Top 17 Best PC Games of the 90’s video is online!

Sunday, August 7th, 2011


After my Top 17 Worst PC Games video back in June of last year, I got a bunch of emails asking me what games would be on my “best” list. I wasn’t going to do a video on this at all, mainly because it seemed like restricting myself to just 17 games or whatever was ridiculous. I could easily make a top 100, 200, or more.

Turns out setting some restrictions, in this case games from the 1990’s, really aids in the decision-making process for these kinds of lists. So that’s what I planned to do, that’s what I did, and that’s what I’ve done. Hope some enjoyment/memories come from watching!


10 comments on “Top 17 Best PC Games of the 90’s video is online!

  1. Gemini says:

    Condensing down favourite games is an incredibly difficult task, so it’s awesome that you managed to do so. 🙂

    If I made a list of my favourite 90s PC games, Duke3D would certainly be high on it, as would OMF2097 and Tyrian, but other games that would be high on my list would include Descent II, System Shock, TES II: Daggerfall and MechWarrior 2.

    …and that’s already 7 games… There’s just too many great ones! : O

    • Seriously though… doing these kinds of lists is always stupidly tough to do, so I feel like I have to set limits and go with very deep, personal choices to make any kind of progress! My list was probably 60 games before I whittled it down to 17/18.

      Looking over the 300 or so comments I have on the video already, and almost every one of them suggesting yet ANOTHER game I didn’t include, I’m constantly thinking “yeah, I could have easily included that one!”

      So yes, there really are just too many great ones. Making these lists is rather futile, but at the same time they’re fun and spark discussion.

  2. ZAR says:

    No game from Lucasarts? X-Wing and especially TIE-Fighter are among the best games of that decade if you ask me! (X-Wing vs. TIE-Fighter and X-Wing Alliance are also very nice.)

    But that’s always a matter of personal taste and preference…

  3. Shagittarius says:

    I was inspired to create my own best 17 PC games of the 90s and used your criteria for chosing the titles, mostly. Almost all of these games I revisited several times since their original release dates although some were chosen for the initial impact and enjoyment level I receieved from them even though I never went back and played them again.

    I think one of the interesting things about this list is that there are more games I haven’t completed on this list than the usual percentage of games I don’t complete in general. Definately games were more difficult in the 90s and I can’t help but wonder if not having completed them is what keeps me intruiged and coming back to them.

    Anyways I’ll list out my top 17 with a brief explanation as to why I think each one is great.

    #17 – Doom

    I’ve played this game through many times, in modern times using new engines like Zdoom to improve the presentation as well as the traditional way with only keyboard controls. It’s a great game, It pretty much popularized a genre that’s still on top today and the action still holds up. It’s a game with enemies that have simple rules and you never feel cheated when you lose, just that you made a mistake.

    #16 – Magic the Gathering : Battlegrounds

    This game got horrid reviews when it was released. I think the problem was the 2 groups who would have been interested in playing it were not satisfied when the game wasn’t what they expected. Magic fans wanted the card game, people new to the series probably found it way too confusing due to not having a magic background. This is an action version of Magic the Gathering, it’s more like a sports title than a collectible card game. When I got this my friend and I spent weeks of building decks and playing them against each other until we literally exhausted all the possible combinations and strategies. This game was deep and even though after those few weeks I never went back to it the total fascination and fun level put it in my top games of the 90’s. They later released some extra cards but those were high cost game ender kinds of cards rather than the subtle build a strategy and implement it over the course of the round like they should have been.

    #15 – Tomb Raider 2

    Tweaking the formula of the original to perfection and providing better support for 3d hardware the original 3rd person adventure/action game series delivers everything in it’s first sequel. Seriously when I played the first Tomb Raider I was blown away by the perspective and how much it put me into the game. The first Tomb Raider was the first time I’d ever seen a 3d third person game like this and till that point I couldn’t have believed it was even possible. However the graphics leap and better support for 3d cards is why I have chosen the second outing in the franchise to make this list.

    #14 – The Incredible Machine

    I actually didn’t play this game till several years after it’s release but it left a big impression upon me when I did. A puzzle game that lets you be completely creative in the solutions you come up with to slove it. And it’s all Rube Goldberg contraptions! It was pretty much the delivery medium for living out all of my crazy childhood machinery dreams.

    #13 – Might & Magic VI

    Once I started playing this game I couldn’t stop until I had discovered and experienced every corner of it’s universe. This game had very much in common with the previous releases in the series except now it featured free movement in a completely 3d world with realtime/turn based combat. Increasing your stats / equipment to power through a completely open sandbox gameworld kept me enthraled with this one from begining to end.

    #12 – Half Life

    This game has been discussed countless times and I completely agree that this game was great. It brought a level of immersion in it’s story line that no shooter before had exhibited. The enemies were also much more intelligent than anything I had previously encounted in an FPS to this point employing group tactics and situational awareness. I’ve played through this game many times.

    #11 – Civilization II

    I really doubt that anyone hasn’t experienced this game so I won’t go into what made it so great. The interesting thing about this game for me is that I enjoy losing as much as I do winning. It’s weird, when I die in other games there is a definate sense of failure and “I can do better”, but when I lose in civ I just feel like I completed that run. I don’t need to try to win to enjoy this game and that’s why I keep coming back to it, it’s interesting just to experience it. I picked the second game cause I think thats where the series really came together.

    #10 – Lands of Lore : Throne of Chaos

    This was probably the best traditional first person Dungeon Master style game ever released. You had the grid based movement with the real time combat but it offered much more than that. This game had personality. Whereas most of this genre always degraded into a maze run of monsters and equipment gathering this game kept the story line firmly front and center. Rather than just mazes this games level layouts and art direction really made you feel like you were in the locations. Many of the background assets were interactive or would trigger a more detailed description from the player character via a voice over upon being clicked on. Each of the 3 classes had their own feel and take on the world making multiple playthroughs a blast.

    #9 – Diablo

    Multiplayer dungeon hacking at it’s finest. I can’t even recall how many lunch hours at multiple companies were spent running through this game with co-workers. The addictiveness of finding just one more item that compliments your strategy was undeniable. Unfortunatley since Blizzard wants to run an ingame store in which players can use real money to buy/sell items and require a persistent online connection for all play modes, I will not be supporting their efforts on Diablo 3.

    #8 – Interstate ’76

    The pinnacle of Mad Max style car combat. Why hasn’t anyone made a game as good as this in the suceeding years? It boggles the mind. A good story coupled with car customization/outfitting where weight limits affected your cars performace and looting the spoils off of defeated opponents to improve your own vehicle keep me coming back to this one. The sequel didn’t have the same feel and failed to deliver like the first one did. Activision do you hear me, this game is crying out for a new entry in the series! Still the best car combat game ever!

    #7 – Wing Commander : Prophecy

    Explosions, missle contrails, music. I think this is what makes this game so great for me. This game nails the feel of the Wing Commander series better than anything else before it or since. When I play this game I’m immediately lost into it’s universe. Even the crappy live action cut scenes can’t ruin the exhiliration of flying the missions.

    #6 – Ultima Underworld

    I have never completed this game, but that doesn’t stop me from starting up new run throughs all the time. The first true FPS RPG and it’s just dripping with atmosphere. I’d never played anything like it at the time and it’s even better on modern hardware where it can be run at full detail levels. Perhaps it’s that drive to get just a little further each time I go back to it and discover all of it’s mystery that keeps me restarting this one year after year. It never gets old for me.

    #5 – Undying

    This game is spooky. Not really a survival horror game but more of an FPS with an adventure feel to it. Moving through the environs in this game feels like exploring an old haunted mansion, rather than navigating through levels. Maybe it’s the semi-open world approach to the level design, or the cunning way the story is advanced through the mechanic of being a physcic medium which completley envelopes you in it’s atmosphere. Another game I have failed to complete but that I revisit often.

    #4 – Fallout

    I Never completed this game but I keep going back to it and exploring it’s world with different character builds. You can have a completely different experience with this game depending on how you build your character. For me without even having completed this game it feels like a complete experience just to be able to immerse yourself in its world and explore it’s different mechanics and paths. Even though I’ve played through many of the intial hours of the game many times it never fails to present something to me in a way I hadn’t experienced it before.

    #3 – System Shock

    This was a tough choice as I love System Shock 2 quite a bit as well. I chose the original though because it feels more like a unique expereince than it’s sequel. The engine not being particularly good at action makes this feel more like a first person adventure where your using your cunning against enemies rather than just a shooter. It’s pace is slow and methodical and presents its story through what as far as I know is the first use of story snippets placed around the game in the form of audio logs and emails. This is a tough game and I haven’t completed it but that doesn’t prevent me from trying over and over. SHODAN is one of the greatest rogue AIs and enemies featured in any game.

    #2 – Wizardry : Bane of the Cosmic Forge

    DW Bradleys finest outting in the Wizardry series in my opinion. I think I probably break out the old graph paper and explore this paradise of an EGA dungeon at least every year. It’s also a game I haven’t successfully completed. The combat in this game is turn based and for EGA graphics it’s presentation is spot on with all the enemies displayed on screen and animated. They make a satisfying splat when dispatched. While the textures mostly all look the same care has been taken with text descriptions throughout the game to add flavor which was otherwise unrepresentable with the graphics of the area. Lots of different classes and races to experiment with in this one. I would have chosen DW Bradley’s Wizards and Warriors over this but that game came out in 2000 =).

    #1 – Master of Magic

    This is pretty much of fantasy version of Civilization with strategic combat. Battles take place on a grid screen where the players can cast harmful/beneficial spells on units in the stack as well as maneuver units for strategicadvantage around the grid. Depending on the school of magic the player begins specialized in the combat will take on many subtle changes. This game is extremely replayable due to the nature of these types of games. Since it runs on anything and is portable in Dosbox for I find it calling to me constantly.

    So that’s it, I really liked LSL6 and 7 as well but in the top 17 there was just no room for this and other treasures. I hope anyone who hadn’t had an interest in these games might check them out and get some enjoyment out of them. I hope this isn’t out of the scope of what kind of comments you intended, feel free to moderate this post if you like I won’t be offended =).

    • This a superb list, and includes many I came very close to including myself! Incredible Machine, Diablo, Civ2, Fallout, Undying, TR2, Half-Life… just amazing games and 17 is far too few to get everything in one list.
      Thanks for writing this up, I enjoy seeing others’ lists!

      • Shagittarius says:

        I just realized my memory was incorrect on my list Undying was actually released in 2001. This will have to be my little mistake over the boundaries of the list like you having 18 was. Ooops!

  4. Tim Chesnut says:

    No Shivers?

    I realize that it played more like a Hypercard presentation, but that game had amazing atmosphere and a kick ass soundtrack.

    • Tim Chesnut says:

      And while we’re at it, no Secret of Monkey Island? That one ranks my number 1 of all time, 90’s or otherwise.

      • As mentioned in the video, I could have chosen any number of amazing adventure games. MI, Sam and Max, Full Throttle, Police Quest games all come to mind. I simply enjoy the LSL games more, and chose that one instead of flooding the video with one genre in the interest of keeping the video varied.

  5. […] games as a kid, and one of my favorites games from the 90′s period (recently featured in my Top 17 Best PC Games of the 90′s video). It’s just got an exceptional atmosphere, awesome music, weird tracks, fun cars, and […]

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