Random quote:


Check out my other site, RPGreats, for honest RPG reviews!

12/15/2020

Top 100 PC Games, #90-81

90. Command & Conquer (Westwood Studios, 1995)

Real time strategy games were absolutely huge in the '90s, and Command and Conquer was one of the first to really make a big impact.  While predated by games like Warcraft, it ran circles around it in presentation and design, with a killer CD soundtrack, a running storyline with some campy yet enjoyable acting in its between-level cutscenes, and even a surprisingly awesome installer that remains the best I've seen to this day.  The game itself was great too, with some large-scale battles between infantry, vehicles, planes, tanks and even the sea, and two factions to play as with their own sets of units to utilize.  Come for the high-quality presentation, stay for the kickass gameplay.

89. Organ Trail (The Men Who Wear Many Hats, 2010)

A game which is very clearly a parody/homage to the classic "The Oregon Trail", though it does much to set itself apart too and become a fine title in its own right.  Visually it resembles its predecessor with its low-color visuals and hatched graphics to simulate shading in particular scenes, but gameplay-wise it's a very different beast.  Instead of a wagon you drive a beaten-up car, and you'll frequently have to choose between different routes, fend off attacking bikers or hordes of zombies, and occasionally shoot it out with bandits.  Radiation, infection and vehicle breakdowns are constant threats, and scavenging enough supplies to make it to the end are an endeavor in themselves.  A game that melds humor, grim atmosphere and a constant sense of unease and uncertainty together in perfect fashion, Organ Trail is a fine homophonic homage.

88. Lode Runner On-Line: The Mad Monks' Revenge (Presage Software, 1995)

Lode Runner was a pretty popular game in the early days of computer gaming and spawned a ton of ports, sequels and updates, even getting an arcade version at one point.  On-Line is a tuned-up version of 1994's Lode Runner: the Legend Returns, fixing numerous bugs and featuring new levels and obstacles, a custom stage builder and online co-op for up to two players.  The core concept remains the same - collect all the gold while evading the enemies, using your ability to dig holes to trap foes or drop to a lower level and escape.  Pretty simple stuff, but as with any good puzzle game, it gets very challenging in the later stages, requiring some very spot-on timing and movement to succeed.  This version is among the most popular too; so much so that it inspired a full fan remake, which also adds four player co-op and gamepad support.

87. Ion Fury (Voidpoint, 2019)

A prequel to the 2016 flop "Bombshell", but thankfully, it proves to be a much more successful return to form for 3D Realms.  Built on the classic Build engine and incorporating many tropes of classic FPSes - tons of hidden secrets, a wide variety of enemies, crazy boss battles, powerups and fun weapons like homing grenades, a five-shot crossbow and a massive chaingun.  Shelly also fits in perfectly with characters like Duke, Lo Wang and Caleb, having tons of one-liners and a generally irreverent attitude throughout the proceedings, and Jon St. John (the Duke himself) plays the game's villain, so there's a lot here for classic FPS fans.

86. 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. 

85. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (CyberDreams, 1995)

A point-and-click adventure based on the Harlan Ellison story, which sparked quite a lot of controversy for its twisted themes that depicted all the worst elements of humanity.  The protagonists are far from innocent themselves (one notably being a Nazi doctor with a story taking place in a death camp), which only adds to that feeling.  But its themes of redemption and facing a greater evil won out, turning it into a very compelling story even if its puzzles were not always the best and the voice acting was, as per the period, mediocre (save for AM, voiced by Harlan Ellison himself, who is clearly having a lot of fun with the role).  It's recently gotten a number of modern ports thanks to Nightdive, and the original is playable in both DOSBox and ScummVM, so it's well worth a look for fans of good stories.

84. MegaRace (Cryo Interactive, 1993)

The FMV game genre had a resurgence in the 90s with the advent of CD technology, allowing developers to record and encode videos (usually in very low quality) and stick some gameplay on top of them to create "interactive movie games" (also generally of very low quality).  MegaRace stands out from the pack, though, on the merits of its strong presentation.  While the game itself is a fairly standard combat racer, having the player destroy all the other cars on the track, it's wrapped in a futuristic game show hosted by sleazy corporate stooge Lance Boyle (played by Christian Erickson).  Through that, it paints a picture of a dystopian future, though with a consistently irreverent and humorous tone that makes it quite an enthralling one to experience.  The great soundtrack by St├ęphane Picq is certainly worth a listen in its own right too.

83. Quake II (Id Software, 1997)

The followup to the original Quake in design, but not in story; no longer taking place in a mashup of modern technology and Lovecraftian horror, Quake II now takes place in a future where mankind is at war with a fanatical collective of alien cyborgs called the Strogg.  The gameplay moved more smoothly and it had slightly more of a narrative to its story, with interconnected levels and "mission objectives" (though you can largely ignore these in the course of its uncomplicated Doom-style progression).  That, plus an amazingly awesome soundtrack with contributions by Sonic Mayhem, Bill Brown and Rob Zombie, make it a pretty engrossing experience.

82. Empire Earth II (Mad Doc Software, 2005)

Empire Earth as a franchise has a pretty great concept, letting you take command of one of several civilizations and build them up all the way from the stone age to the space age, conquering other civilizations along the way until only one remains.  And much like the Sid Meier's Civilization games, you do have to balance out building up your economy, military and empire trees in addition to expanding and conquering, so there's quite a bit to keep tabs on as you play.  Thankfully, you do have some innovative features to help, like a picture-in-picture view at the bottom of the screen that lets you keep tabs on a specific point of the map (like one of your towns) so you can multitask more easily.  The single player campaign is a fun one for history buffs (recreating numerous historical battles and even letting you turn the tide in a few of them), but the multiplayer is what has made it into a cult classic that sees ongoing fan patches and online play to this day.

81. Freedom Planet (GalaxyTrail, 2014)

Beginning life as a Sonic the Hedgehog fangame, Freedom Planet quickly turned into something grander - an homage to Sega Genesis era action games in general, working in elements of games like Rocket Knight Adventures and a dash of Treasure style action as well.  There are three playable characters - Sash Lilac (who has a speed dash and a spinning cyclone), Carol Tea (who fights with short-ranged claw swipes and can ride a motorcycle that both makes her fast and deals more damage) and Milla Basset (who can hover for short distances as well as summon magical barriers and cubes, which serve as both projectiles and a short-ranged but powerful burst attack).  The fast-paced action and fluid animation also fit the aesthetic perfectly, creating a game that's flashy and intense and whose puzzles don't intrude on the fast pace.