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12/15/2020

Top 101 PC Games, #70-61

70. Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters (Toys for Bob, 1992)

A game that melds elements of Starflight with one of the very first arcade games ever made (Spacewar!), Star Control II was a space game that was just plain fun.  Your goal was ultimately to liberate Earth from the Ur-Quan, and to that end you'd have to upgrade your ship, recruit other aliens to your cause, battle those loyal to the Ur-Quan, and visit planets across the universe to farm resources and gather information.  The real draw of the game, though, was the interactions with aliens - there are a ton of different races to meet and exchange information with, and much of the dialog in the game is inspired and really funny.  In the years since it's also had its source code released and a number of fan ports and upgrades, so you can play it right now on a modern PC, for free.

69. Rogue (A.I. Design, 1980)

A game that defined an entire genre, Rogue also has a long history itself, being created for old Unix mainframes in 1980 before getting ported to just about every commercial computer platform of the time, and it of course continues to get ports, remakes and copycats to this day owing to how popular and influential it is.  Rogue's procedurally generated dungeon floors, randomized enemies and loot (wands and potions have different effects each time you play, and equipment can randomly be cursed or enchanted, but you never know which in advance) keep it fresh and challenging, and even with its lack of graphics (everything being portrayed through ASCII symbols), it captures your imagination and keeps you hooked.  Lots of games have been built on its model - short but punishing dungeon dives with a heavy focus on random factors - but Rogue remains a highly regarded staple for good reason. 

68. Factorio (Wube Software, 2020)

Factorio is an odd beast for sure, playing like something of a mashup of Simcity and a tower defense game.  You locate and harvest resources, use them to build machines and tools, and craft gradually more complex factories to automate mining, transportation, and processing of resources and products, all with the ultimate goal of constructing a rocket.  Along the way you'll be harassed by local fauna who will try to destroy your work, which can be fended off with automated defenses - however, they will grow larger and more dangerous as the game goes on and your factory's pollution increases, so it's a constant juggling act to try and keep everything operational so you can survive and make it off the planet.  Stressful for sure, but also loads of fun!

67. Sid Meier's Civilization IV (Firaxis Games, 2005)

Sid Meier's iconic Civilization series has always been a popular one, and many fans consider IV to be the height of the series.  It isn't hard to see why, either, as it takes everything great about its predecessors and improves it tenfold, even supporting player customization and a number of high-quality expansions (including a full remake of Sid Meier's Colonization).  Still, the core element remains much the same - build cities and armies, research new technologies, build world wonders, and reach one of the win conditions before your opponents do.  But as the old saying goes: Don't fix what ain't broken!  Plus, it has Leonard Nimoy doing the narration; you can't argue with that kind of awesome.

66. The Curse of Monkey Island (LucasArts, 1997)

The Monkey Island series is a beloved classic among adventure game fans; following the exploits of the bumbling wannabe-pirate Guybrush Threepwood, he seeks to win the affections of Elaine Marley and frequently clashes with his nemesis, the evil undead pirate LeChuck.  Curse was easily the series' most impressive entry, with a fresh style, plenty of animated cutscenes and perfectly cast voiceover complementing the humor throughout.  The scenarios are as absurd as ever - this time with Guybrush trying to reverse a voodoo curse he's unintentionally afflicted Elaine with - and that of course lends itself to plenty of laughs.  The interface was newly reworked too, using a simpler "verb coin" with three general commands instead of the array of commands from earlier SCUMM games.  The puzzles definitely didn't suffer for it, though; you're still in for a challenge, especially in "Mega Monkey" mode.

65. 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.

64. Sam & Max Hit the Road (LucasArts, 1993)

One of the many LucasArts point-and-click adventure games that surfaced in the 80s and 90s, and still regarded as one of the best in the genre even today.  Sam and Max was nothing short of hilarious, with its kitschy American setting, irreverent protagonists and some surprisingly good voiceover throughout adding to the ridiculous scenarios.  They worked in quite a few minigames too - some required to progress while others are just for fun.  As popular and successful as it was, it was little surprise that people were pining for a followup; however despite numerous attempts one never actually came to be until 2006, when Telltale Games got ahold of the license and produced three episodic sequels.

63. 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.

62. Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord (TaleWorlds Entertainment, 2022)

Mount & Blade is a sandbox RPG with a focus on large-scale medieval warfare that was mostly dismissed by professional reviewers for its very low production values.  However, it acquired a substantial fan following for its surprising depth (particularly in its combat) and became a  popular game to mod and a surprisingly strong seller besides, paving way for a sequel.  Mount & Blade II ups the ante in just about every way, with more robust physics and controls, larger battles with sieges, sharper graphics and sound design (including voiceover) and more complex character interactions, including a courtship and marriage system (and should the player's character die, their children can take up the reigns of their army and fiefdom instead, becoming the new player character).  The original game walked so this gem could fly.

61. Epic Pinball (Digital Extremes, 1993)

While I'm not really a big fan of video pinball games, 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, whether you're a pinball fanatic or not.