9. Just Cause 2
The original Just Cause was a nice idea, offering a GTA-like experience at a time when all anyone could ever talk about was GTA, but set in a lush tropical paradise and with more of a focus on insane stunts, absurd action and parachuting. Sadly, the game was short, technically buggy and lacked the story, dialogue or general imagination of other open-world titles of the time. So when Just Cause 2 came along, we acknowledged its beautiful visuals and the fact that it had one of the biggest maps in video game history, but remained skeptical, thinking that the series' developers Avalanche probably just don't have what it took to realise their vision. But how wrong we were, as they upped the silliness, threw in a ton of destructibility, did away with the laws of gravity and created one of the most beautifully insane sandboxes around. Avalanche didn't completely do away with the original game's formula, instead honing in on making the little quirks a hell of a lot more fun; grappling hooks could attach to anything and save you from fall damage when fired down towards the ground (because video games), parachutes could miraculously fly upwards, and Rico's high bullet resistance encouraged a gung-ho style of play that flew in the face of the trend towards cover-based mechanics. The topographically diverse islands of Panau were a place you'd go to and cheerily unleash some unadulterated explosive chaos, letting Just Cause 2 earn the series a reputation as a veritable playground of stunts and destruction. Check out our review of Just Cause 3 to see if it recaptured the whimsical fun of its predecessor.