The following article(s) are entirely the opinion of the author, and as such do not reflect any official ranking or rating.
Since the 1980s, millions of us have grown up with a PC in the home, and playing games has been a big part of many people's childhood. For a long time I’ve wanted to showcase a top fifty ranking for classic PC games, so please do enjoy the following. Hopefully some of these fantastic games will bring back fond memories, so let’s get started with numbers 50 through 41.
50. Micro Machines
Year Released: 1991
This maiden release of the Micro Machines franchise laid a foundation that would become an instant classic: the top down multiplayer racer. What made this game different from other racers was that the tracks were all set in very familiar environments; a kitchen bench, a dining table, a garden or even a bathroom. This was possible of course because your cars were, well, micro. It really was as if you were driving real world toys around a house, and it was ridiculously fun with a friend. Micro Machines won numerous awards for its innovative take on racing, and went on to spawn a number of future versions and imitators.
Year Released: 1991
This quirky wee game was not terribly well known, which is a bit of a shame as it really was quite superb. You play as a somewhat height-challenged Neanderthal in search for food, while various obstacles stand in your way – most unscientifically – dinosaurs. With a variety of unique levels, boss fights, great sound, graphics and animations, Prehistorik is one of those hidden gems that didn’t get the credit it deserved.
Year Released: 1989
Vette’s main draw was its real-life location, that being San Francisco. The player had a lot more freedom to roam the city than any previous racers would permit, as well as the ability to tour San Francisco’s famous landmarks; the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge and the Transamerica Pyramid. As a racing game, Vette sorely lacked, with only one other car to contend with; though there was a multiplayer option over modem. There were, however, features to this game that were very rare for its time; car damage that affected handling and performance, full control of the camera views, police chases (you got to choose an excuse if you got caught), and car repairs at the local gas stations. Furthermore, you could even leave the surface streets and drive full-speed along poorly rendered freeways. Something most who played Vette wouldn’t know is that a developer of the game included an ‘in memoriam' in the code for the victims at Tiananmen Square in 1989 shortly before release.
Amazon Price: $4.99 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 11, 2015)
47. Cool Spot
Year Released: 1993
It’s somewhat strange that a single player platform game starring the mascot for 7UP Lemonade turned out to be such a brilliant game. Cool Spot was released on the SEGA Mega Drive and Master System, Amiga, NES, Game Boy and for DOS. The gameplay was tricky, the graphics were smooth, and there was a certain satisfaction annihilating the little crabs on the beach with your soda bubble weaponry. Whilst the game was quite difficult, it wasn't overly complicated; jump up, shoot that, rescue your Cool Spot friends, repeat. Yet somehow it kept from being repetitive, mainly due to awesome scenery and locations, including a beach, a bathtub, a wharf and even a cupboard with evil mice. Cool Spot was indeed very cool.
46. Hocus Pocus
Year Released: 1994
Hocus Pocus was criticized for being easy, boring and just lame. In some ways, it was all of these things. The learning curve was about 30 seconds, the game play was repetitive, and the plot seems like it was written by a 10 year old Harry Potter enthusiast. However, none of this is important to an 8 year old child. What was important were the mystical levels (with paralaxing backgrounds), the quirky and effective sounds, the dangerous and compelling monsters and the evil wizards. Hocus Pocus has a strange ability to pull you into its fantasy world and demand that you reach its end, where you would marry the head Mage's daughter. Hocus Pocus was a bit lame, but it was wonderful all the same.
45. Shadow Knights
Year Released: 1991
One of the lesser known titles on this list, iD Software’s Shadow Knights took influence from the first Ninja Gaiden games, and it definitely shows. The atmosphere of the levels was the cornerstone of the game, notably the graveyard levels, which for a child were actually pretty scary. With ghouls rising from the ground and rampant hounds jumping at you left and right, the later levels became exceedingly difficult. Yet another slick production by John Romero (see Dangerous Dave, Doom). An interesting note - this game was created as a contractual obligation to software company Softdisk, where those at iD Software were employed.
Year Released: 1998
Liero was very similar to Team17’s Worms, but faster. In fact, much faster. Despite its rudimentary graphics and sounds, Liero is quite modern relative to the majority of this list. Designed and created in Finland, this was one of those games that was tedious when played alone, but an absolute blast when played with a friend. Your objective: destroy your enemy using any of the forty weapons available (of which five can be carried at any one time), and avoid the barrage of incoming fire from your opponent. The majority of maps could also be destroyed, creating cover, or creating ledges with which to use your grappling hook to swing across the level. Ammo was infinite, and things such as health and reload time were adjustable to just silly levels. Liero proved so popular that unofficial sequels have been created by the cult-like following. These include Liero Xtreme and NiL, both of which are fully online multiplayer capable. This game is truly an example of simple beauty.
43. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans
Year Released: 1994
Long before the juggernaut that is World of Warcraft sprung onto the scene, the original of the series, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans reigned supreme. Prior to the RTS boom fostered by Warcraft 2 and Command and Conquer, Orcs & Humans introduced numerous advances in gameplay and design that are still in use today, and spring-boarded Blizzard to amazing success. The concepts of ‘teching up’ and micro-management were used to an effect not yet seen in the genre. You would evolve from your basic grunt infantry, to medium level units such as the Necrolyte and Warlocks, and then onward to the most powerful units such as the water elemental or demon, assuming you hadn’t been annihilated first. Throw these all together and you would witness some brutal battles with dozens of units, crippling many of the earlier Macs and DOS PCs. Warcraft was praised by critics, won 3 awards, and laid the foundation for not only Warcraft games of the nineties and beyond, but also for StarCraft and dozens, if not hundreds of RTS titles to come.
42. F22 Raptor
Year Released: 1998
A year after the actual F-22 Raptor took its first flight, Novalogic capitalized on its sheer technological brilliance by creating this sweet game. You were tasked with piloting the world’s greatest air superiority fighter in fictional wars in Iran, Colombia, Jordan, Russia and Angola, often coming up against the inferior Russian MiG fighter. The missions got stupidly difficult toward the end of the game, to the point where admittedly I never finished without cheating. But the real beauty of this game came when flying alongside your wingmen - sometimes dozens of aircraft cruising in formation with you, all engaging a pack of MiGs in perfect unison. This made for some epic scenes and even more epic battles. There was also wonderful intro movie showcasing the Raptor in all its glory. All of this adds up to one of my favourite fighter games of all time.
41. Test Drive
Year Released: 1987
The grandfather of the famous Test Drive series is one that doesn’t particularly stand out from other racing games of the era. With basic graphics and sound, it certainly didn’t create any waves in the video game world. But the treacherous cliff-side setting and decent gameplay rescued it from being overly mediocre. Furthermore, the ability to choose from 5 real-world supercars – a Countach, Lotus Esprit, Corvette, 911 Turbo or the ever-popular Testarossa certainly helped. A key component was the statistics the game would give you, for example your average speed between gas stations, which was the first game I’d seen this used on.
Don’t forget to check out the upcoming part two, as we countdown my top 50 classic PC games.