If you ever wanted to play video games on the PC, there’s never been a better time. After all, there are several digital distribution services to choose from (such as GOG, Humble Store or Steam) with tons of titles, playing classic games is a remarkably easy and you have access to some fantastic games. If you dig around the web, you’ll find hundreds of lists with classics you can play on the PC, but for this one, I took into account games are easy to find, titles you can play on pretty much any computer and games that have stood the test of time. So if you recently purchased a brand new computer, if you want to inject life into an old computer here are some of the best games on the PC.
There were several first-persons shooters before Doom, including the seminal Wolfenstein 3D, but Doom (and its fantastic sequel) changed the genre forever thanks to its frenetic pace, creative level design, enemy variety and booming soundtrack. Doom is one of the most ported video games ever, so there are dozens if not hundreds of versions to choose from. On the PC, you can’t go wrong with Ultimate Doom which comes with an entire new episode and I would also get Doom II and Final Doom.
Like most of the games on this list, Diablo II changed its genre (in this case, action role-playing games/hack and slash.) At the time of its release, Diablo II represented a massive improvement over its predecessor: it was longer, better-looking, the item system was extremely rewarding and more varied, you could play as five character classes and the game implemented the free service Battle.net to play with others around the globe. I’m sure Diablo II is one of the most installed PC games from the 2000s and since Blizzard is still supporting the game to this day through patches, it’ll remain in my hard drive for years to come. An expansion called Lord of Destruction is also available and the add-on introduced two new character classes, a fifth act, new items, an expanded stash and better resolution.
StarCraft was much more popular in the east (especially in South Korea) where the competitive scene exploded years ago, but this is still an amazing real-time strategy game that anyone can play. There were several things that stood out about StarCraft, but one of the best was that the game was near perfect in terms of balance between the races. If you’re going to play StarCraft today, I strongly recommend getting its expansion Brood War as well which introduced new maps, a campaign, more music and additional units for the different races.
Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos
Warcraft III took many of the ideas of StarCraft and applied those to a high fantasy setting. But dig deeper and you’ll find a completely different strategy game. Warcraft III introduced creeps, a day/night cycle and the possibility of controlling a new unit known as the hero. All of these new concepts laid the groundwork for MOBAs, particularly the extremely popular Defense of the Ancients mod that mutated into Dota 2 and League of Legends. The Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne expansion pack features new units, auxiliary races, campaigns, neutral heroes, sea units and more.
Half-Life changed everything when it came out in 1998. The first-person shooter had a science fiction story that followed Dr. Gordon Freeman as he tries to find a way out of the Black Mesa facility and the best part about it is that it featured no cutscenes to tell a story, so the action was never interrupted. Apart from that, the environments were interactive and all of those ideas revolutionized not only the genre, but the medium as a whole and we owe it all to Valve.
When this city-building simulation game was released by Maxis in 1994, it changed the genre forever. SimCity 2000 featured new facilities, new power plans, more demanding finance and budget controls, news in the form of newspapers and several playable scenarios. The best version of the PC is SimCity 2000: Special Edition that comes with all the expansions, as well as remade music and new cities.
The kind of competitive multiplayer action that Unreal Tournament offered in 1999 was pretty much unseen at that point. Of course, there was Quake before that and its own predecessor Unreal, but those were mission-based games with a strong emphasis on single-player. Unreal Tournament was all about competing against other people in different modes (such as assault, capture the flag, deathmatch, domination, last man standing and team deathmatch.)
The first time I played this multiplayer-oriented first-person shooter, I didn’t get it. I was expecting some form of single-player component with a story, but I was convinced that this was one of the best games I’d ever played as soon as I played with other people. Its minimalist design, frantic pace, movement features like strafe-jumping or bunny jumping and game engine made Quake III: Arena hard to stop playing.
This open-world RPG put a strong emphasis on character development, giving personality to a bleak post-apocalyptic world. Fallout also makes reference to other media like pulp magazines from the 50s, science fiction films and its strongest influence is probably Mad Max, so the world around this game feels pretty unique. Those looking for a long role-playing with a self-aware sense of humor and a large world to explore should play Fallout on the PC.
Lucas Arts crafted some of the best point-and-click adventure games ever made and you can’t go wrong regardless of which one you decide to play. Those include The Secret of Monkey Island, Full Throttle, The Dig, Sam & Max: Hit the Road and of course, Grim Fandango. But Day of the Tentacle is also one of the best thanks to its fantastic visual style, tried and true gameplay, great music and unique story that features historic figures like George Washington. To run this game you’ll need a copy of the game and a DOS emulator.