25 best fantasy games ever

Skyrim may be coming out today, but it has a lot to live up to – here are the best fantasy games of all time

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim might be out today, but it's not the be-all and end-all of fantasy gaming. These classics of the genre laid the groundwork for Skyrim's sprawling fantasy world. And it has a lot to live up to. So in no particular order, the 25 best fantasy games ever are…

Dungeon Master (1987)

Not a kinky sex lord. If you owned an Atari ST, you probably owned Dungeon Master. It was the first 3D real-time action RPG, and consequently sold a whole load of copies. Not a lot of people know this, but there was a port to the handheld console, the Atari Lynx, where it was named Dungeon Slayers. Good, it was.

Gauntlet (1985)

"Wizard needs food badly." The sampled voice of Gauntlet's narrator rang out across video game arcades in the 1980s, but it wasn't this gimmick that kept players welded to this hack-and-slash action adventurer. It was the blisteringly fast four-player action, the different character classes, each with their own unique skills, and the mounting tension as your hero's health gradually drained away. And your idiot mate shot the food.

Dungeon Keeper (1997)

It's all very well being a hero, venturing into dungeons in search of treasure and abducted princesses – but think of the trouble they cause for the owners of those dungeons. The boot's on the other foot in this classic strategy game from Peter Molyneux, which places you in the role of a villain fending off questing heroes with the aid of your minions. Rather wonderfully, you also have to stop your followers from killing each other, keeping vampires well away from warlocks and so forth – and giving you a taste of the bureaucracy involved in micromanaging a dungeon full of evil creatures.

Die By the Sword (1998)

"Arr, taste steel!" Playing a ludicrously-accented hero on the most perfunctory quest imaginable – rescue your significant other from an evil wizard – this actioner doesn't win points for an original plot. But its control system was unique – you controlled your hero's movements with the keyboard and his sword arm with your mouse. Lopping off orcs' limbs, leaving them hopping around like Monty Python's Black Knight, was hugely satisfying.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

Not content to just recreate the previous entries in the Legend of Zelda series in 3D, Ocarina of Time built on their foundations – developing SNES predecessor A Link to the Past's simple notion of mirrored Light and Dark Worlds into the more mature idea of switching between two different timezones, each with their own distinct feel. It added innovations like Z-targeting, context-sensitive buttons – now the norm in games – and, of course, the ocarina itself, used to conjure up melodies to solve puzzles and teleport around the expansive gameworld. Perfectly harmonious.