15. Final Fantasy VII (PS1, 1997)
Final Fantasy VII heralded the arrival of the modern Japanese role-playing epic, thanks to its amazing CD-powered cinematic edge that made possible gripping cut-scenes and brought characters to life like never before. Sure, parts of the game are absolutely loony, and time hasn't done this one any favours (hence recurring calls for a remake), but few games from this era elicit such strong emotional memories.
14. Guitar Hero (PS2, 2005)
While PlayStation’s SingStar had given hairbrush crooners a competitive outlet for their warbling in 2004, air guitarists had been neglected until Guitar Hero came along.
With its colourful buttons, the shrunken, plastic axe used to play along to its catalogue of classics (and some rubbish funk-rock by the Red Hot Chili Peppers) might’ve looked a bit Fisher-Price, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who wasn’t riffing along with a huge grin (or puzzling grimace of concentration) plastered across their face within minutes of picking it up.
13. Metal Gear Solid (PS1, 1998)
A landmark title in terms of storytelling, presentation and pioneering stealth-based gameplay, Metal Gear Solid was one of the first games that truly felt like an interactive movie. With copious amounts of voice acting and long, often meandering cutscenes, this was a game as concerned with telling a compelling tale and creating iconic characters as it was with its sneaking mechanics and combat.
And it’s all so very Japanese: despite its reliance on Hollywood tropes and characterisation, there’s a thread of self-knowing silliness running through it (and subsequent MGS games) that gives them a charm lacking in more po-faced Western-developed stealth titles.
From the moment Snake first sneaks around beneath a cardboard box, you’re aware that you’re playing something a bit special. And the fourth wallrupturing Psycho Mantis boss battle will be remembered as one of the 20th century gaming’s greatest moments.
12. Ico (PS2, 2001)
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.
You played a young boy with a wooden sword who finds a ghostly young girl trapped in an old fort full of nasty shadow spirits. It was your job to get her out, rather charmingly by holding her hand and escorting her through puzzles and mazes, letting go occasionally to batter back the ghosts.
Without it, games such as Flower, Journey, Never Alone and Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons would probably never have existed. Playing Ico is an utterly essential part of your gaming education.
11. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PS2, 2002)
Neither as revolutionary as GTA III nor as grand in scale as San Andreas, Vice City was instead the most enjoyable Grand Theft Auto ever. From its exquisitely observed '80s period details to its sun-kissed beachside setting and unhinged plot, everything about it was seemingly designed to make you smile.
Jacking a helicopter from the top of the police station and flying it over the harbour as the sun set? Brilliant. Speeding along the waterfront on a motorbike as Spandau Ballet's Gold played on the radio? Amazing. Stealing a golf cart and mowing down pastel-clad golfers? Well it hardly sounds like a chore. Tremendous fun from beginning to end.