100 of (my) Best PC Games, Part 1 (100–91)

I’ve always been a die hard PC gamer. Not for any “PC Master Race” elitist reason — PC games are just what I have been predominantly exposed to growing up. I often find myself in discussions with friends about games — what were the classics, what was the best in a certain series, what is something games used to do that they don’t anymore. I love these conversations, and I love hearing what others like and learning more about games every day.

There is no shortage of “Best Game Ever” lists on just about every gaming website, but I often find these lists lacking in spirit and honesty. The writer has probably been directed by their editor to punch one out to tick off some annual gaming news checklist, and on top of that, attempting to rank “the best games ever” in order from 100 to 1 is pointless folly. While there are games that are objectively influential or revolutionary, “good” is an entirely subjective term. I have friends who hate the games that I love, and vice versa.

What stands out most of all though is utterly predictable these lists are. Is Doom really the writer’s number 1 game of all time? Or do you just feel obligated to put it there because that’s just the expectation?

Over the next few articles, I am going to highlight 100 of my personal favourites. I’m not claiming that these are objectively “the best”, and I’m certainly not attempting to rank them, which is impossible. This is a list, in no particular order, of 100 games that mean a lot to me, why I think they’re great, and why I think some of you might like them.

100. Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty (Westwood Studios, 1992)

A certified classic from the legendary Westwood Studios, Dune II was one of the earliest Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games, and the first RTS I ever played. While there were technically RTS games before it (such as Herzog Zwei the Sega MegaDrive/Genesis), Dune II was the first to present the genre in the form it is most often associated with today. The three sides (House Atreides, Harkonnen and Ordos) all had their own strengths to accommodate different play styles.

Who should play it?: If you’re a big RTS fan and want to see where it all began, then look no further. You’ll need DOSBox and a little bit of patience to play it these days.

Where to get it: Abandonware sites — Dune II is no longer sold anywhere, and old physical copies are a collector’s item.

99. Action SuperCross (Balázs Rózsa, 1997)

My first memories of this game were playing it on my friend’s laptop, who had gotten a copy from someone at his school. This little puzzle game from independent Hungarian developer Balázs Rózsa was a big hit amongst our peers, and almost everyone I spoke to had at least heard of it. Action SuperCross inspired multiple clones and remakes, such as the Trials series on Xbox, but in my mind nothing beats the unique look and feel of the game that started it all.

Who should play it?: Everyone, especially if you love puzzle games. Each level will only take you a few minutes, and by the time you reach some harder levels I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

Where to get it: After fading into obscurity, it finally returned to widespread availability on Steam in June 2020. For AUD $4.50, you really can’t go wrong.

98. Call of Duty IV: Modern Warfare (Infinity Ward, 2007)

I’m really torn when it comes to COD4. When it came out, it was immensely enjoyable, and no other game had multiplayer that was as satisfying. The process of unlocking weapons and attachments was new an exciting, and the endorphin hit of that “level up” sound evoked cheers in the share house where we would all play it. However, I can’t help but recognise that COD4 is where it all started to really go downhill for the FPS genre, and the wider games industry as a whole. Once game studios recognised the formula that made COD4 such a financial success, they began to increasingly monetise games, while implementing “streamlining” features such as multiplayer matchmaking. COD4 was an excellent game, but it was also the harbinger of a dark age of predatory corporate practices in the games that still exist today.

Who should play it?: Anyone curious about the origins of the Call of Duty series in its current form. However, it will likely come across as somewhat stale these days — what was once so new and exciting about the game is now overdone.

Where to get it: You can get either the original or the remaster on Steam, but it is obscenely overpriced for a game released 13 years ago. Just ask a friend to use the Family Sharing feature on Steam if you really want to give it a go.

97. Worms Armageddon (Team 17, 1999)

The Worms series has been a part of the games industry furniture since 1995, and it seems like there is a new title in the series every couple of years. However the Worms golden age was the late 1990s, and it seemed like everyone at the time had played the series somewhere. The absolute pinnacle of the Worms series for me is 1999’s Worms Armageddon. It took all the customisability of Worms 2 (1997) to the next level, while refining the graphical fidelity to the point where it easily holds up today. The game is peppered with silliness, with weapons like the exploding sheep, holy hand grenade, and suicide-bombing grandmother. Worms Armageddon is an excellent party game — get a few friends over, get them to create their own team, and battle it out in this quirky take on the classic turn-based artillery game.

Who should play it?: Everyone. Get some friends together with a few drinks and battle it out in turn-based chaos.

Where to get it: GOG (DRM-free) or Steam

96. Doki Doki Literature Club! (Team Salvato, 2017)

Do not be fooled by appearances. Doki Doki Literature Club! might look like just another anime visual novel game, but it is so much more. This one flew under my radar for quite a while until a friend recommended it, and boy did it have an impact when I finally played it. This free game can be completed in about 6–8 hours, but its horrors will torment your imagination long after. Don’t read anything about the game. Just play it.

Who should play it?: People who don’t mind a bit of reading in their games — and people who aren’t easily disturbed.

Where to get it: Steam (for free!)

95. Hidden Folks (Adriaan de Jongh, Sylvain Tegroeg, 2017)

If you grew up with books like Where’s Wally or Stephen Stanley’s Puzzle Body and Puzzle Planets, then this is the game for you. Hidden Folks is an exquisitely illustrated hidden object game, where you pore through immense scenes trying to find a variety of characters and objects. The scenes are animated and interactive, and are accompanied by sound effects made entirely with someone’s mouth. If you are looking to fill in a quick half hour, or you want to sit down with a child and play something together, then Hidden Folks is an unforgettable experience.

Who should play it?: People who appreciate hand-drawn art, people looking for a game they can play on-and-off for years, people who play games with their kids.

Where to get it: Steam

94. RUINER (Reikon Games, 2017)

RUINER is a visually-striking cyberpunk action game that oozes style. Every moment, every scene and every plot twist and turn feels lovingly crafted, and the gameplay is frantic and blood-soaked. There are few games that feel as “cool” as RUINER, and it ranks high among games that have evoked a strong emotional response from me. Devolver Digital is a publisher that loves to push the boundaries when it comes to stylish, confronting games, and RUINER fits their catalogue like no other game. Topping it all off is an excellent twist ending that will stay with you for a long time.

Who should play it?: If you love cyberpunk, do not miss this game. If you enjoy fast-paced, twin-stick shooters or top-down action, give it a go as well. And if you love taking beautiful screenshots, be prepared to wear out that screenshot key.

Where to get it: GOG and Steam

93. Star Wars Episode I: Racer (LucasArts, 1999)

Earlier in this article, I mentioned that it is impossible to rank any game as “the best”. But if there was ever a game that could vie for the position of “best racing game ever”, it would without a doubt be Star Wars Episode I: Racer. It is somewhat ironic that a mostly pointless scene from a terrible Star Wars movie resulted in such a brilliant game. Racer features a huge selection of tracks and pod racers, interspersed with visits to Watto’s junkyard for new parts.

A fundamental aspect of what made Star Wars pod racing iconic was the speed, and Racer depicted the sense of speed incredibly well. The gameplay was fast, but this was all accentuated through the clever use of texturing and field of view to give an illusion of even greater speed. After languishing in abandonware status for many years, it finally made a return to GOG in 2018, followed by Steam soon after and consoles in 2020.

Who should play it?: Racer is unmissable for Star Wars and racing game fans, and with its remastered release on PlayStation 4 and Switch, alongside GOG and Steam rereleases, there really isn’t any reason you shouldn’t give this classic a go.

Where to get it: GOG and Steam

92. Dark Reign: The Future of War (Auran, 1997)

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The late 1990s was a crazy time for the RTS games, with almost all of the genre’s “best of all time” games released between 1997 and 1999. Dark Reign is often quoted as one of those RTS greats, but while its contemporaries have cast long shadows over the genre to this day, Dark Reign seems to have earned a cult classic status.

The fact that Dark Reign was able to compete at all was an impressive feat. This was the first game from a previously unknown Australian developer, tackling the overwhelming might of Red Alert, Warcraft II, Age of Empires and Total Annihilation. Dark Reign managed to achieve a dedicated following in Germany of all places — I like to think this is testament to the exceptional design and attention to detail. Dark Reign featured amazing AI for its time, and the player could customise the behaviour of individual units in incredible detail.

Who should play it?: If you can get over the somewhat dated UI design, Dark Reign still offers a lot of depth, even for modern RTS fans. Unfortunately, you might need to overcome some minor technical hurdles for multiplayer, but RTS fans should at least give this classic a solid few sessions.

Where to get it: GOG is the only place you can get this gem now.

91. Total Annihilation (Cavedog Entertainment, 1997)

It is impossible to talk about Dark Reign without discussing its arch-rival, Total Annihilation. Taken together, these two RTS games are one major reason why it is pointless folly to try and claim one game is “the best”. Total Annihilation was an equally brilliant RTS, but for completely different reasons.

Aesthetically, Total Annihilation went down the 3D-rendered polygon path, rather then using 2D illustrated sprites. However it was gameplay mechanics that really defined Total Annihilation and set it apart from its contemporaries. Unlike the frantic pace of RTS games like Red Alert or 1998’s StarCraft, Total Annihilation gameplay was a slow, plodding, strategic affair, where the winner wasn’t who could build the most units the quickest, but the player who could most effectively build, manage and supply a true combined-arms force of land, sea and air units. Total Annihilation popularised the “turtling” style of RTS gameplay, where players would invest huge resources in contructing multi-layered defences so that they could build their invasion force in relative safety. A truly fantastic RTS, and one that, in my opinion, is about as close to perfect as an RTS can get. It spawned a spiritual sequel in the Supreme Commander series, as well as influencing impressive Planetary Annihilation.

Who should play it?: RTS fans who prefer a more strategic and thoughtful pace to their games — StarCraft fans might lose interest before the end of the match.

Where to get it: GOG and Steam

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At some point in about 1989 I played my first videogames on a Sinclair ZX Spectrum. This was the beginning of a lifetime obsession with games...

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