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Top 101 PC Games, #90-81

90. Silpheed (Game Arts/Sierra On-Line, 1986-1989)

Originally released for the PC-8801 in Japan,  then ported to other computer platforms by Sierra On-Line, Silpheed was a pretty awesome game for its time, with smoothly animated, fast-paced shoot-em-up gameplay that was a pretty rare sight on home computers, as well as some innovative features like interchangeable weapons and even a crude damage model - once your shields were depleted, subsequent hits would damage your engine (slowing your movement and making it more jittery) and even disabling one of your weapons before another hit took you out, which helped ramp up the tension during those crazy battles.  It even had some good, kickass music in its later ports - so kickass that Sierra released a cassette tape demo of how good it could actually sound on a sound card (which wouldn't become a standard computer component until many years after the fact), and even included a $20 coupon for an Adlib card in the box.

89. Magic: The Gathering (aka Shandalar) (Microprose, 1997)

Magic: the Gathering is the granddaddy of all collectible card games, and it began all the way back in the early '90s.  As popular as it became, a number of video game adaptations would naturally follow, including an online game launched in 2002 that continues to this day and incorporates new expansions as they are released.  But before all that started off, Microprose created a version of Magic that proved to be quite a bit of fun.  Not only did it let you build your own decks to duel against computer opponents and feature extensive tutorials (with gloriously cheesy FMVs that combined CGI and live actors), but it even had a full-fledged RPG mode where the player tried to save the land from five evil mages, and make no mistake, it was an RPG; defeated opponents would give currency to let the player buy new cards, they would ante up new cards or clues to puzzles as a reward for victory, there were a number of dungeons to earn rewards from (usually in the form of temporary advantages for the next few duels), and one could even upgrade their own character with more starting Life Points and other advantages.  There were even a few expansion sets (Spells of the Ancients, Duels of the Planeswalkers and the unofficial ManaLink) that added new card decks, online multiplayer support and fixed various bugs in the original release. Really cool stuff on the whole, and it still holds up surprisingly well today.

88. The Incredible Machine / Incredible Toon Machine (Dynamix/Jeff Tunnell Productions, 1992-2001)

The Incredible Machine franchise is one that saw a lot of iterations (and a relatively recent spiritual remake in "Contraption Maker"), presenting the player with a number of Rube Goldberg puzzle pieces and challenging them to complete goals that varied from stage to stage.  Toon Machine (originally released as "Sid and Al's Incredible Toons") takes that and applies plenty of cartoon logic to everything, pitting the titular characters against one another on the backdrop of a series of puzzles.  To this end, you'll fire catapults, utilize lights and magnifying glasses to burn things, use elaborate systems of ropes, pulleys and conveyor belts to transport objects, and, of course, cause mayhem with anvils, dynamite and bombs.  The between-level cutscenes were also a lot of fun, having Sidney Mouse and Al E. Cat (voiced by Rob Paulsen and Jim Cummings respectively) explain your objectives with bits of animation.

87. 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.

86. Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition (Apogee Software/Nightdive Studios, 1995/2023)

Rise of the Triad is a bit of an oddball game - originally intended as a sequel to Wolfenstein (and built on a vastly expanded version of its engine), Id Software abruptly dropped support for the project, apparently not wanting to draw attention away from their upcoming Doom.  However, Apogee continued work on it while removing any direct ties to its predecessor, and the end result is something totally unique.  While Wolf3D at least had a semblance of grounded storyteling and realism despite its primitive tech and fantastical elements, RotT goes all out in becoming strange and surreal.  With rocket-propelled floating platforms, huge sections of level walls sliding around, bizarre level layouts full of traps and switch puzzles and all manner of outlandish weapons and powerups like the "Drunk Missiles", "Dog Mode" and the "Excalibat" (an enchanted bat which fires flaming baseballs), it definitely isn't wanting for weirdness.  2023's Ludicrous Edition is definitely the one to check out these days though, with a more modernized control scheme, much of its cut content restored, a map editor and numerous new levels to check out.

85. Epic Pinball (Digital Extremes, 1993)

While I'm not really a big fan of video pinball games, a few have managed to grab my attention over the years due to their brilliant execution.  Epic Pinball is definitely one of them; a huge mainstay on shareware discs and even having limited versions included with some OEM computers back in the day, it certainly impressed me with its high-fidelity and colorful graphics, fantastic music and the sheer variety it brings to the proceedings; the CD version of the game includes a whopping 13 tables to play on.  They also match a variety of themes, from race cars to futuristic androids to a bizarre, threadbare table called the "Enigma" that awards bonuses based on a cryptic set of conditions.  Good stuff all around, whether you're a pinball fanatic or not.

84. One Must Fall: 2097 (Diversions Entertainment, 1994)

Fighting games were definitely the hot genre throughout the '90s; Street Fighter II was a huge hit in the arcades, so everyone was trying to make their own similarly-styled fighters to cash in, sometimes quite successfully (Mortal Kombat and King of Fighters being two prominent examples).  The PC didn't get too many well-received fighters of its own, but One Must Fall: 2097 definitely stood out from the pack.  It had style to spare with its anime-inspired characters and story and smoothly-animated combatants, and quite a bit of gameplay variety - there were ten robots to choose from, each with their own sets of special moves and flashy combos, and your choice of pilot would tweak their parameters, changing up how they play.  There were stage hazards too (like jets that fly overhead and bombard the arena with bullets), which definitely kept you on your toes.  The game was released as freeware in 1999, so you can check it out for yourself at no cost.

83. Crystal Caves (Apogee Software, 1991)

Platformers were not an easy thing to do on computers in the '80s and early '90s; most IBM-compatibles weren't really designed for the type of smooth scrolling and animation consoles could produce, and of course keyboards weren't built for the type of fast-paced twitch gameplay seen in games like Super Mario Bros or Mega Man.  Some attempts were made regardless, though, and Crystal Caves is certainly one of the more memorable outings.  Starring the bumbling Mylo Steamwitz throughout his journeys to build a fortune, you ventured through various mines, dodging enemies, collecting treasures and trying to avoid various hazards or, in a pinch, destroy them with your rocket launcher.  In 2020 an HD remake was released, adding a new episode to play through as well as a level editor (with Steam Workshop support!) to let you build and share new levels with your friends.

82. Out of This World (Delphine Software, 1991)

Also known as "Another World", this was a game created from the get-go to be a Dragon's Lair-esque cinematic action adventure on a much lower budget.  Utilizing vector graphics instead of drawn cels, the game's visual design had relatively little detail but very smooth animation, giving it a nicely cinematic flair regardless.  The end result was certainly distinctive and memorable, adding a grim yet beautiful aesthetic to the game and its many, many death scenes.  The gameplay was also quite solid, if heavily trial-and-error based as you tried to solve puzzles, evade enemies and figure out the correct sequence of events in order to survive another melee with aliens and see your way to the end of this strange tale.

81. The Dig (LucasArts, 1995)

Another adventure title from the legendary LucasArts, though unlike most, The Dig doesn't have a lot in the way of the company's quirky humor, opting to tell a more somber, serious and high-concept science fiction story.  Starring a team of scientists unexpectedly whisked away to an alien world devoid of intelligent life but full of advanced technology, they set out to uncover exactly what led it to its current state and discover a way home.  The Dig was also a very high-end production for its time, having surprisingly well-known actors voicing the main characters and some incredible atmospheric music by Michael Land.