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Five: Age of Empires 2: Age of Kings
The Age of Empires series reached new heights with the Age of Empires 2: Age of Kings sequel. This sequel was certainly superior to the original Age of Empires, which was not a bad title itself, and many consider it to be the best game of the Age of Empires series. Age of Empires 2 provided new combat options, a number of cultures, various tech paths, exciting story based single player campaigns, and a great multiplayer mode that had numerous ways to gain a victory.
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Four: Civilization 2
Civilization 2 was the second instalment to the Civ series, and some still consider it to be the best. To begin with, this sequel provided anenhancement on the original game’s presentation, introducing a new isometric perspective. In addition to this, the game introduced videos for each Wonder of the World that was constructed. Many new units were added, and a combat system was included. A new map editor also provided options to design your own map.
In addition to the main single player mode, Civ 2 included a couple of scenarios to play. Later expansion packs such as Conflicts in Civilization included 20 new scenarios. This was a big step forward for the Civilization series and one of the best PC games of the 20th century.
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Three: Command and Conquer
The original Command and Conquer is legendary. Not only was it among the first RTS games, it was also one of the most well developed and produced games of the 20th century. Command and Conquer included two warring factions: the GDI and Brotherhood of Nod led by Kane who would remain a star of the Command and Conquer Tiberium series up until 2010.
Command and Conquer was one of the first games on the PC to include full-motion video cut-scenes including live actors for its single player campaign. Its multiplayer mode helped to ensure the take-off of the Command and Conquer game series as a classic.
For further details on the Command and Conquer series this Bright Hub article covers the history of the game series.
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Doom pioneered immersive 3D graphics, and included a variety of guns that could be used to shoot through the monstrous levels. However, it was the multiplayer mode that really helped to ensure a large fan-base for Doom, as this was one of the first games to take advantage of networked multiplayer gaming action.
Doom, along with Tomb Raider, is also one of the few game titles to have its own film. As such, it was undoubtedly one of the most influential games for the PC, and the Doom series remains strong today thanks to rumors of Doom 4's development.
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Half-Life was the best PC game of the 20th century, eclipsing Doom and all other Windows games up to the end of the 1990s. It was a near perfect title that collected over 50 Game of the Year awards from various publications.
Set in the Black Mesa research base in New Mexico, the game stars Gordan Freeman who along with his fellow scientists sets off a catastrophic resonance cascade within the Anomalous Materials test chamber which results in an alien breakout. Fortunately, Freeman survives thanks to his HEV suit and it is left to him to escape Black Mesa and reach the surface. However, the US marines are sent in to ‘clean-up’ Black Mesa and silence all those aware of the resonance cascade, which is not great news for Freeman!
This was a game title that provided fresh inspiration for FPS games, and was the first that included scripted sequences to expand its storyline. Half-Life also took advantage of 3D graphic cards, enhancing Quake’s 3D graphics engine by combining it with Direct3D. As such, it probably had the most advanced 3D graphics engine of any PC game title in the 20th century.
Today the Half-Life series is the highest grossing FPS game series largely thanks to the original Half-Life game title. The series also continues with Half-Life Episode 3 confirmed as the next installment.
So there you have the top five PC games of the 20th century; Age of Empires 2, Civ 2, Command and Conquer, Doom and Half-Life.