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Top 111 PC Games, #40-31

40. Wartales (Shiro Games, 2022)

A game that obviously draws inspiration from the old cult classic "Darklands", Wartales is very similar in concept - a small band of adventurers traveling around the land in search of fame (or infamy) and fortune.  Unlike that game, though, it does have a bit more of an involved class system; characters earn sets of skills depending upon their chosen vocations and interact with the world in different ways, too.  As you travel and face danger you'll not only power up your characters, but learn new tools to craft and abilities that benefit the entire group like rationing food (slows food consumption), outrunning enemies to avoid fights, carrying more weight or even more ghoulish options like being willing to resort to cannibalism to survive.  There's no real overarching story to go through - you carve out your own.  But it's deep and engaging enough to keep you coming back for a good while.

39. Lemmings (DMA Design, 1991)

A popular puzzle game that spawned a horde of rereleases, updates, sequels, expansions, clones and parodies, Lemmings is a simple concept - get a quota of the little rodents safely to the goal.  To this end, one picks a few out of the crowd and assigns them jobs meant to help the others avoid danger or bypass obstacles - whether simply stopping and forcing them to go the other way, digging through dirt, climbing up walls, or blowing themselves up to clear an obstacle from the others' path.  Once enough are safely through the exit door, the next stage begins.  Simple enough concept, but many of the later stages get deviously difficult, requiring some very fast thinking to succeed.  Given just how prolific and popular the series was, if you owned basically any game platform out in the early '90s, you probably played or at least saw Lemmings or one of its sequels/spinoffs/expansions at some point.  And thankfully, most of them were pretty damn fun.  Key word being "most"; skip Lemmings Paintball and All New World of Lemmings aka Lemmings Chronicles, they're really lame.

38. Commander Keen in Goodbye Galaxy! (id Software, 1991)

The fifth and sixth parts of the Commander Keen series (though labeled as 4 and 5... it's complicated) were a big leap forward for not just platformers on the PC, but for the series itself.  Smooth-scrolling, fluid platforming action was almost unheard of in DOS games at the time (compare this to say, Duke Nukem 1 or the Mega Man DOS games - BIG difference!), and the level of graphical detail was sublime and imaginative, looking like a cartoon on your computer.  Many of Keen's trademark elements return - the stun gun, the pogo stick and tons of collectibles - but the smoother controls and new capabilities like climbing up poles, unlocking rooms with keycards and mantling up ledges made its gameplay both more fun and more complex than previous entries.  He may not be as well-known as Sonic or Mario, but Keen was the closest thing the PC platform had for a good, long while.

37. Ultima VI: The False Prophet (Origin Systems, 1990)

It seemed that every Ultima title did its best to up the ante over the previous one, and Ultima VI was no different in that regard. While the previous games had a recognizable world to venture through, Ultima VI set out to create a realistic environment that you'd live an alternate life in.  You could hunt animals for food, milk cows, load and fire cannons, move furniture around, and so forth, and as a result, the immersion factor is immense. The story was another great one too, starting with what appears to be a hostile invasion but having you looking at things from a very different perspective by the end.  The somewhat clunky UI and limited viewpoint don't make it my favorite Ultima to play, but even with the annoyance of constantly running into dead-ends and getting lost in towns, it's another fantastic RPG from Origin and a very worthwhile entry to a legendary franchise. 

36. Carmageddon (Stainless Games, 1997)

A game which blends all things late-90s together into one - charmingly blocky 3D engines (BRender, the same technology behind 3D Movie Maker), metal music, gratuitous violence and pure action.  Case in point, Carmageddon is a combination of an arcade racer, an open-world game and a demolition derby with three win conditions - go through all the checkpoints before time expires, demolish all of your opponents' cars, or kill every pedestrian on the map.  Impacts, checkpoints and dead pedestrians earn you extra time and points which can be used to unlock new vehicles and tracks, purchase upgrades or just repair damage to your car and get you back in the action mid-stage.  You'll also find a variety of hazards and various power-ups and power-downs like Jelly Suspension, Blind Pedestrians, Solid Granite Cars, Damage Multipliers and Free Repairs, all of which only add more chaos to the proceedings.  Gruesome, twisted and incredibly fun, Carmageddon is a blast.  Just steer clear of that godawful Nintendo 64 version and you're golden.

35. Ultima Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams (Origin Systems, 1991)

Ultima 6 is a game as known for its intriguing story as its inventive gameplay, putting the player into a world more intricately designed and realistic than any other seen to that point - cows could be milked, doors could be lockpicked, blown up or smashed down, and virtually every object one saw could be moved around, stacked atop one another or used in surprisingly intuitive and realistic ways.  Naturally, this engine cost Origin a ton of money to develop, so they decided to try and recoup costs with some spinoff games.  The end results, while lauded by critics, were not financial successes, leading to the Worlds of Ultima franchise being cancelled after only two entries. Shame, that, as Martian Dreams isone of the best games in the entire franchise.  Set in a fictionalized Victorian era on Mars, it has the player and a number of real-life historical figures unearthing the remains of a long-lost civilization on the red planet, and having to endure a lot of surprisingly realistic obstacles - low oxygen, radiation and an ever-constant struggle against limited supplies.  While it is frustrating to navigate at times, the tale told here is a creative and memorable one, and proof that Ultima remains an important milestone for both design and storytelling in video games.

34. Unreal Tournament (Epic MegaGames, 1999)

Multiplayer first person shooters have a pretty long history going all the way back to the '80s with MIDI Maze and gaining a lot of popularity with games like Doom, but Unreal Tournament is widely regarded as one of the all-time greatest even today.  Taking the fast-paced gameplay of Unreal and adding numerous new game modes, including Assault (capturing a fortress point by point while the other team defends), Capture the Flag, Domination (team battles) and Last Man Standing (giving each player a limited number of lives).  Several map packs were released, and being moddable also meant there were plenty of weapons packs, maps, new game modes and endless gameplay tweaks that give it unlimited replay value.

33. System Shock: Enhanced Edition (Looking Glass Studios/Nightdive Studios, 1994/2015)

System Shock was another early Looking Glass title that was highly acclaimed for being innovative and surprisingly deep (big shock there).  It utilized the same engine as Ultima Underworld; however, it took things into the future instead, putting the player on a space station overrun by mutants and cyborgs and having them fight to survive and thwart the machinations of the mad AI SHODAN.  In contrast to many other shooters of the time period, though, System Shock is comparatively slow paced and methodical - not quite stealth-based, but you'll do a lot of crouching and peering around corners to take potshots at enemies while avoiding their fire, and you'll also collect a number of upgrades for your cyborg gear - from a camera that sees behind you to speed-boosting leg enhancements to a shield that absorbs some damage you take.  There is also a heavy focus on storytelling, puzzles and mission objectives - hunting down crew logs, keycards and passwords, finding ways to skirt around traps, and solving wiring puzzles are commonplace.  You'll also have to hop into cyberspace which, as in many 90s depictions, is a surreal world full of 3D shapes and vague space shooter elements.  Very much a product of its time for both good and ill, but the Enhanced Edition smooths out its interface a bit and gives it a performance lift, so that's the version to play nowadays.  At least until the remake comes out.

32. Max Payne (Remedy Entertainment, 2001)

Max Payne was the game that put Finnish developers Remedy Entertainment on the map. The game at its core is a tale of revenge as a New York cop goes on a killing spree, gunning down the mobsters who killed his family and partner.  What made it into something really special, though, was the strong writing in the game thanks to Sam Lake; equal parts disturbing, visceral and funny, Max Payne was an experience unlike any other to that date.  Of course, the gameplay also had an innovative element of its own thanks to incorporating "Bullet Time", allowing the player to take on large enemy forces with relative ease by slowing down time in order to effectively dodge enemy fire and draw a bead on them before they could even react.

31. Torchlight II (Runic Games, 2012)

There are quite a few Diablo-styled action dungeon crawlers on the PC, but the one that takes the genre to perfection in my book is Torchlight II.  Created by a team partly made up of former Blizzard North (Diablo I) staff, Torchlight 2 takes everything that made Diablo a hit and cranks it up to eleven.  Combat is fast and frantic, the four playable classes in the game can be customized in any way the player wishes, and online multiplayer (sorely missing from the first game) is now back in full force.  The game even has full support for player mods which can even be used in online games, though all players must have the same set of mods installed in order to play together.  Some other clever tweaks, like each player finding separate loot drops and being able to send your pet back to town with a haul of items to trade in for cash or potions, also make sure that the action remains constant throughout.  Torchlight II is pure fun.