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The Greatest PC Games of All Time


Wiper
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Aye, this is why Combat Mission and Call of Duty are considered direct rivals.

No, wait, what?

What did the genres ever do for us?!

You're a weird dude

Now I do take that as a compliment around here, but to formulate a semblance of a point: Someone kindly directed my attention to that series of interviews Warren Spector did with various industry figures in 2008. Richard Garriott is one of the figures and listening to him it's clear that Ultima IV does some spectacularly interesting things, makes important steps, all that jazz. Now go check it out (it's on GOG!)... unplayable by modern standards. Un.Play.Able.

A classic film can comunicate its greatness to a modern audience, no problem. Classical music, ditto. Fine art, the same. With a grand old videogame, however, there's no such guarantee. There's a tragedy to that (and a charge to answer, perhaps, that the greatness was often in the ambition and what was in the player's head rather than what was actually delivered), and it genuinely makes it difficult to say what the Great PC games are... because the stature of a Great title surely shouldn't be evident only to people who eat, drink and breathe videogames and happened to be there the first time around?

Well anyway, didn't mean to derail. Quite enjoying the lists & explanations as it happens.

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Just a heads up that there's six days left for people to submit/edit their lists - once the 9th is over I'll be collating all of the data. Anyone with non-numbered lists of over 10 games will not have their lists counted; people with non-numbered lists of 10 or fewer games will have all of their games included, albeit allocated a single point (equivalent to a 10th place vote).

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A classic film can comunicate its greatness to a modern audience, no problem. Classical music, ditto. Fine art, the same. With a grand old videogame, however, there's no such guarantee.

Disagree. I believe classic films only "communicate their greatness" to a modern audience that appreciates the artistry that goes into film. Ditto for classical music.

I'm pretty sure there are plenty of people out there who, if you asked them to sit down and watch a film like To Kill a Mockingbird, their answer would be "fuck off, it's OLD! It's black and white! Who wants to watch that? I'd rather go see Transformers 7 by Michael Bay!".

Classical music is the same. To many people it's just noise, irrespective of its technical brilliance. Now, the the number of people who can appreciate classical music or film is almost certainly more than those who can appreciate a classic PC game - but I don't think it's that different conceptually.

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You're also missing the even greater issue of silent movies, there - if there are a lot of people who won't watch a movie that's in black and white, the number who are unwilling to watch silent movies is overwhelmingly high.

And, as a classicist, it's pretty clear that there's not much of an appreciation for the earliest literature, either - the cultural baggage and archaic stylings make them harder to approach than modern literature. And, of course, they tend to be written in forms of ancient Greek or Latin, which gives them a reasonably high barrier for entry (there is no such thing as a 'perfect' translation - hence the vast numbers of translations per ancient work - which means that reading in translation really isn't the same thing as reading the original).

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1. Dark Souls (I know, I know)

2. Alpha Centauri

3. Worms

4. Half Life

5. Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition (I said I know!)

6. Sim City 2000

7. Doom

8. Minecraft

9. Populous

10. Portal

Basically a list of the big box games I still have on my shelf because I couldn't get rid of them, some others I remember spending ages with, and a few I actually spent more time with on console but are so good that I think the PC version deserves a vote. No platform is an island, etc.

I wish I could remember more of the games I played as a kid, but sadly most of them have been shunted out of my memory by hundreds of hours of Sonic 2.

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1. Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe

It's hard to say why I love this game so much, but I can lose days to building efficient rail networks to move cargo around a sandbox. The fan made content adds endless levels of customisation.

2. UFO: Enemy Unknown

The original and the best for me. The perfect balance of squad level turn based strategy and real time base building / research / resource management. There was something really special about the art style as well.

3. X-wing

I know Tie Fighter is generally considered a better game, but the first game was the one that did it for me. Never did manage to destroy that Death Star though.

4. Alpha Centuri

I've always liked the Civ games and the sci fi setting really appealed to me. I always thought the factions worked better together than the historical ones. I'll just have one more turn, then I'll go to bed.

5. Panzer General

Because I think I could do a better job of it than Hitler.

6. Day Of The Tentacle

Point and click perfection. Funny and engaging storyline, great characters and, more importantly, the puzzles were never too stupid / obscure.

7. Dawn Of War: Winter Assault

I really liked DOW and lived how this expansion added the world map instead of a linear story mode.

8. Lemmings 2

By far the best puzzle game I've ever played. Fantastic art and music, simple controls and fiendish yet logical puzzles. Different abilities for the different tribes really added something.

9. Dune 2000

Might be slightly controversial this, but I loved Dune 2 and this remake ironed out a few of the flaws.

10. Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate

It's Xcom in the Warhammer 40K universe. What's not to like?

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This is hard, I know I'll change my mind and just keep editing but this is what comes to mind right now.

1, Witcher 2 (This was next gen 3 years before next gen arrived)

2, Skyrim (I wonder what's over there)

3, Warhammer Online (I'm a melee healing Wariror priest, 5v1 seems unfair they'll need atleast another 3 people to take me down..........PVP!!!!)

4, Sins of a solar empire (Klingons Vs Federation, Empire Vs Rebellion, Minmatar Vs Amarr, I love Mods)

5, Mass Effect 2 (I'm a Vanguard bitch)

6, KOTOR/KOTOR 2 (VVVzzzzzmmmm Vzzzzzmmmmm, Wait I'm who now? Restored KOTOR 2 0/ \0 )

7, Tie Fighter (I flew with Vader)

8, WOW (I seem to have misplaced 2 years of my life)

9, Crysis (I'm the motherfucking predator and I look amazing)

10, Spec Ops: The line (Mommy I don't want to play anymore)

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I'm preparing for a lynching here, going for stuff that's either PC exclusive, or was out for years before consoles got a version - in a lot of cases, there was a game (such as "Indy car" which ultimately was bettered by something later)

1. Dwarf Fortress (Yes,seriously, it's comfortably my favourite game of the current era)

2. Half Life 2

3. Unreal Tournament / Quake (I know this is technically two three's, but I just couldn't pick between them!)

4. Grand Prix Legends (With steering wheel - it was a defining moment for me)

5. Hardwar

6. The Escahlon Series (yes, I'm serious again)

7. Freespace 2 (A lot of people will say X wing, and tie fighter but IP aside, Freespace 2 was immense)

8. The latest X game (X3?) - there's a trend appearing here.

9. Rollercoaster Tycoon Series (I swayed between this and OTTD)

10. Starship Troopers (Ahem- this is a completely unbiased opinion obviously..... )

there's sooo many great PC games though, picking just 10 is impossible...

I'm still trying to figure out where system shock 2 was meant to go,

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I have no doubt I'll change my mind a dozen times over the next few days, but hey. I generally just put the series down for most of them because I can't be bothered to create a list thread within a list thread by ranking them.

Rollercoaster Tycoon

Counter Strike

Half Life

Warcraft (including World of Warcraft)

Starcraft

Diablo (preferred the first)

Stonekeep (I doubt it holds up but it was one of the first games I played and it seriously freaked me out. Those goblins terrified me). By the same logic I'm tempted to include Superfrog.

C&C (didn't like generals)

Baldur's Gate 2

Quake 3 Arena (never got on with Doom)

Dota 2 (please nobody say LoL)

Deus Ex

Battlefield 1942 (specifically this one as I didn't get on with the others).

Witcher 2 (didn't like the first as much).

Age of Empires 2 (fuck the rest)

Unreal Tournament

Left 4 Dead

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (excellent RPG in it's own right but I thought it was a great indicator of the power the Star Wars lore/license has and put George Lucas to shame)

Games I'd include given their reputations but haven't personally played enough of:

Civilisation

Thief

System Shock 2

Hard to restrict it to ten, but I've tried:

1. Counter Strike

2. World of Warcraft

3. Rollercoaster Tycoon

4. Dota 2

5. Knights of the Old Republic

6. Baldur's Gate 2 (if I can include a series, the entire BG collection)

7. Quake 3 Arena

8. Warcraft 3 (and the expansion if I can include that)

9. Left 4 Dead

10. Starcraft (and Broodwar. Impossible to count SC2 when it's a very similar game with HD graphics)

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What did the genres ever do for us?!

Now I do take that as a compliment around here, but to formulate a semblance of a point: Someone kindly directed my attention to that series of interviews Warren Spector did with various industry figures in 2008. Richard Garriott is one of the figures and listening to him it's clear that Ultima IV does some spectacularly interesting things, makes important steps, all that jazz. Now go check it out (it's on GOG!)... unplayable by modern standards. Un.Play.Able.

A classic film can comunicate its greatness to a modern audience, no problem. Classical music, ditto. Fine art, the same. With a grand old videogame, however, there's no such guarantee. There's a tragedy to that (and a charge to answer, perhaps, that the greatness was often in the ambition and what was in the player's head rather than what was actually delivered), and it genuinely makes it difficult to say what the Great PC games are... because the stature of a Great title surely shouldn't be evident only to people who eat, drink and breathe videogames and happened to be there the first time around?

Well anyway, didn't mean to derail. Quite enjoying the lists & explanations as it happens.

I would recommend that anyone wanting to find out what the fuss is about with Ultima IV play the Master System port on an emulator. The UI (and most of the visuals and music) are vastly better than the clunky PC version, and more in line with familiar 1990s console-RPGs.

Your film analogy doesn't really work. There are only a tiny fraction of films from before about the late 60s-early 70s that are still appreciable to a non-academic audience. Games tech has progressed much more rapidly so it stands to reason that most early games are inaccessible by modern standards.

The interesting thing with classical music is that although lots of it is still consumed and appreciated, modern interpretations are radically different (in playing style, arrangement, instrument construction and materials) from the composers' intentions.

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Disagree. I believe classic films only "communicate their greatness" to a modern audience that appreciates the artistry that goes into film ... Now, the the number of people who can appreciate classical music or film is almost certainly more than those who can appreciate a classic PC game - but I don't think it's that different conceptually.

You basically pre-emptied my reply there, that appreciating Great PC games is more difficult -- I'd say the difference stems from it being an interactive rather than a passive medium, though, coupled with the complexity of ambition typical to the PC.

You're also missing the even greater issue of silent movies, there - if there are a lot of people who won't watch a movie that's in black and white, the number who are unwilling to watch silent movies is overwhelmingly high.

I was just thinking, actually, that we -- people who unequivocally can and do appreciate what some of these PC titles brought/bring to the table -- tend to want to talk about stuff like, say, System Shock 2 as if it is the equivalent for our medium of, say, Citizen Kane. But what if we're wrong? What if time will show us that System Shock 2 is the equivalent of a silent, black & white train steaming towards the camera? Video games are brand new, compartively -- we might lack the perspective to say which are Great and, lacking that perspective, be incapable of recognising that lack! But anyway...

And, as a classicist, it's pretty clear that there's not much of an appreciation for the earliest literature, either - the cultural baggage and archaic stylings make them harder to approach than modern literature. And, of course, they tend to be written in forms of ancient Greek or Latin, which gives them a reasonably high barrier for entry (there is no such thing as a 'perfect' translation - hence the vast numbers of translations per ancient work - which means that reading in translation really isn't the same thing as reading the original).

Well there are such things as 'treatments', though, so insofar as a Great work can be reduced to a prototype I guess they can be said to be re-expressed to and appreciated by vast audiences. There's no reason this wouldn't apply to PC games too, of course, so maybe it would be more appropriate to talk about Great "concepts for" or "ideals of" these forms and simply not try to single out individual works? But no, ignore me there, because where's the fun in that?!

I do take the points, chaps, that literature is typically less doted upon by the masses than pulp (and quite rightly so, but that's another debate) and that there are significant barriers to the appreciation of many Great works BUT even within one's own culture I think PC games are particularly challenging. I'm not sure the question "Yes but what's the most difficult great Greek work?" is as pertinent as "What's the mot accessible great PC game?"

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I've been thinking on and off about this thread for a week and have written about 5 versions of a top 10. But I always end up changing it, there are a couple of games that always appear so Ill just mention them.

Tie Fighter - still the game I have the fondest memories off. Not just the game itself, being the hand of the Emperor, flying with Vader and the ability to balance shields, engines and lasers while in a dog fight with a couple of A wings (fast moving little fuckers). But that it taught me about my PC, making a boot disk messing with config.sys and autoexec.bat. Trying desperately for about 3 hours to get it to run one day on my dads work PC. I think I completed it about 7 times and in 30 years of gaming its still my favourite game. Why it's never been re released with an HD update I will never understand. I'd even take the original being released on GOG but I'm guessing due to liscence we will never see it.

World of Warcraft - tried it seven years ago, just to see what the hype was all about, it's still installed! I've dropped in and out and at one point went cold turkey for about 10 months. But I always come back, it's not just the game but the community and people I've played with. It's hard to explain and if you've never played it you won't get it. But being part if a 25 man raid group having to work together as one to take down a boss that you have spent hours learning to kill is an awesome experience. It's also how I met my fiancée through a strange complicated set of events, so will always be important to me!

Indy and the fate of Atlantis - made me feel like Indy, made me feel like a hero. Most importantly made me feel like an idiot as I stumbled from one puzzle to the next.

Portal 2 - the first portal was an eye opener, but the second portal is a game defining behemoth. It's the game I give to people who don't play games. The mechanics, story, graphics and feel are all just sublime.

Command and Conqeur - cant decide between this or Starcraft but I love both of them equally. It introduced me to the concept of an RTS and just how complex such games can become.

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1. Day of the Tenticle

2. Monkey Island 2

3. Half-Life 2

4. Sim City 4

5. Civilization 4

6. Fate of Atlantis

7. Doom

8. Portal 2

9. Curse of Monkey Island

10. Ultima 7

Quite a hard list to do to be honest, I was mainly a PC gamer from '92-'95 (386sx 33mhz then a 486 DX2 66mhz) but most of those games don't stand up well today. I spent many hours with Alone in the Dark, Car & Driver, Wing Commander 2, Ultima Underworld etc... But I don't think I could sit through them these days.

Since the release of the 3DO/ Saturn / Playstation I've mainly been a console gamer, just dipping my toes into PC waters every time I bought a new machine. The games I've listed are ones I still enjoy to this day.

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1. Ultima 7 (and part 2)

2. Planescape: Torment

3. Baldur's Gate 1+2

4. Thief 2

5. System Shock 2

6. Half life 2

7. The Longest Journey

8. Alpha Centauri

9. Doom

10. Morrowind

Knights of the old republic will probably inserted in there somewhere if i remember to edit it at a later date.

and honourable mentions to Ultima Underworld 2, UFO: Enemy Unknown, Fallout 1+2, Betrayl at Krondor, Zeus: Master of Olympus, Age of Wonders, Divine Divinity and The Settlers 2

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Difficult to define Greatest. I could stick WoW in here (and i probably should)

But if only 10 PC games were ever created, this list covers most things (other than a decent racing game, was thinking either GC:F1, Trackmania or NetworkQ RAC Rally)

1-10 in order

1) Eve Online

2) Minecraft

3) Sim City 2000

4) Age of Empires 2

5) Half Life 2

6) Team Fortress 2

7) System Shock 2

8) Baldurs Gate 2

9) Dwarf Fortress

10) Beneath a Steel Sky

edit: took Doom ( :( ) off added Eve Online

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  • SpaceChem: No game has felt as satisfying to complete as this.
  • Alpha Protocol: Unfinished, contains some really odd design decisions and it still sticks out to me as 1 of the most ambitious games ever attempted. I want more games like this.
  • World of Warcraft: Not so much the game itself but the people I played with. Played way more than any other game and still some great memories (also lots of bad!). Just got back from an amazing holiday in Yukon and Alaska that wouldn't have happened without this game.
  • Baldur's Gate + TotSC
  • Homeworld: Most beautiful looking and sounding game ever made.
  • UFO: Enemy Unknown
  • Quake 2: First FPS I played multi-player as well as single player. Probably not actually the best but it's the 1 I'm fondest of.
  • Sensible Soccer
  • The Settlers: Hours of dual screen, dual mouse fun with 1 of my best friends. Usually degenerated to physical violence.
  • Fields of Glory: Basically a Total War game but pre-dates them by about 10 years. Happens to cover my favourite time period and has loads of historical data in it too.

If I could have 11 I'd add Hardwar in too.

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As well as a top 10, can you do a list of every mentioned game? Looks like we're going to have a couple with many votes and many with 1/2.

Oh, don't worry, while I'm only taking in top 10 results, I will be listing everything mentioned.

  1. Fields of Glory: Basically a Total War game but pre-dates them by about 10 years. Happens to cover my favourite time period and has loads of historical data in it too.

Is it really? I remember enjoying this game at the time, but I have no recollection of it mixing in grand strategy in the manner of Total War, just of real-time battles with cannon and rifles (and a lot of ordering things to wheel). Also, the first Total War game came out in 2000, so it's a little under ten years difference.

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Is it really? I remember enjoying this game at the time, but I have no recollection of it mixing in grand strategy in the manner of Total War, just of real-time battles with cannon and rifles (and a lot of ordering things to wheel). Also, the first Total War game came out in 2000, so it's a little under ten years difference.

You're right it doesn't have the grand strategy bit but that has existed in various forms for a long time anyway. It was the 1:1 real time battles that I was thinking of (it wasn't actually 1:1 in FoG but it is the 1st game I remember even making a stab at that kind of thing). 7 years, 10 years, it's all the same :P
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