There's opinions to be had. Let's get right to it!
10. Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2
I love me some cheesy acting.
And there's loooots to love here!
Even better? Cheesy acting in an imaginative and facinating premise.
Even moreso on top of that? Great gameplay where the premise is put to full use through the units and buildings.
The cherry on top? Inventive single-player campaign that has you accomplishing a great myriad of goals ("Kill them all" missions are a rare sight)
It's all kinds of great. Highly enjoyable.
9. Baldur's Gate
THIS is an RPG.
Perhaps not the most well-designed one, but godammit, this is sheer RPG essense. Everything you could want from an RPG, ESPECIALLY story, is here in spades.
A passing familiarity with Dungeons and Dragons is helpful, but not needed. Heck, it's a great way to learn the basics of the system, honestly. Balder's Gate is quite generous with the teaching aspects of it at the beginning, before throwing you into an unforgiving world.
And what a world! The Forgotten Realms setting has scarcely been so beautiful, with amazing prerendered backgrounds, sweeping music, and of course, unforgettable characters.
I miss Bioware of old.
Any game that makes me feel a genuine emotion is a sure-fire hook for me.
And Homeworld has evoked a feeling that I've yet to see replicated with any measure of success. I shant spoil what emotion, of course, but it's fairly early on in the game and oh man, it hits ya good if you let it.
Beyond that, the gameplay is very nice. Not the most varied, sure, but still good. It's the best use of proper 3D I've seen in an RTS to date. I'm a sucker for games that incorporate the vertical element, aaaand this is a great example, especially since it's a Real Time Strategy game. I've yet to see another game use vertical movement in such a way! (sans the sequels to this)
It's oddly difficult to get working on computers these days, but if you can swing it, I heartily recommend giving this one a go.
7. Freespace 2
I'm a huge sucker for a good space sim. Even moreso, a good space combat sim.
And here's one of the best! Welcomed and loved by fans for more than a decade now, it's a blast-o-fest with good story and amazing gameplay with some of the best space background graphics I've yet seen.
What more do I have to say? You can get it for a few bucks at gog.com!! Go! Not to tell ya what to do, but the shining pillar of an entire bygone genre is so easy to obtain and play! You've no excuse!
(Well, unless you don't own a joystick. Then you have an excuse... It just ain't nowhere near the same without one...)
6. Warcraft II
I don't know what it is about pre-rendered graphics that I love so much.
I mean, they're glorified sprites. And yet, if use in a proper, thematic way, my god it looks amazing. Better than full-on 3D in my eyes. Not sure what it is.
But ah well.
The game itself is what draws the big crowds. Warcraft II set the multiplayer RTS world on fire, but even when playing by yourself, the game was fun enough to hold its own for ages to come. People continued to play it well into the future, at least, until something better came along.
Which happened, of course.
What game was better? Just wait, I'll get to it.
5. Heroes of Might and Magic 3
Speaking of good looking pre-rendered graphics.... They're alright in this one.
But of course, the graphics ain't what you're playin' this for. What you play this for is to see beasts and creatures from all across the ages of mythology clash in a great strategy game.
Now, I've heard tell that Heroes of Might and Magic 2 is the best of the bunch, but having not played it, Heroes 3 is where it's at for me.
And I haven't even played it multiplayer! I can't imagine how fun it is to do that.
4. Chip's Challenge
Never mind that this came out in the DOS era! Shut up! This fits the criteria perfectly!
Though, I have to say, THIS is how you make a hard-as-balls but still forgiving puzzle game.
You have almost three hundred goddamn levels, and only the first nine are easy. You can die as many times as you like, and your only punishment is needing to restart that level.
So get ready for a looooooong slog. I've only ever gotten to about level 80, after spending nearly a year at it. (granted, I'm not very good at puzzle games.)
I really have to appreciate the devteam for this game. The only gameplay to this game is movement in four directions. Every single puzzle here is done using only buttons that activate when you step on them, blocks you can push around, different types of terrain that affects how things move, and monsters that move in different ways. That's it! There's no use key or anything. All you need to play this is four direction keys. I don't know how long this game was in development, but it certainly wasn't on the game engine.
Erm, Nothing against the engine, in fact, I have to give it mad props. It accomplishes exactly what it needs to do and it does it very well. It doesn't try to overstretch its boundaries or anything; it functions very well, and allows the players to do everything that they need to do in a very efficient manner. A wonderful case of restraint on the programmer's part. (then again, they probably had plenty of time to fine-tune the engine while the sweatshop of people in the next room crank out puzzle after puzzle after puzzle.)
(Whether or not that was how the game was developed, it's how my mind imagines it.)
There's a certain point in my life when I first played through this game.
I'd been living in a small city at the time, with a solid job, but no internet when I went home. No friends in the city I lived in then, either.
One of the loneliest times in my life, and I was playing through a game that reinforced loneliness as a core aspect of it.
Now, granted, the loneliness aspect of Half-Life isn't very direct, but oh is it there. Oh my, is it there.
The power of Gordon Freeman as a mute, blank-slate character is that his characterization is entirely up to the person playing it. You can picture him being a one-man army that blasts his way through hell and high water, a paranoid borderline-schizophrenic with a masters degree in theoretical physics, or, in my case, a guy just trying to do his job when shit just doesn't go his way.
There's many moments and things in the game that kinda help build on all these factors. For example, finding a rocket launcher just as you hear a helicopter incoming. The one-man-army type person will start feeling pumped up, ready to launch a laser-guided explosive into the exhaust pipe of an attack helicopter. The paranoid schizophrenic starts having an existential crisis about his place in the universe, and for the lonely and desperate survivor, the attack helicopter is just the last straw in a shit sandwich, and the rocket launcher is just the ticket to taking a trip down to desperate, crying fit of rage that ends with Gordon sobbing his eyes out and the attack copter hurtling to the ground in flames.
How this game is played is so individual that talking about it objectively is... Kind of doing it wrong.
Well, here's the better to Warcraft II.
Of course, you've heard of this game, so I won't talk about it too much.
See, I'm in the process of studying this game.
There's something..... To it. I'm not sure yet, but I feel like I'm coming close to cracking it. Something keeps me to this game, enjoying it again and again, even though there's plenty other games I should like more.
Once I figure it out and properly write my thoughts down, you'll be sure to see what comes of it.
1. Unreal Tournament
If Steam had existed when I first started playing this, and if I had been playing Unreal Tournament via Steam for that long, the amount of time it would have me clocked up for could probably and easily be in the four digit realm.
Cuz lemme tell ya; I played this a lot.
I have an old memory of watching my brother play this game when I was fairly young. It seemed like the coolest goddamn thing I'd seen.
So imagine my joy when my brother handed the CD to this game to me.
Oooooooooooooooooh man, the joys I had.
Granted, it was hard to play it at first. The only computer we had that could run it was the family computer, which was a crappy Celeron thing. By god it could run this game, though. Even though I was always being watched whenever I was on that computer (since it was set up in the dining room, for some silly reason), and my family would NOT have appreciated me playing something this violent.
So then an old teacher of mine handed me his old computer. "It's an old Windows 98 thing. I got a new one, I know you like this older stuff, so here you go!" He had said to me.
Windows 98SE, 1ghz Pentium III, 40GB hard drive, 8MB ATI RAGE video card and 768MB of RAM.
I loved and used that machine until its literal death.
The best part of it?
It could run Unreal Tournament even better than the silly Celeron crap the family had. AND, since this computer was set up in my own room, I could play what I damn well pleased.
And you bet your ass I played Unreal Tournament. I played the fuck out of it. I played the shit out of it, too.
I could never get tired of it! The gameplay just felt so goddamn good, the guns had an amazing variety to them, the stages were simple yet intricate. I dominated at this game. If I had had a high speed connection at the time, you bet your ass I woulda been playing the online circuit.
I'm not near so good at it now, and I've plenty of other games to play, but everyone once in a while, I'll get the urge to go on a nostalgia binge and just crash through some Unreal Tournament.
Those seldom moments where the urge bites are always a joyous blur.
It kinda saddens me that there likely will never be another game that takes that special place in my heart.
I'm okay with that, though. I don't think there's room in that little cranny for anything other than this.