80. Star Wars: Battlefront II (Pandemic Studios, 2005)
One of the defining elements of Star Wars is the epic battles, and the original Battlefront games absolutely nail it. The first game, 2004's Star Wars: Battlefront, was an excellent game, but it feels like little more that an alpha version of the greatly superior sequel. Battlefront II added several new maps, game modes and units, as well as epic space battles and the addition of heroes.
Battlefront II finally gave me the experience I always dreamed of in a Star Wars game — the ability to don a stormtrooper outfit, board a transport, fly to the enemy star cruiser, and blast rebel scum. In the Battlefront series, you are just a small cog in a huge battle, and its great. Sadly, the Battlefront legacy was poisoned by EA’s greedy attempts at monetisation, and what could have been an excellent game ended up becoming the catalyst for worldwide backlash against the predatory practices that have become so common in the games industry.
Who should play it?: Star Wars fans absolutely cannot miss this. No other game captures the feeling of the Battle of Hoth or the Battle of Endor better.
79. Lotus: The Ultimate Challenge (Magnetic Fields, 1992)
Back in the early 90s, we had some friends across the street who owned a computer with a few games, and one of those games was Lotus. Lotus was a classic arcade racer in the style of Outrun, a genre sometimes referred to as “horizon chaser”, due to the graphics and gameplay style.
Along with other similar games, Lotus was in many ways the progenitor of the Need for Speed series — a chance to drive exotic cars in exotic locations with an approachable, arcade-like driving model; and all with an excellent soundtrack.
Who should play it?: Horizon chasers are making a bit of a retro-revival comeback, due to their iconic style. So if you enjoy current titles like Horizon Chase Turbo or Slipstream, definitely fire up DOSBox and check it out.
Where to get it: Lotus: The Ultimate Challenge isn’t distributed anymore, so you’ll need to rely on abandonware sites.
78. The 4th Coming (Vircom Interactive, 1999)
There’s a good chance that, even if you’re a fairly big gamer, you’ve never heard of The 4th Coming. It was a French massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, released in the late 90s at the height of the Dot-com Bubble, by a subdivision of a company that specialised in e-mail security solutions. The MMO genre was still in its infancy in 1999, and scene was dominated by two powerhouses, Ultima Online and EverQuest. However, unlike those two games, The 4th Coming was more of an Action RPG, and a modern day equivalent is probably Path of Exile. In fact, its quite possible that The 4th Coming was actually the first ever MMO Action RPG.
T4C introduced me to the world of MMO games, and I spent a lot of time playing it. Unlike its two rival games, there were dozens of T4C servers that didn’t require a monthly subscription, and that was probably the main reason that kept the then-teenage me playing, as I didn’t have access to a credit card (probably a good thing).
Who should play it?: T4C still has a small but dedicated following, and has made the jump to Steam. Though it barely resembles the original release, it is still free and worth trying for someone interested in the origins of the genre that produced Path of Exile.
77. Terminal Velocity (Terminal Reality, 1995)
90s gaming is synonymous with white-knuckle action, and Terminal Velocity is truly representative of that ethos. Terminal Velocity is a simple, fast-paced and frantic action flight sim, that is very light on the “sim” elements and very big on the action. It made quite an impression on the industry in 1995, and Terminal Reality went on to produce a number of well known games for Microsoft, including two sequels for Terminal Velocity.
This was one of the games on my brother’s computer, and I was constantly bugging him to let me play it. Alongside TIE Fighter, Terminal Velocity is a game that I can credit with fostering my passion for sci-fi space and flight sims.
Who should play it?: This is a hard one — it is without a doubt a great game, but enjoying it in 2020 probably requires a bit of a nostalgia-attachment. Still, if you want an action-packed retro game that you can pick up for 10 minutes and have a blast, Terminal Velocity is a great option.
76. Mass Effect 2 (Bioware, 2010)
Mass Effect 2 is considered by most to be the height of the Mass Effect trilogy. Under closer analysis, the plot relies quite heavily on cheap sci-fi tropes, and there are a few moments that require the player to rather unreasonably suspend their disbelief. But while I think Mass Effect is probably the better game (and RPG), Mass Effect 2 is more memorable. It features a cast of unforgettable characters, and some scenes that rival the best of any sci-fi movie or TV show.
Unfortunatey, Mass Effect 2 also marked the beginning of the end for Bioware’s sterling reputation. Where they were once regarded as the gold standard for RPG character development and rich worldbuilding, post-ME2 Bioware would become known for excessive monetisation, rushed development, and poor writing.
Who should play it?: The entire Mass Effect trilogy is essential playing for any sci-fi fan, and with such a huge influence on the industry as a whole, I’d recommend that anyone interested in game history give it a go.
75. Day of the Tentacle (LucasArts, 1993)
Besides Star Wars games, LucasArts is best known for its exceptional adventure games, and Day of the Tentacle is one of the reasons why they have this reputation. Day of the Tentacle is the sequel to one of LucasArts’ earliest games, 1987’s Maniac Mansion. DoTT tells the tale of Bernard, Hoagie and Laverne as they try to foil the evil Purple Tentacle’s plans for world domination. Using Dr. Fred Edison’s time-traveling toilet, the Chron-o-John, the trio travel through time to undo Purple Tentacle’s attempts to change history.
DoTT is packed full of the humour and silliness that LucasArts was famous for, and made stars out of the games developers, most notably Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert. DoTT is a game that had me chuckling from start to finish, and one that holds up well even today — albeit with a few outdated references that younger gamers might not understand. In 2016, the game received a well-deserved remaster, introducing this classic to a new generation.
Who should play it?: This is an absolutely essential game for fans of the adventure genre, and is a great game for anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s due to several clever references to technology and pop culture.
74. Age of Wonders (Triumph Studios, Epic MegaGames, 1999)
Age of Wonders was not the first of its genre, but it took everything that defined the genre and polished it to perfection, while adding additional details and mechanics that had not been implemented before and have since become an industry standard. AoW is a turn-based kingdom management game — similar to Civilization, Warlords or Lords of the Realm. Age of Wonders greatly expanded the battle element of the genre — each engagement zooms down to the battlefield, where the player can control individual troops of their armies.
Age of Wonders was followed by three sequels and one sci-fi offshoot, but for me, the original is still the best — a perfect balance of all the elements that the series is famous for. Graphically, Age of Wonders has aged quite well too; it is a beautiful game, and every asset has been illustrated with loving care.
Who should play it?: If you enjoy 4X games, particularly fantasy ones, then Age of Wonders might be for you. Age of Wonders II or Shadow Magic are good alternatives if you find the original too dated, but the series lost some of its character when it switched to 3D with Age of Wonders III.
73. The Sims (Maxis, 2000)
The Sims is not just a game that is important to me — it is a revolutionary title in its own right. The Sims is a management sim from the mind of one of the genre’s creators, the game design genius, Will Wright. While previous Sim games charged the player with managing everything from a city to an ant colony, The Sims was one of the first games that put the player in charge of managing a life. From the surprising pre-release hype, it was clear that The Sims was going to be popular, but no one could have expected the degree of popularity. The Sims is a monumental achievement in design and artificial intelligence.
The Sims also played a huge role in diversifying game consumers. Up until 2000, the games industry was predominantly associated with boys and young men playing hyper-masculine games. The Sims attracted female and middle-aged gamers in huge droves, while also attracting large numbers of male gamers with its disarming gameplay. The Sims series has come a long way since 2000, but
Who should play it?: The Sims is another one of those games that had such a massive influence one the industry, it is practically required playing for anyone remotely interested in games history. It is also an excellent game for non-gamers — many fans of The Sims literally play nothing else.
Where to get it: EA currently owns the IP, and they’ve abandoned both this and The Sims 2 in favour of later titles. You’ll have to hit the abandonware scene to find this one.
72. Homeworld (Relic Entertainment, 1999)
In 1999, the RTS craze was in full swing — games like Age of Empires, StarCraft and Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun were dominating with their tried-and-true formula of base building and resource management. And then along came Homeworld. Relic Entertainment took the genre in a bold new direction by putting the gameplay in three-dimensional space. The addition of a third axis of gameplay added a degree of complexity that was offset by a very cleverly designed control scheme.
Homeworld is a fantastic game, with iconic unit designs, challenging gameplay and a haunting, beautiful soundtrack. One of the tragic early scenes of the game is accompanied by a choral version of Samuel Barber’s melancholy classical masterpiece “Adagio for Strings”. This scene is one of the most iconic in PC gaming history, and it gives me goosebumps even thinking about it. Homeworld is, in all senses of the word, a masterpiece.
Who should play it?: A must-play for RTS fans, and a game with a plot that would appeal to most sci-fi fans as well. Homeworld has aged remarkably well, and the remaster is a perfect example of how remasters should be done.
71. Alley Cat (Synapse Software, 1984)
In many ways, Alley Cat is probably the most important game in my life, because it was Bill Williams’ Alley Cat that first introduced me to computer games. It was approximately 1990 or so that my dad brought home a second-hand IBM PC, and somehow a copy of Alley Cat made its way on to the hard drive.
Alley Cat is a great little platformer; challenging with diverse and creative gameplay. I spent countless hours trying to beat this game, and it fostered in me a love for games that has carried through the rest of my life.
Who should play it?: Alley Cat is a great little game and an interesting glimpse of PC platformers in a pre-Mario world.
Where to get it: Alley Cat has been out of distribution for a long time, but you can find it on just about any abandonware site.