Last week, during one of our normal Sunday Gaming posts, our colleague Smiley asked us if we could post our top 10 games of all time.
Glad you asked, Smiley! We’re always happy to try to get the word out on good games, especially these classics.
Technical note: many of these games are too old for a modern Windows XP-based system. Fortunately, the good people at DosBox and its best front end management program, D-Fend, have created a great Dos emulator for modern systems. Just search for and download those two shareware programs and it’ll be just like you had an old IBM machine in front of you. Highly recommended for old-time gaming.
Now, without further ado, we proudly present The Best 10 Games in the History of Computer Gaming:1) Planescape: Torment
(Black Isle Studios) – A CRPG that takes place in and around the extra-planar town of Sigil, a sort of neutral territory between the various planes of the DnD multiverse. Technically a DnD game, but not one that requires pre-knowledge of the game or its system. In fact, as the manual explains, since your character is supposed to be waking up on a slab in a mortuary without any idea where he is, who he is or how the world works, follow the author’s advice and just don’t read it. Instead, read the first two pages on how the interface works and go to town.
Featuring the best hero of all time, a story that is both incredibly imaginative and innovative and, best of all, Sheena Easton as a half-demon redhead thief, Torment is simply the best game ever made. Other sidekicks include a floating skull with a New York accent, clockwork mechanism, an ethereal fighter who has to maintain concentration in order to remain in existence and a fallen angel/courtesan. We’ve played it through five times and are still finding hidden quests and entire parts of the game we missed the first four times through. There have been rumors of a sequel floating around for years, but nothing solid yet. Here’s hoping…..2) Dungeon Master (FTL)
– This is the game that started it for us, sitting around a Commodore Amiga taking turns with our friends at the controls for 30 minutes each until the sun would rise. A spectacular game way ahead of its time, you control a party of four heroes resurrected to take on a mad wizard’s labyrinth. Real time before real time was cool, DM never lets the player rest, hitting you from all sides as you desperately try to map or find a secret door you must have missed. Examine those bricks, the molding around the arch…the button must be here somewhere…we’ve been exploring this level for 5 hours and we can’t find an exit….and here come the purple worms again!3) Fallout (Black Isle Studios)
– You are a young man raised in an underground vault, called Vault 13, a shelter from a world-ending nuclear exchange. You are called into the Overseers office. He has news. Bad news. The computer chip that manages the water collection and purification system for Vault 13 is failing. If a new one isn’t found soon, everyone will die. He has decided that someone must go outside, up to the surface world, out the airlock. Someone must contact a vault known to the Overseer to lie a good many miles to the east. He explains that he has no idea what exists on the surface world or what the conditions are like. Here is a gun, a knife, a few medkits. Here is the authorization to exit the airlock. You have been chosen. Good luck, Vault Dweller.4) Arcanum (Troika)
– Imagine a world where to Tolkien mythos live side-by-side with Victorian Era scientific advances. Where the hiwayman advancing towards you is just as likely to be carrying a six-gun as a magic dagger. Where the steam trains that link the major cities have specially shielded cars for mages so that their magic doesn’t jinx the steamworks.
Welcome to the world of Arcanum, where your character can specialize in science, magic or a devilish mix of both, all in search of a destiny and legend come to life. A notoriously buggy game when it was released, it has long since been patched to the point where it is smooth-sailing. We’ve always thought this setting would make a dynamite movie, but it appears that even the fantastic success of The Lord of the Rings hasn’t made Hollywood re-think it’s modern-day depressing clichés….5) Pool of Radiance (SSI)
– One of the first of SSI’s legendary Gold Box series, this game makes up in story what it lacks in graphics. Take control of a band of 6 novice adventurers and wrest control of the ruined city of Phlan from a demon lord and his secret magical pool. A tactician’s delight, the battle scenes allow each character to act out in turn, positioning, fighting, protecting the mage. A true classic.6) Alpha Centauri (Firaxis)
– A distant planet, called simply Planet, is to be colonized by the U.N. It’s ship, the Unity, takes off for a multi-generational trek loaded with humans from all corners of the globe. Unfortunately, during the voyage factions form, and by the time the Unity reaches its goal, each faction is fighting for dominance on a new world. If that wasn’t enough, the strange exo-biology of Planet, and its weird ever-present fungus and native life forms, seems to be able to attack humans through the mind. Play the U.N. bureaucracy, a religious sect, a survivalist militia, the still-Communist Chinese, a free-market libertarian or the Greens. The future of Planet is there to be taken for the smart, the strong and the shrewd.7) Baldur’s Gate (Black Isle Studios)
– The modern-era game that reinvigorated the CRPG industry and brought back into vogue sweeping tales of epic proportions, taking our hero from his refuge in Candlekeep to an intrigue of the Gods themselves. A mixture of real-time and turned-based fighting that has never really been beaten, Baldur’s Gate presents a truly awe-inspiring story in a scope that will keep even a dedicated gamer busy for months. It’s sequel, Baldur’s Gate II, is also not to be missed.8) Tie Fighter (LucasArts)
– This one beats all other comers when it comes to flight sims. While the flight controls obviously aren’t “realistic,” the Tie Fighter must be managed continually in order to beat the devilishly difficult scenarios. Put all power to shields when engaging, finish the Rebel scum off, then drop all shields for an engines boost to get you back to the transport you’re escorting. Anything less than perfect will result in a loss.9) Everquest (Sony Online Entertainment)
– The granddaddy of the massively-multiplayer genre and still the best. One of its strengths is ironically not one that would win over many publishers today: it’s not very user friendly. In fact, it’s downright difficult and the it-looks-like-a-Sun-Sparcstation-interface would only please the geekiest of tech geeks. And, yet, though it all is a game that has created a community that has existed and plays daily for years now.10) Thief (Ion Storm)
– You are Garrett, a young thief who roams The City, a strange place mixed with magic and electrical lamps. Your fate is somehow wrapped up in a larger tale, but for now there are jewels to heist. A fantastic FPS that doesn’t involve shooting, a typical passage in Thief requires soft footpadding, sticking to the shadows and watching for a pattern in the guard’s rotations. If you’ve ever had any cat-burglar fantasies, this game is for you. Thief II, The Metal Age, is just as good if not a bit better than the original. Thief III, however, was created in our cursed age of the Consoles, and suffered badly because of it.
As always, it’s difficult to make such an exclusive list. So, we’d like to apologize in advance to Daggerfall, Ultima Underworld, Civilization, Half-Life, Half-Life 2, Steel Panthers, Buck Rodgers, Wasteland, Fallout 2, Morrowind, The Bard’s Tale, Icewind Dale and System Shock.
Let us know what your favorites are and why. And, as always, tell us why we’re wrong.