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Oldies but Goodies
Each passing year, the computer industry is speeding up to keep in step with consumer demand. Networks move faster, processors move faster, and software is moves faster - faster from shelves to your computer, to interminable storage, and finally, to the trash. With each successive generation of technology, our software's lifespan grows increasingly short, and nowhere is that turn-over felt more keenly than in PC gaming.
It's not uncommon to use one graphic editor or word processor for years or to use a browser or media player for months before updating it, but outside MMORPG's, the lifespan of the latest in cutting edge gaming has dwindled to the space of a marketing campaign. One week, your latest purchase is the hottest thing, the next, it's not. Cultivating a gaming habit is becoming increasingly unfordable and the rich culture that flourished in the eighties and nineties among the sparse population of video game enthusiasts who nursed their cherished latest releases over the course of years is slowly dissipating into the mainstream.
Luckily, there are a few bastions of nostalgia out there. They're well developed, engaging games that have guided the course of the gaming market, withstood the test of time, and remained the heart of wildly enthusiastic fanbases. These games don't always feature the prettiest graphics and they don't feature slick soundtracks, but they're tried and true and most of them can be found with varying degrees of legality as abandonware on the internet.
In alphabetical order:
7th Guest (1992)
While this puzzle game may be a bit campy for today's gamers, it remains a challenging series of puzzles set amid an intriguing storyline. Pre-dating Myst, it's also noteworthy that this was one of the very earliest games to feature interactive video and smooth in-game camera panning.
Publisher: Virgin Games
Civilization II (1996)
This second installment in the Civilization franchise features a remarkably lively AI, streamlined graphics, and an user interface which put a twist on earlier, simpler simulation games, such as SIM CITY. In striving for market domination, MicroProse created one of the best turn-based strategy games of the nineties.
Talk about roots. This is "thee" first-person shooter (FPS). It introduced immersive 3D graphics, networked multiplayer gaming, and user-created modification to the world, kicking off the FPS gaming craze that's still in full swing fifteen years later. Despite its many, many successors and imitators, the original remains unbeaten for a raw adrenaline-fueled rampage.
Publisher: id Software
An excellent turn-based post-apocalyptic roleplaying game (RPG) that sets itself apart from its contemporaries by featuring well-developed characters and a genuinely gripping story.
Grim Fandango (1998)
LucasArts' first 3D game is a vividly imaginative narrative that follows the Grim Reaper's quest to break into the world beyond. While brief, the game demonstrates a light-hearted spirit missing from later LucasArts productions.
An amazing first-person shooter (FPS) that inspired the game industry to shift their focus from straight action immitations of arcade games to character-driven plots.
Labyrinth of Time (1993)
Released in the shadows of more popular graphic puzzle games, namely the 7th Guest and Myst, Labyrinth is an often over-looked pearl of the early-nineties. Where 7th Guest leans towards horror and Myst towards fantasy, Labyrinth maintains a charming, toungue-in-cheek absurdity suitable to younger audiences without sacrificing any of the story's suspense.
Publisher: Electronic Arts
MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat (1995)
One of the earliest mech simulation games, MechWarrior places users in the cockpit for the first time, where they are tested against a series of increasing difficult missions.
In a year widely noted for the game industry's transition from pixelated platform side-scrollers to increasingly realistic immersive environments, Phantasmagoria broke the mold by being one the first games to cast live actors in the role of in-game avatars. It is also notable for being one of the first games to effectively bring an atmosphere of fear rather than simple suspense into a gaming experience.
Publisher: Sierra On-Line
SimCity 2000 (1993)
A small step beyond the original SIM CITY for Amigas, SimCity 2000 is the grand-daddy of all simulations game. The addictiveness of the game's simple scenarios remains unparalleled.
It's impossible to survey popular games of the nineties without touching on the science fiction real-time strategy (RTS) game StarCraft. By May 2007, it become one of the best-selling computers of all time with more than nine million copies sold.
Star Wars TIE Fighter (1994)
This gem of the space combat genre is the first LucasArts game to cast players among the ranks of the Galactic Empire.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six (1998)
Rainbow Six is the tactical shooter that launched the popular award-winning series with a bang. It was the game that introduced the concept of one-shot one-kill scenarios to the world of gaming, shocking audiences and cementing the legitimacy of the "tactical shooter" genre forever.
Publisher: Red Storm Entertainment
Warcraft 2 (1995)
There's just no avoiding the Warcraft franchise when exploring great games. Warcraft 2 is the real-time strategy game (RTS) that introduced millions to networked multiplayer gaming and video game addiction.
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
X-COM: UFO Defense (1994)
Last alphabetically, this game comes in number one on many gamers' all-time best games lists. This little gem from 1994 is a turn-based tactics games casts players in the role of the leader of a task force assigned to retrieve UFO debris across the globe while repelling alien attacks. Players must face numerous combat and logistics challenges in order to survive. Think Oregon Trail meets Alien.