The following article(s) are entirely the opinion of the author, and as such do not reflect any official ranking or rating.
Welcome to the final part of my five-part series counting down the top 50 greatest classic PC games. We're down to the absolutely brilliant games, those that are essentially timeless and were created with true soul. The following are among the greatest games of all time, let alone just the classics, on any platform. So let’s count down the top 10 greatest classic games!
10. Dangerous Dave
Year Released: 1988
Dangerous Dave was a pretty simple side scrolling platform game created by John Romero (see Wolf 3D, Doom, Quake) to accompany an article he wrote about BASIC for a magazine. This colourful and polished game was a blast to play; I find myself playing it from time to time even today. Dangerous Dave included numerous secret levels and some really tricky enemies to overcome. Your objective was to move your way through the 2D levels collecting jewels and the like, and eventually finding an exit. Each level was progressively harder and required exceptional timing. This is one of those older games that was genuinely a challenge to complete. I never could finish it as a child, but have since done so. So why is it so high on my list? I’ll attribute that to warm memories and great fun.
9. Captain Comic Episode 1 - Planet of Death
Year Released: 1988
The Adventures of Captain Comic was one of the first side scrolling games made for the IBM PC and was released as shareware. There is also a clone of this classic called The Adventures of Pioneer Ksenia, made in Ukraine, as well as a Nintendo version which differs substantially. Captain Comic was a pretty basic game; go here, shoot aliens, pick up items. Where it got interesting were the wonderful level designs. What starts in a dark forest on your home planet, leads to a seaside area, straight to the moon, and from there to various alien worlds. Another great feature was the various power ups you were required to obtain, such as the Corkscrew (which allowed you to shoot at knee height), the boots (which increased your jump height) and a teleporting wand. Captain Comic was difficult enough to be interesting and exceptional enough to clinch the number 9 spot on my list.
Year Released: 1991
Nearly everyone who owned a PC in the early nineties will remember Lemmings. It was a beautiful, simple, tremendously difficult puzzle game that could have you frustrated within seconds, but more than that it is the centrepiece of nostalgia from its era. It was ported on to just about every console available and even on the PlayStation 2 and 3 in various forms. You could almost feel sorry for these mindless creatures as they lumbered through your less-than-perfect solution to get them home, but when the level difficulty gets almost silly, there was a nuke button that solved all your problems (except of course winning). Brilliant music, mostly tasteful graphics and playability that has lasted 2 decades and counting make Lemmings one of my all-time favourite games, classic or otherwise.
7. Golden Axe
Year Released: 1989
Every gamer I know seems to have played Golden Axe at some point. This is likely due to the game being released on nearly every platform available in 1989, plus of course the fact that Golden Axe was absolutely awesome. I vividly remember slotting the 5¼-inch disk into the trusty 386, frantically typing in DOS commands and debating with friends who got to play with which character. These include Gilius the axe dwarf, Ax Battler the swordsman (strange name considering the weapon) and Tyris Flare the Amazonian warrior. No other classic game had a co-op experience quite as good as Golden Axe had. The inclusion of mountable dragons, responsive combat and terribly strong bosses culminated in a true classic.
6. Raptor: Call of the Shadows
Year Released: 1994
Raptor was one of the most popular top down shooters of the early nineties, the other being Epic MegaGames’ Tyrian. Apogee combined all the attributes you would expect in a vertical scrolling shooter; excellent graphics, a large array of weaponry, a bad-ass jet, plenty of interesting and variable levels and hundreds of enemies. Of course, a game such as this is not complete without massive boss battles, of which there were many, some unbelievably tough if played on Elite difficulty. Raptor was also re-released as a Windows program in 1999 with better graphics and a few minor changes, as well as released on the iPhone and purchasable through the Mac app store. Surely this a testament to the popularity of this brilliant game, and being worthy of number 6 on my list.
5. One Must Fall 2097
Year Released: 1994
One Must Fall was a game about massive brawling robots in a fight to the death (and for cash), what more could you ask for? I was exposed to the shareware version of this game before the full version, but even this was thrilling. One Must Fall 2097 was without doubt one of the best combat games I have ever played, period. Perfect controls, stunning visuals (especially for 1994), sweet music, and the most complete upgrade system in a fighting title to date made OMF a staple of the gaming diet during the early nineties. There were loads of characters, lots of unique bots with vastly different styles, varied arenas, and a cool tournament style story mode that kept me entertained for quite literally years. Rounding out the top 5 is no less than One Must Fall deserves.
4. The Need for Speed SE
Year Released: 1994
Need for Speed is the grandfather of the series and the title that started the phenomenon. The original game was, in my opinion, the greatest of them all. When it was released in 1994, nothing before it had such rich graphics, content, or gameplay. A huge array of awe-inspiring tracks, realistic renditions of real-world supercars, and beautiful showcase videos for every car made especially for the game truly cemented The Need for Speed series as a titan in the racing genre. Like no other title it also attempted to differentiate the handling and performance of each vehicle, boasting accurate top speeds and acceleration statistics. Point to point as well as closed circuits and traffic on the roads created a feeling of realism that had never been seen up to this point. This is one of my favourite games of all time and I suspect this is the case for many of you as well.
3. Commander Keen Series
Year Released: 1990-1991
I know, an entire series is not a single game. It’s impossible to choose between the each game, they’re all so perfect. There were seven side-scrolling games in total, each with its own unique setting. Keen engaged the Dopefish, Robo Red, the Vort Ninjas and his mother, these creations were genuinely scary to the child gamer in me. Not so daunting were the killer broccoli and grapes from Keen Dreams, for those fortunate enough to play it. On the topic of William Joseph ‘Billy Blaze’ Blazkowicz II, a.k.a. ‘Commander Keen’: he had an IQ of 314 and was the grandson of the war hero from Wolfenstein 3D. As a testament to Keen’s influence on the gaming industry of the nineties, characters or names from the Keen games have appeared in no less than sixteen other titles. Today, you can pick up most of the series on Steam, which you should, because these games were some of the greatest ever created.
Year Released: 1993
No two ways about it, Doom is legendary. Save for Wolfenstein 3D, it is the true grandfather of the FPS genre, nothing before or since has manufactured quite the same atmosphere that Doom and its sequels managed. Being an irresponsible and impressionable youth at the time of its release, I was banned from playing Doom, for fear it would damage my psyche and I would grow up to be a murdering heathen. With with such realistic graphics generated by the wonderful iD Tech 1 engine, it suppose it would be hard for a young mind to distinguish between the real and digital worlds. All jokes aside, the impact Doom and its sequels had on the world of PC gaming was immeasurable and my words would never do it justice. We all played it, we all loved it, and pretty much any game we play these days that is first person and has a gun, we owe to Doom. Every bit worthy of second place on my list.
1. SimCity 2000
Year Released: 1994
The second instalment of the SimCity series was the most popular, released on the PC, Mac, SNES, PlayStation, N64, Gameboy Advance and the SEGA Saturn. It boasted a massive upgrade graphics and complexity which earned SimCity 2000 (like its predecessor) the Best Military or Strategy Computer Game (1995) Origins award. Quite remarkable were the addition of many new facilities, so one could build a city that looked and behaved almost real. This was one of those special games with the rare ability to make five hours seem like five minutes, which robbed children worldwide of so much valuable homework time. One feature that (regrettably to some) was absent from future releases (without modification) were the fabled arcologies. Unrealistic, yes, but they looked brilliant and could double your city’s population rapidly. As a testament to the games success, a few spin-off games were produced, namely ''SimHealth'', ''SimCopter'' and ''Streets of SimCity'', none of them came anywhere close to capturing the same spark as the original. I spent more time playing SimCity 2000 than any other game of the era, where it spawned a life-long passion for urban design and architecture. Without any doubt the number one game on my list with points to spare.
Thank you for sticking with me all the way to number one. Whether you agree or disagree with the games I've chosen, I hope this list has brought back some lovely nostalgia for you.