Nowadays hundreds of PC games are released every year but it wasn't always the case. I remember back in the early nineties when my Dell 486 with Windows 3.1 and a massive 40Mb hard drive was not looked upon as a gaming machine. It didn't have a large catalog of quality games available for it.
However, once developers learnt how to utilise the ever evolving power of PC's it wasn't long before more games were released, some of which are now quite rightly regarded as classics which spawned completely new genres.
I still have a PC and I still play games on it now. The quality of the graphics and sound and also the sheer size of the games may have increased but the way the games play has not radically changed. So I decided to look back and compile a list of my Top 25 Pre-Millenium PC games. Enjoy the nostalgia.
25 Prince of Persia, 1989
|Fluid life like animation|
I played this at college even before I owned a PC. It was the first time I'd seen such fluid life like animation in a video game for a computer. It was a fun game to play with the most memorable death on spikes scene ever.
24 Alone In The Dark, 1992
|Like being in a real life Lovecraft novel|
I played this 3D survival horror game on the PC's in college too. Some genuinely scary moments, with giant bird like creatures bursting through windows, zombies pushing through trapdoors and the slow pace of the game actually made it feel even creepier. It was like being in a real life Lovecraft novel.
23 Command & Conquer : Red Alert, 1996
|The opposing forces had totally different strengths and weaknesses|
This improved on the original C&C by having a much more polished interface with more capabilities. The balance of the opposing forces in the game, allied and soviet, were also different from the norm as each side had it's own distinct strengths and weaknesses. The key to winning was identifying and playing to your forces strengths.
22 Magic Carpet, 1994
|A fantasy world flight sim|
A flight simulation of sorts in a fantasy world with castles, soldiers and dragons roaming the 3D landscape. I just bought this game because it was Bullfrog who, up to this point, couldn't seem to make a bad games even if they tried. Quite original and fun to play. But like a lot of Bullfrog games the fun was short lived as it became somewhat repetitive due to the lack of variation in the levels of the game.
21 Age Of Empires 2, 1999
|A choice of thirteen civilisations to take through the ages|
A fantastic RTS that allowed you to choose one of thirteen civilisations and take them through the dark age, the feudal age, the castle age and the Imperial Age which spanned 1000 years. The setting and progression appealed to me a lot more than C&C: Red Alert. It was exciting to see new units, structures and technologies become available are you advanced through the game.
20 Quake 2, 1997
|A good game but without the buzz I got from Doom|
A sequel to FPS Quake. This used an upgraded version of the quake engine with some different weapons, mission based objectives, captured comrades, larger levels and a hub to travel between the levels. It was a good game but I never got the buzz from it that I got from Doom and other FPS's seemed more fun.
19 Ultima VI, 1990
|In depth game with a large area to explore|
I was never really into RPG's on computers like my friends were. However, this one stuck in my mind for some reason. It was very in depth for it's time with large area's to explore and half decent graphics. My memory is slightly fuzzy on this. I may have even played it on the Amiga first but it was released for the PC too.
18 Populous 2, 1991
|Much like the first Populous with better disaster effects|
After all the hype and good reviews for the first Populous I gave this 'god sim' a go. I remember it being pretty much like the first one with better effects for the disasters. Come to think of it I may have played this first on the Amiga too.
17 Links 386, 1992
|I played this even before owning a PC|
I was never really into golf but this was a fun game to play. I think you could play it with friends over a network. So this was probably one of the 'played on a college PC first' games before I played it on my own PC at home. I guess this makes Links my favourite sports sim on the PC.
16 TIE Fighter, 1994
|Great to play the bad guys for a change|
The ultimate stars wars space flight sim and one of the few that gave you a chance to play as the bad guys. I felt this made the story and missions a lot more interesting than the X-Wing version of this game.
15 Dungeon Keeper, 1997
|Controlling monsters instead of adventurers was more fun|
A twist on the usual RPG, well for video games anyway, in that you played the dungeon master and controlled the monsters rather than the adventurers. You could train up your monsters in various rooms ready for when the adventurers entered your dungeon and massacre them. great concept.
14 Half-Life : Counter Strike, 1999
|Very realistic. I was awful at it|
Played this on many a night in my house with a bunch of mates and their PC's on my living room floor linked together with a hub to create a local network. I have to say I was awful at it. Sneaking around was not my thing at all. It may have been higher on my list if I hadn't kept getting wasted every five minutes. Still it was a good, fun time.
13 Hexen, 1995
|The electrified lightning hands effect was cool|
A fantasy take on Doom. You get to choose between a fighter, cleric or mage. They each had strengths and weaknesses and some of the items collected would have different effects depending on which character collected them. You had to travel back and forth through the a level hub to complete large scale missions and puzzles to reach the 'boss' and get to the next level hub. I think this was the first FPS to introduce this. You could also play CD tracks whilst playing the game too. I especially loved the electrified lightning hands effect which reminded me of the Darth Vader's boss in Star Wars.
12 Shogun - Total War, 2000
|Very impressive for it's time|
Rock, paper, scissors on a grand scale by having a huge number of vast armies at your disposal with realistic reactions and a computer opponent which had challenging AI. There were two main screens. One was the map screen where you move your armies and spies from region to region. The other was the 3D battle screen where your armies would fight an opponent. It was very impressive for it's time seeing all those troops moving around the battle field in different formations, archers taking out troops, pikeman taking out cavalry, etc. My favourite war game by far.
11 Total Annihilation, 1997
|The first RTS to feature 3D units and terrain|
This was the first RTS to feature 3D units and terrain. You had a commander unit which could create buildings to make a base and from these buildings you could create different units depending on your metal and energy resource levels. Your units could gather resources, scout area's and attack and defend. You could give your units commands so they would build, attack or patrol. You could even queue these commands. Units also had tech levels which made them better but also making them longer to build. A very intricate and polished RTS.
10 Civilization, 1991
|One of the first turned-based 4X games|
One of those games that you can you engrossed for hours, days and weeks on end. It's scope, detail and complexity was something I'd never seen before in any game. It's categorised as a turn-based 4X game, a phrase that wasn't even coined until 1993, EXplore, EXpand, EXploit, EXterminaate. The usual phases in this type of game. You had to explore and expand your empire, transforming the land, building or improving cities, advance in knowledge and technology and create diplomatic relations with other civilizations. The game could last for over 6000 game years from 4000 BC. It was epic.
09 Sim City 2000, 1993
|Satisfying to create something so beautiful|
I quite enjoyed playing the original Sim City but the graphics were a bit crude and it wasn't that easy to see what was going on. That all changed with Sim City 2000. You could see proper cities with structures shown in isometric 3D. You'd get a huge sense of pride with what you had built. Satisfying to create something so beautiful rather than the usual destructive nature of video games.
08 Unreal Tournament, 1999
|Better than Counter Strike in terms of pure fun|
Another LAN game that I played with my mates in my living room. More a full on shoot em up than Counter Strike which better suited my style. A lot of room for flukes which also helped me out often. Crazy sci-fi weapons, skins and gravity put this above Counterstrike in terms of fun and excitement for me.
07 Warcraft 2, 1995
|A great story line and characters in my first RTS|
My first real experience of an RTS title which had a medieval fantasy setting. It had a great story line and characters which was something that wasn't so common in viedo games back then. You had to collect resources to create different buildings which could in turn create different units. Further buildings needed to be built to create more advanced units from the same initial buildings. You could create a variety of forces which could traverse land, air or sea. There was a brilliant single player campaign and a simple to use map editor. You could also played the game against a human opponent over a LAN or the internet. For me this was the game that put Blizzard on the map.
06 Rollercoaster Tycoon, 1999
|Full of intricacies and minute attention to detail|
This game out 'theme parked' theme park with it's intricacies and minute attention to the details. It was possible to build a park which looked so close to it's real life counterpart that it was uncanny. The most fun, realistic and technically amazing simulation I've ever played.
05 Duke Nukem 3D, 1996
|You played a character with 'character' for a change|
I had so much fun playing this game. Comedy Doom on steroids. You played a character with 'character' for a change and the weapons were insane as were the alien enemies. I remember the first time I went into a bathroom and shot an alien that was in a cubicle and then turned around to see myself in the bathroom mirror. Awesome game.
04 Starcraft, 1998
|A perfectly balanced RTS|
I've never seen an RTS as perfectly balanced with three completely different races in terms of the way they built, the way they defended and attacked and even how they collected resources. This led to so many different strategies depending on if you were the Marines, Protos or Zerg. The single player story and campaign was excellent as was the multiplayer game too. My favourite pre-millenium RTS.
03 Doom, 1993
|What I saw next just blew my mind|
Before I had my own PC I agreed to house-sit at a friends place whilst he was on holiday. He had a PC and it had a shareware game on it called Doom. What I saw next just blew my mind. I'd never seen anything like it. This genre defining game had me glued to the PC for the entire week. I'd never experienced this feeling on playing a brand new game and to be honest I haven't since. Doom was a one-off. The first FPS I ever played. It was mesmerising.
02 Half-Life, 1998
|Truly a landmark FPS game|
The first intelligent FPS that wasn't just about shooting things up. The story, about an accident in a secret scientific research facility, was fantastic with plenty of scripted in-game set pieces that kept you on the edge of your seat. The game didn't have levels it just flicked up the name's of chapters on the screen as you reached certain points in the game world. It had plenty of puzzles and even platform style sections of the game too. Sometimes non-player characters would fight alongside your character and progress the story when they got the chance to chat. Truly a landmark FPS game.
01 Deus Ex, 2000
|Like being in your own Hollywood sci-fi conspiracy movie|
This game was all about choices. It seemed you had to make a choice at almost every turn and this visibly affected the rest of the game. I've never seen a game do this as well as in this game. The story line was excellent. It was like being in a Hollywood sci-fi conspiracy movie full of interesting and memorable characters. You could roam around the game however you liked and it felt massive.
So the game all about choices is my choice for the number one pre-millenium PC game. Totally subjective of course but I think must people would agree that this game is well up there.
I realise there are a great deal more classic games which didn't make my list either because I didn't really play them, the sequel was better or I just didn't like them. So here are some worth a mention just in case you want to give them a try.
Wing Commander, X-Com: UFO Defense, Mechwarrior 2, Star Control II, Master of Orion, Marathon, Crusader: No Remorse, System Shock, Wolfenstein 3D, Jagged Alliance, Descent, Heretic, Quake, Command & Conquer, Battle Chess, Baulders Gate, Planescape Torment, Kings Quest, Blood, Champions of Krynn, SimCity, Wasteland, Wizardry, Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within, Sid Meier’s Pirates!, Archon, Heroes of Might & Magic.
Brain Disclaimer : My memory is not what it once was, It's all a bit fuzzy unfortunately, so you may find that some of the games I've mentioned were played on the Amiga first and not the PC. Sorry for any retro nostalgia inconsistencies.
Just as a final reminder here's the Top 25 list.
Deus Ex, 2000
Duke Nukem 3D, 1996
Rollercoaster Tycoon, 1999
Warcraft 2, 1995
Unreal Tournament, 1999
Sim City 2000, 1993
Total Annihilation, 1997
Shogun - Total War, 2000
Half-Life : Counter Strike, 1999
Dungeon Keeper, 1997
TIE Fighter, 1994
Links 386, 1992
Populous 2, 1991
Ultima VI, 1990
Quake 2, 1997
Age Of Empires 2, 1999
Magic Carpet, 1994
Command & Conquer : red alert, 1996
Alone In The Dark, 1992
Prince of Persia, 1989