Whether you play video games or not, they’ve become an integral part legend of zelda adventure map minecraft our culture. Mortal Kombat can be as evocative as a Michael Jackson or Beatles tune.
Representing multiple generations of gamers, TIME’s tech team put more than 150 nominees through a multistage ranking process to compile a cross-section of gaming’s best ideas across nearly four decades. Here are our picks for the 50 greatest video games of all time. Scrambling across the idyllic vistas of Nintendo’s vast new fantasy sandbox The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it’s easy to see the action-adventure’s sunken structures—plaintive artifacts of a vanished golden age waiting to be restored—as a metaphor for Nintendo itself. In the game, you play once more as the franchise’s sandy-haired paragon, toiling to thwart nefarious forces, team up with the eponymous princess and revitalize a slumbering civilization. Director Hidemaro Fujibayashi gets there in part by abandoning familiar safety nets while scattering heuristic-upending hazards throughout the journey. If Link gets too cold hiking in alpine zones or hot exploring scalding ones, for instance, he dies.
If he swims or climbs without resting, he risks drowning or plummeting to his doom. When Link’s health drops, players have to forage for scraps then find a campfire to cook. When the temperature plummets, you’d better have the equivalent of thermal underwear in your inventory. Even weapons are ephemeral, shattering after a few vigorous skirmishes.
This makes for one of the grandest, most gratifyingly pliable playgrounds the medium’s yet seen. Or snap pictures with a Switch-like in-game tablet to populate a compendium of the game’s flora and fauna, then follow audio pings to unearth whatever you’re tracking. It’s something of a revisionist’s fantasy come true, each gameplay transfiguration both clever and holistic. Rather than the staggered item rollout of earlier Zeldas, where you quested for themed artifacts that expanded your range of actions, you’re granted several from the outset, including three that let you fiddle with the fabric of reality itself. Bombs, another boon granted early, are now essentially geometry-inflected magic spells you cast while thinking about inertia or gravity. Speaking of, almost anything visible is climbable—another series first—but the steady drip-drip of an ebbing stamina meter and threat of going splat turns lofty ascents into tense pathfinding puzzles.