#60: Sid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New World (Firaxis/2K, PC, 2010)
I'm specifically saying BNW for this entry because the base Civ V is, frankly, not very impressive. It took two expansions for this design to really shine, but with those installed it's one of the best strategy games ever made. It set out to end the doomstacks of units and endless spamming of cities just to claim territory that could make earlier Civ games tedious by removing stacking entirely and making technology costs a factor of your total cities. It's arguably the most focused entry in the series, and if that smaller and more tactical game is what you want, it's hard to beat.
#59: Dishonored (Arkane/Bethesda, PC, 2012)
Dishonored is a stealth game that wants you to play without killing anyone, but you'd never know that by the marketing that focused on all the ways you could murder guards if you really wanted to. The game certainly wasn't always clear about which playstyle was more moral. You can remove the city's worst people without killing them, but doing so often meant sending them to an even worse fate. Dishonored can do that because it has the kind of worldbuilding that's normally reserved for RPGs, and it's localized entirely within this city. Dunwall feels alive, with the characters and conflicts to give your actions weight.
#58: Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice (Ninja Theory, PC, 2017)
Hellblade is an attempt to recreate what psychosis feels like. I can't know if they got it right, but it's certainly intense and overwhelming in a way that no other game is. It's difficult to talk about both because that experience is so core to it and because, honestly, I have no idea what happened in the plot. I'm not sure I'm supposed to. It's never clear how much of Senua's journey through Viking hell is real and how much is a representation of trauma, and the final sequence is whispered so quietly that I couldn't understand any of it. But that's fine, because this game is really about an emotional state, and it gets there.
#57: Resident Evil 4 (Capcom, PC, 2005)
RE4 is best summed up by the above video, I think. It's a fun shooter and parts of it could maybe be considered scary, I guess, but you're really playing it for how stupid it all is. Leon Kennedy is just here to crack dad jokes while fighting off an army of Scooby Doo rejects, and really, what more do you need? It's too bad RE went back to being serious after this game, because RE4's nonsense shows they can do a damn good comedy when they want to.
#56: Bastion (Supergiant, PC, 2011)
Not many studios can claim to have a debut like Bastion. It's almost impossible to take a screenshot of it that isn't stunning. Darren Korb's soundtrack is basically perfect the whole way through. The Narrator was such a hit that they kept a similar character in all the future games. And then it's an amazing isometric action game to boot.
#55: Skies of Arcadia: Legends (Overworks/SEGA, GCN, 2003)
Skies of Arcadia does the journey better than any other JRPG. I played it about 15 years ago and can't tell you anything about the main plot, but I remember most of the locations clear as day because reaching each one of them feels like its own reward. It helps that your party will only ever have three party members and a rotating guest, so it can't hide weak characters or locations behind a fancy new party member, and that most chapters end with a massive ship-to-ship boss fight in the skies about the town or region you've just completed. Give us a remake already, SEGA.
#54: Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (Level-5/Bandai Namco, PC, 2018)
This is actually a lot like Skies, now that I have them next to each other. It's also a JRPG that's more about the world and the places in it than it's characters (which is good, because a lot of them suck), and it also has unique and memorable battle systems. The main one has you rotating between three different weapons in an action RPG, and the secondary one is sort of a Pikmin-like RTS. They're both great, and the goofy Stubio Ghibli-esque world helps pull everything together.
#53: Celeste (Matt Makes Games, PC, 2018)
Celeste is an almost flawless design. Everything in it builds towards one message about overcoming your fears and accepting yourself. It's brutally difficult, but it ships with accessibility settings so thorough that a sufficiently motivated baby could finish it eventually. CoughThe wind levels can burn forever in the fires of hellCough. Excuse me. But yes, if this were a ranking of the best designed games of all time, Celeste would be much higher. Unfortunately, this is just about as high as a platformer can go for my personal tastes.
#52: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (Nintendo, GCN, 2003)
I'm so glad that, for all the conflict in the world, we can still come together as a species and agree on the best Mario Kart game. For no one, especially not in this community, would ever disagree that Double Dash is the best. It has great tracks like Yoshi Circuit. You can drive a train. But what you shouldn't do, I've just learned, is play it using a PS4 controller for the purpose of taking screenshots, because drifting with those control sticks is murder on your hands.
#51: Mirror's Edge (DICE/EA, PC, 2009)
ME accomplishes the impossible task of making a "realistic" art style that is also timeless. Most AAA games in 2009 were smudges of brown that looked awful even at the time, but ME's bright colors and contrasts will always look great. Not that you'll have time to pay much attention to them in-game, because it's a first person parkour game that's all about going fast. There are guns, but you've probably done something wrong if you're using them for more than two seconds. The level design is clear enough that you can feel like you're speedrunning even when you're playing it for the first time, but it's also deep enough to still be interesting the 50th time through when you actually are optimizing for time.
Kinda funny that the only two games I've ever seriously tried to speedrun ended up adjacent.