Random quote:



Check out my other site, RPGreats, for honest RPG reviews!

9/23/2015

Top 50 PC Games, #50-41

This was a challenging list for me to come up with, as I've never really been a die-hard PC gamer by any means.  However, I was always fascinated by how different its library was from what I had gotten used to on consoles - for the most part, games on computer platforms were a very different experience in that they had so much more ambition to them.  Like most of the best-known console developers, they were always pushing technology to its limits, but they also had to contend with a huge variety of different hardware setups and operating systems, which made their games considerably more difficult to develop and run.  Still, it was all worth it to play some very in-depth and interesting experiences that consoles simply couldn't deliver, whether due to a more limited player interface or just not having the technological advantages of the PC platform.  And of course, it is quite nice to still be able to play nearly all of them today, even if many do require fan patches or virtual machines or some other emulation option in order to run on modern hardware.

The only criteria I chose for this list is that all of my picks must have been designed with a computer system in mind as the primary platform, or be PC-exclusive.  That means no console up-ports or simultaneous multi-platform releases!  Oh, and they have to still be fun to play today, too.

As ever, keep in mind that this are my personal picks and no-one else's.

HM. Grandia II: Anniversary Edition (Game Arts/Skybox Labs, 2015)

I'm already breaking one of my rules with this one, which is why I've put it as an honorable mention.  But Grandia II's Anniversary Edition is doubtlessly the definitive version of an overlooked gem.  Released on the Dreamcast in 2000 (which, as we all know, was a major commercial flop) and then getting mediocre ports to the PC and Playstation 2 in the following years severely limited Grandia II's exposure and overall reception.  But the 2015 rerelease addresses both by being of very high quality (a few crashing bugs aside), polishing up its visual and audio components and even having some new features like an extra difficulty level for veterans of the series.  But no matter which version you play, Grandia II is an entertaining, dark adventure with some great characters, surprisingly good voiceover and a very strong, polished combat system.

50. Kingsway (Andrew Morrish, 2017)


A game that hits all the nerdy computer gaming hallmarks, being a roguelike with minimal animation, crude MSPaint-styled graphics and an interface more than a bit reminiscent of Windows 95, having you explore the world, drag-and-drop items between windows and click scrolling prompts to evade enemy attacks.  That, paired with a number of quests, multiple classes to play through as and quite a bit of creative (and tongue-in-cheek) lore throughout make it a treat for fans of nerdy old games of this type.


49. Oregon Trail Classic (MECC, 1990)


A game which managed to make edutainment actually fun by combining elements of a roguelike, overhead shooter and even a bit of a simulation/management element.  It's also an extremely popular game even today, continuing to get various rereleases and updates across numerous platforms, which is pretty impressive for a game originally created for the HP 2100 platform all the way back in 1971.  Most people are probably familiar with the Apple II version, though, having played it in elementary school.  Well, the DOS version of the game is a faithful port of that classic, just with updated visuals to take advantage of VGA technology.  Which is no bad thing in my book!

48. MegaRace (Cryo Interactive, 1993)


The FMV game fad had newfound life in the early 1990s with the advent of CD technology allowing developers to fit video files (usually in really low quality) on game discs and create "interactive movies" (also usually of really low quality).  MegaRace, however, is an example of an FMV game done right.  The gameplay is relatively average fare, having you win a "race" by destroying all the other cars on the track or gaining enough of a lead over them that they spontaneously explode, but it more than makes up for it in panache.  Not only do you get a fantastic CD soundtrack, but each level is interlaced with game show styled cutscenes starring the enjoyably hammy Lance Boyle (played by Christian Erikson) and giving the player a whirlwind tour of the bizarre, borderline dystopian future the game takes place in.  The sequels kept the jokey tone but attempted to expand upon the gameplay with pretty lackluster results.  Still, the original is worth checking out just to see how a relatively average gameplay experience can be made into something very memorable and unique.

47. 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 on each map - either 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, Damage Multipliers and Free Repairs, 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 port.

46. Shadowgate (Zojoi, 2014)

An updated remake of the classic point-and-click adventure game from the 1980s, Shadowgate's 2014 iteration was nothing short of brilliant.  The game's narrative was significantly expanded over its predecessor, new puzzles and obstacles were added, and elements of the original were changed up a lot, meaning that the old solutions to  puzzles no longer work (and, in fact, will frequently result in your death).  The game also features multiple difficulty levels that further shuffle puzzles and clues as well as lend some replay value to a genre largely lacking in it.  And of course, the remixed music and updated visuals effectively portray a grim atmosphere that only makes the game's story even more compelling.  Bring on the remake of Beyond Shadowgate!

45. Team Fortress 2 (Valve Software, 2007)


A game that spent nine years in development hell, which brings to mind uncomfortable recollection of games like Daikatana and Duke Nukem Forever.  Thankfully, though, Team Fortress 2 turned out to be a much better experience than those games could ever dream of.  Giving the player a choice of nine playable classes and numerous gameplay modes - from capture the flag to point control to pushing a bomb on a minecart deep into an enemy base and detonating it - Team Fortress was a brilliant, immensely fun multiplayer experience, and probably my favorite of that type. The game still receives updates to this day, but sadly fell into decline once it went free-to-play and the whole game just devolved into a race to sign up dozens of dummy accounts and rack up free items by running bot scripts and idle servers all day.  Still, in its golden days, Team Fortress 2 was an amazing experience.

44. Are You Afraid of the Dark?:  The Tale of Orpheo's Curse (Viacom New Media, 1994)


Another game that effectively blended CGI and live-action into a surprisingly compelling experience, Orpheo's Curse also proved to be a very worthwhile adventure title.  The game is a point-and-click adventure at its core, taking place inside a run-down old theater as the player attempts to escape before Orpheo's midnight performance.  To that end one must solve puzzles, follow clues from the other ghosts haunting the theater, and avoid Orpheo and Mary as they attempt to capture them.  Of course, the TV show the game is based on is used as a framing device as well, with the player taking the role of a kid attempting to tell a story and join the Midnight Society.  The game also gets points for managed to convey a creepy and surreal atmosphere without relying on jump scares or overblown gore, and for that reason alone it's an overlooked horror classic in my book.

43. Epic Pinball (Digital Extremes, 1993)


Video pinball games generally aren't really my thing, but a few have managed to grab my attention over the years due to their brilliant execution.  Epic Pinball is definitely one of them, impressing me with its high-fidelity and colorful graphics, fantastic music and the sheer variety it brings to the proceedings; the CD version of the game includes a whopping 13 tables to play on.  They also match a variety of themes, from race cars to futuristic androids to a bizarre, threadbare table called the "Enigma" that awards bonuses based on a cryptic set of conditions.  Good stuff all around.

42. Quake (Id Software, 1996)


Quake is a game with a complex history, beginning its life as an action-RPG titled "the Fight for Justice", slowly changing over the years to incorporate a 3D engine and ultimately turning into a shooter with some fantasy and Lovecraftian elements.  That ended up being no bad thing, though, as Quake was a great, fast-paced experience with a creepy atmosphere (in no small part due to featuring audio design by Trent Reznor) and some creative level design.  It even brought us elements like "Rocket Jumping" which lent themselves to all sorts of crazy (and impressive) speedrunning stunts, as well as some killer mods that would become successful franchises in their own right like Team Fortress.  Even with its chunky, blocky 3D models, grainy textures and choppy animation overall, Quake is another classic title from Id.

41. Tabletop Simulator (Berserk Games, 2015)

An idea simple in premise and elegant in execution, Tabletop Simulator, as its name implies, is essentially just a tabletop sandbox, letting you import figurines, dice, game boards and whatever else you like and play board games and tabletop games.  From simple things like Chess and Dominoes to more robust D&D styled role-playing games, almost anything can be done here.  Moreso because of the game supporting robust Lua scripting, importing custom models and sharing completed games via Steam Workshop.  While not the best-optimized program (and still somewhat buggy to this day), TTS gets credit for giving the player access to so much content for a relatively low price.