Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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The Must-Play Classics of PC Gaming

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 21, 2014

Okay, Kotaku has a fun list – a relatively complete list of the greatest classics of PC gaming. There are some that leave me scratching my head (TRESPASSER? Seriously? Just to see how bad things can get?), and an embarrassingly high number of them that I have never played. The one rule was that it had to be at least 10 years old and stood the test of time.

Kotaku: A Complete List of the Classic PC Games You Must Play

Yeah. Who’s gonna actually play them all? While I may be inspired to add a few more games to my already overflowing GOG.COM account from this, there’s quite simply no way. I can’t even play all the classic RPGs to completion…

If I were to pull out my own top 25 “must play” games from this list… thinking about modern playability and so forth… which would I recommend?

The Rampant Coyote’s Top 25 Recommended Classic PC Games

  1. Ultima VII: The Black Gate (and, hey, let’s throw in Serpent Isle too…)
  2. Civilization II
  3. X-Com
  4. Grim Fandango
  5. Half Life (Half Life 2 just barely missed the cut…)
  6. Baldur’s Gate II (Let’s cheat and say the entire Infinity Engine game line – BG1 & 2, ID1 & 2, Planescape)
  7. Doom (Complete)
  8. Monkey Island (again, I’ll cheat and say… the SERIES)
  9. Might & Magic (I’d personally include pretty much the whole series, at least through 7 or 8)
  10. Thief I & II
  11. Wing Commander (I’d say the whole series, at least through WC 4)
  12. Age of Empires II: Age of Kings
  13. Ultima Underworld (both)
  14. Total Annihilation
  15. Star Wars: X-Wing (I’d include TIE Fighter, which seemed absent from the list)
  16. Rise of Nations
  17. Gabriel Knight (the whole series, but mainly 1)
  18. Lemmings
  19. Master of Orion II
  20. Zork
  21. Fallout
  22. The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
  23. Heroes of Might & Magic III
  24. Diablo II
  25. Freespace 2

Wow. I’m more amazed by what was left off than what I put on there. Ask me again tomorrow, and I’ll probably change the order of the list, and new games would appear. Ask me in a different way, and I’ll change the games, too.  This definitely reflects my bias – there are lots of RPGs, strategy games, and adventure games, but not so many non-FPS action games. But there are some real favorites that I’m not sure I could recommend today – like Frontier: Elite 2, which may be iffy on the playability side.

If I were to add six more “must play” classic games that didn’t show up on the big list, I’d could think of:

Falcon-AF1. Falcon series (esp. Falcon 4.0), although I guess the problem might be that the originals may not be easy to purchase. However, the “deluxe” cleaned up version is available: Falcon 4.0: Allied Force. This was basically a massive mod / patch / expansion that was released in 2005 (which breaks the rules), but it is still Falcon 4.0 (1998) under the hood. Just better.

2. IL-2 Sturmovik (2001) – I’d recommend the giant deluxe awesome IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946, which was actually released in 2006, but dang it’s still an awesome game. Lower the realism levels for a more arcade-like experience, and just jump into instant dogfights with an unbelievably rich number of WWII aircraft.

3. The Sims. I guess it can’t be purchased anymore, which disqualifies it?

4. Avernum 1-3 – I think these were (originally) released in 2003 and earlier.

5. Bejeweled. Seriously, they missed this? It came out in 2001, guys.

6. X: Beyond the Frontier (1999) , and X2: The Threat (2003). Again, seriously, they missed these games?  They can be easily acquired digitally.

If you were to list PC classics from 2003 and earlier that people should play, which ones would you have on your list? What would be your top 5 or so?

Filed Under: Retro - Comments: 17 Comments to Read

  • Pike said,

    While this is a solid list I can’t help but lament the lack of my three favorite PC games (Morrowind, Deus Ex, and Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri).

  • Thanos said,

    Starcraft is more essential than Age Of Empires II I think.

  • Maklak said,

    I’d exchange Daggerfall for Morrowind.

    Civilisation 1 for civilisation 2.

    Master of Orion 1 and 2.

    Gothic 1 and 2. Graphics looks dated and the gameplay is so-so, but that game had great mobility. You could jump atop some rocks, climb the mountain, go where you probably weren’t supposed to go and get an overview, explore, or just throw summoned monsters on top of an Ork village from where they couldn’t reach you. Fun times. Try that in a Bioware game where a knee-high fence blocks your path.

    Dune 1 and 2 were pretty good, but mostly to people who read the books.

    Moonstone was good. Especially that it had an amusing amount of violence.



    Privateer. Flying in space was amusing, but the main quest was nintendo hard.

    Throw in Wasteland with Fallouts 1 and 2 while we’re at it. Fallout Tactics wasn’t as good.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Morrowind was at about #30 for me, when I realized I had just too many. 🙂

    Starcraft was definitely more popular and more influential. But I personally preferred Age of Kings. I’ve always been a little bit of a weirdo in that respect. It might have been because I never played the expansion.

  • McTeddy said,

    To be honest, I can’t recommend many to most people. Unless you’re acclimated to old games… you won’t be able to appreciate whats there. The interfaces and gameplay is usually too “foreign” for modern players.

    Instead, I recommend people watch an LP of the classic games. This will teach the user the interface and any old-school gaming techniques like old maps or reading a manual!
    The oldschool mindset is as important as the knowing the game.

    Game’s I’d recommend people to watch and maybe then play
    #1 X-Com
    #2 Neverwinter Nights
    #3 Doom (Any of them)
    #4 Civ 2

    Probably more… but it depends on player taste

  • Andy_Panthro said,

    That Kotaku list is huge, and not particularly helpful to anyone that is relatively new to PC gaming or classic gaming. I guess what you really want is good introductory games for various genres, with more advanced lists for fans of the genre.

    As for your list, I think I’ve played about 18 of them. Disappointed not to see at least one Sierra game there (a Quest for Glory perhaps?).

    So I’d add:
    Command & Conquer (I prefer C&C1+2, but I’d allow Red Alert 1+2)
    Alone in the Dark (first one only)
    Sim City 2000
    Quest for Glory IV
    Jagged Alliance 2
    System Shock 1+2
    Ultima V (I liked that the Shadowlords/Blackthorn are non-typical RPG bad guys, wasn’t so keen on the dungeons though)

  • Xian said,

    I have played 20 on your list (including many of the entire series). I skipped from Civ 1 to Civ 3, never played the second in the series. I am not too much into RTS games with a couple exceptions, so never got around to playing AoE2, Rise of Nations, or TA.

    I would have to add these to my list:

    System Shock 1 & 2
    Crusader No Regret/No Remorse
    Ultima 4 – still my favorite and introduced many game play elements still in use today
    Gothic 2
    Dungeon Master and/or Eye of the Beholder Series
    Magic Carpet

  • Xian said,

    Looking over the list more in depth some of these strike me as very odd choices.

    Jurassic Park: Trespasser – you have to be kidding. That is one of the worst game I ever played, and it was even seconded.

    Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death – my kid rented this for the PS2, I thought it was a below average FPS, definitely not a must-play. I can’t imagine that the PC version improved on it very much

  • Possibly \ said,

    Concur with Jagged Alliance 2, System Shock, and is the SSI Goldbox stuff too old? I loved Baldurs of course, but I enjoyed SSI Goldbox stuff too.

    Sidenote: Realizing this list is dated makes me feel dated..

    Disagree with Trespasser (maybe that was a check to make sure people read the article?). I also thought C&C (or Dune) were better than Total Annihilation. Sucker for cut-scenes and a story.

    Speaking of which, where’s Warcraft (II or III)?

    Middling on Avernum. I am a fan, and the heart is there, but I’m not sure I can put them with the classics. I own the entire Avernum series though so my wallet votes differently.

    OFF-TOPIC: Re:#9 “Might & Magic (I’d personally include pretty much the whole series, at least through 7 or 8): –> I have really been enjoying Might and Magic X. I recommend it to everyone here based on their enjoyment of FK and these style games. It doesn’t have FKs tabletop commentary that I enjoyed so much, (in fact some of the character voice stuff is tough to hear over and over, although you can toggle it off), and it has a few rough parts, but overall a great flashback and modernization of a game series I have always enjoyed. Overall I am hoping its a success and hoping for more. I’m having a lot of fun playing it.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I think the reason the SSI games were not on the list is that there is no place to legally purchase them right now. I can only assume the licenses are little bit up in the air, as that can be the only reason GOG.COM hasn’t started selling them yet. 🙂 Fortunately, I have them all on a WizardWorks CD that I picked up way back in the 1990s, after the whole series had been completed… I even bought the printed manuals and hint books.

  • Elaborate said,

    Agreeing with some, curious about some.
    I’d add:

    Master of Magic – I played some just the other week. Fantasy strategy with a great set of spells.

    Stars! – a 4X strategy reminiscent of a spreadsheet, but with a species editor that as far as I know has never been surpassed. (If there’s one that’s even close, do tell me…)

    And possibly Quest for Glory – but I don’t know how much of it’s awesomeness was because I was about twelve, at the time. The other two compare favorably to modern games, at least for me.

  • thark said,

    Star Control II is one absence I’d have high on my list. (Although in terms of legal availability I’m not 100% on where opensource remake Ur-Quan Masters falls; I _think_ the original assets were released free, but can’t swear to it.)

    Wizardry (original trilogy for me, especially in terms of must-play essentials just for knowing your goddamn history you damn kids get off my lawn raaaaaah etc, others are probably more likely to point to 6-8 and frankly I’m fine with that that too.)

    System Shock II.

  • groboclown said,

    Though I’d second some of the comments on here, the one that I thought was really out of place was Zork. Yes, Zork is a classic, and if anyone references the old text adventures, this is usually the one. There’s even plenty of games that make references to it (probably my favorite was in Eric the Unready).

    As the old Infocom games go, I’d recommend Wishbringer over it. It was easier, true, but it had a more cohesive story. Zork was more of a hodge-podge of game ideas slapped together. Planetfall would be a close second.

  • groboclown said,

    I just checked out the list, and I’m very happy to see LBA 2 (Twinsen’s Odyssey) was given the love.

  • poopypoo said,

    yeah starcon 2 is a major omission. very few games have nailed any one of the aspects – free movement, story, or arcade combat – as well, and this may be the only one to do all three. i am primarily a strat/rpg gamer, but mostly because so few arcade combat games are as deep as this one.

  • Unorus Janco said,

    Where’s Ultima IV, Jay? Now I have to hate you.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Sorry – I kept going and re-ordering, and there were several omissions that failed to make the cut. U4 was one of them. It’s an awesome piece of history and changed (I think) how people thought about RPGs, but I was considering its playability today by a modern audience, and thought it might not quite measure up. Although as far as playability is concerned — Ultima Underworld is a little bit of a chore these days, too.