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12/15/2020

Top 101 PC Games #80-71

80. Yume Nikki (Kikiyama, 2003)

Less of a game and more of an experience, Yume Nikki ("Dream Diary"), simply put, has you exploring a dream world.  There is no spoken dialog and very little legible text throughout the game, but atmosphere to spare as you explore a massive host of surreal and often disturbing locations.  From underground malls to snowy landscapes to a rainy stretch of road in the woods, there is a lot to experience.  A number of randomized events do too, as do various "effects" one can pick up that alter the player in various ways, like making them monochrome, shrinking the character or letting them ride a bike to move faster.  There is an "ending" per se, but like almost everything else in the game, it's all pretty vague and left up to the player's interpretation.

79. 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.

78. 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.

77. Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition (Black Isle/BeamDog, 2014)

Icewind Dale is Baldur's Gate's more combat-oriented cousin, though that didn't stop Black Isle from including some well-written dialog and story beats throughout.  Enhanced Edition takes the base game and tunes up the engine quite a bit, giving it HD resolutions and a lot of the improvements introduced, including a much wider variety of playable classes to utilize (all the ones from the Baldur's Gate remasters).  They've even updated it to include support for cross-play, letting people with any version of the game join in games and play it.  A solid co-op strategy RPG experience and a great remaster to boot.

76. Cave Story (Studio Pixel, 2004)

A definite cult classic among fans of indie titles, Cave Story was a major success story as they go, attaining worldwide popularity and acclaim despite being developed singlehandedly by one developer in their spare time.  Pixel designed all the graphics, wrote all the music and penned all the dialog too, so he's definitely got a lot of talent, and being self-published, it wasn't subject to moronic publisher demands either.  Of course, it helps that the game is fun too, combining elements of Mario, Contra and Metroid into one killer experience overall, even featuring multiple endings depending on your actions throughout.

75. 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.

74. 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!


73. 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.

72. 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.

71. 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.