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12. <i><a href="" target="_blank">America’s Army</a></i> (PC) Tactical Assault Simulator- This Army-commissioned first-person tactical simulator (aka The Army Game Project) was originally conceived by Colonel Wardynski in 2002 to help boost recruitment and supplement basic training. It’s the only publicly available game to be created and distributed by Uncle Sam himself and has gained enough traction, with its tight gameplay and hyper-realistic representation of modern weaponry, to warrant three iterations of free downloads that you can still play today (Get it here).

11. <i><a href="" target="_blank">Desert Strike</a></i> (SNES, Gameboy, Game Gear, Lynx, DOS, Mac-OS)<br> Apache Chopper Shoot ‘Em Up- A warlord named Kilbaba installs himself as the dictator of a nameless patch of desert, meaning the US is forced to send in a single Apache chopper to thwart the thinly-veiled Saddam Hussein doppelganger. The 1992 classic spawned an entire series of Strike games (Desert, Jungle, Urban, Soviet, Nuclear, respectively) by hitching its star to the all-American anti-Saddam sentiments of the first Gulf War. The fact that firing Hellfire missiles from your prone-to-exploding-when-out-of-fuel Apache to blow up enemy compounds was as addicting as staring at a magic eye poster didn’t hurt, either.

10. <i><a href="" target="_blank">Commando</a></i> (Commodore 64, Atari, NES)<br> One-man army shoot ‘em up- This classic game has no relation to the Schwarzenegger movie of the same name, even though they both came out in 1985. Still, that doesn’t mean we look back any less fondly on our time with Super Joe than we do on John Matrix. Commando boasted levels full of baddies, grenades that only went up no matter which way you were facing, hostages to free and bunkers to bust, but what we’ll never forget is shooting the cowardly officer in the back as he fled the boss battle once his troops were defeated. We didn’t even feel bad about it.

9. <i><a href="" target="_blank">Metal Gear Solid</a></i> (Playstation)<br> Spec-ops stealth infiltrator- A deep and twisting plot, an off-beat cast of characters and rock-solid gameplay and controls (down to the standard-issue pack of cigs), Solid Snake was the special forces agent that boys wanted to be when they grew up. A far cry from its NES predecessor, MGS’s stealth-heavy gameplay was a revolutionary step forward in gaming history that put a new spin on your quest to save the world from nukes, mechs, nuclear mechs and, of course, Revolver Ocelot. It also schooled us on the importance of Diazepam in a firefight.

8. <i><a href="" target="_blank">RISK</a></i> (iPad)<br> THE strategy game of global domination- Yes, we know, RISK is a game that predates the iPad by decades but, even though we still play the board game regularly, this is a VIDEO GAME roundup and the iPad version is as close to the board game as you’re gonna get. Military strategy is the focus here as you wage war on a grand scale, but political alliances and the occasional favor from lady luck never hurt either, just like in real global combat. No matter which version you play, always remember: If you want to win, you better hold onto Kamchatka like it’s the last cup at a keg party.

7. <i><a href="" target="_blank">Medal of Honor</a></i> (Playstation)<br> (Semi) Historical First Person Shooter- The surest way to legitimize your new war game? Hire Steven Spielberg to write your story as his follow-up project to Saving Private Ryan. That’s exactly what EA did back in 1999 when they introduced Medal of Honor and its OSS-recruited hero, Jim Patterson. The game takes you through a variety of levels in Nazi-occupied Europe, where you’ll have to team up with the resistance to complete a handful of missions but, really, you were just supposed to kill Nazis and we’re pretty sure that’s why this game was awesome.

6. <i><a href="" target="_blank">Contra</a></i> (Arcade and NES)<br> Two Man Run-and-Gunner- Most people don’t remember the minutia of Contra’s plot (did you know that the red and blue commandos actually had last names? Bill “Mad Dog” Rizer and Lance “Scorpion” Bean) but the “contra code” is a thing of video game legend and a test of the true gamer’s historical IQ. Contra’s two-players-on-the-same-screen gameplay was a landmark for console gaming, and its completely arbitrary 30-life limit gave new meaning to what the country had initially thought of as war rations. Almost 25 years after its debut, it still remains in the public memory, seeing ports to the current gen via the XBLA and PSN and making the occasional guest appearance on TV.

5. <i><a href="" target="_blank">Counter Strike</a></i> (PC)<br> Tactical Team Up- Counter Strike might have started as a mod to Half Life, rather than a full-fledged game on its own, but that didn’t stop gamers from embracing it as a premiere tactical team shooter in its own right. Counter Strike teamed you up with real people for some of the most epic LAN battles you would have found among college dorm rooms (this was pre-wifi primetime, people). If there was ever a reason for a gamer to learn the Marine hand signals, this was it.

4. <i><a href="" target="_blank">Goldeneye</a></i> (N64)<br> The M of all first-person shooters- The world-renowned member of Her Majesty’s Secret Service made his first video game debut (as the Pierce Brosnan incarnation, at least) in 1997 with this FPSer that paralleled its movie namesake. The campaign matched up with the movie’s plot, but Goldeneye’s multiplayer stole the show and siphoned weeks of waking life from an entire generation as four players would crowd around TV screens to klobb, rocket or slap each other to death in the stack as their favorite characters from the Bond canon. You could even be Oddjob, if you were a dick.

3. <i><a href="" target="_blank">Halo</a></i> (Xbox)<br> Sci-fi Marine Shooter- When Microsoft launched the original Xbox in 2001, they knew they needed a killer piece of software to help move units. Enter Halo, a first-person shooter made by then-unheard of Bungie studios and the rest is history...or the future, since the whole Spartan adventure goes down in the 26th century. A stellar (ha!) co-op campaign and plot, four-player deathmatches and the option to link up Xboxes across a network created a permanent spot in gamers’ hearts for the intergalactic shooter, even if a certain weapon *cough pistol cough* was wildly overpowered.

2. <i><a href="" target="_blank">Command and Conquer Red Alert</a></i> (PC)<br>Mission-based Real Time Strategy - If you never played Red Alert, you either lived under a rock or your lousy beatnik parents loved peace more than you. Two factions and several missions took you through a variety of levels, where objectives would change from offense to defense, stealth to total war. Red Alert is one of the unforgettable gaming experiences of our gaming youth but, nostalgia or not, few RTS games remain as satisfying as C&C: Red Alert does today. Don’t believe us? Watch a fence of Tesla coils tear up an incoming enemy onslaught and then try to disagree. You can’t.

1. <i><a href="" target="_blank">Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare</a></i> (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)<br> The Greatest Military Game Yet- The Call of Duty series has been around for almost a decade, but MW was the first one to take the gameplay dynamic of the series and bring it into modern times, with current weapons and a plot that strikes chords with any current events buffs. Outstanding graphics, a storyline that kept gamers on the edge of their seat and multiplayer that spawned an online community with five million daily participants, COD: MW is a landmark game in almost every respect. So we give it our respect...and the number one spot with a bullet.

Written by John Sciarrino

The 12 Best Military Games of All Time

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