The following article(s) are entirely the opinion of the author, and as such do not reflect any official ranking or rating.
Welcome to part four of my five-part series on the 50 greatest classic PC games. This time we have some genuinely outstanding games, including the true starting point for the modern first person shooter and the original masterpiece that spawned a generation of Sim games. So please continue the list with me with numbers 20 through 11, which I hope you'll thoroughly enjoy.
20. Wolfenstein 3D
Year Released: 1992
If Doom is the grandfather of FPS games, Wolfenstein 3D is its older, somewhat uglier Nazi uncle. Without Wolfenstein, the FPS genre of today would be either very different, or perhaps non-existent. That’s how important this game was. Not only that, the shareware distribution method that Wolf made use of was an indicator to other developers that giving parts of games for free could become immensely profitable. John Romero created such a brilliant depiction of a Nazi-controlled Castle/Prison/Chain gun testing facility, you couldn’t help but play it over and over. I was first exposed to Wolf in a school classroom in 1993; the ‘cool kids’ had managed to get a copy onto the class PC without the teacher’s knowledge. A perfect reason to get to school really, really early. With sixty levels in total, some of them just ridiculously complex, it was enough to keep even the most die-hard gamers enthralled. Plus you get to kill robot-Hitler, sweet!
19. Street Rod
Year Released: 1989
Classic cars, drag races, custom upgrades and the chance to be the king. What more could you want? Street Rod was something quite revolutionary for its time. This was one of the first titles to boast customising your beloved cars to your heart’s content, and it was a fantastic addition to a pretty standard game. You would purchase engines, tyres and manifolds for example from the classifieds in the newspaper, then manually install them to your car. Win certain races and you may just win your opponents car, with the ultimate goal of beating the king and of course winning his girlfriend along with it. Based in 1963 in California, the charm of this game and the ‘Grease’ type classical feel kept me coming back to play for many years.
Year Released: 1997
Inspired by the 1975 motion picture Death Race 2000, Carmageddon was my first true insight into violent 3D vehicular combat. An impressive array of different vehicles and tracks meant hours of bloody, wheel screeching fun. Who could forget the power ups, most notably the ability to zap any cow or person that got too close with an electric bolt? In some countries certain parts of the game were censored, replacing the pixelated humans with zombies and robots. Let’s be honest, there was nothing quite as satisfying as running down a hoard of pedestrians in a blind rage and finishing the move off with a barrel-roll into a cow. Carmageddon started a revolution of violence in racing games that continues to this day with the likes of Grand Theft Auto.
Year Released: 1995
This relatively unknown game was an absolute blast to play with your friends. With an great variety of tracks from around the world and power ups similar to those seen in Mario Kart, it’s a shame Super Karts didn’t get more exposure. An especially nice touch were the unique characters, each hailing from a different country, including USA, UK, Brazil, India and Russia. Sadly, playing this game alone didn’t have nearly the same excitement level, so the split-screen mode was the real heart and soul of SuperKarts.
16. The Incredible Machine
Year Released: 1992
Sierra created something truly brilliant in the early 1990s. Far from the violence and turmoil of most games of this era (war, fighting, general mayhem), they created a puzzle game unlike any before it. Level after level of needlessly complex tasks that could only be completed in a certain way given certain objects that had to be put in place by you. This was also one of the first games to seriously consider the effects of air pressure and gravity on physical objects, and used these to perfection. Since The Incredible Machine, many copies and knockoffs have been created, but none have had the charm and simple beauty of the original. Although, dropping 10 bowling balls on a huge pen full of cats has its own, special type of beauty I suppose.
Year Released: 1994
For those that remember SimTower, you’ll recall it played similarly to SimCity – you’d be forever stopping just to watch your Sims go about their lives. Only this time, it was vertical. As high as one hundred stories in fact, filled with offices, condominiums, hotels and entertainment venues. What made this game fantastic and have infinite replay value was its real-time nature, plus the huge amount of variety you had when building your towers. For its time, SimTower’s graphics were about average, but like many Sim games it made up for this with fantastic gameplay and quirky little intricacies. For example, from time to time a terrorist would get loose in your tower and plant a bomb, so you’d better hope your security team is up to the task of finding it, or there’s going to be trouble for your citizens and workers. Trouble meaning death, of course. I must admit I have a soft spot for this game as a self-proclaimed skyscraper fanatic.
14. Stunt Driver
Year Released: 1990
Though not nearly as popular as its counterpart Stunts, Stunt Driver was a very nice little game in its own right. You were tasked with racing the ever-cool Shelby Mustang GT350 (with blue racing stripes, of course). With an innovative replay feature and the ability to construct custom tracks with loops, corkscrews and banked bends, this game provided many hours of epic low-pixel racing. There were three opponents, most memorably an old granny in a VW Beetle that one couldn’t help but force off the track at the cruellest possible places – usually the top of a loop. Stunt Driver was of the greatest games of 1990 and a true classic.
13. Return Fire
Year Released: 1995
For its time, Return Fire was a phenomenal game. Huge explosions, scaling cameras, a range of completely different vehicles, and perhaps the most satisfying player vs player experience of 1995, it’s no surprise it’s remembered as one of developer 3DO’s best games. The single player was dull and pointless, but the two player split screen was undeniably superb. As there were 4 vehicles (a tank, a jeep, an HRSV and a chopper), the variations on how one could attack or defend against their adversary were numerous. Your main objective was to infiltrate the enemy base and fetch his flag, but the alternative was just to wipe him slowly off the map. Other than the enemy player to contend with, also standing in your way were turrets with missiles, drones, submarines (if you got too far off the coast), and soldiers that would attack you after frantically abandoning whichever building you were laying siege to. I spent far too many hours playing Return Fire with my siblings, and would happily play many more.
Year Released: 1989
Will Wright’s masterpiece created and spring-boarded the city-building genre to the masses, myself included. The very thought you could build an entire working city on your computer was beyond belief. Though they now seem rudimentary, the graphics and visual effects were stunning to a young boy just barely starting school. Like many of you, I spent countless hours perfecting my cities, trying to ensure everyone had adequate fire and police protection, cleaning up after disasters, and admiring all the wee cars on my roads. Of course SimCity was more than just a game, it was a pushing-off point for thousands (or millions?) of urban planners, architects and the like. SimCity quite rightly won many awards, including Best Military or Strategy Computer Game (1989 and 1990), and inspired many of the games that would keep millions of us up past midnight for years to come.
11. Road Rash
Year Released: 1995
This version of Road Rash was originally produced for Panasonics 3DO console, but was ported onto the Sony PS, Sega Saturn and the PC. The game had some pretty big boots to fill, with prior Road Rash titles being overwhelmingly popular, and fill them it did. Some have said this was the best Road Rash of them all; I tend to agree. The primary objective of all Road Rash games is to reach the finish line by any means necessary. This includes beating your opponents senseless at blindingly fast speeds, assaulting them with chains and bats, or kicking them sideways, where they may meet an unfortunate end with a tree. Featuring wacky art, full motion video intro sequences, epic track designs and locations, and upgradable bikes, Road Rash was stupidly fun and unendingly hilarious.
Don’t forget to check out the upcoming Part Five, as we countdown the final 10 in my top 50 classic PC games. You can also check out parts one, two or three by visiting my Infobarrel profile.