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12/15/2020

Top 101 PC Games, #70-61

70. Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss (Blue Sky Productions, 1992)

A game that was built from the ground up to not just be a more realistic kind of puzzle-driven dungeon crawler, but a full blown life simulation too.  To that end, you had skills not just oriented around combat and spellcasting, but for swimming, conversing, identifying items and bartering with NPCs among many others.  It had a lighting system and rudimentary physics for platforming, letting objects bounce off of walls (and activate switches) and no single set solution for most puzzles, letting the player take an innovative approach to figuring out the game's mysteries.  Downright mind-blowing stuff for 1992, and the influence it's had on the industry since is immeasurable. inspiring games like Elder Scrolls, Half-Life 2, Deus Ex, and numerous others.  It's a bit clumsy and awkwardly slow to play today, but it's nevertheless a great game and an important building block for gaming as a whole.


69. Wildermyth (Worldwalker Games, 2021)

A game that combines 4X-style resource gathering and territory expansion with turn-based combat and character building similar to the newer XCOM games.  Wildermyth is also notable for the fact that it procedurally generates not just a map to explore, events and encounters, but a full-blown narrative, generating unique characters, relationships and story beats, and having you build the lore and history of the entire game world through your actions (even having later campaigns take place in that same world you've built up).  Great stuff, and just more proof that indie studios, not soulless AAA wheelhouses, are where gaming's true talent lies.

68. Day of the Tentacle (Lucasarts, 1993)

The sequel to Maniac Mansion and Tim Schafer's first game as project lead, Day of the Tentacle was another hilarious and well-made point and click adventure from LucasArts.  Starring Bernard and two of his college roommates as they attempt to foil the Purple Tentacle's scheme for world conquest, the setup is quite a clever one - each of the three characters is trapped in a different time period, able to pass objects between one another but otherwise unable to directly interact, and changing things in the past will affect things in the future, opening paths for puzzles to be solved. This, plus the sharp writing, acting and animation, make for a truly fun and creative adventure. Though it sadly lacks the multiple paths and endings of the original game, Day of the Tentacle is nonetheless a worthy sequel to a classic. 

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. 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. 

65. Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition (Ensemble Studios/Forgotten Empires, 2019)

A real time strategy game with a historical bent, having the player gather resources, build a kingdom and advance it through four "ages", gaining access to new units and military technology as they go.  As in games like Civilization, one can win by simply wiping out all the other armies, but alternate win conditions exist as well - keeping a Wonder standing for a set amount of time, or controlling all relics on the map for a set period will also win the game. The campaign is also one for history buffs, recreating several famous historical campaigns. The Definitive Edition adds another campaign and four new civilizations, as well as upgrading the engine to support HD resolutions and massively improving the computer AI (no longer having to cheat to provide a challenge to the player). 

64. 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.

63. Grim Fandango (LucasArts, 1998)

Grim Fandango, like many LucasArts-produced adventure games, got very good reviews and is regarded as a masterpiece of writing and design; however, it also came at a time when the genre was on very weak footing and sold poorly as a result, leading the company to exit the market shortly thereafter.  But with the advent of high-definition remasters, people can finally appreciate it for what it is - an ingenious, creative title with an art style heavily inspired by Dia de Los Muertos and writing that combines twisted comedy, noir and drama into a masterful and highly compelling blend.  Tim Schafer really is a rare talent.

62. 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. 

61. Unreal Tournament (Epic Games/Digital Extremes, 1999)

A game that was downright mind-blowing in 1999 and remains a fan favorite to this day.  While not the first FPS to feature networked gameplay, it was the first I remember being focused almost exclusively on its online multiplayer element.  Keeping the same flash and flair of the original Unreal with fast-paced, crazy action (complete with equally over-the-top weaponry like the Shock Rifle and the incredibly dangerous Redeemer), it was nothing short of exhilarating to run around a huge map, getting into crazy-fast skirmishes with other players and bots.  It also brought us numerous cool game modes like Capture the Flag, Domination (point capture), Last Man Standing and deathmatches, both team-based and free-for-all.  It takes a bit of tweaking to get running on modern machines, but it's well worth the effort.