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12/15/2020

Top 100 PC Games #80-71

80. 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.


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. 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 is causing reality itself to slowly unravel, 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 the latter half in particularly very rushed and definitely not up to the series' high standards in design.  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.

76. 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 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.

75. 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.

74. Star Trek: The Next Generation: A Final Unity (Spectrum Holobyte, 1995)

Star Trek of course needs no introduction, and being the staple of pop culture it is, it's had numerous forays into the realm of gaming since video games were first a thing.  Interplay had a couple of popular and successful games that melded ship combat and point-and-click adventure together, but for my money, the best game in this format was Spectrum Holobyte's entry, A Final Unity.  It looked great, it had some impeccable writing on par with later seasons of the show, and it even had the cast reprise their roles for all the cutscenes, which perfectly immersed you in the atmosphere and storytelling.  There were also some tactical combat segments, though these are regarded by many fans as the weakest part of the game.  Still, it wasn't enough to tarnish the game's charm and, like Trek itself, it's a great experience that holds up well today.

73. 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.

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.