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12/15/2020

Top 101 PC Games, #70-61

70. Simcity 3000 Unlimited (Maxis, 1999/2000)

Simcity 3000 had a lot to live up to after the groundbreaking original and the fantastic 2000, but it certainly did the name justice.  The game is pretty much what you'd expect, taking the groundwork of 2000, putting it in 3D and adding in a few more features like having to manage your city's garbage and sound alerts when disasters strike. One can also make business deals with other cities to address power/water/garbage storage issues, or take on other cities' problems for some extra cash at the cost of an increased burden to their own resources.  Unlimited added some new content of its own, letting you place numerous real-life landmarks like the Empire State Building, the CN Tower and Notre Dame's cathedral.  Better still, an easy-to-use editor lets you customize the appearance of your buildings or even craft custom ones, letting you build some truly massive and beautiful-looking cities.  The only real downsides were a significantly clunkier UI and the fact that this is the last great Simcity game.

69. Midtown Madness 2 (Angel Studios, 2000)

While not the first open world racing game to exist, Midtown Madness was one of the first to really make a big splash.  In the era before Grand Theft Auto moved into 3D, seeing a real-life city put into a realistic game engine and letting you race through it like a total maniac was pretty mind-blowing. You compete in various race types, unlocking more cars as you go, and weaving through alleys, over drawbridges and flying over hills to save time is allowed and encouraged (and while it's not possible to hit pedestrians, seeing them dive out of the way and shout at you after a near-miss is pretty amusing). The sequel shows a bit more polish and adds two new cities (London and San Francisco) and both games are highly moddable, allowing fans to add everything from the Homer to the Batmobile to Stephen Hawking to race as. 

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. Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven (New World Computing, 1998)

Might and Magic is a  highly regarded franchise among PC gamers, mixing puzzle-solving, dungeon crawling, loot-gathering and humor together to great effect.  Might and Magic 6 was the first to really reinvent the series, retaining the same classic first-person gameplay but streamlining it in a number of ways - being able to swap between real-time and turn-based action on the fly, a much more streamlined and user-friendly interface, with every bit of data you need to play the game readily available via right-click, and a reworked skill system not unlike those in Ultima Underworld or Elder Scrolls, adding a new layer of depth and character customization to the game.  Plus, I just find the presentation charming - it's that late 90s attempt to be "realistic" by having motion-captured actors and 3D-rendered environments and enemies, and for that reason it's endearingly cheesy.  Great fun on every front!

66. Abuse (Crack dot Com, 1996)

A run-and-gun shooter that plays like one part Contra and one part Smash TV, Abuse was like nothing else on PC at the time.  Basically a 2D platformer with 360-degree movement via the mouse, the game certainly took advantage of this by having enemies be fast and ruthless, attacking from every angle and quickly overwhelming you if you weren't quick to react, aim and fire.  Of course, it also took cues from games like Doom with multiple hidden secrets and powerups to find I each stage and even a few alternate pathways to discover. Its source code has also been released, allowing it to get source ports to multiple platforms, so there's no excuse to not check out Abuse. 

65. Lands of Lore: Guardians of Destiny (Westwood Studios, 1997)

The second game in Westwood's Lands of Lore series, which in turn was something of a followup to Eye of the Beholder, it definitely took things in a different direction from the first.  Rather than a traditional party based dungeon crawl, you instead control a single character this time, who constantly shifts forms as a result of being cursed.  The lizard form is small and able to fit into some areas that can't otherwise be reached but is relatively weak and cannot cross bodies of water, the beast form is huge and powerful (able to cross some obstacles by simply stepping over them) but cannot cast magic, while human form is the only one of the three that can use weapons and armor.  Naturally, you'll have to use all three to overcome obstacles and enemies and solve various puzzles throughout, making for a strange, yet captivating experience. 

64. 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). 

63. Minecraft (Markus Persson/Mojang, 2011+)

I don't think any "top games" list, PC or otherwise, can go without at least mentioning Minecraft; after all, it is far and away the best-selling video game of all time as of this writing and has spawned too many imitators, alternate versions, spinoffs and player mods to even count.  Essentially a procedurally-generated sandbox game where you battle monsters, collect resources, find food and water to survive, and build... well, whatever you want to build.  Towns, skyscrapers, castles, giant pieces of art, Beetlejuice-themed rollercoasters, you name it, it's probably been done (and if not, soon will be).  Those with a more goal-oriented mindset can also opt to collect enough resources to enter "The End" and slay the Ender Dragon, winning the game in a more traditional way, and there are no shortage of mods that change up the setting or make huge alterations to the core gameplay.  It's a game that has a little something for everybody, which probably accounts for its ridiculous popularity.

62. Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams (Black Forest Games, 2012)

Long time gaming buffs may remember a little game called "Great Giana Sisters", which made no secret of the fact that it was a blatant clone of Super Mario Bros - so much so that Nintendo threatened legal action against its developers, resulting in the game being quickly pulled from store shelves.  Well, over two decades passed and I guess both companies buried the hatchet, as Giana Sisters returned to prominence with a DS game and later a 3D sequel in Twisted Dreams.  The Mario influence is significantly downplayed here, instead melding elements of Donkey Kong Country and Sonic and having the player shift between two forms - Cute and Punk - which seamlessly changes the environment around them as well. In Cute form they can spin to slow their descent while the world becomes darker and more dangerous, while Punk allows them to transform into a ricocheting ball of fire and the world becomes sunny and vibrant.  Not the deepest game of its kind, but very fun and visually captivating. 

61. 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.