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12/15/2020

Top 101 PC Games, #101-91

 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, particularly in the '90s era, 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 (and have a release gap of at least three months between any console ports), or be PC-exclusive.  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.  Oh, and these are by no means the only PC games I like.  Trust me, I had quite a lot of trouble sticking to my rules and narrowing this down to only 100!

A few honorable mentions if that's your sort of thing.

101. CyberJudas (D.C. True, 1996)

The sequel to the presidential simulator "Shadow President", CyberJudas is mostly the same game at its core, just with a reworked interface and a considerably darker cyberpunk atmosphere on top.  You were basically put in the role of the president and left to pursue your own ends - delivering aid, carrying out military actions against other countries, investing in infrastructure, and yes, even declaring nuclear war.  Cyberjudas also adds two new game modes - Cabinet Wars, where your cabinet have their own agendas and attempt to manipulate you to acheive them, and the titular Cyberjudas, where one or more members of your cabinet are outright traitors, trying to discredit and undermine you at every turn.  To that end, you'd have to track down the Cyberjudas and discredit (or eliminate) them before they destroyed your career or eliminated you.  Dark stuff, but it makes for a very fun and tense game.

100. Shanghai II: Dragon's Eye (Activision, 1990)

Another variation on the solitaire family of games, utilizing Mahjongg tiles (reskinnable with a variety of flags, letters and numbers, and so forth).  Like any good game of this type, the concept is easy enough - clear the board by matching any two tiles with a free left/right side - but it quickly proves to be quite a challenge; you do have to constantly be careful not to put yourself in an unwinnable state.  There are a number of board layouts, as well as a two-player competitive mode (the titular "Dragon's Eye") where one player tries to build the "Dragon" while the other tries to match tiles to stop it from being completed.  But if even that's not enough, one can make their own board layouts to give themselves a real challenge.  Just a simple, but addictive little game; it's little wonder it appeared on as many platforms as it did (even getting an arcade version at one point).

99. World Empire V (Viable Software Alternatives, 2003)

A bizarrely addictive little time-waster not dissimilar to the classic board game "Risk", World Empire has you pick a general and a starting territory and then set out to conquer the world, country by country.  Up to seven other generals (player or computer-controlled) are gunning for control too, conquering nations of their own and having loyalists strewn throughout the map (requiring the player to keep armies stationed there to prevent revolution).  It's not the deepest game of its kind by any means (every war battle is just determined by a coin flip), but it's quite addictive regardless, and the fact that it went through four iterations before this one certainly speaks to its simple but addictive charm.

98. Wolfenstein 3D (Id Software, 1992)


While not the first FPS to hit the market, Wolfenstein 3D is arguably the one that popularized the genre.  It also remains surprisingly fun for its more tactical design - try to run in and gun everything down like in Doom and you'll probably just get killed.  Instead it's better to take a more methodical approach, carefully peeking into rooms and trying to pick off enemies one at a time, conserving your bigger guns for when you really need them (especially because they burn through your limited ammo supply much more quickly).  As per all the classic Id shooters, it's also rife with hidden secrets, has numerous expansions (both official and fan-made) and a dedicated modding community that ensures it's still being played today.

97. Simcity (Maxis, 1989)

The story of Simcity is a famous one - Will Wright was a developer on the Broderbund title "Raid on Bungeling Bay", but had more fun designing maps with the editor than playing the game itself.  Eventually he decided to take that idea and expand it into a full-fledged city planning and building simulation, and the end result was SimCity.  It doesn't sound like a particularly fun game - constructing your town while managing crime, pollution, traffic, sim health and entertainment - but its addictive design and disastrous events like fires, floods and monster attacks kept it fresh and engaging.  It has also since been made open-source (albeit under the name "Micropolis" due to copyright concerns) and ported to just about every platform imaginable, so you have no excuse not to check it out in some form!

96. SimTower/Yoot Tower (OpenBook/OPeNBooK9003, 1994/2002)

Despite the name, SimTower technically isn't part of the Maxis "software toy" line.  Rather, it was developed by Yutaka "Yoot" Saito, released in Japan as "The Tower" and published by Maxis in the rest of the world using their brand.  It was an easy mistake to make, though, considering the gameplay can aptly be described as "SimCity on a smaller scale".  You build a tower, provide it amenities like condos, apartment buildings, stores, hotel rooms and so forth, keep them all connected via stairs and elevators, and try to manage the chaos that results.  Tenants complain about noise and roach infestations (and may move out if they're not fixed) and various disasters can strike, like fires or terrorists planting bombs and demanding a ransom.  The sequel, Yoot Tower, is more of the same, though with some new amenities to build and some new locations like a tourist trap or an office building.  A few expansions were released, like a Statue of Liberty or a Kyoto Station scenario, but these never got localized outside of Japan.

95. Ultrabots (Novalogic, 1993)

This one drew me in just for its crazy realistic graphics (by 1993 standards), but it's a pretty cool game beneath the surface too, combining elements of real-time action and strategy.  You take control of a small army of robotic units, defend your own base and try to take out the enemy's on each map.  You get three types of units - the relatively weak but speedy Scouts, the well-balanced Humanoids and the extremely slow Scorpion tanks, who maintain your power grid, set up traps and can fire a limited supply of missiles that will instantly take out a target (but enemy Scorpions can do the same to you, so use caution).  Early missions are pretty simple, but later ones will require some very quick thinking and twitch skills to win out.

94. Rise of the Triad: Dark War (Apogee Software, 1994)

Originally built as a sequel to Wolfenstein 3D and using a much-improved version of its engine, Rise of the Triad soon evolved into a very different beast, with much faster-paced gameplay and a crazier atmosphere in general.  While you can still collect power-ups and coins that grant extra lives, they attempted to add more of a 3D element to the game with things like flying platforms and stairs to walk up and down.  The weapons were similarly upgraded - you can now dual-wield pistols, as well as collect weapons like a rocket launcher or a heat-seeker to gib enemies in a pretty spectacular fashion.  The game had a bit of fun with its ideas too, incorporating powerups that grant "God Mode" (making you invincible and able to hurl bouncing balls of electricity at your foes) and even "Dog Mode" (turning you into an invincible dog with a killer sonic bark).  It may have been outshined by Doom and later Quake and Duke Nukem 3D, but Rise of the Triad is still a game that shouldn't be overlooked.

93. Alone in the Dark (Infogrames, 1992)

A rare example of a western-developed game that made a splash in Japan; in fact, nearly all of the tropes defined here (tank controls, fixed camera angles, limited items and tons of inventory puzzles)  would later become popularized by Capcom's Resident Evil series, which would become one of the most successful horror franchises of all time.  Alone in the Dark wouldn't fare nearly as well, though, with each game in the series seemingly just getting worse and worse.  The original was still a fun one, though, with some nicely creepy moments even with the comically crude 3D models, and and plenty of traps and horrors waiting to kill you.

92. Icewind Dale II (Black Isle Studios, 2002)

Baldur's Gate is a classic among PC gamers, combining elements of real-time strategic combat (which can be paused at any time to adjust one's tactics) and a surprisingly good story-driven RPG experience based on the Forgotten Realms license.  Icewind Dale is its less-spoken-of but still good cousin, and while it does still have a good story, it downplays the roleplaying element in favor of more action - battles are much larger in scale and spells and abilities are geared much more toward that than anything else.  Icewind Dale II continues in that trend, though reworking the engine considerably to utilize Third Edition rules instead.  The end result is considerably more balanced for that reason and results in considerably less savescumming than most Infinity Engine games.  Sadly, the source code being lost means we won't get an Enhanced Edition of this one anytime soon, but the original release is still available and still a fun one to play.

91. VVVVVV (Terry Cavanagh, 2010)

A charming little puzzle-platformer with simple graphics but a very solid chiptune soundtrack, it also has a relatively unique gimmick - rather than a jump, you flip your own gravity.  This gets used in quite a few creative ways throughout, with a lot of creative escort segments, having to survive for a set period of time, or screen-wrapping.  Its a pretty short game overall, but that makes it quite a fun one for speedrunning, and the fact that it's since had its source code released means that there have been plenty of ports and player-created levels to play around with too.