The Very Important List Of PC Games, Part 3/5

By Quintin Smith on February 16th, 2011 at 12:18 pm.

Our assembly of the definitive list of the most important PC games of the last 150 years continues! On Monday Dr Rossignol talked us through his first instalment, with an eye for first-personly shoot-games. Yesterday saw a guest lecture from Professor John Walker detailing another fifth of our unambiguous inventory. What classics will we cover today? Ah! We must remember our manners. First, let us all thank Intel’s AppUp developer program for their generous sponsorship. Now, to business.

Hello there, ladies and gents. Phew, it’s hot in here, isn’t it? Let me take this jacket and tie off. Sarah, is it? Sarah, would you mind hanging on to all that? Great.

Much better. Now, I’m here because you lot want to learn more about PC games. My name is Quintin Smith, which you might also recognise as the author such scholastic blockbusters as “Giving Headcrab: Valve’s Gift to Gaming”, and “Cry Havok! And Let Slip the Dogs of Innovation”. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover and I’ve not much time, so let’s begin. I know concentrating under mad central heating like this can be like trying to pee into a keyhole if you’ll pardon the expression, so feel free to pop your collars and get a little more comfortable.

Note that I’ve ordered these games by descending quality of graphics, because if there’s another way to do it I can’t think of it. Let us begin.

Far Cry 2
RELEASE DATE: 2008
IMPORTANCENESS: Strong

Far Cry 2 was characterised by a school of development that didn’t seem to think anything was good enough, with the game randomising, enlarging and detailing absolutely everything it could, from the way you took damage, to relationships with NPCs, to its level design and story and so much more. You’d be hard-pressed to find somebody more disenfranchised with the single-player FPS than me, but playing Far Cry 2 on its hardest difficult setting, getting sucked into its world, then being forced to mercy-kill my AI buddy was my gaming moment of 2008. I still remember his name, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Rest in peace, Paul Ferenc. You were a friend.

GTA IV
RELEASE DATE: 2008
IMPORTANCENESS: Unstoppable

Like many others I’ve talked to, the first few missions where GTA4 finally starts forcing you to commit terrible crimes settled on me like a heavy, itchy blanket. For a moment this game offered a glimpse of a simple immigration simulator, and it was beautiful. A thousand jacked cars and two thousand murders later I’d long since shrugged off said blanket. How could I keep it on, staring at all the time and sweat that Rockstar had sunk into this game. Whatever about GTAIV’s plot and its message- Liberty City is as impressive a feat of workmanship as gaming has ever seen, lovingly crafted from the very tips of its helicopter blades to the coffee cup dropped by the man you just ran over. This series is growing up, but it’s doing so on its own terms.

StarCraft II
RELEASE DATE: 2010
IMPORTANCENESS: Colossal

Yeah, you can put it down for being disappointingly similar to the original StarCraft. You can argue that it’s done irreparable harm to the RTS genre by achieving massive sales through turning its back on innovation. But what you can’t say is that what Blizzard did here was easy. This is a game with the attention to detail of high-end jewellery, the attention to depth of an OCD archaeologist excavating his own mother. But what really impresses me is that you slap a good commentator on it, and it’s a brilliant, watchable sport like no other game I can think of. But then, I’ve been drinking since lunch.

Red Orchestra
RELEASE DATE: 2004 (mod), 2006 (commercial game)
IMPORTANCENESS: Unforgettable

God bless the employed dreamers who decided to put this game together in their spare time, and bless them twice for deciding to give up those employments to make this game full-time. Red Orchestra is a multiplayer FPS covering the Eastern front of World War 2, and it’s cold and tense like nothing else out there. No, wait- let me try that description again. Red Orchestra is: staring out of a window in a ruined house, watching a distant figure go sprinting from one alley to another, unsure whether he’s an enemy or a friend, unsure of whether to shoot, feeling the pathos rolling around your stomach like a mouthful of copper, and then being stabbed in the neck by a man who was creeping up behind you the whole time. That’s Red Orchestra.

Braid
RELEASE DATE: 2009
IMPORTANCENESS: Mighty

If I were pressed for time, if my house were on fire or a bad man had broken in and was stealing my baby right out of its little baby house (I don’t have a baby) and somebody asked me what Braid was, I wouldn’t be able to just tell them it was a “puzzle platformer”. I’d have to take the time to say something else, something cryptic, like “The guy who made it, Joanthon Blow, argued with Microsoft for it to not have a main menu screen”. The idea behind it is just too strong and too interesting for me to pass this game of as the member of a genre, even if it is a great puzzle platformer. Braid is first and foremost an incredible story, it’s a piece of art, it’s just a fantastic achievement with the most perfect beginning and end I’ve ever seen in a videogame. It’s a vision. That’s what it is. A brilliant, startling vision.

SWAT 4
RELEASE DATE: 2005
IMPORTANCENESS: Probably

Why haven’t we had a sequel to this game yet? It’s a question you could ask about any number of games in this list, but with Swat 4 it feels that much more applicable because surely this is a game with mass-market appeal. Surely everybody would love the chance to represent the long arm of justice; to lace up some heavy boots, load up with thousands of dollars worth of protective equipment and lead a brave team into a building to protect the civilians within and incapacitate the criminals by firing a beanbag into their beanbag. But you know what, that doesn’t even cover half of SWAT 4’s appeal. It’s also in the briefing where every word, every scrap of information could doom you or save a life. It’s in the ungodly stretches of silence where you’re meticulously picking your way through an empty building, knowing deadly gunfire could erupt at any moment. It’s in the minuscule gasps of action where you go dashing into a room after throwing in a flashbang. The whole game feels like you’re disarming an emotional bomb that could go off at any instant, and the serial killer level in particular is as perfect a gaming experience as has ever been put together.

Startopia
RELEASE DATE: 2001
IMPORTANCENESS: Disappointing

Good sim games know that if you’re going to get the player to build something, it helps if that something is worth looking at. Startopia went one further, and gave us something worth falling in love with. From the beeping sensors and clattering hospitals of your space station’s workmanlike engineering deck, to the warbling and giggling aliens of the candy-coloured recreation deck, to the serene beauty of the glass-roofed bio deck, Startopia was a seductively playful vision of the future that warmed you like a mug of hot chocolate. It had a deliciously dark side too, of course, with your AI assistant VAL and disreputable alien trader Arona Daal sharing all kinds of disgusting trivia about all the aliens, not to mention the terrifying beasts that would hatch in dirty stations. First came the litter, then the cute little cats, and finally you’d double-take at the sight of a towering nightmare monster ripping up your DINE-O-MAT, or somewhere. Ah, everyone remembers the first time. Course, while Startopia’s abundance of heart will be remembered by all, what gets forgotten is all the clever mechanics the game had outside of the biodeck, like fighting to take over the segments of your neighbours’ stations or being able to tangle up all your funds in risky trading. That developers Mucky Foot were forced to close their doors two years after making this is a tidy tragedy.

Homeworld
RELEASE DATE: 1999
IMPORTANCENESS: Inter-dimensional

This was a wonderful first. I don’t mean a space RTS with elegant 3D combat and a wonderful camera – though Homeworld had that in its jumpsuit pocket too, of course – I mean an RTS that managed to make you feel that what you were doing and the decisions you were making were important beyond the strategic level. Achieved through a delicate combination of excellent writing, beautiful music and well-directed cutscenes, the terrible feeling of gravity around Homeworld’s campaign gave you a whole other level to be tense and excited on during any battles. If I’m honest, I found the plot of the similarly excellent Homeworld: Cataclysm to be even more affecting (crew of an enormous space-mining barge accidentally release galaxy-devouring virus, spend entire single-player campaign transforming themselves into a warship to defeat it), but Homeworld was the crucible of creativity from which fiery little Cacaclysm would be forged. I’m wondering now if what allowed Homeworld to be so affecting was that it never had to portray humanity on an individual scale, instead having you simply gaze at the outside of spaceships and let you imagination do all the heavy lifting. If that’s the case, it’s a trick I’d love to see other strategy games try in the future.

Max Payne 2
RELEASE DATE: 2003
IMPORTANCENESS: Firm

Look at him up there! The picture of nonchalance. Remedy’s sequel to their hard-boiled noir shooter would be an unlikely choice for anybody’s favourite game, but it does represent a certain peaking of confidence within the action genre. This was a game unabashedly trying to offer love and a style of immersive realism with one hand, while offering a near-endless series of polished gunfights with the other, with your constant killing never excused in some way or acknowledged as being ridiculous, as if that was simply what videogames were. The nearest we’ve come since then is almost certainly Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, though even that game felt the need to express how exhausted its characters were by the end. Max Payne 2? It was the last cocksure bullet fired by a punk who didn’t know he was dead yet, the gun making a noise like a door slamming shut on an entire school of thought. Or something. Where did I put that bloody mary?

Rome: Total War
RELEASE DATE: 2004
IMPORTANCENESS: Heavyweight

The Total War series was most succinctly summed up by Kieron in his Medieval: Total War review. “I am King of Spain!” it began and ended. In fact I think it might have appeared quite a lot in the middle, too. The point is that at its best, this series’ trademark breadth and its giant battles give you a sense of not quite power, but that you’re wielding an entire nation like a weapon, parrying invasions and beheading states. Course, if we step back a bit, what the Total War series provides is the appeal of hardcore, detailed, tabletop wargames distilled into a dramatic and accessible framework. Rather than reading a rulebook the width of your arm and then nudging cardboard tokens around, the game itself gently teaches you how to play it and then shows you thousands of men clashing with one another. Technology, baby! And nobody elevates this particular hobby better than Total War. Not that many people have tried recently, but still.

Ground Control
RELEASE DATE: 2000
IMPORTANCENESS: Fierce

The question poised by Ground Control was a simple one- “What if we made an RTS with no base building?” (It’s also a very nerdy one, and should probably be spoken aloud while pinching your nose closed.) Yes, Massive Entertainment’s sci-fi strategy title was a bit of a trailblazer, forcing you to carefully shunt your precious forces through levels with all the pitfalls and tension of a platformer viewed from above. You were so terrified to lose anybody, such was the game’s interest in experience carried from battle to battle and the steely charisma of the little guys. Anyone who played Ground Control will remember the theatre of your artillery, the villainy of planes shredding ground troops with no air support, the dozens of brutal special weapons unleashed with the lightest of mouseclicks. Which is to say nothing of the writing, which provided a backdrop of passion and deception to the warfare between cold-hearted religious institution and cold-hearted corporation. The entire game was simply a rock-solid package.

Giants: Citizen Kabuto
RELEASE DATE: 2000
IMPORTANCENESS: Optimistically so

Giants, really, is important for its attitude. “Can we make a 3rd person sci-fi base building squad shooter?” it asks. “Could we face that side off against an entirely asymmetrical race of sea nymphs? Could we throw in a THIRD side, which is some kind of massive Godzilla creature? And maybe the Godzilla thing starts small, then gets bigger and also has babies? Would that work?” In short, the answer was “No, not really,” but dammit these guys tried.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent
RELEASE DATE: 2010
IMPORTANCENESS: Hopeful

I like Amnesia for the ethos behind it as much as anything else. The horror genre’s always been diluted by attempts to lever standard game frameworks on top of it, whether that makes a game a horror puzzler, a horror shooter, a horror adventure game and so on. Amnesia? Amnesia’s just interested in horror. You can’t imagine Amnesia without the horror. It’d just be a bender wandering around an empty house. And yet that horror is spread so tangibly and thickly across the surface of the game that it fills it entirely, making for as thoroughly satisfying and engaging an experience as a game that might need, say, a tutorial or a rulebook. You understand? I’m talking about the horror. The horror.

System Shock 2
RELEASE DATE: 1999
IMPORTANCENESS: Moderate

In the wake of slippery BioShock, it’s perhaps worth looking back at System Shock 2 to see why the release Irrational’s watery opus was tinged with disappointment. BioShock was a broad, spectacular action game, but SS2 was an immersive sim and simply had more to offer. Inventory management, a more real sense of weakness and horror, heftier puzzles, environment mapping- it all builds into a sense of trust in the player that was absent in Bioshock. SS2 trusted that you’d figure out what happened onboard this ship, or the way into that room, or the way to survive against these creatures, which made for a more rewarding experience overall. It was simply a crystallisation of the first System Shock, providing something harder, sharper and larger, sacrificing nothing.

Anachronox
RELEASE DATE: 2001
IMPORTANCENESS: Blip

It’s always fascinating when Western or Eastern developers take a stab at a genre considered to belong to the other. A good example of this is Namco’s mad-as-boots FPS Breakdown, and another is Ion Storm’s surrealist noir JRPG Anachronox, which managed all the epic scale of the form while achieving a barrage of successes unusual for the genre, like naturalistic patter between characters, a fairy generous attitude to content and a nice studding of minigames. The finished product also wandered into tedious territory at times, but its music, imagery and dialogue had a habit of sticking around in your head. Also, one of the characters in your party was an entire planet populated by billions of people that had shrunk itself to travel alongside you. And the mouse cursor was a flying robot that existed in-game. And the planet of Anachronox itself is made up of countless plates that shift endlessly, as if some unseen hand were trying to solve the place like a Rubix cube. And. And!

MechWarrior 2
RELEASE DATE: 1996
IMPORTANCENESS: Seven out of ten

FASA’s MechWarrior universe is an absolutely killer license for a videogame, and as much as I love Mech Commander I’d happily admit that MechWarrior 2 did it best. “Weight” and “feel” are nebulous concepts and as such are tricky to get right in a game, but when an action title does nail them so it’s satisfying to simply walk around, take a hit or fire your gun, it’s a thing of beauty. But when a game about piloting 120 ton bipedal battle robots gets them right… that’s a whole other level. Tell you what- I’ve never been into any hardcore sims, but if somebody announced a MechWarrior game with the complexity and attention to detail of, say, IL-2 Sturmovik, I’d be out there building a cockpit in my shed within the hour, and I don’t even have a shed. Or a garden. I’d have to buy a shed and put it up in my living room. But I’d do it. That’s how serious I am.

Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2
RELEASE DATE: 1998
IMPORTANCENESS: Maybe

It wasn’t Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2’s unwieldly, mutant size that made them landmark games. No, it was what they did with the content. Bioware did something far more impressive these Advanced Dungeons & Dragons-driven games than simply making them long- they brought them to life with incidental details, with side quests that could have comfortably been the plots of lesser RPGs, with more party relationships than you’d expect from Prince after a gig. They added and added to these worlds of theirs, until they had a game where as rigid as the central plot was, it still felt like your story. As much as I adore Mass Effect 2, that’s not something I feel Bioware has repeated since.

Jagged Alliance 2
RELEASE DATE: 1999
IMPORTANCENESS: Yes

As game plots go, Jagged Alliance 2’s is a favourite of mine. A 3rd world dictator needs toppling, here are some funds to hire some bad dudes to lead, the lot of you will be inserted into the country by helicopter, go! It’s to the point, the scale of your mission is immediately engaging and the freedom it hints at is massively seductive. To start playing the game and discover that it’s every bit as freeform, every inch as badass as you could have hoped? That’s a marvel. This game had it all. It was cinematic yet believable, serious business capable of kidding around, huge yet human. You fought battle after battle, but the pain of losing a merc was horrific. You were the best of the best, but you weren’t above repurposing an ice-cream truck to get around (or teaching one another different skills). You fought tanks, but you were scared of the bloody things. And if you finally toppled that bitch Deidranna, when you finally freed the country, streaked with blood and sweat and stories, it felt like an achievement. I’m just going to flick the obvious question into the middle of the room like a cigarette butt, now: What was the last AAA, boxed game you played recently, in these times of unlockable achievements, where beating the game felt like an achievement?

Master of Orion 2: Battle at Antares
RELEASE DATE: 1996
IMPORTANCENESS: TBC

Everyone talks about Alpha Centauri (as well they should), but Master of Orion 2 not only pre-dated it by three years, the sci-fi grand strategy it offered included Death Stars, wiping out whole planets with biological bombs and the Darloks, an entire species of creepy guys in hoods who specialise in spying. I could go on. It was simply a more fun, colourful interpretation of the future than Alpha Centauri, utilising every scrap of sci-fi it could think of and smoothly slotting it into the tech tree. It was Galactic Civilizations before Galactic Civilizations, for sure.

Uplink: Hacker Elite
RELEASE DATE: 2001
IMPORTANCENESS: 010010101101010

I was young enough when I loaded Uplink for the first time to experience a pang of fear at its immersive intro sequence. Was I really connecting to an international community of hackers, bouncing my signal through computers worldwide to thieve electronic reserves of money and data remotely? The fact that it looked like the lovechild of a Tron still and a spreadsheet did nothing to bring me back down to Earth. My dad was gonna be soo cross. Fortunately I wasn’t actually committing cyber-crimes, but my youth made it easy for me to pretend I was for the entire duration of my time with Uplink. Not that that plausibility was what made Uplink a great game. That was just one aspect of it. What made Uplink a great game was that it was exactly that- a great game. No plot, no set-pieces, no fluff. Like some giddy future-solitaire, it laid out its rules and then you played the game within the confines of those rules. You had fun, riding waves of tension, elation and disappointment, edging your way up towards your high scores and maybe past them, until the final mistake came that ended the game. There aren’t many games as brash as that on this list.

Sid Meier’s Civilization II
RELEASE DATE: 1996
IMPORTANCENESS: Planet-spanning

This epic, history-straddling strategy series has an unreal knack for gluing PC owners to their mice and monitors. Part of that was always down to it being a great strategy game that dropped an intriguing decision at your feet every minute, but I’d argue that the real appeal was in watching something grow. Unlike most base-building strategy games where you put something together, win or lose, wipe the slate clean and start again within 30 minutes, Civilization had you growing your nation for dozens of hours, right up to its endgame. The reason those intriguing decisions were so intriguing is that they affected the shape of your holdings for thousands of years. If you conquered somewhere it would sit there, the ultimate trophy, for every future turn. Likewise, if you built a road or discovered a technology, you were laying the foundation for future development. It’s exactly like how unlockables have revolutionised the online FPS in recent years. It’s hopelessly addicting to load up a game and be playing off the back of all your past experiences.

Nethack / Angband / ZangbandTK
RELEASE DATE: Various
IMPORTANCENESS: Keystone-like

Here’s something else that’s hopelessly addicting. Playing a game that offers you something to lose. These classic roguelikes (ZangbandTK being a fan-made freeware variant) work off a very simple formula. You create a hero and explore a big, randomly-generated world, gradually mapping your land out and encountering progressively nastier creatures, until eventually some hateful combination of bad luck, bad calls and fate gets the better of you (a particularly nasty monster, a particularly optimistic prayer to a vengeful God for help, you get the idea). At that point everything you’ve gathered, all the experience, your character’s story- it’s over. Move on. I can be pragmatic about it here, but the truth is that losing a prized character in a roguelike is a monstrously distressing twist of the knife and impresses a sense of grandeur and nobility on the entire game. With the exception of Spelunky, that virtually nobody has picked up on the permadeath + randomised world teachings of roguelikes is bizarre.

Pathologic
RELEASE DATE: 2005
IMPORTANCENESS: Subversively so

Built on ailing technology and released outside of Russia a year late with a miserable translation and no hype or marketing whatsoever, Pathologic was doomed to commercial failure over here before it had so much as touched a shop shelf. That wasn’t bad luck for the developers; I don’t see a way that could have shook down differently, but it was bad luck for gaming in general. Pathologic is one of the most fascinating and adventurous games ever made. Described by developers Ice Pick Lodge as belonging to the barren genre of “experiment in decision making”, Pathologic let you play as one of three healers (a modern doctor, a shaman and a messianical faith healer) arriving in an isolated town in the Russian steppes in about 1910. The moment you arrived an apocalyptic plague broke out, and the game saw your healer combating the plague over 14 days, attempting to enlist the aid of various members of the town, researching the disease, solving problems and trying to keep yourself alive. Interesting elements of Pathologic included its magical realist plot, its morally ambiguous tone that saw you making all sorts of horrible decisions, how it made you as a player start thinking similarly to the healer you chose, its moments of horror and its uniquely cruel and unrelenting atmosphere. Playing Pathologic felt like having a noose slowly tighten around your neck, both mechanically and narratively, and that more gamers didn’t get the most out of it at release is to be lamented. All together now: What a shame.

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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305 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Monchberter says:

    GTA4 was exactly what we didn’t need after San Andreas did it better, funnier, and with more freedom.

    I can’t say I got very far with it before I died of boredom. Then again, i’ve never felt the need to rewatch The Godfather and Scarface constantly like most normal ‘blokes’.

    I think most of the GTA3 series profits went on coke and Superdry t-shirts up at that there Rockstar North

    • BobsLawnService says:

      I couldn’t stand the Gangsta theme of San Andreas so I’d say that GTA : Vice City would have been the better choice since it was the first GTA that used story telling in that particular way.

    • Eschatos says:

      What we need is a San Andreas remake with the physics/graphics improvements of IV. Note: Not the driving “improvements.”

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I find the driving model in 4 to be the only real improvement they’ve made to the series since 3 came out.

  2. Mitza says:

    Thanks for adding Anachronox to this list. It’s the game that provided me with the most “of f*ck, I can’t believe it!!!” moments in any game to date.

    Too bad it got totally overshadowed at the retail by the failure Ion Storm’s “other” game, Daikatana :(

    • Luk 333 says:

      Is this by any chance the same Mitza that wrote for Level magazine?

    • kovy36 says:

      of course you did, you were the one who wrote the review. you have it 95%. “If letters could shout”

    • Luk 333 says:

      Man, that article was infectious. I played the demo a lot and I think it took me 2 years to get my hands on a copy of the game.

  3. Frosty says:

    I’m so happy that I’ve played to completion or at least played nearly every game on this list. Don’t agree with all of them though, especially Far Cry 2. Felt it was poop. Although it did have a great health system.

  4. adonf says:

    What happened with Braid, Microsoft and the main menu ?

    • Quintin Smith says:

      Microsoft said the game needed a menu for the game’s Xbox Live Marketplace release, and apparently Jonathon Blow disagreed quite strongly. Eventually he compromised by adding the “Press Start to Play”. Originally he wanted nothing at all. You load the game, you start playing.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Monchberter says:

    All the Far Cry 2 hate today, the Mirror’s Edge debates on Monday and the additional mild bemusement that Dead Space actually got a sequel over ME.

    So, if you could only keep one alive, which would it be?
    Far Cry series
    Dead Space series
    Mirror’s Edge

    • Frosty says:

      @Monchberter

      Having never played the Dead Space series I can’t really comment on it but between Far Cry and Mirror’s Edge….

      It’s a tough choice but Mirror’s Edge. Far Cry felt like a failed experiment to me. It didn’t feel as open as many people told me it was, the combat felt wrong somehow and the story was poorly presented. I felt no connection at all to my phenomenally badly voice acted NPC friend. Crytek continued with where Far Cry was destined to go, whether I like the direction or not.

      Mirror’s Edge though….it was so close to being great.

    • sinister agent says:

      Mirror’s Edge, without hesitation. It’s more original, unique, and its potential, I think, a little more great.

    • Urthman says:

      I want more Mirror’s Edge.

      I don’t particularly want more Far Cry 2, but I want more games that learn from the good parts of Far Cry 2. And more games that look that great.

    • TeeJay says:

      They should release the SDK for Far Cry 2 and let people mod and tweak it.

  6. de5me7 says:

    personally id flip this list the other way up in terms of importance. I dont rate the first 4 games at all

    but Nethack, SS2 and Homeworlds, well..

  7. Blaq says:

    Me love you long time for including Startopia. It’s not a game that hugely influenced the genre or a game that did terribly well. It’s a game that has shown us how Sim games should be like and how a game made from pure love looks like. Muckyfoot, here’s to you!

    • TeeJay says:

      I loved Startopia but IIRC the mission structure was good for introducting various mechanics and making things harder, but then kind of stopped: I had just about learnt to use all the different units/mechanics and was looking forward to some epic final levels when the campaign finished and all that weas left was the sandbox mode.

  8. pipman3000 says:

    there’s braid.

  9. Hoaxfish says:

    This is definitely my favourite section of the list so far.

    Though personally, Starcaft 2 should really be an afterthought. The original was important, at least for Koreans. The new one sells on being Blizzard, and being the sequel to the original, rather than its own merits.

    • Premium User Badge

      Dolphan says:

      Or it could be that lots of us absolutely love SC2, as is pretty obvious from any comments thread on the subject. I didn’t realise I liked it purely because it was Blizzard. Pretty odd seeing as I didn’t like WOW and have never got on with Diablo.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I didn’t really mean people shouldn’t like it for being it… but I think this list isn’t “games wot people like” but “important/must play games” in PC’s history of games.

      Which parts of SC2 can you say you didn’t also enjoy in SC1? And I’m fairly certain you didn’t buy each and every copy that has been sold.

      By all means, play SC2 instead of the original, but the original had more of an impact on the PC landscape.

    • kyrieee says:

      SC2 is blowing up as a competitive game like no other game before it.
      It’s having a huge impact. I wouldn’t be surprised to see SC2 matches on TV next, or even this year.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      “Which parts of SC2 can you say you didn’t also enjoy in SC1?”

      My answers for that:
      – Campaign.
      – Interface.
      – Matchmaking.
      – e-Sports outside of Korea.

      There’s also something to be said for a sequel that manages to stay true to its roots, when these days a fair few others opt to go for a more casual/console-oriented experience instead (see: the XCOM betrayal [/spoony]).

  10. disperse says:

    This list has three games from my all time top 10.

    I’ve probably spent more time playing Nethack than any other single game and have yet to ascend my first character. It’s a game where there are a million fail conditions and only one, very specific, win condition.

    Baldur’s Gate II is the closest any game has gotten to nailing the feel of a (hack and slash) pen and paper RPG. Quinns is right when he points out that BG is linear but feels open; the sheer volume of content makes the game world feel alive. Also, I’ll take the beautiful 2d graphics rendered by the Infinity engine over a 3d game engine thank you very much.

    Mechwarrior 2 was my obsession all through my freshman year of college. As a fan of the tabletop game I was impressed that I could recreate the mech builds I had used in the board game. My favorite was the Porcupine: bristling with machine guns and loaded with ammo with little else.

    Civ 2 should probably be on my top 10 based on the amount of time I played it, but I’d rather not admit that right now.

  11. hamster says:

    SCREW GTA4. Good god. Performance was horrid, missions were ridiculously banal and you had to DRIVE EVERYWHERE to the actual mission area thereby utterly depriving the purpose of implementing a RESTART MISSION FROM CHECKPOINT feature.

    GOOD god…the only OK thing about the game was the combat. Except the melee counters and surprise attks were fickle i.e. they didn’t register sometimes. And the stuff just didn’t make sense. How do you go from losing your pants at the sight of Vlad & his boss to killing some big time mob like Mikhail Faustin just_like_that.

    Seriously the only thing that was not-boring? The characters. God I hate this game. I spent 10 bucks on the complete edition and hours downloading 16 gigs of that nonsense. How on earth the critics gave anything higher than 5/10 i do not know. Good characters don’t overcome SHEER boredom, folks, it really doesn’t.

  12. Luk 333 says:

    Ah, Anachronox is my greatest video game love ever. I still listen to its music and one look at the intro of the game is enough to throw me back into its atmosphere.

    I finished Startopia last year and it still looks beautifully. Pity that it has so few scenarios.
    I liked a lot the demo for Ground Control, but first I need to get the game running in a resolution higher than 1024×768. Playing Outcast in 800×600 on a 24″ screen was painful enough.

    Let’s hope that Homeworld , System Shock and Startopia will finally see a release on GOG this year. I don’t dare to hope for Anachronox. :(

    • adonf says:

      I think there is a patch for Outcast that lets you change the resolution to more contemporary values, it’s on the gog.com forums

    • Luk 333 says:

      You’re right and that’s how I played it. Unfortunately the performance degrades severely if the resolution goes higher than 1024×768. I played it in 800×600 on an Intel Core 2 @ 1.80. I hate my CPU. :((

  13. Jake says:

    Civilization 2 is a great game and I loved MOO 2 but I’m amazed no one has mentioned their predecessors yet. Master of Orion finally gave PC owners their own sci-fi strategy game after those damn Apple heads had Reach for the Stars. And Civilization began the endless years of sleepless nights for thousands of grand strategy fans. I hope we give some props to these grandfathers of so many great and wonderful PC games.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      I hate nitpicking the contents of these lists since they are so subjective but I’d go with the original Civ as well. Being the first it is obviously more influential than any sequels.

  14. xrabohrok says:

    X-Com ? ;(

    • Sarlix says:

      “And don’t read this and then say “what about X-Com!”, because that’s in Dr Meer’s lecture”

  15. Spiny says:

    SWAT 4 was awesome. I miss it.

    Could never persuade my friends to play it as you weren’t killing the perps. Twumps.

  16. bildo says:

    Great list, but Far Cry 2 is hardly a classic imo. Oh well!

    Question: This is sponsored by Intel, right? When you received this sponsorship, did they outline any requirements of you in order to receive their monies (aside from linking to them.)?

  17. Icarus says:

    Good to see the Baldur’s Gate series on there. Those two games (plus Throne of Bhaal) pretty much cemented my concept of what a good RPG should be.

  18. paulke says:

    It’s sad that you have Ground Control here but no Myth or Myth 2 by Bungie. That series was also based on the “What if we made an RTS with no base building?” premise and was awesome.

    • Master_of_None says:

      YES. See my comment below. I miss Myth, a lot. I am hopeful that something similar will come along… could even see support on iOS, etc. The controls were simple and would lend themselves to tactile commands.

    • dawnmane says:

      I agree! I was only a kid when I played Myth for the first time, and was really freaked out when I heard my first “Casualtyyyyyy…” and I suddenly had one less soldier in my army. To me it was like a survival horror strategy game sometimes.

  19. Jamesworkshop says:

    I don’t think I can say that to me these articles clearly express why the games are important

    • JFS says:

      They don’t. And some of them games aren’t even important. But that’s not really the point of these lectures, is it? ;)

  20. BebopBraunbaer says:

    cant believe “save toshi” wasnt in the list.. )- :

  21. Inconnu says:

    Civilization 2?!? The worst of the Civ games? I

    • Premium User Badge

      Dolphan says:

      It’s totally better than 5. 3 is a toss-up (the borders system in 3 was spectacularly awful). I’ll be pretty disappointed if 4 doesn’t make an appearance at some point though.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      I can understand liking 4 over it. I can even understand liking the slightly new direction of 5. But it’s basically Civ 1 + awesome; and there’s no way any sane person can rate 3 over it.

  22. Master_of_None says:

    “What if we made an RTS with no base building?”

    Wikipedia FTW: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real-time_tactics#Genre_classification

    My favorite (which preceded Ground Control by 3 years), was Myth: The Fallen Lords. Does anyone else remember that feeling when you had your dwarves throw their molotov cocktails into a closely packed group of Thrall? It was AMAZING.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myth_%28series%29

    • Hoaxfish says:

      or triggering a carefully set up chain-reaction of satchels just where the enemy force is standing

    • Berzee says:

      I played Myth II (I think?) : Soulblighter and yeah! those dwarves were the best.

      No wait, the VERY best thing was that Myth II was the game that first showed me a tutorial level could be super fun and make me laugh, as opposed to being a wall of text.

      It was a hard game for a tiny child though…I should go back and beat that and the other game that was like it but where you summon things…someday…if I can find them…

      …ellipses…

  23. Furius says:

    Anyone know of any Baldur’s Gate style games being made/recently made? Wildly assuming that voice over and 3d Graphics are two of the most expensive parts of development, I can’t see why a smaller developer hasn’t gone for a similiart style but with imrpoved painted art and better animation (I love the BG art, but it could do with a Hi-Def upgrade right?) and less clunky interface.

    • disperse says:

      Spiderweb Software seems to be one of the few. They have a new game coming out soon:

      http://www.spiderwebsoftware.com/avadon/index.html

    • Archonsod says:

      Drakensang : The Dark Eye. It got a prequel but it doesn’t seem to be available outside the US for some reason.

    • JFS says:

      Drakensang (both parts) is available outside the US. It’s a German game. I don’t know how many different language versions there are, but should at least be German and English, and one should be able to buy it somewhere. Amazon, if all else fails.

  24. Moni says:

    Far Cry 2 is one of very few games that gave me a world I really believed in. I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of depth to the world’s mechanics, but for some reason I always had the feeling that it’s inhabitants go about their business on their own accord: It just happened that it often involved hunting down and killing me.

    I think one of the things that helped me really love the game was that I deliberately planned routes around the map that never doubled-backed over the infamous road blocks.

  25. terry says:

    I like Far Cry 2, it’s like Test Drive Unlimited with guns.

  26. TheGroovyMule says:

    Well I hope your all happy, think I threw a knuckle out scrolling through all this

    • Berzee says:

      These are challenges our ancestors could never have imagined. Truly we live in a brave frontier of time and space.

  27. ShaunCG says:

    Ah, Jagged Alliance 2! Now there was a man’s game. A hairy, boozing, emotionally crippled wreck of a man’s game. The only game that has ever so infuriated me that I smashed a keyboard into pieces.

    That was the add-on pack, admittedly. I’m proud to have completed the original game, even if save-reloading was a constant feature (especially with the fucking, bastard bloody tanks).

  28. theleif says:

    Why isn’t SWAT 4 on GOG? It makes me mad, and I don’t like to be mad.

  29. crainey92 says:

    Very well played Quntin this is indeed “The Very Important List Of PC Games” (Part 3/5).

  30. kristian says:

    It’s really understand that FarCry2 could be in the same list with SS2, Max payne2, Civ2, Mechwarrior and all these other good games..

    Sure.. i’d understand if it was FarCry1 which was actually really good, unlike it’s badly made sequel. I’ve never met a single person that actually played through FarCry2.

    But i guess you’re entitled to your… WRONG opinion ;)

  31. RyuRanX says:

    Nice list of games, but GTA IV and Far Cry 2 are not even close to being more important than System Shock 2, Baldur’s Gate 1&2 or SWAT 4 (unfortunatelly the last tactical FPS we had).

    • Quintin Smith says:

      It’s ordered by graphicability!

    • Premium User Badge

      Dolphan says:

      Startopia has better graphics than Homeworld and Max Payne 2?

      One of the lovely things about Homeworld is that its graphics have aged less than any 3D game I can think of.

  32. fooga44 says:

    Starcraft 2 was over hyped. After twelve years, it was a pretty big let down for single player. It was probably one of the biggest under-spoken about disappointments of all time.

    They catered to the korean/competitive starcraft scene and it hurt any chance to take RTS games to the next level, so everyone’s playing an almost carbon copy of SC1 with minor tweaks. After all the other RTS games, RTS is one of the most stagnant genre’s. The only people who have done things with it are modders and hence the rise of DOTA and other user made content.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      SC2 was never going to ‘take things to the next level’ in terms of innovation and was never marketed as such. If that’s that you were expecting, then the problem is with you, not the game. Looking for innovation in Starcraft 2 is like expecting an AC/DC album to be the next Sergeant Pepper.

  33. TheGroovyMule says:

    In all seriousness, a nice list. I remember playing SWAT 2 way, way back in the day. Was something askin to an RTS back then. Unfortunately only picked up the Civ series for III and IV.. Also nice to see GTAIV getting some love instead of people salivating still over San Andreas. I’ve never played Masters of Orion, but does anyone remember a little strategy game called ‘Stars!’? I recall sinking many, many hours into that 2D space strategy game.

    • Phillip Culliton says:

      Stars! was fantastic. Only thing I couldn’t get over were the invasion mechanics. Made sense in a terrible way – gather colonists, let them deal with the indigenous life – but I would have preferred a more concentrated military option.

    • Nick says:

      I loved Stars! .. equally I lost many many hours/days to its black/yellow/red space.. I don’t think I ever got all the different mysterious trader (or whatever they were called) techs either..

    • Eschatos says:

      Goddamn Stars! was awesome.

  34. kyrieee says:

    I’m a big fan of Ground Control but Myth and Myth II actually did the ‘no base building’-RTS first, and dare I say better

  35. Zhou says:

    Swat 4 nailed coop before left 4 dead. It was a perfect balance between zapping your mates with tazers and absolutely tense and brilliant teamwork. Of course, if your friends fecked up, the only possible option was to punish them with a little light tazering. Playing swat 4 with a couple of friends at a lan has to be one of my favourite gaming memories.

    Also, non-lethal deathmatch. Pepper-balling/beanbagging the bejeesus out of someone until you could hand-cuff them was awesome and hilarious.

  36. Retribution says:

    I saw Far Cry 2 and lost all respect for RPS

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      I saw Far Cry 2 and gained respect for RPS.

      (This game is fun!)

  37. Wulf says:

    Anachronox will always have a place in my heart for two specific reasons.

    1.) For the time, it was bloody innovative. Credit due. (More on this in a moment.)
    2.) It was silly, charming, funny, and lovely. These are attributes PC games don’t often accrue unless they happen to be indie titles.

    Does anyone remember the noir gothic England murder mystery planet? The comic book ship? Democratus, the roving planet, where everyone has a voice (“Except my friend here doesn’t!” *points at mute.*)? Now it’s rare that I’ll write a sentence like that about a PC game – not that there aren’t instances, especially lately in the indie genre, but it’s just rare compared to other formats where insanity is more commonplace. We don’t have Ratchet & Clank, after all (and more’s the pity).

    And it was oddly charming and lovely due to the main character, Boots, who starts out as a P.I. but ends up being so optimistic and enthusiastic that you can’t help but join in with him on that. That and it was supposed to be a noir Universe, a dark place, but it was only a pretend thing, a fairytale – and fairytales can be dark, but at the same time never entirely real, as they’re far too silly. That’s Anachronox, it had a fairytale quality to it that I really see.

    I know Star Wars purports to be a fairytale in a Sci-Fi wrapper, but honestly, from a personal perspective? I think Anachronox always did it better. And the story of Anachronox was so well loved that it even had a fan film made out of it, which was a really big thing at the time, I recall. Everyone loved that, too. It was hard not to.

    Each place was essentially an honestly ridiculous phenotype, a silly stereotype of itself that expanded out to reveal some pretty interesting complexities. Of course, we can’t talk about complexity without mentioning gameplay mechanics, so once again I’ll bring up the murder mystery planet. One section of the game that had an entirely different sort of gameplay attached to it. And the bosses, remember those? Like that one that you couldn’t beat without running around and fiddling with a bunch of devices that would weaken it?

    If there’s one game I’d love to see a ‘HD’ remake of, it’s Anachronox.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      It has forever been on my “games to get around to trying” list. The main reason I’ve veered away from it (the minor reason being that for some reason my mind has intrinsically thinks it and Daikitana are the same game) not being that it doesn’t appeal to me (it does) but that I fear it is the type of game that doesn’t age particularly well and that I wont give it the time it may actually deserve. Certainly posts like this sway me more towards getting around to trying it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Man Raised by Puffins says:

      I first played it 3 or so years ago and, if I recall correctly, it bore up pretty well. If anything the muddy lo-fi Quake 2 graphics actually add to its off-kilter charm. So long as the thought of JRPG battling doesn’t induce a terminal fit of apoplexy in you, I’d say go for it.

      It’s hard not to love a game where one of the stat effects is called “winky” and repeated failure at a mandatory mini-game brings up this (paraphrased) dialog box: “Let’s just pretend you did this one, shall we? Yes/No”

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      Which mini game was that? Now I wish I’d sucked more when I played it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Man Raised by Puffins says:

      I think it was a rafting arcade sequence (?). Not sure, its been a while.

  38. Premium User Badge

    Gabbo says:

    I’m a bit shocked to see Giants – a game which is definitely overlooked for its time, and Anachronox both on the list (as much if not more so than other ‘left field’ choices from Jim and John’s lists) of “Very Important PC Games’.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      I’m playing through Giants right now for the first time (got it in a pack with Sacrifice and Fallout 2, wtf?) and I have to say that whilst it’s enjoyable, the singleplayer for the first faction you play as, the Meccaryns, is utterly ruined by the awful, awful tone of the dudes you’re playing with. I just hate them so much.

  39. Resin says:

    My favorite list yet.
    As you all made one master list of important games and then divided them up do they still represent individual tastes or is it more a reflection of the RPS hivemind?
    Perhaps a combination

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      It looks like a combination. Certainly I wasn’t suprised to see John once again proclaiming his love for The Longest Journey or Quinns singing the praises of Pathalogic.

      If Kieron is doing a guest spot I expect him to be going on about something ridiculously obscure a lot (probably with tons of sexual references a la his Robot Unicorn Attack write up on Eurogamer) and then writing 3 words on Deus Ex – just to confound everyone’s expectations.

  40. trevindor says:

    Three posts, one squillion comments, and nary a mention of Starflight nor Star Control 2. I am sad.

    Also, SC2 = Star Control 2, not Star Craft 2 (whatever that is).

  41. mollemannen says:

    aww… max payne 2 instead of the first :/ . was there a reason for this other than “it’s the second” or did i get confused somewere?

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      The second is both a better game and, I think, a better expression of the developer’s intent.

    • mollemannen says:

      ok. i think the second game took itself far to serious, to the point it got boring. also the story of the second game is kind of weak in comparison. sure the first games story is just a vendetta kind of thing but they do it so well. i’ve played trough the second game three times and i still can’t recall what it is about.

  42. Premium User Badge

    Johnny Law says:

    Fine pick with Ground Control. Although, the question it posed had already been answered… I await with serene confidence the appearance of Myth somewhere within the final two lists. (Right? Right?)

    (edit: “…he said, redundantly with a bunch of other folks.”)

  43. Fumarole says:

    It was the last cocksure bullet fired by a punk who didn’t know he was dead yet, the gun making a noise like a door slamming shut on an entire school of thought.

    Bravo sir.

  44. JoeX111 says:

    Quinns, for including Anachronox on this list, you’ve made my day. Has any other game opened with your character getting punched repeatedly in the face and then thrown out a second-floor window?

  45. jon_hill987 says:

    Oh the hours I have lost playing zAngbandTK. I was not impressed when my Level 48 Vampire Chaos Warrior (Vlad VII) finally got killed.

  46. BloatedGuppy says:

    These lists need more Ultima.

    • Premium User Badge

      Andy_Panthro says:

      Indeed!

      Since there are two more lists to go, I’m sure it must be mentioned…

      Also, I see a distinct lack of Sierra games on here so far.

      There will be words said if such things are not mentioned by the end of this!

  47. sk2k says:

    Where is Schleichfahrt? :) It was the predecessor to Aquanox and a very atmospheric game.

  48. Metonymy says:

    I hate to be this guy, but each one of these articles is worse than the one before it.
    Starcraft 1 becomes the national sport of a nation, and you’re placing the sequel here? Starcraft 2 is derivative garbage, what does it even mean to place it here?
    Far Cry 2? You’re placing games here which are universally and almost unanimously called broken, and poorly designed? How many tiresome, zero-content, zero-gameplay call of duty games are you going to place on this list? Do any of you actually game, or are you just a bunch of frat boys?
    Again, and again, and again, you’re placing an inferior and marginally tweaked sequel on your list: new prince of persias, new GTA, various unremarkable doom clones. Half the entries follow this example.
    All evidence points to you being a bunch of twenty-somethings who were hired for their ability to write or follow orders.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      The ratio of insults to arguments in your post suggests you need a nice cup of cocoa.

      Here, have a nice cup of cocoa. c(_)

  49. Messiah Complex says:

    Far Cry 2 is a seminal game for me because it made me hate the single player level design of other shooters I used to love. So much of FC2 was shit, and yet it is still the best “pure” shooter I’ve ever played. It gave you the freedom to ignore the “mission” for long stretches of time, and to just do whatever you felt like doing. My second playthrough consisted mostly of picking purposeless fights with random guard posts, because I loved the combat, and because I could.

    The game rarely forces itself on the player, and I would like very much to see other designers develop that sense of restraint. Since FC2, I’ve stuck mostly with competitive multiplayer games, just because I can’t stand to be led around by the nose anymore.

  50. Kuroko says:

    Red Orchestra is the best game ever.