I remember assembling one of those "Your top games ever" lists awhile back, in this case I think it was a top 25 (so plenty of flexibility there). I'm not going to reproduce it here but after I typed it all up I sat back and looked through the list. Sure the ordering was more-or-less representative of what I felt but I had a nagging feeling that a good chunk of them I would not really be able to recommend to a 'modern' gamer. They may well have been exceptional to me at the time, but were the bad graphics, poor interfaces and general buggyness really palatable any more? When was the last time I had actually played through these? Did I even play through some of these more than once? Really, did they offer anything unique and worthy of attention that had not been surpassed by sequels or later games?
So I present to you a list of games that I actually find myself playing over and over. Not necessarily every year, but they are all games that offer something unique and in an overall experience that is still enjoyable today.
1) Incubation: Battle Isle Phase 4 - This has always been something highly unique even in a somewhat sparse genre and was surprising at the time since it really had little in common with the rest of the Battle Isle series. It feels a lot more 'tactical' than other such games, and occaisonally comes close to puzzle territory. A lot of that is born from some highly unique weaponry and enemies and the strengths/weakness of each. This is further enhanced by placing fairly strict limitations on you - ammo is never as plentiful as you'd like and your units never veer into 'super soldier' territory like they do in other games. The graphics and environments suffer from being a bit flat but this is somewhat rescued by having a really great UI - simple, clean and rarely a hindrance. Last replay: currently replaying.
2) Alpha Centauri - I've only played Civ 5 from the 'main series' of games, but I much prefer the sci-fi flavour of this. The faux historical progression in Civ didn't gel with me and I find that I enjoy the aggressive nature of the planet itself. The different faction ideologies give the background a lot of believable detail whereas those in Civ seemed to be largely irrelevant outside of whatever predisposition you may have from their real namesakes. There's a lot of depth here and the game is extremely flexible to match your style of play. Last replay: 1 year ago.
3) XCOM Apocalypse - The 'main' three XCOM games all have a soft spot for me but this is the one I return to. This advanced every idea the first two XCOM games had in a very positive direction although to this day I have no idea why this game is graphically so much poorer than the previous games. Alien corruption in the government/corporations of your world became a lot more important and the cityscape and market mechanics made the world feel a lot more real than a few squares and dots on a globe. One thing I really admire this game for is that, as synonymous with the series as it may be, it offered an alternative to turn based combat. And it really worked! So well, in fact, that I can't recall doing a mission in the traditional mode. A great game and the highpoint in the series, although the UI makes me wtf awhile until I get the hang of it again. Last replay: 1 year ago.
4) Homeworld - There's a timeless beauty with this game which has never quite aged despite how blocky the polygons may appear to modern eyes. The stunning backgrounds and humbling sense of scale have never quite been surpassed even in space games not of this extremely sparse genre. It's quite challenging at times which tends to surprise me on replays, although I'm wise to a fair few tricks now to get around that. Last replay: 3 years ago.
5) Gridrunner++ - There's a lot to be said for being able to actually play a game within 2 seconds of clicking the icon to launch it (and I mean really playing it, not stuck on some bloody menu). Its extremely simplistic (although intensive) graphics are presented in a small window on your desktop - there's no fullscreen. There's no button to shoot - your ship shoots automatically and you control it with your mouse. It's an absolutely perfect blend of enjoyable manouvering and blasting followed by moments of sheer bastardry as Minter dials up the difficulty. Some levels you'll finish in seconds. Some you'll finish in days. But no matter how many times you may fail you'll come back. Always fun for a quick blast when you need to procrastinate over doing something more important. Last replay: 6 months ago
Honourable mentions - World of Warcraft, Doom 2, Serious Sam, Minecraft. Tempest 3000 would take the place of Gridrunner (another Minter epic) but it ain't on PC and even if you want to play it the hardware required is rare.
So what's your addiction?