20 Favorite PC Games from the 90’s

250px-indy_foa_screenshotAck… this will be a much tougher list, as I spent the entire decade gaming pretty hardcore. I purchased my first computer in the early 90s (it came with Windows 3.0 — which I soon upgraded to 3.1!), got a laptop for college, and then a new PC after graduation. All of them saw a lot of gaming action. Good memories, and it’s always fun to try to whittle them down into a mere twenty:

  1. Fallout 2 (1998) – Enough good things can’t be said about this game, even though many have tried. Other than its ridiculously difficult/tedious opening section, the game was pure gold — a gripping storyline, awesome RPG character building, fun turn-based combat, and memorable characters.
  2. Master of Orion (1993) – The sequels were far inferior to the original, a 4X space empire builder that let you play an alien race, build ships, colonize planets and vanquish your enemies. I spent MANY a night agonizing about where to send ships and how to grow my empire, and to this day I’m still surprised how much depth was contained in this package.
  3. Wing Commander 2 (1991) – This game came on an ungodly amount of 5 1/4″ floppy discs, which made installation an hour-plus grueling affair. It really was worth it – the game oozed cinematic coolness. The pseudo-flight simulator was great enough, but having an exciting storyline to back up the missions made me feel as though I was in the middle of something big.
  4. Command H.Q. (1990) – Most people probably haven’t even heard of this MicroPlay title, but I loved the heck out of it. It was pretty much a beefed-up version of Risk, where you built up armies and marched across the planet (playing either WWI, WWII, Cold War or future war).
  5. Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat (1991) – I’ve never been huge into simulator games, but there was a period of time I played them extensively: F-15 Strike Eagle II, A-10 Warthog and Mr. Chuck Yeager. Even back in 1991, this game had an impressive amount of 3D action, and the variety of planes and eras you could fight in made me a happy Ace.
  6. Silent Service II (1990) – This was the thinking-man’s battle simulator, as you took a submarine around the Pacific in WWII and tried to get away with as much sneaky backstabbing against the Japanese as you could handle. The sheer thrill of letting torpedoes loose and finally sinking an aircraft is one of my favorite gaming memories. As a side note, I never played this on my own computer, but a neighbor who was nice enough to let me come over and game on his rig once in a while.
  7. X-Com (1993) – Oh, X-Com, where would 90’s gaming be without you? This caught on really big among my friends and I in 1995 in college, and we’d spend entire nights playing this turn-based Us vs. Aliens game until our eyes bled from it. To this day, if I call up my old roommate Bob and just say “X-Com”, he’d give me a laugh and say “X-Com!” back.
  8. Colonization (1994) – Another college favorite, and proving how much of a dominating force MicroProse was back in the 90’s. I liked the Civilization games well enough, but Colonization put me into a deep, abiding smit — I was smitten through and through. Maybe it was the colonial American setting, maybe the fun of trading and supply routes, maybe throwing off English oppressors… I can’t say. But it was a blast indeed.
  9. Star Trek 25th Anniversary (1992) – This game came at the height of my Trekkie fandom, and it was one of the best (still is) Star Trek games to ever grace a console or computer. You played seven “episodes” modeled after the classic TV series, which combined ship combat and ground exploration to some sort of perfect adventure model. The icing on the cake was voiceovers by the original cast on the CD version.
  10. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (1992) – This is one of the best-known Indiana Jones games, and for good reason. I blew an entire weekend playing this game at a friend’s house, trying to beat it start to end within three days (mission accomplished!). It was an adventure title that remained in the true spirit of Indiana Jones — the humor, the adventure, and the action. One of the most notable features was that at a certain point, you could choose a “path” that would change the way the rest of the game played: a Wits path, Team path or Fists path. This really upped replayability, as you can imagine.
  11. Red Alert (1996) – This offshoot of Command & Conquer almost became more popular than its parent series, and I can believe it. RTS titles were exploding in popularity in the mid-to-late 90’s, and although I loved Warcraft 2 and Dune and C&C, Red Alert was my drug of choice. We had only one friend in college who had a computer beefy enough to handle this, which meant a lot of wheedling and begging. It was worth it.
  12. TIE Fighter (1994) – I imagine that space combat simulators were easier to program in the 90’s, due to the fact that they didn’t have to factor in a complicated background — it was just stars. Both TIE Fighter and X-Wing were popular titles, letting you battle on both sides of the war through some of the most famous battles.
  13. Doom (1993) – I thought I was nearing the end of this list (I originally just had 10) when I realized… I hadn’t covered any first-person shooters! Doom was probably the bloodiest and most intense game I’d ever played in my life up to that point, and although I didn’t have any way to hook up to play against friends, I relished the single-player mode and swapping stories with my buddies later on.
  14. Wolfenstein 3D (1992) – My friend James gave me the disc and said, “You’ve got to play this, you run from room to room with a gun shooting Nazis!” Honestly, I thought it sounded completely stupid, at least until I played it. Wolf 3D’s charm wasn’t so much in its graphics (which weren’t 3D at all), but in its hectic pace and feeling of superiority as you stormed through a Nazi fortress and brought down the Third Reich single-handedly.
  15. Duke Nukem 3D (1996) – I’ll forgive Duke for ripping off lines from Army of Darkness and They Live, because this was a 3D FPS with severe attitude… and a sense of fun. The earlier levels in particular had you blasting through city zones where you could do more than just plug enemies — you could play pool, watch TV, visit exotic (ahem) dancers, and blow up urinals. I’ve even honored this title by including one of its aliens as part of Bio Break’s banner up there.
  16. Commander Keen (1990) – Commander Keen was a series of shareware platformers that I have some affection for. What I remember best is that the programmers had a great sense of humor, and would go out of their way to give Keen extra animations, such as when you stood still and he would start playing with his yo-yo.
  17. Alone in the Dark (1992) – Perhaps it wasn’t the first, but AitD was such a significant title that it might as well be considered the first of the “survival horror” genre, at least how we know it today. For all its primitive polygon 3D graphics, this game scared the JEEBERS out of me, especially when the enemies would move but make no sound. That’s creepier than growling, in my opinion.
  18. Lemmings (1991) – Who didn’t love this game and also felt completely homicidal toward it? One of the best puzzle games of all time, and recommended for the ability to blow up all the critters you were trying to save when it got too frustrating.
  19. Planescape: Torment (1999) – I didn’t actually play this until well into the 2000’s, mostly because the ugly-as-sin cover kept repulsing me. I’m glad I finally did give it a try, as this is one of the most unique and definitive RPG experiences, especially considering that you could choose to do very little combat and still beat the game.
  20. Age of Empires II (1999) – Another awesome, awesome RTS game, especially since it tried to be a little bit historical and let you try out different cultural “flavors” in your armies and buildings.

P.S. – I know there’s a lot of “Best of” games that aren’t on this list, like Half-Life and Diablo and Starcraft. It doesn’t mean I didn’t play or like them, just that they didn’t have as much of an impact on me as the previous 20 titles did.

12 thoughts on “20 Favorite PC Games from the 90’s

  1. Maladorn March 4, 2009 / 3:19 pm

    Colonization was pure gold. I just got the updated game using the Civ 4 engine and it’s just as good as the original.

  2. WalterD March 4, 2009 / 8:23 pm

    Lemmings is still one of my favorite games ever. It’s the saga of the Everyman. And 79 of his friends.

  3. Crimson Starfire March 4, 2009 / 9:10 pm

    Definitely some nice choices, but I’d probably put MoO2 over MoO. I’d go Xwing vs Tie Fighter over just Tie Fighter. Also Quake / Quake 2? I’m surprised there was no appearance of Diablo…

  4. Rog March 5, 2009 / 12:49 pm

    I had an insane amount of copies of Lemmings for various platforms, starting with the original Amiga version. I still have a bunch of the promotional items, the old posters, etc. too,

    X-Com was great, though it should be noted the gameplay originated with Laser Squad in the 80’s (another C=64 game).

    Email X-Com was fantastic, but sadly the service went kaput with Hasbro Interactive (although if you can get your hands on an old copy, there are workarounds to send the files without their servers).

    This list needs more Monkey Island. =P

    And Populous, or does that count as 80’s? I’d probably pick Bullfrog’s lesser known game PowerMonger instead anyway.

  5. jdmw12 March 6, 2009 / 8:49 am

    ./agree

  6. Jennifer March 6, 2009 / 5:18 pm

    I played Lemmings…two years ago on a PSP. That counts, right? Right?

  7. dubs April 20, 2009 / 11:54 am

    For me i will always remember Terra Nova fondly – tactical fps in a cool sci fi setting with FMV of wing commander chessiness levels.

  8. swtorSPEC December 31, 2011 / 12:50 pm

    Such a good list, but there are two that stand out for me. TIE Fighter and Alone in the Dark bring back some great childhood memories. My brother and I used to play TIE Fighter for hours and hours.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s