The Very Important List Of PC Games, Part 2/5

By John Walker on February 15th, 2011 at 12:30 pm.

Yesterday, as you may have noted, Dr Rossignol began our lecture series on the most important PC games of all time. Much like The Christmas Lectures, The Reith Lectures, and the TED Lectures, this definitive series has been a part of our institution as long as the Earth has borne stones. In this second part Professor John Walker explains the varying importanceness of a second collection of the most important games to have graced the PC in the last 150 years. Read on for one fifth of the elements necessary for enlightenment. And doffs of hats to Intel’s AppUp developer program for sponsoring this most critical of series.

Hello students, one and all. Please make sure you’re sat in a seat that doesn’t squeak, have your pen and notepad ready, and put your phones on silent. And for goodness sakes, Andrew, pull those headphones out of your ears. I will be narrating a Power Point presentation of one fifth of the games deemed to be Important. Do not worry if a game you think should be listed does not appear. It may have been in yesterday’s lecture, or any of the following three. Also, stop being so impertinent. Right, pay attention.

PLEASE NOTE: I’ve ordered this list by how many letters there are in its title, because it’s the only way that makes any sense.

Portal
RELEASE DATE: 2007
IMPORTANCENESS: Pan-dimensional

Portal’s importance in gaming history is oddly not to do with its incredible puzzle design, its hilarious story, nor its ability to make a detached voice one of the most entertaining and chilling game characters of all time. Its importance is a lesson that’s still waiting to be learned: short games are a viable choice for development. Gaming has got itself stuck with eight-hour blockbuster action and “episodic content”, where a regular game is needlessly chopped up into bits that end up costing more than a regular game would in the first place, or being abandoned halfway through. Portal, at perhaps three or four hours long in its first play through, is the novella of gaming – something that’s only matched for length by the most elaborate mods or ambitious indie games. The last four years should have seen a torrent of copycat games from major publishers, mid-priced offerings for games that only need to be mid-length. Had this gem – this most exquisite puzzle game – been any longer it would have outstayed its welcome. It had a series of challenges to set you, a stunning twist in the final third, and at just the perfect moment bowed out with a song. Will anyone ever learn the lesson it’s screaming to teach? It’s looking ever-increasingly unlikely. But you can always play Portal again. And again.

Descent
RELEASE DATE: 1995
IMPORTANCENESS: Multi-dimensional

We’d only just started getting used to 3D! Not the stupid 3D that’s currently making us all watch films in muted colours, endlessly having poles stuck in our faces. The 3D where games on our screens looked like they had depth. It was only 1995, we were still acclimatising. And then Descent decided to make it way more complicated. Six degrees of freedom. You were flying in a 3D space, able to turn upside down, the game keeping your ship level and spinning the world around you. In fact, it wasn’t even really in 1995 that this was happening to us. The shareware version came out in 1994, only a year after Doom. We weren’t ready! And better, it was really in 3D – not Doom’s cheaty 2.5D deal. We felt motion sickness. We had to grow new fingers to maintain all the keyboard controls with this newfound Z-axis. And we loved it, became adept at it, shooting virus-infected enemies and rescuing hostages, before belting it out of the centre of whatever it was we were about to blow up. That’s what we were up to.

Lemmings
RELEASE DATE: 1991
IMPORTANCENESS: Self-sacrificing

I am unable to speak with authority about February 1991. I was 13. I was unable to speak with authority about anything at all. So I cannot satisfactorily describe to you the games that preceded Lemmings, nor its immediate influences. What I can tell you is that it was bloody brilliant. I discovered it at my dad’s friend Ted’s house, when they went off for some boring conversation about Ultima or something, and I was left in front of a PC with a copy of Lemmings running. The reason everyone said of World Of Goo that it was the game to succeed Lemmings was because it had the same magical sense of discovery. Seemingly impossible tasks of leading the suicidal blue/green creatures to the exit door would be realised as you experimented with the available tools. Working out which Lemmings to sacrifice in order to save the many. Digging through walls, blowing up dynamite, launching umbrellas, and most importantly of all, assigning bookends to stop the buggers pouring off the side and splatting into the sea below. Every puzzle game after it wanted to be the Lemmings. That’s importance.

Dragon Age: Origins
RELEASE DATE: 2009
IMPORTANCENESS: Retrospective

Dragon Age is one of the finest RPGs of all time. I’d say (more safely now it’s 2011) that it’s the best of the last decade. That makes it important. Bloody brilliant 100 hour epic constructions of passion and emotion, war and death, romance and religion – they don’t come around very often. The scale, the depth, the history – it’s all a remarkable work, and one that seems to far too often be taken for granted. And that’s the issue with Dragon Age. It feels like the last of something, rather than a pioneer of anything. It’s such a stunning example of the genre, and a massive pleasure to play, but is it the final word on the matter? I think Mass Effect is the direction the RPG is heading in, and your Witchers and your Dragon Age IIs, are relics. Dragon Age is a wonderful relic, and one of my favourite games of all time. But it’s hard to put it forward as a text for gaming’s future.

Duke Nukem 3D
RELEASE DATE: 1996
IMPORTANCENESS: Ultra

While I don’t think I could intellectually defeat anyone who argued that Doom or Quake were more important games to the FPS genre, there’s still a part of me that really believes Duke Nukem 3D is more so. I may be able to rationalise this with talk of its destructible environments, the way locations could be completely changed by crumbling cliffs, or any of the many technological advances its engine brought. But I think it liberated games. It was childish, naughty, puerile and rude, but at the same time as being a really excellent shooter. So rarely are the two combined, one compromised for the sake of the other. In making a genuinely great game, it must be tempting for developers to take not just the creation of it seriously, but the content too. DN3D risked being filed in the “not to be taken seriously” category, for not taking its content seriously. But that misses quite how much work went into this. It was an extremely serious project. And it gave permission to others to do the same.

Call Of Duty
RELEASE DATE: 2003
IMPORTANCENESS: Catastrophic

My goodness, can it really only be seven-and-a-bit years ago? It feels like Call Of Duty should have been with us since the beginning of gaming, a side-scrolling WWII shoot-em-up on the Amstrad, a blip on the screen of an oscilloscope. But it wasn’t until 2003 that Infinity Ward split from EA, invaded Poland, and triggered the biggest action gaming series of all time. Clearly it is now synonymous with the loudest controversies and biggest marketing campaigns in all of gaming, but it began as something incredibly special. Call Of Duty’s depiction of conflict was unlike anything else we’d seen, even the Medal Of Honour games that preceded it. This was the terror of war, surrounded by allies who would die around you, fighting as scared teenagers surrounded by other scared teenagers. It was a game whose intensity of trauma meant I could only play one mission at a time, before having to quit to recover. It didn’t glorify war, but was horrified by the brutality of it. The effort was focused to make it clear this was about people, not amorphous armies. It was about death, and fear, and trembling in corners. Never mind what it’s become – where it began makes it one of the most important PC games of all time.

See also: Call Of Duty 2

World Of Goo
RELEASE DATE: 2008
IMPORTANCENESS: Stuck to our hearts forever

It makes me happy. Some games cheer me up, others keep me interested, many move me or inspire me. But World Of Goo makes me happy. It makes you happy too. And that makes it extremely important. Sometimes it’s tempting to think that all the great ideas have been thought of and executed, and that gaming’s doomed to iterate for the rest of its existence. And then two guys in a coffee shop come along and release the best puzzle game in two decades. Attaching balls of goo like a model of covalently bonded atoms to build flexible towers, bridges, structures, is a damned good idea. It alone, performed in a collection of cunningly designed puzzles, would have been enough for brilliance. But World Of Goo isn’t satisfied with that. It imbues everything with personality, from the goo balls to the sign posts to the menu screens. It pops and giggles, bright and delightful, as hypnotically pretty as Cbeebies evening programming, and as cunning as seventeen hundred foxes. The music, the design, the puzzles, the glee, the colour, the thick, black edges, the jokes, the twists and turns, the evolving challenges – they add up into something spectacular. It made its creators deservedly rich, and marvellously they’re doing their best to use that to help others in the indie realm. They pioneered “pay what you want” sales, and told people they didn’t care about piracy. They’re still making people’s days.

Psychonauts
RELEASE DATE: 2005/2006
IMPORTANCENESS: Mindblowing

The tragedy that is the story of Psychonauts’ UK release is too sad to even retell. What should have been one of the most popular platform adventures of all time still lives in relative obscurity, more read about than enjoyed. This is one of the most wondrous games we’ve ever been lucky enough to play, and almost no one did. The tale of a summer camp for psychic children let us explore a vivid and gorgeous world, between explorations of the minds of its residents, uncovering psychological disorders in bright, Nickelodeon colours. Each brain entered wasn’t only thematically different, but also changed the way the game was played. Each could have been a satisfactory game of its own, but Psychonauts threw them aside as if they weren’t a masterstroke that most developers would sell their legs to think of, making room for the next. Its remarkable darkness, the Burton-esque design, and Schafer’s masterful dialogue means what looks like a kid’s game is in fact remarkably adult. The depiction of mental illness, despite visual puns, ludicrous design, and outlandish characters, somehow remains sensitive throughout, whether you’re being chased by bulls inside an emotionally distraught artist, manoeuvring through the multiple tiers of a Napoleonic complex board game, or exploring the twisted insanity of a paranoid schizophrenic. Some shoddy edge detection, and that Meat Circus level aside, this outdoes all the more successful examples in the genre in a way that’s frankly unfair.

Sim City 2000
RELEASE DATE: 1994
IMPORTANCENESS: Core to gaming’s infrastructure

I don’t like management games. If I have to look at graphs, I’m at work. I want to be at play when I’m in front of a videogame. So why did I spend a frightening amount of my time playing Sim City 2000? Please, someone here contribute something. Why? It couldn’t be graphier. Why did I not only not mind but thoroughly enjoy laying down all the water pipes beneath my sprawling towns? What was wrong with me that I was delighted to place electricity wires one by one so my metropolis could be powered? How come I cared about those Sims and their happiness, such that I’d work out the correct levels of taxation to ensure appropriate funding without punitively affecting the poorer members of my society? Why was I content with sorting out public transport infrastructure? Maybe it contained some sort of evil hypnotic power, that trapped my defenceless 17 year old brain. Oh, and why is it important? Ha ha. It’s because it was the first game I ever wrote a published review of. That’s why. Oh, and it had some sort of impact on the management genre that’s still unmatched today.

See also: Sim City 4.

City Of Heroes
RELEASE DATE: 2004
IMPORTANCENESS: World saving

As someone who has never been charmed by another MMO, City Of Heroes holds a special place in gaming for me. But I’d argue it holds a special place in the larger scheme, too. It was a game that understood that MMOs should not be all about grind, but rather about action and reward. While decent travel powers not arriving until level 14 may have felt a bit of a slog, it was fantastically early compared to its contemporaries. And then you were leaping, flying, teleporting or speeding around its lively cities at such a tremendous pace that you really felt like a hero. It was a game where it was just magnificent to stand on a window ledge high above the city and watch. Since I think it has filled itself with so much extra that it’s muddled, and the experience is no longer the same. And clearly others have tried to mimic its successes, but none has quite managed to replicate its early glory.

Beyond Good & Evil
RELEASE DATE: 2003
IMPORTANCENESS: High, to the beating heart of love

It takes quite a phenomenon to oust a book by Nietzsche as the top brain result for its title. And yet a phenomenon of sales it was not. While someone watching one of the more action-filled sequences from a mid-point in the game may be forgiven for not seeing a distinction from your Jak & Daxters, they’d be missing out on something crucial: heart. When you first encounter it, spending half an hour photographing animals and chatting with creatures around a lighthouse feels like some form of madness. Later on, as you’re rescuing your pig-uncle from space, it created a tone that’s inescapable throughout – a brilliant third-person action platformer where the relationships between the protagonists actually matter. That it was released for PC makes it something of a rare treat. If it influenced anything, it was the continuing works of those producing the console’s finest examples. And if the much-delayed sequel doesn’t come out on PC, expect riots.

Burnout Paradise
RELEASE DATE: 2009
IMPORTANCENESS: Should be a squillion times higher than it is

If you’d asked me a year ago how important this game was, I’d have constructed scaffolding on the roof of Canary Wharf to to hang a banner that reached the ground reading “GOODNESS ME, SO IMPORTANT”. A year later and every driving game released in its wake, even by the same developer, Criterion, has been so enormously disappointing. Not necessarily bad, but falling short of everything that Paradise got right. Which suggests that no one understood its mix of really fine arcade racing, and gleefully stupid smash-based abandon. To see Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit appear with such a beautiful yet characterless world was devastating. I can return to Burnout: Paradise again and again, always delighted to start over from the beginning. To see that island refilled with bright yellow gates and bold red posters for me to smash through on the way to competing in the hundreds of impromptu races and challenges (and indeed midway through leading to my abandoning my current task) is like a brand new box of assorted delicious biscuits. It’s a game that understands joy – a lesson that doesn’t seem to have been learned, even by its own creators.

Day Of The Tentacle
RELEASE DATE: 1993
IMPORTANCENESS: Across all of time

Clearly everyone has their own favourite point and click adventure, and this one happens to be mine. But why do I consider this to have such importance? Because while it was not seminal, beyond a much improved SCUMM layout, it was hilarious. Funnier than any other game in the genre had been, and I’d contend has been since. People may respect Grim Fandango’s narrative more, or rate Monkey Island’s genre-defining ways higher, but for me this set standards in terms of puzzle design as comedy that are the target for all others to aim for. Also, it was damned clever. Solving puzzles across three time zones, affecting the future to complete challenges. The voice acting was utterly wonderful, the character design still gorgeous to look at. It’s stupid to call it a “masterpiece”, obviously. It’s a masterpiece.

Tomb Raider: Legend
RELEASE DATE: 2006
IMPORTANCENESS: Lofty

I understand if people disagree with the choice of Tomb Raider here. It’s very definitely unfair not to pick a Core version of the game they invented, and I think most will fall into the camps of Tomb Raider 1 or 2. I’m a 2 man myself. There are few games that can match Tomb Raider II for its imagination and level design. One of those games is Tomb Raider: Legend. I think it’s a better game. I think it’s Lara’s finest moment. It’s a bit of an oddity. Crystal Dynamics had no small task in front of them, picking up the pieces after Core’s spectacular blow-out on Angel Of Darkness. The direction the chose was to take Lara out of isolation, and give her a team. Not accompanying her, but chatting through her headset. And it’s the only game of the trilogy they’ve made that included this. But what it meant that joining some absolutely breathtaking design – intricate puzzles on an enormous scale – was a wit that the series had really lacked (although it was alluded to in Chronicles). Alister Fletcher and Zip chatting in her ear were frequently hilarious, and humanised the star who’d become an unnecessary goddess. The sequence exploring the Arthurian museum in Cornwall is one of my favourite moments across all of the Croftian games, and it was because the banter (Alister’s horror at the inaccurate depiction of Arthurian legend, and Zip’s merciless provocation) rather than the leaping and tumbling. It added depth to one of gaming’s best platforming series, and still has lessons to teach.

TrackMania Sunrise
RELEASE DATE: 2005
IMPORTANCENESS: Wheely high

Instant restart. I’ve said it before. I definitely will say it again. TrackMania knows the importance of the instant restart. If your game is about attempting to negotiate a ludicrously complex track in a car barely aware of the rules of physics, then you do not want to be watching load times to get back to the start. You want to be dropped back in place, and starting. That’s the rule. For goodness sakes, will everyone else just learn it? Trials did. But so many have not. Learning a track, incrementally figuring out each corner, leap and gap, is a multiple stage affair, that gradually lets you feel brilliant. That first corner that took you fifteen retries to get past? You glide past that effortlessly now, on your way to figuring out how the shitting crikey you’re supposed to clear the following gap. You build that up as you progress further, until you find yourself obsessively repeating the same track dozens and dozens of times, trying to shave off a vital tenth of a second to receive the next medal, wondering at how your brain can withstand the repetition without opening up the top of your head and walking off in a huff. That’s TrackMania. And Sunrise was the prettiest.

The Longest Journey
RELEASE DATE: 1999
IMPORTANCENESS: Vital to the balance of the universe

It’s easy to let my love for The Longest Journey become parody, such that it’s detrimental to the reputation of the game. The reason it’s important to me is because it changed my life, changed my imagination, opened pathways in my brain down which I’m still walking. But the reason it’s important to gaming is because there’s no one – not a single person – currently working in serious adventure game development who doesn’t recognise it as one of the most significant works of the genre. Yes, definitely, some of the early puzzles suck. You know what? So do some of the puzzles in Sam & Max Hit The Road. But I have yet to encounter anyone who cares about adventures who doesn’t want to shake Tørnquist’s hand and thank him for the game. The story of April Ryan, and her attempts to play a part in the restoring of the Balance that keeps the divided universe in working order, is one of the brutal invasion of reality that accompanies leaving teenage years and entering adulthood. Wild themes such as dragons, talking crows and floating libraries are matched by the grounded reality of forgotten childhoods, capitalist oppression and severed imaginations. Children’s drawings capture lost fantasies, while adult responsibilities threaten realising new dreams. It’s about being in that midpoint between fantasy and reality, and the struggle to understand what to take from each. It’s a beautiful struggle, and one I’m ever grateful it reminded me to fight for.

See also but less so: Dreamfall

Thief: The Dark Project
RELEASE DATE: 1998
IMPORTANCENESS: Unmatched

If I hadn’t recently replayed the original Thief, I may have made the mistake of rating the third game, Deadly Shadows, above it. Deadly Shadows is an incredible game, and of course contains one of gaming’s all-time greatest scenes – The Cradle. But as terrifying as that sequence may be, it doesn’t match the non-stop dreadfest that is the original 1998 game. Having recently completed Dead Space 2 without feeling a pang of fear, it’s fascinating to try to understand why a 13 year old game with its 13 year old graphics can still make me quake and yelp like an abused puppy. I think, if I’m to generalise, it’s because Thief understood that it was about what you don’t show, rather than what you do. When the danger is being worked on by my imagination, it’s always going to be far more effective than even the most grotesquely designed and realised alien monstrosity thrown at me through a wall. Thief also stands out to me for its difficulty levels. Rather than making people more difficult to kill, or weakening your character, or overloading levels with more enemies, instead it let you kill less. Steal more gold, find more objectives, and do it all without murdering the guards. The game required you to be better at being a thief. That mattered. It was a vast, beautifully sprawling game, that still has the power to make you terrified of light after a couple of hours play. You’ll be walking down the street, dodging lampposts and shuddering at oncoming headlights. For goodness sakes, start playing this game right now.

See also: Thief II: The Metal Age, Thief: Deadly Shadows

Knights Of The Old Republic
RELEASE DATE: 2003
IMPORTANCENESS: Decidedly

This was the game that properly defined how one should produce gaming choice. Yes, there are lots of other ways, and yes, other games did it before this one, but I am still giving the credit to KotOR because it did it so damned well – it did it in the way that other people should be copying. Because KotOR offers one path. They had a story to tell, and they knew what they wanted that story to be. The genius of this Star Wars RPG was to set it 4000 years before the rubbish films, and to let you experience that single, linear story in a way that makes it completely unique to you. Sprawling alternative paths means diluted effort. One singular route that can be encountered in emotionally different ways is focused. Playing through, making evil choices, takes you to no different places than a goodie-two-shoes encounter, but wow do you feel like you’re playing a different game. You still complete the same quests, but you approach them differently, cruelly, spitefully. And the reaction to your actions defines your impact on the world. That’s proper smarts.

Mafia: The City Of Lost Heaven
RELEASE DATE: 2002
IMPORTANCENESS: A significant hit

Well goodness, here’s another example of a game whose importance suddenly took a frightening perspective dive in the light of its own sequel. If even Mafia II didn’t get it, then who will? But Mafia did, and it’s still every bit as moving, thrilling and engrossing as it ever was. Playing Tommy Angelo, you follow a man’s life as he changes from taxi driver to made man, and his eventual death. It’s a tale that took its inspiration from those obvious waypoint Mafioso flicks, but presented something unique. Confused with its contemporary GTA III, at the time some struggled to understand why you’d create a large, open city, and then only let you trundle about it in wobbly crate cars at 30mph. But it was because it wasn’t trying to be an open world game. It was a mission-based linear narrative that just happened to be set in a world that was open. It was bold – seriously fucking bold – to put that much effort into a backdrop. It’s tale is gripping, the unfolding tragedy compelling, and the long, loooooong missions offering some really fantastic suspense. I think I could play the airport level again and again and again, day after day, and never get tired of it. It’s a real shame that no one else has had the guts to try to create something similar, but for the same developers. There’s a lesson that no one else needs to learn though – make sure your story is bloody brilliant if your game’s going to focus on the story.

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge
RELEASE DATE: 1991
IMPORTANCENESS: It’s the second most important adventure game I’ve ever seen.

There is no questioning the importance of the second Monkey Island. The first, while an interesting game, didn’t do much to change where LucasArts had already reached in their increasing dominance of the adventure genre. It was the sequel that made everyone realise they’d taken the lead from Sierra. While I’m sure many attending students would wish to tear me apart with wolves for observing that the first Monkey wasn’t actually very funny, it remains the case. In fact, it’s a pretty weak game amongst its peers. But in the second edition the magical genius appears. You already have your favourite memories from it, and you don’t need to know mine. What you do need to know is that almost everyone involved in games development has theirs too, and it’s influenced them. It’s tremendous that you can now play it in a superb remake with shiny new graphics and fantastic new voice acting – you should probably do that.

Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time
RELEASE DATE: 2003
IMPORTANCENESS: Timeless

It was going to take a lot to steal Lara’s thunder. Not even Indy could manage it, despite Ms Croft having robbed his every relic. It was unexpected that it would be a revival of Mechner’s platform series. I remember going out to see this game pre-announcement, in darkest Montreal, sat in front of computers along with half the gaming journalist fraternity of Europe. The concept was explained to us, but it didn’t sink in. The significance was lost on us. We had to play it and not get it in order to be able to understand it. In a platform game, especially of the Tomb Raider style, you attempted jumps, and if you failed, you reloaded to an earlier position. Those were the rules, and we abided by them. But Sands Of Time broke them. It took falling off a platform to my death, and a developer behind me saying, “You should have pressed rewind then,” for me to understand. And the next time I fell, panicking, fumbling for the correct gamepad button, I stabbed it just in time and watched my folly undo itself until the Prince was safely back on the platform that had launched his ill-timed leap. And a window opened in my brain. This was how it was meant to be. I remember writing in PC Gamer at the time that this was a device that every other third-person action game would have to mimic from now on, as anything else wouldn’t be good enough. But then I thought all FPS games would have to include a gravity gun after Half-Life 2, so what do I know? Not even the Prince Of Persia series ever managed to get it quite so right again, eventually collapsing into a puddle of purest awful by the time Prince Of Persia 2008 came along. Let alone anyone else.

Jedi Knight: Mysteries Of The Sith
RELEASE DATE: 1998
IMPORTANCENESS: Strong

Why the expansion pack, and not the original (confusingly named) Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II? Jedi Knight was an exceptional game. As was Dark Forces before it. As I argued a while back on Eurogamer, LucasArts were making some of the most remarkable FPS games of the 1990s – a fact that seems to have been strangely and unfairly lost over the time since. Oddly MOTS offered something less than Jedi Knight. The morality choices were gone, fixing you on a path of light, which meant a deal of the Force powers were no longer available. But what you got instead was a far greater emphasis on the light sabre, realising it as one of the most exciting in-game weapons ever, along with a depth of narrative that was – at this point – rare in the FPS genre. LucasArts were pioneers of the FPS, and it’s time for that reputation to restored. This is perhaps their finest moment.

See also: Dark Forces

The Operative: No One Lives Forever
RELEASE DATE: 2001
IMPORTANCENESS: Covert

A lot I had to say about Duke Nukem 3D applies here, as strange as that may seem. While the two games bear little in common, other than both being first-person shooters, I believe that NOLF carries the same proof that a game can present itself as silly without forgetting to take its development seriously. If only Monolith had remembered that, before they went all grumpy-trousers and forgot about having fun. NOLF is a lovely spoof of the James Bond genre, with its gender-switch approach, and gleeful nicking of Flemming’s gadgets, vehicles and plot structure. Cate Archer makes for an excellent protagonist, peculiarly snooty and unlikeable in some ways, while defiant and ass-kickingly pleasing in others. The pleasure of using gadgets to approach situations in your own chosen way is immense, with a good mix of stealth, action, driving and narrative. Flavours of Hitman, Deus Ex and Austin Powers made for an interesting cocktail. One that really worked, and is still damned fun to play now. Sadly at 10 years told, it was also the beginning of the last comedy FPS series – a gap that no one has taken seriously since.

Please note that this post is but one fragment of a larger list, which in total covers over 100 of what RPS feels is the PC’s most important games (but not all of them). You can find the other parts to date here. More is yet to come.

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252 Comments »

  1. AndrewC says:

    What? Oh yeah, OK. I’m paying attention.

  2. Maxheadroom says:

    I bought Psychonauts on import (straight from the developer if I remember correctly) I like to think I played my small part in insuring it even had a UK release (which at the time looked unlikely).

    Definitely a classic

    • Lambchops says:

      Snap.

      Hopefully one of the other guys highlights my other favourite piece of Shafer magic (and reason why I was excited enough about Psychonauts that it was the only game I’ve ever imported) Grim Fandango.

      It always amuses me retrospectively that the US was slower than the UK to get on to DVD discs and that when we’d dispensed of the ludicrous 6 CDs now needed to house games those crazy Americans were still using multiple discs and charming cardboard boxes.

  3. Creeping Death says:

    Dragon Age? Kotor? Mysteries of the Sith and Prince of Persia? … I think I love you John! xD

  4. stahlwerk says:

    In a perfect world, NOLF would have been top of the list for spawning both a long running game series, a failed movie adaption, and a more mature reboot that got raving reviews for its sophisticated humour, as well as inspired a trend of witty female protagonists in other genres.

    But no…

    • stahlwerk says:

      Edit somehow doesn’t work at the moment, have a reply: I just noticed the sorting method remark, so my comment was more applicable to yesterdays list. But for what it’s worth, “NOLF” is still shorter than “Portal”.

    • John Walker says:

      If anything it came first for being the longest title!

    • Sarlix says:

      I’m just glad to see it get mentioned at all tbh. NOLF1/2 are two of my favorite games. NOLF2 is the only game I have replayed to completion on a semi-regular (yearly) basis. Try stealthing through the entire soviet level with out raising a single alarm. Not easy my friends.

    • Zephro says:

      Every time I see any mention of FEAR I shed a tear for NOLF. They were just so damned good, without exaggeration the best FPS games I’ve ever played.

    • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

      “Sadly at 10 years told, it was also the beginning of the last comedy FPS series – a gap that no one has taken seriously since.”

      I think it can be said that TF2 might have taken NOLFs place – at least in terms of comedy FPS and somewhat even in terms of the graphical style. Wouldn’t you agree?

      One could argue that TF2 is not that kind of FPS, but i think that has to do with the whole FPS genre changing, with barely any FPS these days actually focusing on the single player experience.

    • stahlwerk says:

      I don’t care much for multiplayer only games, because I’m bad at games where I can’t take my time to plan stuff out. Thinking back, NOLF may have been the last FPS that I actually completed and/or remember having fun doing so. (V:TM;B notwithstanding) The flow of that game was simply fantastic, and it even rewarded you for staking out the enemy guards first, by having them chat with each other in actually funny dialogue. Better than any conveniently placed audiolog or hilarious diary entries other games tend to use for incidental comedy.
      (Now you can laugh at me for not having completed HL2.)

    • vodka and cookies says:

      If you like NOLF you need to watch Archer (on FX in USA) it’s also a send up of the same era and so god damn funny. A game based on Archer universe is exactly what it needed.

      NOLF remains one of my favorite FPS games though, too bad Monolith are just the admin wing of Warner Brother Interactive these days. There not even make FEAR or Condemned anymore.

    • Xercies says:

      I to have NOLF up there as my favourite FPS of all time, i really want Monolith to go back to it. It was just fun, actiony, you could go through the levels in quite a number of ways, the guards actually talked to each other like real people and the plot was gloriously silly.

    • lokimotive says:

      I think it’s interesting that you place it next to Duke Nukem 3D as I have a tendency to link the two in PC gaming history as well, but not because of the humor. Rather, Duke Nukem 3D represents, to me, the first attempt at really linking the levels together to form a coherent story environment. You could easily rearrange any of Doom, Doom 2 or Quake’s levels without really sacrificing the story (rather you would disrupt the difficulty curve). But, Duke Nukem 3D made a much greater attempt to link its levels together to form a coherent narrative. Sure it wasn’t a very good narrative, but you knew right away why you were in an electric chair without your weapons, or why you started out the level in a submarine… because the end of the previous level presaged that.

      No One Lives Forever advanced this, for me, by really lending some importance to the between level cut scenes. They were at least slightly interactive, they were important to what you did in the mission, and they actually had some character development. Add to that how alive the world felt thanks to the grumblings of the gaurds, and I really felt like it was the future of gaming. Of course, Half-Life changed things by recentering the narrative within the game world (rather than cutscenes), but it lost a lot of humanity because of it. No one cares about Gordon… I cared about Kate. But we’ll never see her likes again.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      One thing to mention with regards to multiplayer is that Monolith tended to ship their games with minimal multiplayer and add the rest in patches later. I think this caused the games to be underrated a bit, especially the second one.

    • Jac says:

      I’ve somehow managed to exist without ever hearing about NOLF. Is it available anywhere? Published by fox no less according to wikipedia.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Also it’s damn pretty.

      Shut up about HD and shader models. Look at that damn texture work, and that modelling. ‘Tis brilliantly done.

      And it had a sequel that was better, building on the original in ways which were improvements, both in gameplay and in character development! That is a thing which hardly ever happens.

      Then Contract JACK happened. Sigh.

    • bleeters says:

      Not enough games feature on-the-rails vehicle shooter sections where you sit on the shoulders of a burly scotsman riding a tiny tricycle, fighting Tommy gun wielding french mime assassins and chasing down their unicycle riding midget leader.

    • Devan says:

      I agree, NOLF 1 and 2 are my all-time favourite FPSs. Not only because of the great gameplay, story, and humour, but also because of the time I spent mapmaking in their editor. I once managed to make a map that created an arena which would spawn AI bots in two teams and pit them against each other for your enjoyment. It featured a transparent viewing area and in-world buttons you could press to change the teams around so you could pit the Ninjas against the French Mimes, or HARM against the Soviets etc. Those are the experiences that got me hooked on development and are the reason I’m in the industry now.

  5. Thirith says:

    Nice ‘un. Lots of overlaps with my own (inexisten) list, but more importantly, where it doesn’t overlap you make your case in interesting ways that make me want to revisit some of the games to give them a second chance.

  6. pauleyc says:

    Good, good. A bit surprising that you decided to list MotS instead of Dark Forces/Jedi Knight but I’m buying your arguments. Now, how about some Ultima love?

    /is impertinent and impatient

    • SimonHawthorne says:

      I’m surprised that “Star Wars: Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith” isn’t top of the list!

      That’s some title.

  7. Om says:

    Dragon Age? Really? This is a strange list

    • DarioSamo says:

      You’re not alone pal. If this list doesn’t include Fallout 1 at some point, but it does include Fallout 3, I’m going to cry some manly tears…

    • Doesntmeananything says:

      You’re not alone indeed. For me DA was annoyingly boring. I just can’t understand why so many people outright eulogize it. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it before, but now that the game appeared on this list, I began to wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Because I fucking loved each and every game that share this list with DA.

    • thurzday says:

      Agreed. Dragon Age failed as an RPG for me, especially after having played Baldur’s Gate 2 and seeing that Bioware was capable of much better encounter design than what was on display in DA (though the characters were still shallow in both). The only reason DA was a hundred hour epic was its layers and layers of tedious, filler combat. BG2 also gave the player vastly more freedom–an aspect central to RPGS–than DA.

    • Cinek says:

      If I can think of any reason why DA is on the list instead of other Real RPGs – it’s because the DA has been first RPG for mass audience featuring good 3D graphics, sex, and a lot of violence. It gave RPGs bit more life for a players outside the RPG hardcore group.

      Is it good or bad… it depends. If RPGs gonna go in future for shooters with elements of RPG direction than the fact that DA was ever released is good. But as an RPG game it was… well… middle-grade at most.

    • Bloodloss says:

      In what way did BG2 give more freedom? BG2 to me seems much more restrictive and gives you absolutely no meaningful choices at all, which is probably the most important thing in regards to RPGs for me. Dragon Age definitely did have way too much filler combat though.

    • Shadram says:

      “I just can’t understand why so many people outright eulogize it.”

      And I struggle to understand why people don’t like it. It comes down to taste and personal opinion, which differ for all of us. The combat in DA:O is immensely tactical if you stick it on harder difficulty levels, and while, yes, there probably were too many “kill 5-6 darkspawn” encounters, there were enough frequent event fights or boss encounters to ensure it was never a chore.

      Also, Alistair. <3

    • Evilpigeon says:

      I’m in this camp also, a reasonably good game sure but I played this within 6 months of my first go at BG2 (I was about 10 at its release :P ) and it just doesn’t compare. I’m also a bit dissapointed to see you call it best rpg of the decade over Morrowind, VtMB and The Witcher. Each to his own I guess but personally I don’t feel anything that brandishes the DLC you can buy for it so obtrusively should even be considered…

    • Saul says:

      I’m in the “combat was a chore” camp, which is the reason I never finished the game. But there were parts of the story and character development which were done superbly. Hey, I even wrote a feature about it:

      http://beefjack.com/features/must-try-harder-dragon-age-origins/

    • Kdansky says:

      I’ll bet my fridge that Dragon Age will not be remembered fondly by everyone and will not become a classic. It’s just too average and not outstanding enough. It’s a very standard “RPG” (with very little RP, as usual). You could say it is a Blizzard game without the polish. I would have expected BG2 on that list instead (and I have to add that I didn’t even like BG2 much, but I can see that it was an important game).

      All other choices I can get behind. The shouting will start when the last part drops and we find some games missing. We’ll have to slog through Mass Effect (2) and Fallout 3 I suppose, despite those two games being quite awful.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      Dragon Age is not OMG amazing for me, but it is the latest and by default most modern CRPG in the old style from a mainstream publisher. That alone makes it interesting and unique. And I did like it, just not lavishly so.

      I disagree with the article that the death of those kinds of RPGs is around the corner too. Maybe big budget major publisher releases will stay thin but I doubt they will ever disappear, and indies will release a TON of them in the years to come I bet.

  8. crainey92 says:

    I mean you know what you’re doing and this is a mighty fine list and a good read at that but surely, surely Half-Life 2 should be on their. I don’t know maybe I’m just being byist because Half-Life 2 just happens to be my favourite game ever but I thought that game flowed so well from start to finish and time flew when playing it, kinda like Portal come to think of it.

  9. Hodag says:

    NOLF is a true joy to play when you’re feeling depressed. Parts of it are just so insane you can’t help but laugh.

    • Monchberter says:

      Huge coated unicycling Frenchmen need to be in every game.

    • Sarlix says:

      Yes. That and Man-crates.

    • michaelar says:

      “Huge coated unicycling Frenchmen need to be in every game.”

      That reveal, and the ensuing chase scene on the back of a tricycle piloted by an insane Scotsman, caused my head to explode. I was nearly incapacitated with laughter. It easily ranks as one of the most incredible single moments in gaming. Monolith, if you’re reading this, you did well.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Wasn’t that NOLF 2?

      I say that because I remember that segment, and I never played the first one.

  10. sqrrl101 says:

    I know a lot of people said it on the last one, but how the hell is Deus Ex not on this list?!

    • Alec Meer says:

      BECAUSE IT’S A MULTIPART LIST AARGH GOD JESUS SANTA HOW MANY TIMES

    • JB says:

      Many, many times, apparently.

    • torchedEARTH says:

      Until Deus Ex is on the list apparently.

      …and System Shock 2

    • Hidden_7 says:

      There are FIVE lists. You’ve seen TWO so far. There are still THREE to go. As such, nothing ISN’T on the list yet. The list still potentially features ANY given game. If, when ALL (5) the lists are done, and something, like Deus Ex, ISN’T on any of the FIVE (all) lists THEN you can rightfully complain that it isn’t on the list. Though I’d take it as a kindness if you wouldn’t. Also, I find it pretty unlikely that Deus Ex won’t show up on someone’s list since RPS dedicated an entire week to Deus Ex’s birthday.

      Sometimes I wonder if, instead of a using a captcha system, or the current login, you could have people answer a short reading comprehension test, like you would in school, on the article they are commenting on. It might not weed out robots any, but it would at least hopefully sort people who don’t read the article, then complain about or ask questions about things explicitly dealt with in the article. If at the very least it minimizes the internet poison of “TL;DR” I’d consider the inconvenience brought about by such a system a fair trade.

    • Man Raised by Puffins says:

      BECAUSE IT’S A MULTIPART LIST AARGH GOD JESUS SANTA HOW MANY TIMES

      Team RPS after Part 5 goes up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrlS9_n8GX4

    • Consumatopia says:

      If you put something under the fold but before the first picture or game, it really should not shock you that people aren’t reading it.

      Try just stating your sponsor, explain the whole split-arbitrarily-into-five-parts-for-no-sensible-reason thing, then put the weird Academic Lecture Role Playing under the fold.

      That is, unless you like it when people are misreading you, which I suspect that you do.

    • sqrrl101 says:

      Okay, jesus, sorry guys. I should have read more closely but I skimmed it looking for my favourite game. Perhaps putting the “/5″ in the title in the first place would have helped me avoid the mistake.

      Unless you did have the “/5″ in the title when I read this earlier, which I don’t believe you did. If that’s the case then my perceptive skills are even worse than I thought.

    • Resin says:

      Any list without Deus Ex suks! Where is Deus Ex on this list?

    • Dougal McFrugal says:

      Wait

      The list is multi-part?

      is that like a multi-pass?

    • mbourgon says:

      multi-passssssss
      passsssssss
      “He knows it’s a multipass”

      And yes, I think that it’s insane they left The Lurking Horror off of part 6 of the list.

  11. Roi Danton says:

    Mass Effect is the direction RPGs are heading and The Witcher/DA:O are relics? Dear lord, I need a drink now. No, make that bottle of scotch. I have to beat this sentence out of my head.

    I do agree on NOLF and Longest Journy tough.

    So…where did I put that bottle…ah…*starts drinking*

  12. crainey92 says:

    Disregard my previous comment (I am unable to edit for some reason) I missed the first part somehow and Half-Life 2 is on their, and the first Half Life.

  13. Butler says:

    ’tis a strange list, but probably a more interesting one for it.

    particularly happy to see NOLF and DOTT

  14. Nimic says:

    I’ll just say this now, Dune 2 damn well better be on one of these lists! And C&C! And.. and.. Age of Empires 2. Strategy games!

    Nice list, though. I’m pleasantly surprised about Dragon Age, since I absolutely loved it, but I got the impression that some people were a bit “meh” about it, even fellow RPG-lovers. Love these articles.

  15. P4p3Rc1iP says:

    So… What about strategy games?

  16. Gary W says:

    Now that you’ve got Lemmings in there, don’t forget about Magic Pockets, Rainbow Islands and Gloom.

  17. Ergates_Antius says:

    I don’t like management games. If I have to look at graphs, I’m at work. I want to be at play when I’m in front of a videogame
    You’re a videogames journalist. a) When was the last time you had to look at a graph at work? b) Surely being at work involves sitting in fron of a videogame?
    Hmmm? Hmmm?

  18. toastmodernist says:

    Maybe John doesn’t think it’s one of the most important games ever within a list of x games. Also half life 1 was on JR’s

  19. Towercap says:

    DAIKATANA!

    • Gary W says:

      Coming in 2024: “Daikatana II: The Legend of Superfly Johnson”.

      Romero and Carmack agree to team up one last time for their farewell swan song. Upon release, it’s hailed as gaming’s Citizen Kane/Birth of a Nation/Battleship Potemkin all rolled into one. The two Johns are redeemed, and Carmack offers free flights to Mars, where he’s created a Doom-styled theme park on the surface of Phobos.

    • Towercap says:

      Critics unanimously pronounce video games an art form.

    • qrter says:

      And there was much rejoicing.

    • Shadram says:

      Until Fox News finally found conclusive proof that games do cause rape, and all games were instantly banned. Even the My Little Pony ones.

  20. Robin says:

    “It’s tremendous that you can now play it in a superb remake with shiny new graphics and fantastic new voice acting – you should probably do that.”

    And utterly mangled cut scenes. But yes.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      The only mangled cut-scene was, if I recall correctly, the opening one. Mangled as it was, a patch has since restored it in the classic mode. So at the very least you can play the original intact game with lovely new voice acting running nicely on modern OS’s. You can then, if you don’t mind the art shift too much, play the entire game except for the opening credits in shiny new Future Art.

  21. Bhazor says:

    I’ll just say that Burnout Paradise is nothing compared to Burnout Takedown.

  22. MrMud says:

    Its funny because to me KOTOR exemplifies how not to do choice.
    From what I can remember (and its quite a while since I played the game) all of the choices are incredibly black or white. There isnt even a hint of moral ambiguity anywhere in the game and as a result all of the choices in the game become trite and meaningless.

  23. GallonOfAlan says:

    10 years since NOLF? Fuck me.

    I hope MDK appears in one of these lists.

  24. James G says:

    I’m surprised to find myself disagreeing with your list more than Jim’s. Although its difficult to argue some of the decisions without seeing the other three lists. I mean, the appearance of Dragon Age, without having seen Baldur’s Gate, seems strange, but I can only assume it will pop up later.

    I’m assuming the selection criteria you are using are attempting to balance influence, with a game being interesting and enjoyable. You also seem to be trying to highlight mechanics and design elements that it is important to appreciate, even if their influence on gaming has been a bit restricted. Oh, and all the subjective and personal stuff, which is very much at the heart of RPS.

  25. Nomaki says:

    Never heard of NOFL, think I might have to go hunt down a copy and give it a spin.

    All in all, great list, nice one.

    • Nomaki says:

      Edit is borked, like to add that I’m hoping to see:

      - Starcraft (Unsure, but didn’t it set the bar for competitive RTS e-sports?)

      - Supreme Commander (Or it’s predecessor Total Annihilation, both are revolutionary in terms of huge-scale RTS’)

      - Deus Ex (Self explanatory)

      - Age of Empires 2 (Brilliant RTS which genuinely taught me history)

    • Cinek says:

      “Supreme Commander” ? revolutionary ? Huh? Where have you been during last 10 years?
      Playing SCcom all the time? This would answer the weirdness of Your statement.

    • realityflaw says:

      SupComm was certainly not any kind of innovative, it was a hearkening back to what made RTSs great, huge epic battles with hundreds, even thousands of units. Not a small scale tactics game foisted up as a Strategy title (though tactics could be important), which in today’s RTS market where the unit caps seem to get smaller and smaller every year (imho tens of units does not a RTS make, much less 4), where cover mechanics and dice based hit chances become ever more popular, it was certainly a breath of fresh air. So I guess in abstract it could be considered a revolution against the revolution.

      Actually now that I’m thinking about it SupComm’s camera was pretty fresh at the time and has been much copied.

  26. mr_faemir says:

    Dragon Age the top RPG of the decade?

    Did you not play Baldur’s Gate II or something? :S

    • toastmodernist says:

      Think he prob. thought Dragon Age was better, than other RPG’s too.

    • Sarlix says:

      @Nimic

      Yes you’re quite right – I should of read it properly – Apologizes.

    • Nimic says:

      Maybe he’s one of those weirdos who counts a decade as going from 01 to 00. So the Dragon Age decade was 2001-2010.

    • Groove says:

      I thought Baldur’s Gate II was awful. I say that having played and enjoyed the first one.

      I know so many good things about it, but I found it unplayable.

    • John Walker says:

      I think you mispelled “right people”, Nimic. That’s how decades go! Hence my remark in the piece that now it’s finally 2011 the quote that got me into trouble in PC Gamer (“RPG of the decade” – a line that came about because of a miscommunication on the phone, as it happens) is now accurate.

    • Nick says:

      But what about Vampire? A better RPG to be sure! Fight fight fight!

    • phlebas says:

      @Nick: You’ve summed up the two halves of Vampire quite nearly there.

    • 8-bit says:

      a decade is any period of ten years so everyone is correct.

    • realityflaw says:

      While I agree that BG1 was superior to BG2 at the time, (grid based exporation, yes please). Its utterly unplayable for me now. The level cap is like 4 and everything moves so slow. I don’t know why this is such a big deal to me, ( I can’t replay Diablo after Diablo 2 either as much as I would like to.)

      I really wish for more games with exploration, but content is expensive, so there are less of them every year. I half expect Skyrim to be announced as an “on rails” FPS/RPG any day now.

  27. Monchberter says:

    Mysteries of the Sith was pretty fantastic, but damn was it hard!

    I still have a penchant for the lovingly animated sprites (and fun arsenal) of Dark Forces over the ropey 3D of the Jedi Knight series, but yes, MoTS was the best of the lot.

    Good choice.

    • DainIronfoot says:

      A point also:

      “he morality choices were gone, fixing you on a path of light, which meant a deal of the Force powers were no longer available”

      Is wrong as I remember the expansion pack entirely removed the distinction between dark and light forcepowers, both in SP and MP. You could choose anything. There were a lot more interesting powers and gamemodes too if I remember.. ah, memories.

    • Nick says:

      Yes, you could use force lightning and stuff iirc. I think one of my favourite parts of MoTS was the pretty much unheard of way in which you could defeat the “final boss”.

  28. Ignorant Texan says:

    Et tu, Walker? That fucking Meat Circus level! Poor Raz is forever trapped there, buried in the HD of a XBox long gone. Someday, GOG will get my cash so that I may forever weep that a sequel wasn’t released.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      Did you remember to use telekinesis, shield, and invisibility? Those are all vital unless you’re doing it the masochist way.

  29. noom says:

    I fucking love Lemmings. The music from it still pops into my head unbidden to this day.

  30. DeanLearner says:

    Mate, you forgot halo 3.

    *coat*

  31. TheGameSquid says:

    Call of Duty? Dragon Age? Portal? Beyond Good and Evil? On a list of the most important PC games?

    WHAT IS THIS TOMFOOLERY?!

  32. karry says:

    “Psychonauts
    IMPORTANCENESS: Mindblowing”

    Right. The game that no one bought. Important as hell. Which is to say not at all, since hell doesnt exist.

    And anyway, sponsored list is sponsored. TF2 ? LFD2 ? HL2 ? Portal ? Do i smell the stink of the Valve check with a round number on it ? Even regardless of Valve, more than half of both lists are ridiculously unimportant in the grand scale of things.

    • MrMud says:

      You could say its important in that it taught developers not to take creative risks.

    • toastmodernist says:

      Do Valve own Intel?

    • Lilliput King says:

      Valve are a pretty important developer to be honest.

    • bill says:

      it is a game about going into people’s minds. rps sometimes uses humour. that is all.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      A) Game doesn’t need to be popular to be important if it influenced developers. I don’t know if Psychonauts did, but luckily
      B) As clearly evidenced by Jim’s list, some of these are going to be things of personal import. It’s quite a long list, there’s room for the heavy hitters, and smaller personal stories
      C) “sponsored list is sponsored?” What? Really? English list is English? Tautological sentence construct is tautological? What does the list being sponsored by Intel have anything to do with things? As different from any given article on here which is sponsored by whoever’s ad is on the side at the time?
      D) No, you do not smell the stink of a Valve cheque with a round number on it. The paranoia of corruption absolutely baffles my mind sometimes. It seems people are so convinced that there are people out there wanting to go about things the evil way, that they don’t stop to think how little there is to gain by doing things the evil way. Bribes don’t strike me as a cost effective way to advertise, and publications that take bribes will very quickly lose readership for being wrong. There’s no percentage in it for either side.

      More baffling, however is the absolutely rudeness and contempt people have for the writers of things they read. Why are you here if you think RPS is corrupt? What possible gain do you have from reading journalism you feel is compromised? Why show up at all?

      It’s clear from snide little insults such as those that you have absolutely no respect for the writing here, nor the integrity or effort of the writers that do such writing. So what’s the gain in wasting your time reading, and then commenting on these words you hold in such low regard?

      Maybe you think it’s no big deal to off-handedly suggest corruption because it happens so often. It is. It’s rude, slanderous, it insults both the person’s ethical character as well as their professional integrity and ability. It’s not something you just casually throw about. It’s not something you level with absolutely no evidence. It would be akin to you showing up to somewhere with a new coat and a friend commenting “That’s a new coat, eh? Did you steal it? I only ask because I know you’re so awful at your job that you’ve probably been fired and wouldn’t be able to afford to buy it.” It’s that rude.

      Seriously, quit being such a terrible person and Occam’s Razor this. So many Valve games show up on this list because they are Just. That. Good. Makes way more sense that bribery or corruption. Seriously.

    • toastmodernist says:

      Bet Valve check’s smell awesome anyway.

      Serious note: Accusing journalists of being biased / bought off by sponsorship money is neither big nor clever especially when it’s not exactly a very contentious opinion that valve have made some of the most important pc games ever AND rps is totes up front about the thing being sponsored by Intel.

      troll bait gets eaten.

    • D says:

      @Hidden_7 *standing applause*

    • adonf says:

      “Do i smell the stink of the Valve check with a round number on it ?”

      Since the article is sponsored by an Intel service that is a competitor of Valve’s Steam, I’d say that your question is not extremely clever.

    • Nick says:

      Yes, but judging by the rest of the post, neither is the person posting it.

    • NikRichards says:

      Given that two of the senior ubisoft producers scorned me quite heavily for not having completed Psychonauts, I’d say it’s had an impact on the industry.

    • Urthman says:

      See Valve is so rich, they’ve actually bought 2/3ds of the readers of RPS. That’s why we’re always claiming to love games like Portal and Half Life and L4D and TF2. It’s all a fake. No one actually enjoys that crap.
      Sorry you didn’t get in on the ground floor, karry, but supposedly if you post 10 or more comments praising Valve games, you’ll get an e-mail from Gabe with an offer of some cash.

      Although you “karry” account is probably disqualified for mentioning the payola publicly like this, you can just get a new sock puppet, post some comments hyping Portal 2, and watch the cash roll in!

    • Dougal McFrugal says:

      man i thought we all worked for valve around here

      Who’s this new guy?

    • realityflaw says:

      He’s not even wearing a hat.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Yeah! Valve totally paid you guys to put those games on the list! It’s not like I own every Valve game, and bought every Valve game for my brothers, and bought several Valve games for my friends, and own over 400 games on Steam. It’s not like other people are Valve fanboys. It’s not like other, other people are Valve fanboys either.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      Did it ever occur to you that the Valve games in question are actually…
      …wait for it..

      INFLUENTIAL? No. No way! It can’t be! How could the games possibly be in a list about them being influential!? RPS MUST be being bribed for this list! They HAVE to!

      Dear GOD the “logic” that some commenters display is nothing short of mind boggling. Only in the internet would people think “OMG BRIBERY” rather than “gee, maybe Valve games ARE influential…”.

  33. Ignorant Texan says:

    As the edit function is not currently not working for me, I do hope at some point one of y’all mentions CinemaWare. I spent many hours on my Amiga with their games(Defenders of the Crown, Rocket Ranger, Wings, etc..). They must once again have some money, a look at their website lists the availability of many more games than the last time I visited.

    http://www.cinemaware.com/default.asp

  34. Retribution says:

    Two lists down and no strategy games mentioned? That’s disheartening

  35. Nogo says:

    The write up for Longest Journey is brilliant.

    I believe I will have a biscuit and some milk now.

  36. Cosmo Dium says:

    People have been saying that the tactical style of mega-long role playing games are on the downslope for a while… but then along comes some breakout title that reinvigorates the genre that balances good game play with strong depth. They may not all play like DA or Baldur’s Gate, but they’ve got that influence in their DNA. ME2 streamlining is one way forward, but not the only way.

  37. toastmodernist says:

    Why has no-one mentioned my favourite game yet which is far more important than anyone elses favourite games.

    It’s a fookin’ disgrace.

  38. mollemannen says:

    hmm… why do i get the feeling this is now more of a “list of games i like”.

    • Creeping Death says:

      Isnt that essentially what all these lists are? A list of games the author thinks is great and that you should check out.

      They’re not there to be taken as some kind of biblical checklists of games you MUST play if you want to call yourself a gamer :P

    • mollemannen says:

      then why not call it a list that is important to me instead of a list of important pc games?

  39. bill says:

    This is a rather awesome list. Agree with almost everything on it. (except the ones i haven’t played yet.)
    So many great memories here.
    I’m obviously a John Walker.

  40. Coren says:

    But I have yet to encounter anyone who cares about adventures who doesn’t want to shake Tørnquist’s hand and thank him for the game.

    You’ve heard of Andrew Plotkin AKA Zarf, right? He’s an important figure in Interactive Fiction. Quinns wrote about him in a few places:
    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/11/02/if-author-raises-10000-in-one-day/
    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/11/05/text-to-speech-andrew-plotkin-interview/

    I’m sure you’ll agree the guy obviously cares about adventures. And yet, he wrote this scathing review of TLJ a few years ago:
    http://www.eblong.com/zarf/gamerev/longestjourney.html

    I know! Shocking! I was devastated too when I found out about this! How can anyone NOT like The Longest Journey? :(

    Anyway, great list. I agree with the vast majority of titles you put on there.

    • phlebas says:

      Zarf knows an awful lot about adventures, but he says up front that he doesn’t like the third-person style much (and has been somewhat unlucky in the few he has played – this is a man who missed the first three Monkey Island games but played the fourth). It’s fairly safe to say he and Walker look for different things in an adventure game. Conversely Walker hates Myst, so that doesn’t appear in his segment of the list despite being very important indeed.

    • Urthman says:

      I haven’t played Longest Journey, but I find Zarf a lot more persuasive on this than John. Particularly since John also likes Bioware’s writing so much and I still haven’t forgiven them enough for Jade Empire’s drek to try Mass Effect or Dragon Age.

      But then I also like Myst, so what do I know?

    • Nick says:

      Both ME and Dragon Age are much better than Jade Empires.

  41. JackShandy says:

    Psychonauts is essentially my one true love. I enjoyed it moderately at first, frowning at the platforming and beaming at the character of it all. Then I finished it, and – well, there’s nothing else out there, is there? You hum along to the end credits, switch it off and think “Well, that was good. I think I’ll go play another game like it-
    OH WAIT.”
    I have to talk about it. At the start, as you’ve heard, you’re given various missions revolving around entering people’s minds. If you ignore that, though, you can adventure around this beautiful little summer-camp hub world that is coated from head-to-toe with optional conversations and interactions. Every single one of them is gold. You tramp around the swamps, beaches and paths-less-traveled looking for collectables, all the while stumbling upon kids chatting, fighting or sitting around playing guitar. It all feels gloriously alive with character in a way that linear adventure games rarely do.
    Then the halfway point comes. Suddenly, it’s night, and all of the kids are gone. You keep trudging around the deserted grounds for the collectables you need to continue, but it all feels suddenly empty. You’re alone, and playing hooky to hang around in the camp is no longer an option. You’re forced to follow the storyline down into the abandoned insane asylum in the island across from the camp and confront your demons.

    That surrounding context for your actions is one of my favourite pieces of gaming narrative. Everyone- it’s on steam for super-cheap. Try it.

    • Lambchops says:

      Very much this. Having spent so much time getting to know these characters and their idiosyncracies and relationships it’s absolutely horrible to see them gradually disappear. I also absolutely Raz’s wry one liner’s whenever he found . . . well lets not spoil things for anyone who hasn’t got around to this absolute gem yet.

    • sheldonbartleby says:

      Have you gentlemen played Anachronox? As far as falling deeply in love with rich, interesting characters goes, it’s a must-have. Difficult to find these days though, but all the cut-scenes have been stuck together as a two-hour machinima film. At least watch this bit:

  42. stahlwerk says:

    I hope you didn’t have to answer this before, but what was your procedure arriving at them there lists? Did the 5 of you sit together and brain-marathoned the master list and then split them randomly, or did each one of you write down their personal games of high importanceness and then removed duplicates?

  43. Chris D says:

    Just out of curiosity, if more than one of you picks the same game how do you decide who’s list it goes on? I’m picturing some kind of arena with racks of improbably shaped, bladed weapons and retractable spikes in the flooring.

  44. EBass says:

    So two of these have gone with no mention of Deus Ex, Fallout, Baldurs Gate, Total War, or Freespace?

    • toastmodernist says:

      yes.

    • Hodge says:

      It’s like they’re spreading them out equally or something.

    • Urael says:

      @Ebass – I’m glad you’re on hand to ensure these knowledgeable, vastly experienced journalists are doing their jobs. Should they fail to do right by your subjective expectations by close-of-play Friday, I do hope you’ll be straight on to the site to complain loudly and bitterly!

    • UK_John says:

      It’s scary how casually the statement that the future of the PC roleplaying genre is Mass Effect style Action-Adventure roleplaying and not The Witcher open world old school roleplaying.

      And my heart sank when I saw Dragon Age listed, given it has no open world, only a dozen, albeit long, quests and that fast travel with a single random encounter replaced all those caves, ruins and villages of open world games.

      I always say, how good would Oblivion had been, if at the sewer exit there was that great view, but the only option was fast travel to Weynon Priory, or in Baldur’s Gate fast travel from the initial city to the Inn, and so on!

      In effect then, what was said was the author believes we are at the end of the cRPG genre on PC.

      The adventure genre market saw the beginning of the end when action-adventures like Tomb Raider started appearing. Maybe we are seeing the beginning of the end of the cRPG genre with the advent of all these action-RPG’s, like Jade Empire and Mass Effect.

  45. plugmonkey says:

    God, I’d forgotten about NOLF. What a completely awesome game that was.

    Couldn’t get into Dragon Age. It bored the pants off me, which surprised both me and my pants.

  46. MonkeyMonster says:

    Loving the lists chaps. Am very happy to note I’ve played a good 2/3 of them and some of them more than a few times too, though a few admittedly on the consoles they first came out on… Burnout Takedown which is sublime (hammering through Paradise now though).

    Syndicate :D all I will say is “Team Cooper”; Gauss guns… Lvl 3 team with lasers… Those were the days. SimCity2k – only once did I have a city worthy of an army base.

    Good times.

  47. Berzee says:

    “But I have yet to encounter anyone who cares about adventures who doesn’t want to shake Tørnquist’s hand and thank him for the game.”

    Now you have.

    In other news I might have to slog my way through Monkey Island 1 if it’s true that 2 is actually funny. =)

    Good show, I feel 20% more enlightened.

    • stahlwerk says:

      I came this close to advising you to just skip MI1 and go straight to 2, since most plot points of Secret of Monkey Island don’t matter at all in Le Chuck’s Revenge.
      Then I remembered Herman Toothrot.

  48. aldo_14 says:

    I wish there was a way I could play Trackmania – either of the two first games – without having to either a) pay extra for a new copy or b) install f-ing Starforce.

  49. DiamondDog says:

    Thief! Surely by now we have to recognise it as the best game in the history of creation. There isn’t a list in the world it wouldn’t come top of.

    If nothing else it’s the best use of the West Country accent I’ve ever seen in a game. Oh and the best door creak. Looking Glass set the standard for creaks.

    • thurzday says:

      I agree. Thief is one of the few game’s I’ve played that felt innovative and polished in every respect. The gameplay is unique (why have so few games tried to copy this?), the writing (while sparse) is good, the sound design is better than almost everything that has come since, and the setting is among the most interesting (if minimalistic) of gaming. Oh Looking Glass Studios, how I mourn thee.

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