Welcome to Part 4 of my 100 best PC games. Check out the previous parts here:
70. Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Eidos Montreal, 2011)
Deus Ex is, rightfully so, widely regarded as one of the greatest games ever made, one of the last titles in the prestigious career of auteur game designer Warren Spector. Eleven years after Deus Ex, Eidos Montreal released Human Revolution, and it was this worthy sequel that had probably the greatest influence on me.
What stood out to me so much about Deus Ex: Human Revolution was the incredible depth of detail in the world-building. Eidos Montreal contracted fashion designers, artists and architects to imagine a believable future influenced by the Renaissance and traditional cyberpunk aesthetics, while making subtle commentary on the current and future socio-economic inequality. It is one of the first games that made me truly appreciate art within games.
Who should play it?: An excellent game and a good entry point into the world of Deus Ex, this is an excellent game for cyberpunk and sci-fi fans.
69. Bananoid (William Rieder, 1989)
One of the most enduring games in history is the Arkanoid or Breakout style block-breaker game. In this simple game type, the player controls a paddle and ball, and must destroy blocks at the top of the screen — kind of like a single-player Pong. Bananoid was a very simple Arkanoid clone, released as freeware tech demo by William Rieder.
Very little is known about William Rieder, but his tech demo seems to have made it on to many computers throughout the 90s , and I have no idea how. Bananoid’s ubiquity was a blessing though, and I always had something to keep me entertained on those long and tedious visits to the relatives.
Who should play it?: If you’re looking for a challenging little casual game to keep you entertained for five or ten minutes, Bananoid is addictive and best of all, free.
Where to get it: It never received an official release as far as I’m aware, so this is one that you’ll find on abandonware sites.
68. Motocross Madness 2 (Rainbow Studios, 2000)
In 1998, Motocross Madness earned accolades as the “greatest motorbike game ever made”, and Rainbow Studios followed this up in 2000 with Motocross Madness 2, a worthy sequel. I spent many, many hours in the stunt mode of this game, soaring over intricately detailed landscapes, attempting to execute mid-air acrobatics and being foiled by a bone-crunching collision.
Motocross Madness 2 was widely praised, but the game didn’t receive a sequel until 2013 in the form of a half-hearted Xbox 360 Arcade title. Meanwhile, Rainbow Studios split from Microsoft and went on to produce the MX Unleashed series for THQ.
Who should play it?: If you’re looking for a racing game with diverse modes and very satisfying crashes, Motocross Madness 2 is a great game, but without the nostalgic attachment, you might be better served by more recent games.
Where to get it: Another game lost to time, you’ll need to rely on abandonware sites for this one — a remaster is probably unlikely.
67. StarCraft (Blizzard Entertainment, 1998)
There is so much that can be said about StarCraft, one of Blizzard’s most famous games. It was one of the world’s first e-sports titles, and definitely the first game to fill a stadium with tens of thousands of spectators. The fact that Blizzard was able to balance three unique sides so well is also a testament to the game design.
What made StarCraft stand out to me, though, was the story. Before StarCraft, RTS games mostly treated plot as secondary to gameplay, a mere mechanism to drive the action. In StarCraft, plot and characters took centre stage, and levels were interspersed with Blizzard’s trademark high quality cinematics. It was the first time an RTS game had really drawn me in with its story.
Who should play it?: If you haven’t played it already, then you really have no reason not to. The original StarCraft is free, and has been updated with compatibility for modern PCs. If you fork out a little extra, you can get the remaster as well.
Where to get it: Blizzard Battle.net
66. Gorillas (IBM, 1991)
Qbasic was an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for the BASIC programming language, developed by Microsoft. Qbasic came packaged with a few simple example programs, and one of those was Gorillas, developed by IBM. It is an artillery simulator, like Scorched Earth, where the player specifies an angle and power, and launches a projectile at their opponent.
Gorillas is probably recognisable to any high school students of IT subjects in the 90s and early 2000s, as Qbasic was one of the programs often used in schools to teach programming fundamentals, and Gorillas was one of the key reasons for students not paying attention.
Who should play it?: If you have a nostalgic attachment, its one worth checking out again. But for a modern spin, you can’t look past the Worms series (they even have an “artillery” mode).
Where to get it: You can find the original on abandonware sites, but Gorillas has also been reborn on the Android platform, available on the Google App Store
65. 5 Days a Stranger (Fully Ramblomatic, 2003)
These days, Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw is best known for his work on Zero Punctuation, his video series for The Escapist, but what many may not realise is that he is actually a fairly prolific game designer himself. Since the late 1990s, he has produced several PC games, and the best of those have been the Chzo Mythos games — starting with 2003’s 5 Days a Stranger.
5 Days a Stranger is a point-and-click adventure game, in the classic style of the genre — taking influence from the back catalogues of Sierra and LucasArts. What distinguishes this game (and its sequels) is the Lovecraftian cosmic horror theme. I’m a bit of a chicken, so I often can’t handle horror games, but 5 Days a Stranger’s engaging plot meant I simply couldn’t put it down.
Who should play it?: Yahtzee released the whole Chzo Mythos saga for free, so there’s really no reason no to give them a go. But if you’re a fan of adventure games like Gabriel Knight or Lovecraftian horror, they simply can’t be missed.
Where to get it: Get this and all of Yahtzee’s game for free at his website
64. Dink Smallwood (Robinson Technologies, 1998)
Another free game, Dink Smallwood is perhaps the definition of a cult classic freeware game. Made by a single developer and initially released in 1998, it was made freeware a year later by creator Seth Robinson. Don’t be fooled by the simplistic presentation — this is action RPG is relentless in its silliness and humour.
Dink Smallwood feels like a combination of console-style action RPGs like Zelda or Secret of Mana, with the humour of a Sierra or LucasArts adventure game.
Who should play it?: If you are willing to look past the rather dated graphics (even for its time), Dink Smallwood is an entertaining game that will be appreciated by fans of LucasArts humour or Monty Python-esque silliness.
Where to get it: Robinson Technologies
63. Aliens versus Predator (Rebellion Developments, 1999)
As I said before, being the big chicken I am, I’m not a usually a fan of horror games. I am, however, a sci-fi fan, particularly of the Alien and Predator franchises. So I was able to push my limits a bit with 2000’s Aliens vs Predator. While not a pure horror game, the Marine campaign offers tension and jump-scares on par with the films. But aside from the enjoyable single-player, multiplayer is where this game really shines.
Aliens vs Predator was a massive hit at LAN parties. One of our favourite game modes was to have one player playing the Alien, and the others playing as Marines. There was nothing more entertaining than sneaking around the level as the Alien, systematically destroying all the lights until all the Marines had to guide them was their motion tracker and flares. And nothing is scarier than being hunted by another player.
Who should play it?: Essential playing for fans of the franchises, and for fans of late 90s FPS games. If you’re planning a LAN party any time soon, make sure this one is on the list.
62. MechWarrior 3 (Zipper Interactive, 1999)
For most fans of the MechWarrior series of games, most would probably name MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries as their favourite title. There’s plenty of merit in that, and Mercenaries was without a doubt an excellent game. However, the title that I spent the most time with was 1999’s MechWarrior 3. For me, the campaign truly captured the essence of what being a MechWarrior is about — trapped behind Clan lines, outnumbered, outgunned and scrambling for resources. Every battle is a fight to the death, and every mission a crucial.
My fondest memories of MechWarrior 3 were multiplayer games on Microsoft’s old online games service, The Zone. I spent hours and hours configuring and battling in mechs against other players. I even popularised my own game mode — Mech racing. One day I had an idea: what if player’s outfitted their mech as lightly as possible, and then raced them? Before long, every second game on The Zone was a Mech racing game. Maybe not the most original idea, but it was a great example of emergent gameplay.
Who should play it?: Battletech fans can’t miss this game, and I doubt they have. If you’re a fan of big, stompy robots, then its definitely worth giving this a go. Unfortunately, it is notoriously difficult to get running on modern systems, but check out Reddit for some tips.
Where to get it: The Battletech licence has been fought over for decades, and MechWarrior 3 still sits in a bit of a legal black hole. You’ll have to rely on abandonware sites for this one (or The Internet Archive).
61. Counter-Strike: Source (Valve, 2004)
It’s a debate that will probably never end — what is the best version of Counter-Strike? 1.5? 1.6? Source? Global Offensive? (haha, no). For me, Counter-Strike: Source was the definitive version of CS. It felt feature-complete, it had satisfying physics, and to this day it still looks good. There are also still hundreds of thousands of players.
CS: Source is probably my favourite in the series because it was the version that existed at the time in my life when I was spending a lot of time hanging out in internet cafes, playing multiplayer games with my friends. That’s one thing that often gets ignored in debates about the “best” games — when it comes to games, it is the entire experience, not just the game, that makes them what they are — “you had to be there” in the most literal sense.
Who should play it?: Counter-strike: Source was literally the biggest game in the world for many years, so you’ve probably played it. But if you’re a fan of modern round-based multiplayer shooters, go back and check out what I think is the pinnacle of the genre.
Where to get it: Steam