What a decade it's been for gaming. The Noughties saw the release of no less than six new consoles, the rise of Microsoft as a serious industry player and the re-emergence of Nintendo as the dominant force. Yeah, it's been an incredible ten years of gaming goodness. But what lights have shined the brightest? What video games are destined to join the pantheon of the immortals? Here, in the eighth part of VideoGamer.com's mammoth Top 100 Games of the Noughties list, we tell you, counting down from 30 to 21. Like the best rollercoasters, there are peaks and troughs, nerve-shredding twists and turns, and a bit where you're really high up and wish you'd never got on the bloody thing in the first place. But hold on tight, weary video gamer, because by the time this ride ends, you'll know just how good the Noughties have been.
30. Silent Hill 2 - PS2, 2001
Here's a tip for you: if you ever receive a letter from a loved one who's supposed to be dead, ignore it. Whatever you do, don't answer their request to meet them in an abandoned town that acts as a gateway to a demonic other world. James Sutherland ignores this advice in Silent Hill 2, and the results aren't pretty. Well, actually they're very pretty - but they're also terrifying. SH 2 is the scariest and most nuanced of all the Silent Hills, the kind of survival horror that climbs inside your skull and lays eggs. It's an adult game about guilt, sickness and mortality, and it features one of the most notorious villains in the history of video gaming: the nightmarish Mr Pyramid Head. Approach with caution.
29. God of War - PS2, 2005
Sony isn't afraid to invest in new IP. God of War was to take on the likes of Devil May Cry, but at the same time bring the genre to an audience more interested in slaughtering mythical beasts than learning complex combos. The game brought a new level of visceral violence to the genre, with now iconic leading man Kratos pulling no punches when laying down his own special punishments. With some spectacular boss battles, easy to grasp combo attacks and an impressive character and weapon levelling system, God of War started a franchise that now stands shoulder to shoulder with the genre's best entries.
28. Counter-Strike - PC, 2000
Counter-Strike is so addictive that there have been several recorded cases of people playing the game until they died, collapsing from exhaustion after 24-hour gaming marathons. It's a dubious honour to have, but one that underlines just how engrossing the game can be. At the start of the decade, twitchy, arena-based first-person shooters were all the rage; Counter-Strike shook up the entire genre, limiting players to a single life per round - resulting in matches that got progressively more tense over time. There's a special type of rush that can only come from being the last man standing in a close-run game on the "de_dust" map. Pop quiz, hotshot: The bomb has been planted, there are seconds left before it blows, and three terrorists are waiting for you to show your face. What are you going to do? You're going to give it your best shot - and whether you live or die, you're going to come back for another round. And another. And another. And another...
27. Gran Turismo 4 - PS2, 2005
GT3 might have been the game to kick-start the PS2 and show what it was capable of, but Gran Turismo 4 bettered it considerably. Even today with the introduction of more powerful hardware, GT4's superb driving model and incredible car list make it a must own for driving enthusiasts. Gran Turismo has always had that Pokemon-like "Gotta Catch 'em All" feel to it, and GT4 is no exception. The sheer number of cars on offer here shames every other racing game on the market, and when combined with a driving model that many believe to be the best ever, it's clear why Gran Turismo 4 goes down as one of the best games of the decade. It's also the basis for Gran Turismo on PSP, the most authentic driving game you can get on Sony's handheld.
26. BioShock - Xbox 360, PC and PS3, 2007
Ken Levine's BioShock was a risk. It was atmospheric, well written, and intellectually challenging; not your typical modern day first-person shooter. But it was a risk worth taking, because BioShock achieved the commercial success its critical acclaim deserved. The star was the underwater city of Rapture, a dystopian 1950s nightmare so wonderfully brought to life that it may well be the greatest video game setting of all time. Then there was Andrew Ryan, possibly the greatest videogame villain of all time, and that twist, possibly the greatest video game twist of all time. BioShock's only flaw was its ill-conceived last third, in which tiresome escort quests and a silly boss battle reminded us all we were playing a video game after all. Still, up to that point, BioShock was and is a stone cold stunner.
25. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - Xbox and PC, 2003
The greatest Star Wars game ever made? Quite possibly, although X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter fans might disagree. BioWare's Star Wars role-player, while flawed, did enough right to convince millions of fans to take the plunge. Key to its appeal was the light side/dark side morality. Through your actions and decisions you were able to direct your character to either side, each with its own set of Force Powers, quest outcomes and game endings. But fans remember assassin droid HK-47 most fondly. His dry wit and dismissive attitude, wonderfully voiced by Kristoffer Tabori, cemented his place as one of the greatest video game characters of all time ("meatbags"!). In retrospect, KotOR reveals itself as the precursor to Mass Effect - the similarities are remarkable.
24. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City - PS2, 2002
For many gamers, Vice City is the best of the PS2-era GTAs; for some, it's the best entry in the whole vehicle-nabbing franchise. Whether or not you agree, there's no denying that the game's 80s setting is one of the smartest design choices Rockstar has ever made. Vice took everything that was great about GTA III and then ran with it, adding costume changes, asset collection, proper planes and helicopters, and an anti-hero with the wiseguy bark of Ray Liotta. But more than anything else, it was the game's atmosphere that won our hearts, and that ensures its reverential treatment even today. The whole world was beautiful, a deadly cocktail of sun and Scarface, while the soundtrack was nothing short of sublime.
23. Fable 2 - Xbox 360, 2008
Be good or bad. That's essentially what Fable 2 lets you do. The difference here compared to other games that have tried the mechanic before it, is that there is a real sense that you are changing things depending on your character's actions. It wasn't perfect, but your adventure, alongside a trusty canine companion, is one of the most memorable and thought provoking we've ever played. You can have a family, or numerous families if you like, but the one lasting relationship is with your dog. He's with you every step of the way and events towards the end are really quite moving, if you're not too macho to feel emotion. When you feel anger towards an enemy who kicks your virtual pet in the stomach, it's clear that Peter Molyneux and the team at Lionhead created something quite special.
22. Portal - Xbox 360, PC and PS3, 2007
Portal, released as part of Valve's bumper The Orange Box, is for many the greatest game of all time. It's easy to see why: the first-person puzzling is so clever, the atmosphere is so sterile, and that disembodied robot voice is so memorable, that even two years after its release gamers are still raving about it on forums across the internet. In truth, it's more of a highly accomplished proof of concept than a fully fledged video game. But that does a disservice to the impact Portal had on hardcore gamers. The Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device is one of the video game weapons of the decade, and bonkers AI GLaDOS is one of the video game characters of the decade. Its greatest achievement is that millions of gamers played Portal as Half Life 2: Episode 2 sat there on its lonesome. Where's the sequel, Valve? We've run out of cake.
21. Crysis - PC, 2007
Crysis isn't the best first-person shooter of the decade, but in terms of graphics it's the game that moved things forward more than any other. Even two years after its release, modern PCs are struggling to max out its graphical settings and maintain a smooth frame rate. It's a game that will be remembered equally as a superb FPS and ultimate benchmarking test. It's easy to forget that beneath the glamour, Crysis is an action-packed shooter that really made console gamers jealous. It was a true PC exclusive, and a damn good one at that. It also spawned the excellent Warhead expansion, which delivered another no-holds-barred campaign through a dense jungle and beyond.
Check back to tomorrow as the Top 100 Games of the Noughties countdown continues with 20 to 11