The Very Important List Of PC Games, Part 1/5

Some board games, there.

Here at Rock, Paper, Shotgun we take the business of PC gaming entirely seriously. There is no smiling, or making rude noises at the back of class, there is only important gaming fact. So when it came to compiling an exhaustive list of the greatest, most important PC games of all time, we realised that the only way we could articulate the importance of the various titles was to present them as a five-part series of important lectures, explaining their importance. Over the next four articles and related appendices, you will discover why the various Great Games are great, and what their meaning is to you as a PC gamer. Follow this list, and play these games, and you will find yourself with very little spare time. But also, you will understand what it truly means to be a PC gamer.

Brilliantly, Intel have elected to sponsor this feature as part of their AppUp developer program. So thanks to them! And any developers reading should definitely make some All Time Best Games Ever alongside your apps, because that would just work out for everyone. Now then, let’s make a list. The first lecturer to the podium is Dr Rossignol…

Hello, everyone! What follows should be imagined as a Powerpoint slideshow, or similar, because I am making a presentation of, and an argument for, a bunch of games that I think are critical to the existence of PC gamers. And don’t read this and then say “what about X-Com!”, because that’s in Dr Meer’s lecture, along with a lot of very other important things.

This, as the title suggests, is simply Part One, and is the list of games that I am charged with talking about. By coincidence, I spend a lot of time talking about all the games that I think are important to the First Person Perspective dominance of so much of PC gaming. That really is actually an accident, but it seems like a useful one. And let me stress that these games are split between five essays, and that the full, merged list will be made public at the end of this five-part series. And with that reiterated, let us begin.

PLEASE NOTE: I have listed this group of games by descending importanceness.

IMPORTANCENESS: Extremely high.

To start with Doom is not to start at the beginning, but to start at the most important: to climb atop a towering spike in the middle of the great graph of PC gaming development. We had already covered vast distances by the time Doom came along, but the point about Doom is that it is a landmark, a beacon, a waypoint, and a scene of transformation. It was not the first of the first-person games, but it was the point at which the first-person perspective took up its enormous significance within the landscape of PC gaming. Suddenly, our understanding of what kind of experience games were to offer had changed. There was suddenly depth, and zombies, and rocket-launchers, and cyber-demons. There was fear. But there was also co-op networked play, and user-made maps, and shareware versions of an incredible game circulated freely over the internet. If ever there is a triumphal arch through which PC gaming moved into a modern age, then it is the large M at the end of Doom. Does that metaphor work? No.

See also: Doom 2.

IMPORTANCENESS: So, so incredibly high, basically

In the late Nineties the first-person shooter chewed up its cardboard packaging and combined it with a special saliva to make a chrysalis, into which it then crawled. What emerged from that miraculous tube of transformation was Half-Life, a game which made the world of a shooter game into seamless, dynamic, and intelligent thing. It was a remarkable trick: not diluting the action-element of the FPS, but impregnating every aspect of it with story. It was scripted, it had a script, but it never controlled the character or took the motive out of your hands. Half-Life was a game that made people realise that making interesting moments, staging microscoping dramas amid the carnage, would make games live anew. Things would never be the same again.

Half-Life 2

This was a good moment
“Things would never be the same again,” seems a bit of a silly thing to say, but I’ve said it now. Surely it’s always literally true? Anyway, Half-Life 2 wasn’t quite the ecosystem-wrecking genesis-meteor that the original was, but instead articulated the mature statement of that previous game’s studio. Using all the same techniques, honed to razor-sharpness, and throwing in a brilliant set of physics-manipulating puzzles, Half-Life 2 broadened the mandate for first person games to include awesome companions, and puzzles that involved more than simply killing lots of similar-but-different enemy zombie-demons. It was also a game that its own exclamation: “Physics!” That is what we would cry.

System Shock

Long before the Half-Lives, of course, there were other experiments in first-personess that really meant something. Chief among these in the mid-nineties was, arguably, System Shock. This was one of the games that acts like a landmark at the borders What Is Possible In Games. Lost in the belly of a giant space station and hunted by malignant AI, this game tore at definitions of both RPG and FPS, before either RPG or FPS were really defined. Made more playable today by a mouse-look mod, it remains a kind of masterwork of the balance between complexity and necessity in game design.

RELEASE DATE: Various Dates

Counter-Strike was practically all that was played in the PC Gamer office when I arrived in 2001. The game has remained consistently popular on the wider internet since that time. As I will argue later, the Quakes represent a higher level of design in terms of multiplayer games, but I believe that Counter-Strike had a greater influence on game design than any other multiplayer shooter. The widespread shift towards pseudo-realism and “real-world” settings for manshooting can, I believe, be traced to this mod. That it was a mod, of course, has been celebrated for years, and as such it remains the ultimate example of how modding on the PC has had a profound influence on the entire culture of game design.

IMPORTANCENESS: An Austere Martian High

Battlezone was a rare and beautiful creation: a shooter that carried on the tradition of bold vehicular things like Carrier Command and Armageddon, but also sat in its own creative bubble. I regard Battlezone as crucially important because it did so many things that PC games do well: vehicles, terrain, genre-blending, and moving between tactics and strategy in a single engine. It also had an excellent fiction underlying it: of the Cold War extending into space, and then breaking out into violence on Mars. The difference between Russian and American sides still lingers in my imagination.

Also see: Battlezone 2, Hostile Waters.


There has only really been one MMOFPS, and this is it. Whatever happened after the launch – and what happened was a plan of expansion and development that looked like an unhappy ape had been placed at the controls, ultimately ruining the game’s ability to maintain a high population of combatants – it remains a singularity in the landscape of gaming. We’ve written about its capacity to create experiences, and for those experiences to create veterans. It’s a shadow of a former self now, of course, but it’s coming back. For that reason alone it is enormously important. How SOE handle the remake later this year will be one of the most critical and interesting events of the decade. No pressure or anything, guys…

Unreal Tournament 2004
RELEASE DATE: 2003. No wait, it was 2004,

Looking back, it’s easy to concentrate on all the mods and things that UT2004 spawned. It was an amazing piece of work for the creative folks among us, and it spawned amazing things like Air Buccaneers. However, it was also an astoundingly well-engineered piece of gaming technology. The Unreal engine was, at this point, as smooth as a marble, and the game that sold it was only slightly less fun to play than its nearest rival, the awesome…

Quake III: Arena
IMPORTANCENESS: Riding a rocket

Me too!
Yes, my evidence might not be entirely impartial on this one. I was hooked on Quake 3 from the day of its release for almost three years. The pace and precision of it became the most important thing in my life for quite some time, even losing me my job at the time. It remains Id’s greatest work of game design, but its legacy was short, despite the continued life of the thing in Quake Live. Slower paced more “realistic” games quickly smothered the deathmatch future we were promised. Quake 3 is like a velociraptor of game design. Ultimately a dead end, evolutionary speaking, but a killer if you ever have to face it down in the real world. We shall never know its like again.

Arma II
IMPORTANCENESS: Moderately high

All men, all the time
One of my colleagues will iterate the importance of Operation Flashpoint within the grand scheme of games, but it is down to me to highlight where the arc of soldier simulation, that began with OpFlash, now sits. Arma II – a huge, demanding, unoptimised monstrosity of feature heaviness – is unlike anything else in the gaming landscape. Buggy on release, not ideal for single-player – the problems with it are considerable, and they all pale into nothing against the technical achievement and possibility for military simulation experiences that are disgorged from this game on a daily basis.

STALKER: Shadow Of Chernobyl

It would please me to be able to say that Stalker was more important than it actually is, but it sadly remains one of those games that is out in an isolated intellectual region, unencroached by the large trade of ideas from other games. Plenty of games from the West have influenced Stalker, but I’ve yet to see any Western studios mimicking GSC’s achievements. Is that because Stalker is bad or unimportant? No, it’s because most game studios are basically boring, or hideously constrained. The lack of constraint that GSC were under for Call Of Pripyat shows (thankfully) that the brilliance of the original game wasn’t all down to THQ’s money and expert producers.

IMPORTANCENESS: Higher than you’d think

Quake did not invent mouse free-look (that was arguably Marathon on the Mac), but it did make it a standard control method. It also spawned the most intense use of the mouse-keyboard control system to date, with the astonishing QuakeWorld multiplayer. That said, I do believe the single-player game to be overlooked at your peril: it remains fiercely playable, and a reminder of how brutal and thrilling things could be before the transformations of Half-Life.

Left 4 Dead 2
IMPORTANCENESS: Moderately moderate

Are zombies men?
Including this in the list was complicated. A sequel not that different to the original, and not a game that I felt, on its first outing, really changed anything. However, it seems clear that Left 4 Dead 2 was both closer to what was intended for the game, and also a huge move in the direction of pure co-op, which wasn’t something that even seemed possible a few years ago. At the start of the 00s I remember asking developers about their plans to make things co-operative, and the consistent answer was that it was too difficult, or not possible, or whatever. Valve looked at that notion, assumed it was possible, and turned the FPS on its head. And the world is richer for that.

Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines

There was no greater tragedy in the game world of 2004 than the unfinished state of Bloodlines. This was a game that reached for the stars: a multi-threaded RPG with action elements, brilliant dialogue, a story that made sense and even surprised us at times. What a shame it degraded into a ludicrous meat-grinder at the end of the game, if you hadn’t hit a show-stopping bug before that time. Bloodlines is important because it signposts a direction to a future of games that we were denied. It is a lament, and a warning. It’s also brilliant.

Battlefield 2
IMPORTANCENESS: Not high enough to avoid the flak

If there was any need to explain the significance of Battlefield 2, then we only need to point to the hype being generated for its sequel, some six years on. Combining squad-based combat across huge maps, with realistic-but-actually-still-silly physics and general handling made this a videogame charged with manshoot satisfaction. It never really seemed to ever hit a perfect balance, either, which somehow seems quintessential of the most profoundly PC games.

Also see: Battlefield 1942

Team Fortress 2

That Team Fortress 2 is a sequel and a remake seems almost irrelevant now. But it’s part of what makes the game so important. Valve took years and years to settle upon a model for what has become one of the firmly-entrenched favourites of the PC gaming fraternity, and that they did so allowed it to prove that a multiplayer first-person shooter can be funny, even witty, and that constant experimentation and progression can keep a game alive and evolving long after it should have ground to a halt. Team Fortress 2 felt like an experiment, and it still feels like an experiment, and that experiment was a success.

See also: Team Fortress.

Tribes 2
IMPORTANCENESS: Depends whether you are into jetpacks.

Tribes 2, I would argue, was the game that made jetpack combat into one of the great trends within the overall current of first-person PC games. It was far from the first game to do it, and arguably games like Terra-Nova were more ambitious. The original Tribes had even defined the model, but it was this sequel that nailed everything down and made people behave as they now do towards anything with multiplayer combat, jetpacks, and some vehicles.

Hidden & Dangerous
IMPORTANCENESS: Well pretty damned important to me, actually.

It’s at this point in my list that I begin to trundle away from the first-person perspectives and its unfair dominance over the game universe to look at some games that use other perspectives. Hidden & Dangerous, for example, used a third-perspective across a squad of special ops characters conducting clever missions in exciting World War II scenarios. This game is important because it was the subject of the sample review I produced for my interview at PC Gamer magazine, thus getting me through the door of the industry. It was probably a fairly good game, too.

Frontier: Elite 2
IMPORTANCENESS: Moderate to middling

The dream of being able to just head out into a galaxy of stars, each with its own planets and other satellites. There’s seldom been as strong a vision in all of gaming, and Frontier remains its best realisation on PC. Also: it has remained Frontier than any other space game. Possibly the frontiest space game ever. Ahem. Sorry.

Also see: Freelancer.

IMPORTANCENESS: Surprisingly moderate, given how good it was.

There was one game whose hype took me in completely. It was one of my earliest tastes of a company called Bullfrog. Oh how we laugh when we look back on it. But the truth was that Syndicate was a genuine marvel, a miracle of the technology of the time, and one of the first instances in which a city environment in a game felt more like the protagonist than the people who milled about in it. In my dream world, Syndicate would have spawned half a dozen imitators, while the main series would have produced a new game every couple of years, and not just its solitary sequel, Syndicate Wars. It’s one of those games whose atmosphere, attitude, and even control system (as weird as that now seems, with the all the drugs and stuff) acts as a kind of primitive, basal benchmark for all subsequent game experiences. If you played it when it came out, of course. It’s one of those games that seems less important today. That said, this will be the game that I feel most brutalised over if, when the rumoured sequel emerges, it ends up being a wonky shooter set in the same universe. Anyway, that’s for another rant, and another time. Syndicate is extremely important.

Also see: Syndicate Wars.

Hitman: Blood Money

The Hitman series never quite got its garotte around my neck until this iteration. Suddenly all the cogs of elegant level design, minimal UI, complex, open-ended solutions to busy, NPC-heavy levels, clicked into place. What resulted was a game of assassination that is subtle, funny, technically impressive, even sensitive. It’s that dream action game where a single shot might be fired across several levels, but the intensity of what’s happening never wavers.

IMPORTANCENESS: 57th most important of all time, actually

Until there was Outcast, the only real champion of the 3D pixel, the voxel, was to be found in the dry military duck-shoots of the Novalogic games (Delta Force, Comanche). Then along came a Belgian adventure game with lush, organic valleys, and a vibrant, living world. The all-American protagonist never really made much sense, but it faded into the background when you began to encounter the behaviours of the world’s characters, and to explore a game that spun away from the galaxy of games like a lone supernova into the blackness of space. A bright light, quickly vanishing from the pantheon. Outcast perhaps isn’t so much important as valuable, because there is only one of it.

IMPORTANCENESS: Like the importance of the last of a rare species.

The same might be said of Sacrifice, as was said of Outcast: it was a creation whose like we will not see again. An RTS that played like a third-person action game, that looked like a surrealist painting, that spoke like a fantasy game, that used sacrificed souls collected with giant syringes as it is main resource. Sacrifice is made from same precious substance of which there isn’t enough to go around. In fact, there seems to be a genuine possibility that this game might have used it all up.

TIE Fighter
IMPORTANCENESS: A nerdy high, I guess.

This is the best Star Wars game. Sorry, I can’t think of one that I prefer. You can take your Lego, your Jedi Knights, your old Republics, and your assaulting rebels, and drop them down the tube for things under Bespin. TIE Fighter, which allows you to play through the career of a lowly pilot, working your way up to acting as Vader’s wingman, is the most satisfying Star Wars experience. That’s pretty important. I think any studio in the world could make a good space game, just by copying this.

Neverwinter Nights

In the big scheme of RPGs, the original Neverwinter Nights really doesn’t register all that profoundly, and my colleagues will no doubt speak of other, far more significant games. What was extraordinary about NWN, however, was that it managed to take the naming scheme from Baywatch Nights and then create an RPG that – finally – was hinged on decent technology. We played a four-player RPG at lunchtimes in the PC Gamer office. This is the only time I can ever remember that happening. Later, we played user-made adventures, which is a vital and wonderful thing. In terms of broad-spectrum importance, this game sits fairly low, but I think its accomplishments merit a tip of the hat to where it sits on my shelf, gathering dust.

Eve Online
IMPORTANCENESS: Nothing like as important as it should have been.

Whenever I talk about Eve Online, I have to be careful to remember this: it changed nothing. Eve Online can only really be understood on its own terms. That it exists, and has existed, is an amazing thing, because it is the only MMO that is actually a “living world”, or a “virtual world”, in the sense that we were promised when the idea of the MMO was coming to light. Yet, while the vast, war-mongering universe of Eve has generated a symphony of astonishing battles, and a babbling catalogue of controversies and tall tales, it has done almost nothing to influence the trajectory of the MMO genre as a whole. Eve, perhaps, is a brown dwarf somewhere remote on the fringes of the galaxy: warm enough to genuinely support satellites crammed with life and interesting evolution, but ultimately an oddity, and with little influence on the wider constellation, which revolves on one axis: that of World Of Warcraft. It’s been my endless frustration that there is no alternative to Eve. Perhaps its one copy-cat game, Perpetuum Online, can one day be that. Maybe not.

Also see: Ultima Online.

The Typing Of The Dead
IMPORTANCE: Not that high, but we had to include it somewhere.

The importance of this game is that it made both typing tutor programs and light-gun games actually fun. That means it fixes two entire genres by creating another one. Few games can boast that. Also: the dudes with keyboards strapped to their waists were beautifully weird. Actually, I’ve emailed Sega to ask if they have any plans to bring this minor classic out on any digital distribution networks. They are looking into it. UPDATE: Sega just said “no comment” at the time of going to press.


The importance of this side-on sci-fi adventure was that it both taught me what rotoscoping was, and allowed me to pass my GCSE French, because I played it in French for some reason. These reasons for importance may not apply to other people playing the game today. However, it taught us that French people can often make amazing videogames, and that platform games don’t have to be about grotesquely-proportioned plumbers. These were, and remain, vitally important lessons.

Also see: Another World.

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.

This feature has been kindly sponsored by:


  1. deuterium. says:

    Freaking brilliant list. Good job.

  2. Droniac says:

    I really like a lot of the games Jim picked. It’s great to see games like Outcast, Sacrifice and Bloodlines at least mentioned in passing, even if they didn’t influence the games industry all that much.

    As always with this kind of list there are some games that I think should’ve been included. Freelancer for its brilliant introduction of mouse-movement in a space simulator, even if it never actually managed to revive the (best) gaming genre. Return to Castle Wolfenstein for introducing the concept of objective-based multiplayer with classes that has effectively become a requirement in every modern multiplayer shooter. Omikron: The Nomad Soul might have been mentioned along with Outcast for providing a (somewhat) similar gameplay experience. Deus Ex… and there are probably a fair few more.

    What stood out to me the most, however, was the inclusion of Unreal Tournament 2004 in this list.

    I would certainly replace that with its ultimate predecessor. After all, Unreal Tournament was the game that sparked a massive and prolific mod scene that completely overshadowed the modding communities in any other game at the time (even Half Life). It was this enormous mod scene and the popularity of these mods then inspired Epic to expand the modding capabilities in their future games, not the other way around. It was also the first multiplayer shooter to successfully compete with an ID Software shooter in terms of popularity and it dominated LAN parties for years. In fact, it’s still by far the most popular game in the entire Unreal franchise to this day, with well in excess of a thousand consecutive players still fragging it up in the vanilla game every night at European prime time. UT2004 is lucky to hit a couple hundred players if you also count the players of its most popular mod (Team Arena Master) at prime time.

    So why bother to mention UT2004? Both UT and UT3 are much better recommendations today, and UT2004 never really rivaled the former in any regard.

  3. moxpearl says:

    FPS bias much ??? :P :P

    gosh…. no civs ?? no age of empires ?? no total wars ?? no homeworld ??

    (partially tongue and cheek.. since I know this is Part 1 of 5 .. but still.. 99% FPS :P)

  4. Lambchops says:

    Hmm, I’m late to the comment train on this one but I seem to remember when asked what would be on our lists I said that I was easily pleased and would be happy if the 57th greatest/most important game of all time and Little Big Adventure 2 were mentioned.

    That’s one down, only one more to go or else I’ll be put into a state of frightful apoplexy.

  5. BobsLawnService says:

    Your list is roughlt two point five months too late and does not compute.

  6. Xanadu says:

    Glad to see NWN getting some recognition on the list, and in the comments. For me the importance wasn’t the technology (the 3D was nice but not as pretty as the isometric adventures that had preceded it), or the multiplayer, but the mods – user created adventures were coming out almost daily and the quality of many far exceeded the original campaign (which was pants, to be fair) – it recreated my PnP D&D playing youth in a form that nothing has since.
    Even if only a tiny fraction of those who bought the game created content, a far more sizeable number played user created mods. For the best part of 2 years NWN was basically the only game I played. With NWN2 the content was harder to create, and by the time Dragon Age came along the complexity of the game had far exceeded the ability of most to create a decent adventure.
    I doubt we’ll see an RPG this easy to create content for again – NWN wasn’t a game, it was thousands of them.

  7. passingstranger says:

    I’m very much looking forward to this series. For several reasons, not the least of which is receiving an education on some of the important games that were slightly before my time. It seems like a nice mix of mainstream and obscure, vital and simply influential.

    I do hope that Bioshock gets its own listing as proving a game can be a commercial success without sacrificing original (and good) story is fairly important, I’d say.

  8. El Stevo says:

    Is this the complete list?

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      It is complete, apart from the parts that are still coming.

  9. jonfitt says:

    There are very few games on there I didn’t play at the time, and even fewer that I didn’t like. Good list.

    That being said….


  10. rapchee says:

    ooh syndicate … i used to play it on amiga
    it has infected my mind :) there should be an eve-like mmo set in that world

    • Navagon says:

      Starbreeze (Riddick games) are working on a new Syndicate based game. I’m hoping it’s not an MMO, personally and Starbreeze aren’t really a large enough studio to handle a game of that nature anyway. I agree that the setting would be good for an MMO though. It’s just not something I’d be all that interested in personally.

  11. reginald says:

    does anyone else find it depressing that 90% of these games are “War Man 2: The Shootening ” even the screen shots and cover art are all the same. a big machine-thing or soldier holding a big gun on a battlefield.

  12. Daniel Klein says:

    I remember the day a friend brought me the original Doom on a bunch of disks. I felt dirty, installing it, because I’d heard things. You know. Horrible things. The violence, the satanism, all that. I was 13, but I knew I wasn’t that kind of gamer. I liked Railroad Tycoon and Prince of Persia and Civilization. You know, wholesome games. (Except for the part where there’s a fight in Prince of Persia that you can basically only win by making a fat man step into a guillotine, which then graphically turns him into two half-as-fat men)

    Turns out when id said 4MB RAM required, they meant 4MB RAM required. My weak 386SX with 2MB RAM wouldn’t run the game. I was kind of relieved, actually. I wouldn’t need to find out if I was that kind of gamer.

    Fast forward a year and I had finally convinced my dad to buy me a 486 DX2-66 (66 megahertz!) DooM II was now the game of the hour. I installed it at a LAN party a friend was hosting in his parents’ living room. The rest, as they say, is history.

    I was a gamer before I played DooM II. DooM II is what turned me into a PC Gamer. DooM II is the game that made me a person who couldn’t think of a better way to spend his Easter holidays than sitting in a smelly room with five good friends and pretty much play LAN games all day and all night. It made me into the person who, come autumn holidays, set out to do the same thing again, but this time ended up sitting in a smelly room with his best friends working on Duke3D maps. We’d all sit there with Build loaded up, building silly things (first rule of BUILDing–your first level must be your parents’ house) (second rule of BUILDing–you must get the dimensions horribly, amusingly wrong). Actually the others would build, and then hand their .MAP files over to me, so I could put the explosions in. I was the explosions guy, shrinking gas canisters to zero width so they wouldn’t show up in game, and rigging them up to certain explosion triggers, setting explosion delays manually so they’d paint pretty spirals as they went off into the sky.

    I’m still that guy. I would probably never have been that guy had it not been for DooM (II, in my case), or I would have been a less intense version of him, later-on in life. PC Gaming is special. This is the game that made it special for me.

  13. mgreenhaw says:

    Bah! A list without Wing Commander, Duke Nukem, Civilization, Leisure Suit Larry OR Space Quest?!?!?! Heresy!!!!!!! You should have your PC gamer card revoked! :-P LOL

  14. Spliter says:

    Funny how 5 of those games belong to Valve and still I’m wondering where the hell is Portal on that list

  15. Fathom says:

    Doom is the most important game ever made for pretty obvious reasons, most of them listed in the article here. It paved the way for first person shooters of all types, and the general gameplay is still a staple of today’s games. We can look in three dimensions instead of two, we have stories, the guns fire different things, but in the end every FPS owes much of it’s heart to id software. That’s why I’ll always have a lot of love for that company, and I’ll be giddy as a schoolgirl when Doom 4 is announced.

  16. sinister agent says:

    I played it in French for some reason

    Piratage occasionnel? Good old The Early-90s. WINKY FACE.

    Some interesting choices in there so far. Obviously the whole list is WRONG and BAD, and I am physically sickened by your choices, but I’m probably the 57th person to tell you that.

    There does need to be some kind of “PLAY AND UNDERSTAND THESE, YOU DOLTS” catalogue for games developers. Even though I don’t like some of the games on here, and disagree that some should be on there, if I were a games developer, I should be looking them up and giving them a damn good playing anyway.

  17. phenom_x8 says:

    a lot of game I’ve been missed here! Will try it soon,jim!

  18. Duke Nukem says:

    I don’t see Duke Nukem 3d there :(

  19. wiper says:

    RPS? FPS more like, amirite!?!!!!!!one

    *runs around, whooping and waving his arms around like a madman*

    Incidentally, I hope that John’s list is made up entirely of strategy games. And that there’s a final ultra-list, made up of Deus Ex fifty times. Each one of which’s description is simply “I spill my drink!”.

    • Sarlix says:

      If Johns list is entirely made up of anything, it will be adventure games. You’d better believe it fancy pants.

  20. Lambchops says:

    Hmm, until I saw this thread i’d forgotten all about Battlezone. I remember really enjoying the demo of it when I was a lad but never getting a hold of the full game (I was a bit rubbish at it as well, truth be told).

    I wnnder if it’s on GOG . . . hmm sadly not.

    • coldvvvave says:

      Isn’t it free now? Also one of original devs or some community enthusiast released some graphic updates recently. I think.

    • Lambchops says:

      Ooh, well pointed out sir. I may well give that a whirl some time.

    • enshak says:

      I need to play this as well, as I have much love for BattleZone II. The Atari Battlezone arcade cabinet was ace as well.

  21. DethFiesta says:

    Good list — hard to disagree with DOOM being that important, as I have powerful memories of the first time I played it and how blown away we all were. Remember a friend calling me on the phone breathless — “Dude, you’ve GOT to see this game!”

    However, my list would I’d have to include: Ultima IV, Ultima VI, Ultima VII, Ultima Underworld, X-COM, Civilization, SimCity, The Elder Scrolls: Arena, and Diablo. Yeah, I’m old school.

  22. Tetragrammaton says:

    The fact that Sacrifice hasn’t launched a thousand gold-encrusted sequels is testament to the smelly world we live in.

  23. RagePoon says:

    Wheres Jill of the Jungle; Crystal Caves; Full Throttle; Warcraft 1/2?

    Don’t pretend they weren’t our entry way into the awesomeness of PC gaming.

  24. unclejoe says:

    DESCENT !! Six degrees of Freedom!! What can be more important than that. No gravity! No friction! Just like our lives!

  25. Jim9137 says:

    Dear Jim,

    I hate you for clearly unquantifiable reasons.


  26. Resin says:

    Some uppity museum that thinks they no how to list most important videogames:
    link to

    What I want to see is kind of a three-dimensional map threading out different genres and scaling them to size based on awesomeness, innovation and some stuff like that – with little pop-up ballons for actual comentary – like a 3D version of this plot only with genres instead of characters (and 3dishness dunno what the z axis is for but I’m sure we need it):
    link to

  27. dawnmane says:

    good read. I especially enjoyed the mention of Battlezone! That game left my 13-year old self completely awestruck back when it came out.

  28. Genki says:

    Please note: I am a banana

  29. malkav11 says:

    Some quibbles:

    I suppose Half-Life is important in that everyone ever seems to think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I really feel like the only thing it does that is all but unquestionably original to it is the use of scripted in-game events instead of the more traditional model of cutscene. And while that has some undoubted benefits for immersion, I’m inclined to regard it as neutral to negative overall, at least when used exclusively. They pretty much are still cutscenes, after all. It’s just that they’re permanently unskippable ones that don’t even do you the favor of focusing on the cool stuff. As a method of enhancing atmosphere in brief, small doses (i.e., like in Dead Space), they’re an improvement. As a primary method of story delivery, they suck. Perhaps one day developers will figure out how to make them genuinely interactive. -Then- they’d be something.

    A franchise that, like most of id’s games, is really primarily important for the engine that was delivered to be used in other, much better games. Ugly, bland, simplistic, and far behind other concurrent or even previous games in the genre (Marathon, System Shock, the better Build Engine games) in terms of genuine gameplay coolness. Sure, it introduced 3D, but 3D is in itself just a technical achievement. Quake failed to make it -interesting-.

    Left 4 Dead 2:
    I certainly approve of the listing of the sequel rather than the dramatically inferior original title in the franchise, but it’s tough for me to call Left 4 Dead a “huge move in the direction of pure co-op” when the most played mode by far is the competitive Versus mode.

    The thing NWN most definitely -wasn’t- is decent technology. The Aurora engine is aggressively rubbish in many ways. Terrible UI, terrible and very limited graphics, bizarre implementation of the D&D ruleset, etc etc etc. And the main campaign itself was also terrible. NWN is important because it has to be the game for which the single most fan-made singleplayer content has ever been released, much of it far better than the game as shipped.

    • Urthman says:

      Malkav, your comments about Quake only apply to the single-player campaigns.

      For straight-up multi-player deathmatch, Quake was revolutionary and Quake and Quake 3 remain some of the finest implementations of that game.

    • malkav11 says:

      I fail to see why I should care about deathmatch. Or indeed competitive multiplayer in general.

      Besides, the article specifically calls out Quake’s singleplayer as good, which is nonsense.

  30. Frank says:

    I think everything from Battlezone on down — except Unreal/Quake — is questionable if you’re ordering in terms of importance/impact. I’d like to think L4D2 and TF2 are important, but it’s too soon to say if co-op and wacky experimentation will catch on.

  31. wisnoskij says:

    Nice article.

  32. Ganj says:

    Whilst I agree the tail end of the game became far too orientated towards combat, (bugs I was thankfully uneffected by) no gaming experience has been as much pure joy as playing a malkavian in Bloodlines.

    Troika’s death shortly after release was probably the darkest hour of gaming history. To know it unlikely a sequel will ever make an appearance is a tragedy.

    I hold out hopes that CCP’s forthcoming World of Darkness MMO is heavily influenced by it, but fear I’ll be disappointed – but I’ll continue to dream!

    As for the Quakes, 2 was obviously the best of the series – everything from ID since has been pap.

    My mind has gone, my body follows.

  33. Robsoie says:

    Very good list, i agree on several of them

    I’d like to mention one that will certainly not make it as despite it was breakgrounding, it stayed unfortunately only played by a very small niche.

    While it was originally a mod for the old Unreal , its evolution as a total conversion for the old Unreal Tournament made it something very important in my gaming “career” : Infiltration, because it influenced a lot my taste in games.
    It was basically a game in itself, just using the unreal engine without nothing else in common with the parent game.

    There was a before and an after Infiltration for any game that was advertised as “realistic” , “infantry simulation”, Infiltration was the milestone to judge their claims.
    It was so brillantly ahead of its time that once you spent time in Infiltration it was very difficult to take those advertised “realistic infantry games” seriously after that.

    I always recommend this article to those that unfortunately missed this golden age of infantry simulation game, the one that was done right :
    link to

  34. jalf says:

    I have to say I think Planetside’s importance is overrated. I’m not denying its positive qualities, but I think it belongs in the same bin as Eve: “great game, which had absolutely no influence on other games”.

    Of course, both games *should* have been very influential. But they weren’t.

  35. The Dude says:

    If the following games are not on the list by the time it is done, I will label you all console whores/just not cool people. And forward your website to Eric Cartman, Duke Nukem, and the grand poobah huzzah of kochonland:

    1. Max Payne 2.
    2. Grim Fandango.
    3. Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri.
    4. Thief.

    There are others, but they’ll be on the list, I’m sure (System Shock 2, The Longest Journey etc).

  36. RegisteredUser says:

    Although I know from experince you could argue about a lot of the details and despite disapproving of a couple of titles – for more personal than importance reasons I guess – I am quite okay with the list, but only because DOOM is NUMBAH ONE, NUMBAH ONE, NUMBAH ONE!!111

    And because I know that I played more of the games listed than not, so it can’t be THAT bad.

  37. GallonOfAlan says:

    Outcast disnae use voxels man!

  38. EBass says:

    Come on, Half Life 2 that important? It was of above average importance in the realm of character animation and physics and IF we include the episodes “buddy AI”. In all other steps it hardly takes any steps forward. Its a fine game but hardly “important”.

  39. phertiker says:

    I can’t believe I’m doing the “OMG you forgot…” thing, but OMG you forgot:

    World War 2 Online (aka Battleground Europe). Planetside was not the only MMOFPS; wasn’t even first as WW2OL came out in 2001. It sucked then, just like Planetside, but it didn’t take long to become a wicked combined arms shooter and it keeps getting better all the time.

  40. Dwarden says:

    i’m surprised by absence of Terminator : The Future Shock
    which was quite important imo in terms how FPS and freeview mouse control was introduced to PC …
    also Homeworld deserve it’s spot there
    but then i can think of dozens of excelent PC games which deserve to be here because of something genre shaping :)

  41. Axez D. Nyde says:

    ‘Quake 3 is like a velociraptor of game design. Ultimately a dead end, evolutionary speaking, but a killer if you ever have to face it down in the real world. We shall never know its like again.’

    – Sad but true!
    so true, … so sad.

  42. Eljay says:

    Battlezone has remained one of my favorite games ever since I first played it so many years ago. It is unfortunate so few games have come out in the last thirteen years that have tried to improve upon melding the world of vehicle combat and RTS so well. Sure, the AI sucked and the command interface was clunky, but the ambition Activision had back then was simply amazing.

  43. toxic8 says:

    Great list, I will read the other 4 (5?)

    Halfway down I was thinking to myself “Will this include …”

    and then a rare remark:

    “Sacrifice is made from same precious substance of which there isn’t enough to go around. In fact, there seems to be a genuine possibility that this game might have used it all up.”

    I couldn’t have said it better.

    I expect to see Planescape: Torment on that list!

  44. 1q3er5 says:

    Very happy to see Sacrifice made this list. Very underrated and totally unique.