review, noting:

"It's the 24-mission single-player experience that you'll remember for years. Call of Duty is a first-rate achievement. The sensory overload is amazing, and the interaction with intricately scripted action set-pieces is a big step forward in the art form."

11 - Timesplitters 2 (2002, PS2, GC, Xbox)

Free Radical developed Timesplitters 2 for UK publisher Eidos back in 2000, originally on the PlayStation 2, and it quickly became one of the original hardcore gamer's games of choice on Sony's new console at the time. It was fast, funny and really showed off the potential of where multiplayer gaming was to go later in the decade. And it had lots of monkeys and stuff in it.

Free radical's timesplitters 2 was proof positive that shooters worked well on console

WITH MONKEYS: Free Radical's Timesplitters 2 was proof positive that shooters worked well on console

Games Radar UK noted back at the turn of the 21st-century that Timesplitters 2 was, "an unconventional - hence invigorating - impetuous, inciting, and utterly, utterly playable first-person multiplaying affair."

10 - Wii Sports (2006, Wii)

While the hardcore wince at its mere mention, Wii Sports (bundled with the new Wii console at launch in late 2006) very quickly became the fastest selling game of all time, while being largely responsible for Nintendo's much-vaunted opening up of the gaming market to casual gamers, female gamers, elderly gamers and those that had not picked up a joypad in around twenty years. And while we might not play it so much throughout the year, we still pull it out every family Christmas. So there.

If you genuinely don't like it, then you genuinely don't like having fun.

Wii sports has become a christmas fixture for many gaming families

PROPER FUN: Wii Sports has become a Christmas fixture for many gaming families

"When you're introducing people to something radically different from what they're used to, it's a good idea to start off slow and simple," noted GamesRadar at the time. "With that in mind, Wii Sports is the perfect pack-in for Nintendo's Wii console; not only are its simple minigames fun and ultra-accessible for casual gamers, but you couldn't ask for a better tutorial on using the motion-sensitive Wii remote.

9 - God of War (2005, PS2)

God of War came out in 2005, fairly late in the PS2's lifespan, at a time when many were more interested in what was due later that year from Microsoft with its new Xbox 360. As such, it was very nearly (and very criminally) overlooked. Thankfully, though, the quality shone through and it now stands as one of PlayStation gaming's greatest moments in the noughties. A mythological hack and slash romp of biblical proportions.

Sony's god of war was the moment the playstation 2 could seemingly do no wrong

HACK 'N' SLASH: Sony's God of War was the moment the PlayStation 2 could seemingly do no wrong

"God of War is the finest action adventure we've seen for ages," enthused CVG at the time. "It's the spiritual successor to games like Golden Axe and films like Clash of the Titans. With a mix of thrilling combat, some gobsmacking locations and a storyline that doesn't get in the way of the action, you'll eat up God of War like pie."

8 - Gears of War (2006, Xbox 360, PC)

Gears of War was, for many, Xbox 360's first truly great game. Just as Halo was the Xbox's defining moment, Gears gave the hardcore what they wanted. In spades.

Gears of war - so good, they released it in a special tin can!

METAL JACKET: Gears of War - so good, they released it in a special tin can!

"Reptiles with guns. Chainsaw bayonets. Buckets of gore. Very little hope for humanity. No longer a covert operation, Epic's sci-fi shooter Gears of War has finally emerged, and it's pretty much everything we hoped it would be, as well as a few things we didn't expect," was Official Xbox 360 magazine's verdict on Microsoft and Epic's, er, epic.

7. Guitar Hero (2005, PS2)

Amazingly, many laughed at the concept of Guitar Hero back in 2004 prior to the game's release, claiming that it was an expensive folly and an attempt to cash in on the dance-mat craze in a gimmicky way. It proved to be neither. The slew of copycat titles and follow-ups over the last five years are testament to that, despite what some hardcore gamers might want you to think.

Guitar hero first hit the ps2 in 2006 - yet it seems to have been around for ever...

ROCKIN':Guitar Hero first hit the PS2 in 2005 - yet it seems to have been around for ever...

"This is exactly what video games are all about: putting us into the shoes of people with abilities we only wished we had," is how PSW magazine summed up the game back in 2005. "Guitar Hero offers the chance to become exactly that...With what is surely the best console peripheral ever designed coming as part of the package.

"It's the perfect workout for music lovers who wretch at the thought of warbling along to Girls Aloud in SingStar or skipping about on a dance mat to a Sugababes ditty. This is a sweaty, boozy, shouty alternative which is liable to make a hell of a mess of the living room. And the garden, too, if anyone gets carried away and starts hurling tellies through windows."

Adam Hartley