This year marks 35 years since baby Bethesda Softworks was born, the developer and publisher of some of the world’s biggest and best games is now entering its mid-30s. That means they’ll have to select an entirely different option on most drop down menus, the horror.
To celebrate 35 years of gaming goodness we thought it was the perfect time to look back at their games and rank the absolute best Bethesda games from their huge library of classics.
The return of Wolfenstein in The New Order was like a lightning strike. Combining over-the-top moments of comedy and action with musings on the nature of suffering and war, this new take on the series is a brilliant take on a narrative-based single player FPS. By combining stealth with a rewarding combat system, the new Wolfensteins are a literal blast to play. Its sequel, The New Colossus, goes one step further with locations and a story that’ll keep you guessing until the very end.
Arkane are the masters of the immersive sim and their take on Prey is them operating at their peak. Set on a space station under attack from mysterious shape-shifting aliens, Prey allows a huge amount of freedom in how you approach every encounter and every puzzle. It’s a glorious exploration of what’s possible in gameplay, and features the best game intro that’s ever been devised.
If Prey showed Arkane perfecting the sci-fi take on the immersive sim, then Dishonored 2 is them perfecting the more Thief-inspired branch of the genre’s tree. Filled with expansive levels full of life and character and a million ways to complete each area, it’s an astounding testament to ambition and stunning achievement. It’s not only one of the best Bethesda games of all time, but it’s ranked as one of the best games ever made.
Doom and Doom Eternal
Nobody really expected much from the return of Doom, but 2016’s entry wasn’t just a brilliant FPS, it helped redefine FPS combat. Doom and Doom Eternal focus on mastery of space, movement, and use of weaponry, coming together to make something far more than anyone could’ve expected. Doom and Doom Eternal show that we’re finally past the era of crouching behind walls waiting for health to regenerate, and that’s something that’s beautiful to behold.
‘Oblivion with guns’ was the cry when Fallout 3 was announced from Bethesda, but thankfully it turned out rather well. Obsidian took over for the utterly brilliant Fallout: New Vegas, a spiritual successor to the original Fallouts, but it’s with Fallout 4 that Bethesda hit their stride. The Commonwealth featured in Fallout 4 cannot be beaten for its sense of place and its quiet horror at the destruction caused by the past. It might be foolish to wish to live in the post-apocalypse, but Fallout 4 makes it worth a holiday.
The Elder Scrolls Series
No mention of the best Bethesda games can be complete without The Elder Scrolls. The series has its duds (Battlespire, we’re looking at you), but each of the Elder Scrolls games has something that makes them wonderful to play in the current day. Arena is a hugely ambitious dungeon crawler from the early 90s. Daggerfall is just colossal in every sense. Morrowind has a feel uniquely its own in the entire gaming landscape. Oblivion has the best quests of, well, anything. Skyrim just feels good to play and exist in that world, and finally The Elder Scrolls Online is a wonderful MMO with quests that always contain a surprise. The Elder Scrolls series is Bethesda’s crowning achievement, and they rank amongst the best RPGs ever made.