Stuff's Best Games Ever: The 50 greatest games of all time

The best games ever: 40-36

40) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

You play as a small boy dressed up as Robin Hood, sort of, but accompanied by a fairy, and you warp your way through time and space using a puzzle-solving musical toy. So far, so normal (for Nintendo), but the gigantic game world and well-executed visual feast of Link's first 3D outing meant you might have started it as a boy, but you finished it a man. A 38-year-old man with an unhealthy interest in magical instruments, but technically a man.

39) Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010)

Neil Armstrong. Buzz Aldrin. Super Mario. Three titans of interplanetary exploration, but only one of them sailed across the universe with a princess in tow. Super Mario Galaxy 2 took the framework of the brilliant Wii original and only made things better with more variety, new power-ups, more lavish environments – and yes, Yoshi.

38) Metroid Prime (2002)

Following an eight-year delay from the legendary Super Metroid, fans deserved something great – and they got it with Metroid Prime, the series' shift to a 3D, first-person-shooter-esque approach. And it was brilliant, packing in loads of sci-fi atmosphere while keeping Metroid's expansive, exploration-centric approach intact across vast locales.

37) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1992)

Nintendo had a knack for taking great NES franchises and transforming them into spectacular SNES experiences, and A Link to the Past is one of its greatest successes. Link's role-playing journey feels immense and memorable, and not only was it a fantastic 16-bit quest on its own merits, but it also set much of the series template for the decades since.

36) Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (2001)

The original Gran Turismo deserves loads of credit for nailing the concept of an ultra-precise, yet still enjoyable console racing simulator, but the move to PlayStation 2 dramatically elevated the experience in Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec. Improved handling, much-enhanced graphics, and a sharp (but not overwhelming) selection of cars made this one obsession-worthy.

The best games ever: 35-31

35) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)

When it comes to pure fantasy, there's no better open-world role-playing experience than Skyrim. Bethesda's latest (and therefore, still greatest) mainline Elder Scrolls entry offers a vast and gorgeous realm to explore, filled with all sorts of beasts to slay with your sword and spells alike. Love a good fantasy yarn? Go ahead and live your own within Skyrim.

34) Sensible World of Soccer (1994)

Twenty years young, Sensible World of Soccer is still top of the league. It took everything that was great about Sensible Soccer and just ran with it. You got the same fantastic arcade-oriented gameplay, but the title comprehensively acknowledged the rest of the world's existence, with the kind of slavish devotion of a true footballing aficionado.

33) GoldenEye 007 (1997)

When you think about it, the N64 had some ferociously brilliant games, and aside from Nintendo's own Mario, Zelda, and Donkey Kong titles, this was the one everyone played, all the time – usually at someone else's house, using its superb split-screen multiplayer. Two decades later and there still hasn't been a better Bond game.

32) Ico (2002)

Ico was a new type of game, because it was as much art as game. It was beautiful. It had emotion, mystery and peril, but it was told without dialogue or violence. As a young boy with a wooden sword who finds a ghostly young girl trapped in an old fort full of nasty shadow spirits, you'd get her out – charmingly by holding her hand through puzzles and mazes, letting go only to batter back the ghosts.

31) Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002)

Featuring the holy trinity of Judas Priest, Toto and Hall & Oates, Vice City nails the hidden star of any GTA game: its soundtrack. Plus, you can wear a pink tuxedo. Of course, there's more to Vice City than just that, but the unique character of its neon-infused '80s Miami-esque setting and coke-addled cast really elevated this post-GTA3 return.