; edited by: Michael Hartman
; updated: 4/17/2012
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There is a great catalogue of PC games that could easily make this list, however it is this writers interpretation and experience that populates it, showcasing some unusual and familiar choices at the same time. Read on for some of the best PC games of all time; whether popularist choices or not...
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What Are The Top 10 Best PC Games of All Time?
Rundown lists often infuriate many a person, whether they are generally mild mannered or hot headed, and there is nothing more dangerous than PC gamers and their sometimes harsh criticism. There are plenty of articles detailing the best PC games of all time, in this list however, we will try to shine a light on some less than obvious choices.
The usual modus operandi in lists such as these is to take the biggest selling games and ham-fist reasons as to why they are the best PC games of all time. The Sims, Myst and Battlefield are all popularist choices. These games will get a brief mention here and no further discourse throughout this article, even if they are choices in the top 10 list.
A majority scale would be disingenuous as a means to list these games. Obviously, this confessed subjectivity can come across as a negative thing, however it is only through experience that we can make judgements, hence my personal stance on games such as WoW or The Sims being included on this list lower than expected.
Therefore, this list may agitate the supposed harsh PC gamer crowd, but it should be noted that the article will only recognise a small percentage of the best PC games of all time. Plenty of other games and experiences can be found, despite having a special mentions list at the end of this article, we will not likely get round to all of them. Anyways, sit back and soak in the subjective choices of one haggard PC gaming enthusiast, whether you agree or disagree should be of no consequence.
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#10 - World of Warcraft
This game has had considerable page space devoted to it, ergo I will only briefly name check it in this article. World of Warcraft is ostensibly the biggest MMORPG game of all time, still pumping out Mr. T branded advertisements and maintaining a commercial viability that other MMO's haven't been able to compete with.
At the pinnacle of its genre, WoW deserves to be on this list for nothing more than its strong community and widely successful sales. On many lists it could definitely yield a higher position, especially given its revolutionary antics, however it will have to pleasantly enjoy rounding out the top 10.
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#9 - Shogun: Total War
The first in the appreciated Total War series, Shogun was a remarkable game at the time of its release. Coming off the success of Command & Conquer, Shogun decided to tie both real-time tactics and turn-based strategy together, creating a unique hybrid. It sought to and achieved providing a historically accurate and contextually deep experience.
Having your selected clan, out of 7 prominent real-life affiliations, battle through the Sengoku-jidai of 16th century Japan. This would culminate in either players becoming shogun or ending in defeat after the time limit. With each clan having different skills, such as stronger Cavalry or better Ashigaru, the choices you made were often more impactful than originally thought. This decisive onus the game created was amplified tenfold during the frantic and under-appreciated multiplayer aspects of Shogun.
The depth and overall stratagem this game entails has been hugely refined during its numerous sequels. However, this turn of the century original has some of the purest and most delightful forays into the war game genre, surpassing many of its contemporaries. Trying to become the next shogun through military expansion, espionage, religion or diplomacy was a great test and even by todays standards, Shogun holds up pretty well.
Continue to page 2 for four more choices and this writers respective inclinations and opinions towards them...
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#8 - The Sims; Best Video Game of All Time?
This choice is based more on the idea and theoretical design behind the game rather than its family friendly execution. The Sims blitzkrieged PC gaming when first released in 2002, spawning a string of poor expansions and infuriating sequels, slowly diminishing the essence of the experience left by the original.
The Sims seems rather perfunctory and stupid, with the player able to control an avatar as they do mundane tasks in their home, however it is in this mundane existence that The Sims idiom is truly represented. It is a reflection and introspective look at the idiocy of mundane activities and the need to create some catalyst to stop this boring experience. This is why most players actively seek to cause havoc or generally provide obstacles for their avatars, to circumvent the mundane activities of everyday life. This premise is superb, its a shame however, that The Sims as a franchise devolved into petty expansions and superfluous mechanics.
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#7 Grim Fandango
If there is to be one Tim Schafer game inducted into this list; it would have to be Grim Fandango. While Psychonauts, Day of The Tentacle and even Monkey Island 2 all share some form of greatness among them, it is Fandango and the adventures of Manny Calavera that really opened up many hardcore gamers to the wonderful mind of Schafer and his nascent creations.
This game would be higher and perhaps competing for the top spot on this list of the best PC games of all time if it weren't for some arbitrary mechanics and puzzles. It is a shame because the characters, story, narrative and even graphics all bring together a cohesive and stunning experience. The memorable aspects of this game will be sure to stick in anybody who has played the games head. If you were disappointed with Brutal Legend or haven't gotten round to playing a Tim Schafer, I'd suggest picking up Grim Fandango and sneakily wasting 10 or more hours on it.
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#6 - Fallout; One of The Best PC Games of All Time
Morality in gaming is generally laborious and too naive in representing real life decision mechanics. Fallout is one of the best examples of how to accomplish severe and realistic morality along with a punishing gameplay experience. The fact that you can traverse the nuclear wastelands of California and use charisma, wit or guile to complete the game, instead of just harassing enemies for experience points, is a remarkable almost unmatched today.
The game spawned another sucessful sequel into the isometric RPG genre and developers Black Isle also went on to create the D&D inspired Planescape: Torment after their initial Fallout sabbatical. Besthesda recently picked up the reigns and released Fallout 3, although the morality system and their V.A.T.S combat system were divisive to gamer's opinions. This new age of Fallout content shouldn't diminish the original as Fallout is a testament to integral plot elements and a well-rounded impactful emphasis on the world and its characters.
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#5 - Knights of The Old Republic
Although some Bioware games may be more deserving, Baldur's Gate or Neverwinter Nights being two candidates, Knights of The Old Republic is one of the most remarkable "licenced" games to date. I use the term licenced tentatively due to its co-existence within thee Star Wars universe but its overall relation to the films being close to zero. KoTOR as it is often abbreviated has easily redefined and encouraged the expansion of western RPG games into one of the biggest genres as of today.
The ensemble cast of Jedi, Humans, Wookies, Twi'leks and droids made for some of the best inter-planetary character development and storytelling in a video game. The inner-workings of 10 different characters and their own plot threads made for a complex yet wholesome experience in tradition with the much loved Star Wars films. In adittion, possibly one of the most renowned plot twists in gaming history sent shivers down many a gamer's spine during the tense turning point in KoTOR's tale; when Revan discovers he was a Sith Lord. KoTOR has reinvigorated the D&D based RPG's of the late nineties into sprawling epics and third person adventures that we see today in games such as Oblivion or Dragonage.
Continue to page 3 for the closing stages of this top 10 best PC games of all time list...
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#4 - Mafia; One of The Best PC Games of All Time
Sitting in a cafe, smoking a cigarette, regaling the criminal activities of your past with a blurry-eyed Irish detective. This is the framing for Mafia’s almost supernatural events. Seen through the eyes of Tommy Angelo, you rise through the ranks of the Salieri family after being entangled in their operations by proxy. Once there, Tommy goes on various missions and kills many foes. After betrayal’s and the loss of many companions, he ends up seeking asylum with the police, hence the cafe retelling.
A third person open-world shooting game in the same vein as Grand Theft Auto, Mafia delivered one of the greatest examples of verisimilitude or life like qualities in any game, at least upto the point of release. With a sprawling city, named Lost Heaven and resembling Chicago or New York, players have the option to immerse themselves in a glorified 1930‘s imagining.
The story consists of all the classic Mafioso films highs and gives players the licence to control the central protagonist during those heady events. From running across rooftops with an assault rifle, to racing in a tense grand prix situation, the game spoils the player with classic set-pieces and memorable characters. Mafia is a great testament to how an open-world story and locale should be created.
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#3 - Civilization II; A Contender for Best PC Game of All Time
Losing a full day to a Civilization game isn’t unheard of, in fact it seems that spending countless hours building a substantial kingdom is the norm, with fans willing to recount their own days lost to this phenomenon. Such is the immersion and drawing power of Civilization, Sid Meier’s pièce de résistance, that turn based population management becomes almost too addictive.
With the option of various famous civilizations and leaders to take control of, each with their own special abilities, the player either tries to conquer all other foes or send a spaceship on a colonization mission to the planet Alpha Centuari. The player has to accomplish this by the year 2020 after starting in the year 4000 BC, with incremental gaps being closed between each turn span.
It is the first game in the series to sport an isometric perspective and contains improvements over nearly every aspect of the first game. It is definitely a contender for the best PC games of all time. With rewarding civilization management and cut-throat artificial intelligence, Civilization II is a testament to strategy and how PC gaming is often the best fit for the genre.
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#2 - The Longest Journey
As discussed previously in more than one article here at Bright Hub, I have a fondness for The Longest Journey and its successor, Dreamfall. Both games reignited the adventure genre and provided something most games of the genre couldn’t contend with; A remarkable narrative.
You play as April Ryan, an 18 year old student, who is slowly thrust into the chaotic marriage of two parallel worlds known as Arcadia and Stark. For a better summation of the pretext behind the games story, look at this article on Dreamfall, which will serve as a introductory explanation into the games weird and wonderful lore.
Like many adventure games, the point-and-click gameplay was still harassing your mouse buttons, while some of the dialogue has certainly depreciated over time (transforming into witless babble in the vein of many classic adventure games). With a huge amount of game-time and involved character depictions, The Longest Journey is another adequate candidate for best PC game of all time, representing the adventure genre very well.
Continue to page 4 for the lowdown on this writers personal favourite and cherished PC game, with some honorable mentions also being written down...
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#1 - Half Life; The Best PC Game of All Time
After listing four hopefully unexpected choices, it seems a bit silly to mark my fifth as one of the most obvious best PC games of all time mentions, but the overextending reach of this mythical series is perhaps too great to not devote some page space.
Half Life is the pinnacle of level design and mechanics in a first person shooting game. It’s weighty yet loose feel give it something most games, Quake or Unreal as examples, could not attain during the late nineties or thereafter. The mysterious G-Man, the “opposing force", Barney, Gordon with his unique silence, head crabs and radioactive vats all painted a world worth investing in.
It would be interesting to see how this critical success would have fared if not for the rampant community and mod-making devotees. Giving rise to a longevity unsurpassed to this day, the Half Life engine spawned a fair number of incredible mods and original developers Valve even went so far as to buy out the creators machinations.
For instance, Counter-Strike, possibly the biggest e-Sport based game ever, was bought out by Valve and given licensure to become one of the worlds most played online games. Day of Defeat, a WWII based shooter, perhaps foreshadowed the war shooter trend and certainly influenced Call of Duty in its early outings. Team Fortress Classic paved the way for class based multiplayer and the dizzying sequel that enraptures many a PC gamer into 2010.
This catalogue of accomplishments is only further amplified when taking into account one of the best sequels ever in videogame history and the subsequent dirge of source engine games that it spawned. Half Life 2 provided a great followup and expansion to the original storyline, while creating its own niche space within the pantheon of Half Life lore, adding characters like Eli and Alex Vance. Left 4 Dead and Portal have become beloved original properties while the episodic Half Life games are still some of the best FPS experiences you’re likely to find.
Half Life is my pick for best PC game of all time. The accompanying mythos and sharpened catalogue only add to its wonderment. If you’re still stuck playing Gears of War or looking at Goldeneye as the best FPS of all time, I think we may need to have a chat...
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As ever, there are numerous games that can’t be given full credit but deserve at least a smattering of attention, here’s a rundown of games just missing this coveted list of the best PC games of all time.