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Top 10 Fun Old School PC Games

In this article, I want to lay out the top old school PC games.  What’s old school?  Let’s say starting before 2004.  There’s always an argument about what is the best now, but let’s face it, after the dust has settled there’s not a lot of games that you’d like to replay all over again.  This is what I am getting at in this piece.

As you will note, not a lot of shooters will be found in this list. Based on the aforementioned replay-ability, how many of those 1999 shooters are you still playing?  Do you even have anything before 2003 actually loaded on your computer?  My point exactly.  Yes, I’m unfair, but great graphics lose their luster after the new wave of games come in, and you’re left with the game itself.  Not too pretty of a picture, eh?

On the list you will find some non-surprises.  Yes, many things live up to their names.  However, you will also see some sleepers.  This is exactly why I made the list.  It’s so easy for critics and gamers to fall for what others deem as good.  There are many great games that get left behind just because the fanfare isn’t there.  Too bad.  It certainly doesn’t mean they are any less good.

I also decided to mix series with individual games.  I know this will bring down some of the better games out there, but it also alleviates the question of which game was better in a similar series.  My favorite Baldur’s Gate was Throne of Bhaal.  However, Shadows of Amn was nearly as great, with much more hours of gameplay.  Does that make the former or the latter a better game over all?  An engine was already in place and a successful method created before making both of these games.  Do we apply a curve on the original Baldur’s Gate, then?  And what of games that are new…

Well, enough talking, here’s the list:

10.  Tomb Raider Series (TR) – A classic that used to rule the action genre.  These games were fun because they had the shooting, the puzzle solving, the exotic lands, the grunting, the kinematics, the everything that you needed at the time.  Although this series has receded to a background game now, don’t overlook it.  Many would have a good time playing this today.

9.    Blood Series (BL) – This is the highest shooter that I’ll rank.  Some may actually be angered at this point as I’ve overlooked things like Unreal, Doom and other games.  In reality, most shooters aren’t as fun to play today as they were in the early 2000’s.  Blood is.  Why?  I just think they get it.  Sarcasm and comedy make a great compliment to a FPS.  It never gets old having your protagonist making fun of an enemy … who’s on fire  … after shooting him with a flare gun.  (Don’t worry, that monster deserved it.)

8.    Warcraft Series (W) – Many would say that Starcraft is the best RTS of all time, let alone out of Blizzard.  I respectfully disagree.  Starcraft had a great story and races, but where it fell short was the gameplay.  Resource gathering was drudgingly painful at times.  The last battle in all games was fun to win but not as fun to play.  Warcraft found a way to make the game challenging and fun in a multitude of ways.  Colorful units and fat guys going berserk, what could be better than that?  And moreover, you were challenged to use strategy in multitude of ways.  If I’m not mistaken, that is what the “S” in RTS stands for.

7.    Diablo Series (D) – Blizzard strikes again, and who knows this may go up the list with the next sequel approaching and time going by.  Just fun point and click play.  Many have pointed to this game as the first to give illogical drops after killing monsters.  What monster carries 105 gold pieces?  The point is “who cares?”  If you go up to a hot dog stand, give the person $5, and they hand you back a $100 bill, do you worry about the hot dog?  This is what this game is: fun.  The first had great replay-ability with random quests and level.  The second had a fantastic story, scenes and enchantable items.  Simple to play, but not too simple to put down.

6.    Arcanum of Steamworks and Magick Obscura (ASMO) – Don’t let the name fool you into thinking this is a silly or over the top game.  If this list was the best RPG not to have a sequel, ASMO would probably be #1 on the list.  This game has so much to offer, playing it twice won’t give you the full scope.  Choices with consequences, unique powers and leveling, a good combat system, great challenges and just making the player think are all a part of this great game.  This is one of the few games that might go up on this list as the years go on. 

5.    Thief Series (T) – One of the most thrilling games you can play, Thief gets you there not by high powered enemies or button mashing action but by your own weaknesses.  You must sneak around everywhere to get what you want.  Why?  Because if you don’t and 2 guards hear you, you’re toast.  You can’t overpower them.  You can’t armor up.  You can’t drop a fireball on them.  You’re a thief.  If you wear a suit of armor, everyone will hear you.  How are you going to sneak through shafts with a humongous double-handed sword?  You can’t.  And that is why it will raise your pulse to get into a well guarded camp.  That is also why it is so exhilarating to get away with it.  This game is a great break from the FPS, keeping the first person aspect, but adding a new dimension to it.  Other games have done this in the past, but Thief goes all the way, dedicating itself solely to accomplishing tasks the way a true thief would.

4.    Baldur’s Gate Series (BG) – Who doesn’t like Baldur’s Gate?  Just the people who haven’t played it or played only the first one.  The first was the worst.  However, even it was pretty good.   Most people would say that it did a great job of bringing D&D into a video game.  The next two were “lights out” good.  Great quests, interesting and diverse characters, good stories, very challenging but not so much that you couldn’t win.  Even party members would get into fights or leave you when they got pissed off.  Nice work.  This is still the measuring stick for all RPG’s, and probably well it should be. 

3.    The Betrayal Series, including the Betrayal in Antarra and the Betrayal at Krondor (BTS) – This might be the most shocking to people reading, but if you go back in time, you can find more than one source that (at least) nominated Betrayal at Krondor for game of the year.  The problem with this series is two-fold.  The first, it just got forgotten.  The hype was never its strong point.  The second is that the graphics don’t necessarily hold up.  The first now looks quite grainy unless you have a small monitor.  The second, although partly 3-D looked more like cardboard cut-outs that you’d see in a play at a small theatre.  With all that being said, these are still fun games to play.  The economy was done the best as I’ve seen in games.  The quests and character growth are there as well.  Things like eating, sleeping and recouping are part of the scheme which makes these games better and a fuller experience.  Story meets RPG in TBS which draws the player in.

2.    Age of Wonders Series (AoW) – Some might say that the best true turn based strategy is Heroes of Might and Magic.  I would very much disagree.  Not to say HMM is bad.  It’s not.  It’s barely out of the top ten, but this one I thought not only excelled, but it also did it with two methods.  There was the first game and then an evolved, quite different follow up.  The first game was stylistic, fun and used all of your wits to barely scathe by.  The follow up game had more of a realistic feel that gave you great powers and armies, but pitted you against pummeling opponents.  The first had multiple paths and endings.  The second had a linear, but intriguing story.  The first dealt with classic races and classic maps.  The second had more oddball races all with new dimensions.  That is why it is first among TBS’s and the second on this list.

1.    Fallout Series (FO) – I may be giving into modern popularity here picking a relatively safe game series.  Although, this is an old school list, and therefore the Bethesda version was not heavily considered when deciding FO’s place on the list.  I’m sure this would be up here on the list even if Bethesda had never given it the green light.  It’s may be easy to pick this one because of its popularity and resurgence.  It is also easy to pick FO because it rocks.  The first two put you in a totally different environment then what was out at the time.  It managed to play with humor, fear, caring and nearly every emotion.  Moreover, FO really made you to feel these emotions as you became invested in the outcome.  At the end, when you read what happens to each town.  I actually felt bad when one of the towns receives a less than happy ending.  And bonus to this, you could actually shoot someone in the crotch!  Let’s face it; this puts it over the top.  But, that is what this game does.  It inherits/takes great parts from other games, adds its own flare and components to create a new type of experience.