You see, it's very hard - if not impossible - to be objective about anything when, ultimately, we all have our own subjective experiences, likes, dislikes, and opinions. Yeah, you might be able to have a fair crack at a list of the most influential or important games, but... a list of The Best Ones? It's always going to come down to individual preference, no matter how much you may claim to be taking yourself out of the equation.
So here, then, because it's long overdue, is MY list of the best games ever. At least, this is where I'm at today. Tomorrow it might change. Or I might remember ones I've left off. That's how people work, stupid: we're fallible! Stop trying to think we all have to be perfect. God's sake.
Do I really think all of these games deserve to be on such a list? No, but their inclusion is down to a myriad of factors; how did they affect me? How did they make me feel? Did they stay with me long after I finished playing them?
And were they the first games which sprung to mind when I thought I should do a list like this?
There's little I can add to the plaudits which have already been smeared upon Half-Life 2's barren, dystopian, loins, but for me the reason it really stands proud are two-fold. Firstly, it revolutionised storytelling in video games in a way which - regrettably - few games have built upon. There are no cut-scenes; dialogue, exposition, and world-building, are all kept within the game itself.
Secondly, what it really achieves for me is a sense of space. It's a remarkably restrained experience.
There are bursts of action and noise, but it's a very quiet game, where for long periods you're simply exploring a brilliantly-realised environment, in the early stages of decay. It builds atmosphere like no other shooter. In fact, you know what it reminds me of? The latter-day output of the band Talk Talk; quiet, sometimes unsettling, punctuated by occasional bursts of chaos.
Spirit of Eden would've made the perfect soundtrack album.
Why? A combination of their placing - often atop massive skyscrapers and the like - which can only be accessed via your character's steadily-increasing superpowers.
Few games - with the exception of, perhaps, Saints Row IV and inFamous - have made the player feel so powerful; literally leaping tall buildings in a single (or, at least, three or four) bound. Crackdown 1 and 2 are ridiculous, over-the-top, games, but the collecting of the orbs for once feels essential, rather than just padding.
I'd say that Skool Daze potentially inspired more bad behaviour from me - and a generation of school kids - than any hyper-violent game.
Case in point: I once drew a penis on a roll of overhead projector acetate, and then reeled it back so that Mr Maddison wouldn't see it until he was in the middle of a lesson. Also, I put a rubber in his cup of tea, and got thrown out of his classroom when I replied "Oyez! Oyez!" after he attempted to control his unruly students by shouting "Now hear this..."
Why it's particularly frustrating that I played so much Peggle is that there's a huge random element to its bagatelle-style gameplay. I knew I wasn't necessarily being rewarded for my silky skills, and yet somehow... somehow... I couldn't stop.
I hate myself for playing so much of it, but it'd be disingenuous of me not to include it in this list. Nonetheless, I can't help but feel it's a bit like including "heroin" on a list of "Best ever snacks".
You can forget the sequel, though. That messed about with the formula too much, transposing the 2D action onto 3D environments. Why do they always think that 3D is going to make things better? You don't get that with books. JK Rowling hasn't re-released Harry Potter with 3D words that jump out of the page at you.
I still go peculiar if I think of blowing up the Death Star and Obi-Wonky Nobby whispering in my ear, telling me that "The Force will be with you... always".
By not assaulting the player with constant action, it allowed the environments to breathe. It's biggest success was being familiar enough while also broadening the Star Wars universe with new ideas, that nevertheless felt profoundly authentic.
Again, by placing most of the story and character interaction within the gameplay, it allows the player to forge a connection with the characters. Indeed, I howled when Joel fell of that balcony and got impaled on a length of rebar.
See also the Left Behind mini prequel DLC, which achieves the same in an even more focused and concise fashion. This is how games should be telling stories; enough with your cut-scenes and leaving dozens of journals around the place. Who even keeps written journals these days?
How do you like them apples?
It was also incredibly tense at times. Outlaws is responsible for my favourite ever gaming moment; being trapped in a tunnel beneath a fort, down to my last smidge of health, almost out of ammo, while my enemies circled me, calling out my name. I've had flashbacks to it recently while playing Far Cry 5, in the best way imaginable.