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12/15/2020

Top 111 PC Games, #100-91

100. Dread Delusion (Lovely Hellplace, 2024)

A game heavily inspired by titles like Morrowind, utilizing a visual style reminiscent of Playstation 1 games to invoke an eerie atmosphere with its solemn music, low-poly characters and the general uncanniness of its wobbly polygons.  This gets matched with some very strong worldbuilding, portraying a broken world devastated by a war with the gods, and some clever game design that de-emphasizes repetitive combat in favor of exploration and utilizing skills like speech, stealth and lockpicking to complete goals.  While it's not a flawless game and the world design gets a bit weak toward the end, it's nevertheless an engrossing, thoroughly strange journey that's worth undertaking.

99. Horizon's Gate (Rad Codex, 2020)

A game that has been described by many as "Final Fantasy Tactics by way of Uncharted Waters", and upon playing it, I can certainly confirm that is indeed the case.  You build a character, take part in turn-based battles both on foot and by sea, unlock new classes as the game progresses, and can basically explore, trade or become a privateer at your leisure, taking part in ship battles or legitimate business to earn loot for later upgrades.  Inventory management and item manipulation is simple as can be too, using a keyboard-and-mouse interface that reminds me more than a bit of the classic Ultimas.  It's certainly not the deepest example of anything it attempts to be, but it is a lot of fun, and really, that's what I come to a game for anyway.  Sacrilege, I know.

98. MegaRace (Cryo Interactive, 1993)

The FMV game genre had a resurgence in the 90s with the advent of CD technology, allowing developers to record and encode videos (usually in very low quality) and stick some gameplay on top of them to create "interactive movie games" (also generally of very low quality).  MegaRace stands out from the pack, though, on the merits of its strong presentation.  While the game itself is a fairly standard combat racer, having the player destroy all the other cars on the track before time runs out, it's wrapped in a dystopian space-age game show hosted by sleazy corporate stooge Lance Boyle (played by Christian Erickson).  Through that, it paints a picture of a zombie-like populace permanently enamored by trashy TV, though with a consistently sardonic and humorous tone that makes it quite an enthralling one to experience; not completely unlike Robocop.  The great soundtrack by St├ęphane Picq is certainly worth a listen in its own right too.

97. Simcity (Maxis, 1989)

The story of Simcity is a famous one - Will Wright developed "Raid on Bungeling Bay" for the Commodore 64, but had more fun designing maps with the editor than playing the game itself.  Maps which were surprisingly intricate and realistically designed - there were plane runways and seaports, networks of roads and buildings, rivers and inlets and even boats doing supply runs between the islands, so it helped the game feel more dynamic and alive than most top-down shooters.  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 on paper - constructing your town while managing crime, pollution, traffic, sim health and entertainment - but its addictive design and random disastrous events like fires, floods, tornadoes 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. 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.

95. 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.

94. 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.

93. 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.

92. Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness (Blizzard, 1995)

I never played the first Warcraft game until several years after its release, but having found the demo of Warcraft 2 on a shareware CD, I quickly found myself hooked by it.  It was my first exposure to the real time strategy genre and quite a good one for its time - collecting gold, timber and oil to build up bases and units and trying to be the last one standing by the end.  Granted the AI wasn't particularly fun to play against - they can reach the upper tier units well before any human player possibly can, yet walls completely stop them in their tracks - but I have a lot of good memories of playing this one over dial-up with my friends well into the evenings.  The single player campaign was also quite fun, with 32 stages in total (16 Human, 16 Orc) and an expansion called Beyond the Dark Portal that added another 32 levels.  A bit later on in 1997 Blizzard also released the Windows-based "Battle.net Edition" which included all the content from the expansion and allowed online play over their Battle.net service.

91. Freedom Planet (GalaxyTrail, 2014)

Beginning life as a Sonic the Hedgehog fangame, Freedom Planet quickly turned into something grander - an homage to Sega Genesis era action games in general, working in elements of games like Rocket Knight Adventures and a dash of Treasure style action as well.  There are three playable characters - Sash Lilac (who has a speed dash and a spinning cyclone), Carol Tea (who fights with short-ranged claw swipes and can ride a motorcycle that both makes her faster and gives her stronger attacks) and Milla Basset (who can hover for short distances as well as summon magical barriers and cubes, which serve as both projectiles and a short-ranged but powerful burst attack).  The fast-paced action and fluid animation also fit the aesthetic perfectly, creating a game that's flashy and intense and whose puzzles don't intrude on the fast pace.