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Top Ten PC Games of All Time

by: Benjamin Sell ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

Each of the games on our top ten list represents a turning point in the world of gaming. Whether it's introducing the world to online gaming like Quake or igniting the popularity of a specific genre like Command and Conquer, each of these games has had a lasting impact on PC gaming.

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    Top 10 Computer Games of All Time

    Gamers will argue their personal favorite games of all time until they're blue in the face. Everyone has an opinion and, while many of the same games will enter the conversation, it's rare to find a pair of people who can agree completely with one another's personal picks.

    This is why, instead of simply throwing together a list of our personal favorite PC games, we went for the best source for industry consensus, Metacritic. For those who aren't familiar with it, Metacritic compiles game, movie, TV, and music review from all over the industry and amalgamates them into a single rating. Thus, we achieve an ultimate top 10, based on the opinions of the entire industry, rather than a single person.

    We have made one small editorial decision: removing Out of the Park Baseball 2007 from the top ten because it has only the bare minimum five reviews and user comments concerning the appropriateness of its inclusion are overwhelmingly negative. It didn't seem right to include a game that very few people have actually played and have to bump a classic like Quake out of the top 10.

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    Top 10 Computer Games of All Time, #10: Quake

    Quake So we spoiled this one a bit above, but I'm sure very few people will be surprised to see it included in the top 10.

    When Quake was released in 1996, most multiplayer gaming action took place over LANs. The internet was just reaching maturity, and Quake was the game that gave birth to the online first-person shooter craze.

    If you are currently addicted to Bad Company 2, Modern Warfare 2, or Halo multiplayer, you have Quake to thank for taking the genre online.

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    Top 10 Computer Games of All Time, #9: Civilization II

    Civilization II 1996 was a banner year for stellar PC games, as gamers got both Quake and the timeless classic Civilization II. Spanning pretty much the breadth of human history (and beyond, into the future) Civ II tasked players with either conquering the rest of the world's societys, or racing forward to develop space travel and reach Alpha Centauri.

    This strategy game has remained popular in the 14 years since its release, largely thanks to an active mod community and several well-received expansion. Regarded by many as the best strategy game of all time, Civilization II still holds a special place in the hearts of many PC gamers.
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    Top 10 Computer Games of All Time, #8: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

    Grand Theft Auto Vice City When GTA: Vice City was released in 2003, it took the gaming world by storm. Gamers had experienced open-world sandbox gameplay before in Grand Theft Auto III, but Vice City showed us just how good the genre could be.

    With its Scarface-inspired tale of drugs and vengeance, the game delivered countless Hollywood-esque moments that had gamers all over the world talking. Side missions and diversions kept players busy even when they weren't working on the game's main story missions. Rockstar had achieved some notoriety before Vice City, but it was the game that catapulted them to the powerhouse developer they are today.

    Vice City also featured one of the greatest video game soundtracks of all time.

    Page two has the continuation of our countdown, including two massively-popular RPGs from Bioware and perhaps the most influential RTS of all time.

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    Top 10 Computer Games of All Time, #7: Mass Effect 2

    Mass Effect 2 Mass Effect 2 is the newest game on our top 10 list, but its inclusion should surprise no one. Bioware's latest role-playing masterpiece has been blowing minds since it was released early this year.

    This twisting tale of outer space intrigue follows Shepard and his (or her) band of motley companions as they attempt to track down an elusive group known only as The Collectors and stop them from abducting entire human colonies.

    The RPG's conversation and moral choice system are without rival in the modern gaming world, and the ability to import your character from the original Mass Effect gives the series a continuity rarely seen in video games.

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    Top 10 Computer Games of All Time, #6: Command and Conquer

    Command and Conquer Many credit Warcraft II for the real-time strategy genre's popularity boom in the late 90's. Savvy gamers remember, though, that the original Command and Conquer was released four months earlier and at the time was one of the most well-received games ever made.

    The deluge of Command and Conquer sequels and spinoffs are a testament to the popularity and influence of the original game. Not only was it the first game to bring RTS action to the masses, it was also the first to allow players to engage in competitive online play.

    As a result, Command and Conquer remains synonymous with online strategy gaming, surpassed in popularity only by Blizzard's near-perfect RTS juggernaut Starcraft.

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    Top 10 Computer Games of All Time, #5: Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn

    Baldurs Gate II Shadows of Amn The second Bioware title on the list, Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn remains one of the most highly-regarded role-playing games of all time. Based on the 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons rulebook, and set in the popular Forgotten Realms universe, Baldur's Gate II was one of the first games to offer players true moral choices. Choosing to ally with one faction over another, for example, could have a significant effect on the rest of the game, opening up some doors but permanently closing others.

    Modern gamers are used to these types of choices with consequences, but in 2000 they were all but unheard-of.

    Different character class choices also opened up wholly separate strongholds for the player to manage, adding yet another layer of choice to the game and further encouraging multiple playthroughs.

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    Top 10 Computer Games of All Time, #4: Bioshock

    Bioshock When Bioshock was released in 2007, the first-person shooter was already one of the most popular genres in gaming. Before Bioshock though, story in the genre was either a secondary consideration or mostly delivered through clumsy cutscenes. Sure, there were exceptions to the rule including the Half-Life series, but no first-person shooter ever immersed its players so completely in a fictional world the way Bioshock did.

    The world of Rapture is more than just an interesting background for a typical revenge tale or just pretty scenery to break up bouts of killing, it's a complete world, a character in the story. The story of the protagonist is the story of Rapture and, as you discover in one of the best twists in the history of gaming, the fate of the player and the city are tightly intertwined.

    That's not to say that the shooting elements aren't cool as well. Bioshock allowed players to solve problems their own way, either through upgrading weapons and blasting their way through, employing deadly plasmid upgrades, or by hacking security turrets and drones and letting them do the dirty work for you.

    Page three has the top three games in our countdown, including perhaps the best value in gaming history and two of the most popular and influential first-person shooters ever made.

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    Top 10 Computer Games of All Time, #3: Half-Life

    Half Life If you're not a fan of the Half-Life series, you might as well stop reading now. When a group of former Microsoft employees first set out to publish their new first-person shooter featuring scripted events and continuous game play rather than a level-based setup, most potential publishers thought the project was "too ambitious."

    Their ambitious project went on to sell millions of copies and completely redefine what players expect from a first-person shooter.

    It also spawned multiple spinoffs and expansion packs, keeping the game relevant for years following its release thanks largely to huge hits like Counter-Strike. Among these notable descendants are the last two games on our list.

    Half-Life is one of only two games on this list to also be among the top 10 best-selling PC games of all time.

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    Top 10 Computer Games of All Time, #2: The Orange Box

    The Orange Box Essentially five games in one, The Orange Box featured Half-Life 2 and its two expansions Episode 1 and Episode 2, Team Fortress 2, and the phenomenally successful first-person puzzler Portal.

    Team Fortress 2 was the sequel to one of the most popular Quake mods of all time, the original Team Fortress, and features several different classes for players to choose from and use in a variety of gametypes. Valve has remained committed to TF2, continually delivering updates to each class in turn.

    Portal was by far the most popular portion of The Orange Box. This mind-bending puzzle game featuring an innovative new type of first-person mechanic and an increasingly insane antagonist resonated with gamers in a way few recent games have. Finding someone who didn't enjoy the game is only slightly more difficult than finding a gamer who hasn't played it. We also have Portal to thank for several notable internet memes, including "The Cake is a Lie."

    Valve wasn't content to deliver just these two new games in their value package. The Orange Box also featured our #1 game of all time.

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    Top 10 Computer Games of All Time, #1: Half-Life 2

    Half Life 2 Half-Life 2 remains one of the most critically-acclaimed video games of all time. Winner of over 40 Game of the Year awards in 2004, critics almost universally praised its combination of animation, sound, graphics, and artificial intelligence. Several publications have hailed it as the best game of the decade.

    Following the events of the original Half-Life, the Combine have expanded from Black Mesa to take over the entire planet. Gordon Freeman awakes on a train entering City 17, and is treated to a first-hand look at the state of the world. New technologies have emerged as a result of the Combine influence, chief among which is the invention of the gravity gun, which Gordon receives early on in the game.

    With this weapon/tool, the player could manipulate items in the environment in new and awe-inspiring ways. Few thrills in gaming compare to the first time you use the gravity gun to pick up a huge saw blade and decapitate a group of enemies with one well-placed shot.

    Half-Life 2 is an achievement in game design and innovation that has yet to be rivaled. Like Half-Life before it, perhaps the only thing that can compete with Half-Life 2 will be a full sequel.