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12/15/2020

Top 111 PC Games, #100-91

100. Silpheed (Game Arts/Sierra On-Line, 1986-1989)

Originally released for the PC-8801 in Japan,  then ported to other computer platforms by Sierra On-Line, Silpheed was a pretty awesome game for its time, with smoothly animated, fast-paced shoot-em-up gameplay that was a pretty rare sight on home computers, as well as some innovative features like interchangeable weapons and even a crude damage model - once your shields were depleted, subsequent hits would damage your engine (slowing your movement and making it more jittery) and even disabling one of your weapons before another hit took you out, which helped ramp up the tension during those crazy battles.  It even had some good, kickass music in its later ports - so kickass that Sierra released a cassette tape demo of how good it could actually sound on a sound card (which wouldn't become a standard computer component until many years after the fact), and even included a $20 coupon for an Adlib card in the box.

99. Magic: The Gathering (aka Shandalar) (Microprose, 1997)

Magic: the Gathering is the granddaddy of all collectible card games, and it began all the way back in the early '90s.  As popular as it became, a number of video game adaptations would naturally follow, including an online game launched in 2002 that continues to this day and incorporates new expansions as they are released.  But before all that started off, Microprose created a version of Magic that proved to be quite a bit of fun.  Not only did it let you build your own decks to duel against computer opponents and feature extensive tutorials (with gloriously cheesy FMVs that combined CGI and live actors), but it even had a full-fledged RPG mode where the player tried to save the land from five evil mages, and make no mistake, it was an RPG; defeated opponents would give currency to let the player buy new cards, they would ante up new cards or clues to puzzles as a reward for victory, there were a number of dungeons to earn rewards from (usually in the form of temporary advantages for the next few duels), and one could even upgrade their own character with more starting Life Points and other advantages.  There were even a few expansion sets (Spells of the Ancients, Duels of the Planeswalkers and the unofficial ManaLink) that added new card decks, online multiplayer support and fixed various bugs in the original release. Really cool stuff on the whole, and it still holds up surprisingly well today.

98. The Incredible Machine (Jeff Tunnell Productions, 1993)

A puzzle game built on a great concept, having you solve various objectives using a collection of parts, each with unique properties and applications, to construct elaborate Rube Goldberg devices.  So something as simple as "guide the mouse to the mousehole" can involve pulleys, rope, balloons, scissors, pipes and a springboard, and that's just one of hundreds of scenarios spread across the series.  The first game later had an expanded release (The Even More Incredible Machine), two sequels that got expanded versions themselves, and a spiritual successor (Contraption Maker) that added even more goals to complete and parts to experiment with, so fans of logic puzzles had quite a lot to enjoy from this series.

97. Diablo (Blizzard Entertainment, 1996)

Warcraft and Lost Vikings were fairly popular games in their time, but Diablo is the game that really put Blizzard on the map.  Taking the concept of games like Rogue, adding an action bent and dousing the whole thing in a heavy grim atmosphere, it definitely awed people at a glance. It only became more immersive thanks to its fantastic soundtrack and a surprisingly good story with some high quality voice over, and the fact that you got a random shuffle of quests, items and spells each time you played lent it quite  a bit of replay value. It had an official (though non-canon) expansion in Hellfire as well, adding in several new quests and three new playable classes (though you do have to do some file-editing to make them all accessible). While largely overshadowed by its sequel these days, Diablo is still a very worthy game that is not to be missed.

96. Atomic Bomberman (Interplay Productions, 1997)

Now here's an oddball game attached to a well-known license.  Atomic Bomberman is an officially licensed Bomberman game, though it wasn't developed by Hudson Soft - instead, Interplay took the code base from Super Bomberman 3, gave the game an odd CGI art style and a techno soundtrack and added numerous voice quips by the likes of Charlie Adler and Billy West (including a number of very profane ones buried on the disc, most likely so they wouldn't alienate a younger audience with a T or M rating).  It's also notable for the fact that it lacks any kind of single player campaign - all you get is multiplayer versus mode against up to nine other humans or bots, both locally and over LAN or dialup.  Definitely one of the more obscure and bizarre Bomberman games, but hey, it's pretty hard to mess up a classic.

95. Beavis and Butt-Head in Virtual Stupidity (ICOM Simulations, 1995)

Beavis and Butt-Head were a pretty big cultural phenomenon in the '90s, with an animated MTV show that was crude, tasteless, endlessly stupid and yet uproariously funny.  They had a number of video game adaptations of varying quality, but this one surprised me when I saw it; after all, ICOM are best known for creating well-regarded 80's point-and-click adventures like Shadowgate, Deja Vu and The Uninvited.  They'd mostly lapsed into mediocre licensed tie-ins by the time the '90s rolled around, but Virtual Stupidity showed that they still had their talent, providing a surprisingly good point-and-click adventure.  It captures the spirit of the show flawlessly (having Mike Judge writing and reprising his role as most of the show's major characters certainly plays a big role there), and even includes a couple of minigames to change things up or just provide a brief break from the main game.  Hell, they even stuck in a few of the duo's famous music video commentaries as a very welcome bonus.

94. One Must Fall: 2097 (Diversions Entertainment, 1994)

Fighting games were definitely the hot genre throughout the '90s; Street Fighter II was a huge hit in the arcades, so everyone was trying to make their own similarly-styled fighters to cash in, sometimes quite successfully (Mortal Kombat and King of Fighters being two prominent examples).  The PC didn't get too many well-received fighters of its own, but One Must Fall: 2097 definitely stood out from the pack.  It had style to spare with its anime-inspired characters and story and smoothly-animated combatants, and quite a bit of gameplay variety - there were ten robots to choose from, each with their own sets of special moves and flashy combos, and your choice of pilot would tweak their parameters, changing up how they play.  There were stage hazards too (like jets that fly overhead and bombard the arena with bullets), which definitely kept you on your toes.  The game was released as freeware in 1999, so you can check it out for yourself at no cost.

93. Uninvited (ICOM, 1986)

Uninvited is the second graphical adventure from ICOM, who made quite a few acclaimed adventure games in the '80s and early '90s.  This time you venture through a haunted house in search of your lost sibling (your brother in the computer versions, sister in the NES port), encountering all manner of puzzles, bizarre horrors and traps as you go and even making use of some magic spells in order to progress.  The game features some quite grotesque sights and text descriptions, particularly for the numerous death scenes, and the limited color palette and lack of music only makes the eerie atmosphere and sparse sound effects all the more unsettling.  I also always just liked the tiled windows of the old ICOM games - a bit of groundbreaking design in the era when text parsers still ruled, plus it just invokes a nice nostalgic feel if you like old operating systems like I do.

92. Out of This World (Delphine Software, 1991)

Also known as "Another World", this was a game created from the get-go to be a Dragon's Lair-esque cinematic action adventure on a much lower budget.  Utilizing vector graphics instead of drawn cels, the game's visual design had relatively little detail but very smooth animation, giving it a nicely cinematic flair regardless.  The end result was certainly distinctive and memorable, adding a grim yet beautiful aesthetic to the game and its many, many death scenes.  The gameplay was also quite solid, if heavily trial-and-error based as you tried to solve puzzles, evade enemies and figure out the correct sequence of events in order to survive another melee with aliens and see your way to the end of this strange tale.

91. The Dig (LucasArts, 1995)

Another adventure title from the legendary LucasArts, though unlike most, The Dig doesn't have a lot in the way of the company's quirky humor, opting to tell a more somber, serious and high-concept science fiction story.  Starring a team of scientists unexpectedly whisked away to an alien world devoid of intelligent life but full of advanced technology, they set out to uncover exactly what led it to its current state and discover a way home.  The Dig was also a very high-end production for its time, having surprisingly well-known actors voicing the main characters and some incredible atmospheric music by Michael Land.