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12/15/2020

Top 100 PC Games #80-71

80. Master of Orion (Simtex, 1993)

A game of space travel, industry and of course conquest, Master of Orion had you pick one of ten races, then start by constructing a space fleet to expand your operations to new planets.  From there, you build up industry, research new tech to expand your reach across the universe and improve your weapons, and eventually conquer all of the other major factions in order to win.  Each race has their own advantages - humans are skilled at diplomacy and trade, for example, while Bulrathi are skilled in ground combat and Silicoids are highly resistant to pollution and hostile environments at the cost of having slow population growth.  It had a few sequels of varying quality and most people swear by the second entry, but I prefer the first personally.

79. Half-Life (Valve, 1998)

First person shooters were the new hotness in the '90s, and it seemed like every one was upping the ante, trying to maintain a fun, fast-paced style but working in more story elements and realistic environments to play in.  Half-Life was certainly no exception, and for 1998 it was nothing short of mindblowing.  Set in a research laboratory overrun by hostile aliens (and later soldiers trying to cover up the incident that unleashed them), the environments you trekked through had a ton of personality and danger in themselves.  From tram tracks to vats of toxic waste to all sorts of hazardous industrial equipment, there was just as much of a puzzle element in safely navigating them as there was in defeating the enemies.

78. Mechwarrior 2: 31st Century Combat (Activision, 1995)

Giant walking mecha are pretty impractical in any realistic combat scenario, but that's what the realm of fiction is for, right?  Mechwarrior 2 is part of a long-running series, but still considered the best by most fans, and it isn't hard to see why - it's pretty mindblowing stuff for 1995.  Not only did it put you in a detailed 3D world, but it gave you granular control over your mech - from between-mission loadout customization to being able to control virtually element of it while in the field (and you will quickly have to master aiming in one direction and moving in another to get far, trust me).  A surprisingly good running story, some nicely atmospheric and intense music and varied mission objectives, as well as getting to command your own squads later on, make it a really fun experience.

77. Satisfactory (Coffee Stain Studios, 2020)

Coffee Stain Studios brings us a resource-farming experience, though the twist this time is that you build your own factory to automate the process of constructing whatever your bosses want and then tweak it to be as efficient as possible.  Conveyor belts, splitters, power plants, smelters, refineries, constructors, and whatever else you need can be automated, and given how time-consuming it is to build things by hand (if it's even possible - most later items aren't), you'll be rushing to do so.  You also get to build vehicles to travel in search of resources and weapons to defend yourself from hostile fauna, and online co-op means it's a challenge you can tackle with friends.  Inordinately complex but very rewarding, Satisfactory definitely lives up to its name.

76. Ultima VII Part 2: the Serpent Isle (Origin Systems, 1993)

The direct followup to Ultima VII (and also the spinoff game Ultima Underworld II), Serpent Isle was also a callback to the franchise's earliest days, returning to worlds not seen since Ultima 1 and showing a world very different and considerably more troubled than the Britannia we've come to know.  The stakes were higher too; not just with the looming threat of the Guardian and his underlings, but a cosmic imbalance causing all of reality to slowly unravel is going on too, adding considerably to your woes.  Unfortunately the game was also the first to really suffer from the EA buyout, as the world feels much more barren and latter half in particularly very rushed and definitely not up to the series' high standards.  Nevertheless, the story is captivating and the solid engine of 7 is tuned up in quite a few ways, making it another very worthwhile Ultima adventure.

75. 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.  The real draw of the game, though, was the interactions with aliens - there are a ton of them 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 a free fan source mod based on the 3DO version's code, so you can play it right now, for free.

74. 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.

73. Master of Magic (Simtex, 1994)

Following on the heels of Simtex's own Master of Orion, Master of Magic took things into a fantasy world, having armies battle across a randomly-generated landscape, gather resources, learn new spells and eventually dominate their opponents.  Heroes and a wide variety of monsters and other creatures can also be added to one's army.  Turtling up isn't an option, either - if one team is simply dominating all the resources for a long period, they can learn and cast a spell that instantly wins the game for them.  Sadly it's not a multiplayer game (single-player only, in fact), but it's still a really good 4X title with a lot of replay value.  Hell, it actually got an official expansion over two decades later for the GOG release, so it clearly has some strong staying power.

72. D/Generation (Robert Cook, 1991)

An action-puzzle game with nicely-detailed isometric graphics and smooth controls, D/Generation also had atmosphere in spades thanks to its bleak cyberpunk setting, a surprisingly good storyline (revealed through NPC dialog and computer files) and a huge variety of traps waiting to nail you.  At first they're relatively self-explanatory - electrified floor tiles, turrets, land mines, et cetera, but they quickly get more and more devious as you go.  Probably the worst are the shapeshifting enemies, which can disguise themselves as hostages or even just as mundane objects in the environment, quickly making the game a much more tense endeavor.  One can also find the occasional bomb to blow down doors and skip some puzzles, though as these tend to be rare, they should be used sparingly.  The game never got a lot of attention in its day, though it has acquired enough of a cult following over the years to get a re-release on the Nintendo Switch (as well as a 3D remake, released at nearly the same time).  No matter what platform you visit it on, though, D/Generation is a game worth your while.

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

Simcity 3000 had a lot to live up to after the groundbreaking original and the fantastic 2000, and I was a little worried since it was the first game in the series that Will Wright didn't work on.  However, 3000 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.