TheHande’s Top-10 PC games

CommodorePetI’ve always been principally a console gamer, but I do occasionally give PC games a whirl myself. However, keeping up to date, hip and now on computer games has never been my thing. Not a surprise that I mostly play adventure games, but there are some PC games I’m very fond of. Here are 10 of my favourite games for personal computers. A couple of notes on the list…

  1. Since I am a huge adventure game fan, I knew the list would have quite a few of them, so I’ve restrained myself and only included three. You’ll probably guess which three, but I really did have to put them all up here.
  2. I realise that I put two Star Wars games on the list, which violates my typical one-game-per-franchise rule. However, both games represent different game genres, so I’m willing to let this one slide.

Honourable mentions go out to: Croc – The Legend of Gobbos, Die By The Sword, Broken Swords 1-3, Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem 3D, Dungeon Keeper 1 & 2, Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2, Fallout, Star Control 2: The Ur-Quan Masters and Superfrog.

Let’s get on with it…

Hercules10. Disney’s Hercules: Action Game

One reason I was never big into PC gaming probably has to do with the fact of how much I love platformers and how PCs have never really been big on these types of games. One game which I remember playing a whole lot as a kid though was Hercules, based on one of my favourite Disney movies.

Hercules is one of the more under-rated post Capcom and Sega Disney Interactive titles, but it’s really an awesome game. It’s got challenging levels, cool power-ups, interesting boss fights and generally just a really solid structure. There are also, of course, many pixellated scenes from the actual movie to tie the levels together. This is definitely a title you need to try out if you haven’t played it.

Unfortunately, despite the game’s solid design, it is a rather short game with only a handful of actual levels (many of them are just straight-up boss fights) and, on top of that, many people will probably notice that this is in fact a port of a PlayStation game. Minor flaws in my view, but enough to make me not want to place it too much higher on the list.

JediAcademy9. Star Wars: Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy

Granted, Jedi Academy is probably not the best of the Jedi Knight games, but it’s easily my personal favourite. The third title in the Jedi Knight series, Jedi Academy allowed you to create your own character (a student under the prior series protagonist Kyle Katarn), choose from a variety of force-powers, have epic lightsabre duels and finally choose whether you wanted to be a hero or join the dark side.

Admittedly, the game recycled many resources from Jedi Outcast, but it had fun action-packed gameplay and allowed you to complete missions in the order of your own choosing. Plus, it’s just fun to tear shit up with your Jedi powers and also try out different routes for your character, by e.g. choosing to use dual or a double-ended lightsabre.

I also recognise that Jedi Academy is far from a flawless game. Enemy AI is occasionally just borderline moronic, there aren’t really that many levels in the end and your choice to go to the dark side only really affects the final level of the game and the ending. However, I just get a huge kick from this game which is why it needed to be on here. I’ve never had as much fun with any other Star Wars game as I have with Jedi Academy and I also recommend it to those who were frustrated by the punishing difficulty of the prior Jedi Knight games.

Heroes1&28. Heroes of Might and Magic

1 & 2

Heroes of Might & Magic was one of my favourite games growing up, mainly since fantasy-games were still really new to me and I was just enthralled by the game’s fantasy setting and creatures. I only recently became familiar with Heroes 2 and after a while I really started to enjoy it too. Probably more than any other two games in the Heroes series, Heroes 1 & 2 feel like a natural follow-up to each other.

The first game may appear simplistic and cartoony, but I enjoy the strategic gameplay, which for once honestly feels like it has some strategy behind it. However, the game is a lot less forgiving and I feel you can lose the battle for dominance much more easily. Heroes 2 is a lot more refined in many ways and includes a lot of cool tweaks and changes to the gameplay.

Heroes 1 definitely needed to be on the list and though I don’t perhaps think of it as fondly, I really like Heroes 2 and recognise that it is superior in many ways. I recommend both games regardless, because they’re just solid experiences.

HalfLife7. Half-Life

These days, First Person Shooter games really don’t hold my interest and I feel the genre has been milked for all its worth for way too long. Back in the 1990s, there was still some enjoyment to be had with over-the-top titles like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D, but these days I find myself utterly turned off by the whole genre.

Really, the last time the genre had something new and fresh to offer was Half-Life which turned the FPS into a more visceral experience, as you try to survive an inter-dimensional assault in a secret facility with both aliens and military black ops forces trying to stop you. Half-Life creates an eerie and unsettling atmosphere, where it feels like you can’t trust anyone and a slimy creature is just waiting to get you at any point. The whole game is a straight run through Gordon Freeman’s experience and you’re never broken from it with level load screens or anything like that.

No game has ever really managed to replicate the feeling of the original Half-Life, not even the sequel which I feel is just a lot less interesting. And even further titles which have tried a similar gameplay experience like Metroid Prime and BioShock have not entirely succeeded in my view. Half-Life stands as a truly unique experience because of that.

Grim_Fandango_artwork6. Grim Fandango

Adventure games stumbled on the move to 3D, which always saddened me because some of the early 3D adventure games had real gems amongst them. One of the most atmospheric, well-written and funny of them was Tim Schafer’s Grim Fandango. The quest of a dead salesman, Manny Calavera, trying to seek redemption for a scammed woman called Mercedes is truly an inspiring story. The land of the dead is filled with interesting characters and the game’s quirky graphic look helps it age much better than a lot of its contemporaries.

And I haven’t even gotten to the excellent soundtrack by Peter McConnell. It mixes South-American ethnic music, with swanky jazz themes but isn’t lacking either in the grandiose orchestral pieces you expect from LucasArts. The game has a lot of character and really clever puzzles which almost never managed to frustrate me thanks to the abundance of in-game clues.

Some technical imperfections such as the movement boxes and Manny’s less than precise item-focusing glance can slow-down the game process but these are minor problems to say the least. If you have a copy of the game lying around, I recommend downloading ResidualVM and giving it a whirl since the game is just that darn good.

StarWarsKOTOR5. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

RPGs have also never been my bag, but a handful of games in this genre have managed to impress me over the years. One that I seriously loved and I would love to see more of is the Knights of the Old Republic series. The first game, in particular, is a gem with interesting worlds to discover and cool characters to chat up. Also, the game had a storyline and a plot-twist to be reckoned with which also impressed the heck out of me back in the day.

Set centuries before the Star Wars movies, you take control of an amnesic hero looking to save a Jedi named Bastila from captivity and turn the tide of war against the Sith and their master Darth Malak. As you start your quest for Malak’s secret weapon, the Star Forge, you learn the ways of the force and gather a motley crew of misfits into your party which includes such awesome characters as bad-ass Mandalorian Canderous Ordo, the grumpy old jedi-master Jolee Bindo and the homicidal droid HK-47.

The interesting characters and the variety of worlds is what makes KOTOR so enjoyable and I find the game’s pseudo-real time combat system to also be a breath of fresh-air. Also, I never felt the need to level grind which made the game feel more fluid than a lot of other RPGs I’ve played. Ultimately, the game has a rather weak dark-side/light-side system and it feels a bit too much like your traditional Star Wars adventure in many ways. KOTOR2 actually improved on the mood and had a much more interesting story and it was only the weak finale that ruined that experience. If there was a game that could be more like a mix of the first two KOTORs, that would be perfect.

Either way, Knights of the Old Republic is definitely a recommended title.

Gabriel_Knight_3_-_Blood_of_the_Sacred,_Blood_of_the_Damned_Coverart4. Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned

Another example of an excellent early 3D adventure game. Gabriel Knight 3 is my favourite title in the Sierra supernatural-mystery series, the pinnacle of an excellent set of adventure game. In the game, the heroic Shadow Hunter Gabriel Knight seeks the kidnapped infant son of Prince James of Albany, attempts to resolve the mystery of the valley of Rennes-le-Chateau and uncovers a web deceit and lies within a tour-group staying at the local hotel. He is helped along by his energetic, history-buff side-kick Grace Nakimura who delves into the mysterious riddle of Le Serpent Rouge to uncover the valley’s mysteries.

The game utilizes a simple point and click interface, as well as an entirely free-moving camera to allow full exploration of the 3D environments for clues. The game also has alternate solutions to situations and the player must keep their eyes and ears open in order to uncover as much of the game’s back-story before the finale. Jane Jensen built a brilliantly layered adventure game experience and the game still retains the intense atmosphere and brain-teasing puzzles of the first two games, but with a lot more refined and with better context-clues to help out the player.

Also, while the game has aged, I think the graphic look holds up well, the voice cast is amazing with memorable performances and the soundtrack from Robert Holmes is still excellent. This is an adventure everyone should get to enjoy and the same also goes for all the Gabriel Knight games (which are available from GOG.com). If you love a good mystery, you’ll love this game.

Worms23. Worms (any version)

The ultimate multiplayer delight. Worms has always been one of my favourite games, cartoony worm characters with funny voices, directing horrible violence towards each other and causing massive amounts of havoc. What could be more fun than playing against friends in this turn-based, strategic combat game where the last Worm standing wins.

The games also pack a lot of comedy into their arsenal, which aside the usual bazookas, uzis, fireballs and airstrikes, includes such oddities as sheep, banana-bombs and the Holy Hand Grenade (in reference to Monty Python). Also, these games give great amounts of modification options for your Worms, so you can create a truly nutty bunch of characters.

I haven’t specified which version of Worms I like the best, because really all versions of the game are great. The post Worms 2 variants are a lot more familiar to yours truly and, as discussed in a prior Top-10, I also love the 3D variant of the game. Having friends huddled over the keyboard, playing Worms is some of the best fun you can have.

GTASABOX2. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

GTA is one of my favourite game series and San Andreas is hands down my favourite instalment of the franchise. The third in the GTA3-series of titles from the series, the game sets itself in the early-1990s, where a young street punk named Carl C.J. Johnson has to bring the Grove Street Families back together, push back the dope-selling street gangs of Los Santos and fight a web of corruption led by the corrupt Officer Tenpenny and his cronies. On his quest, C.J. encounters one of the most colourful and memorable cast of supporting characters from the entire franchise.

And we haven’t even gotten to the gameplay. In San Andreas, you can go nuts with cars, boats and aeroplanes. The gameplay variety is great and the series’ trade-mark racy comedy is still just as powerful as ever. The missions all feel like a nice challenge and there’s a lot of them, as well as optional side missions. You can also affect C.J.’s look by working out and doing all sorts of activities within the game. The stats-system is perhaps a bit superfluous, but it doesn’t really hinder the gameplay and its nice how your handling of weapons improves over time.

And the music is also awesome with a great selection of early 90s and late 80s songs from all genres imaginable. Of course, the game has a lot of rap and hip-hop, but also rock, heavy metal, electric and reggae music as well. San Andreas is still the biggest and baddest game of the series with great characters, gameplay, story, music and comedy. An absolute must-play.

The_Curse_of_Monkey_Island_artwork1. The Curse of Monkey Island

The Monkey Island series of adventure games from LucasArts holds a special place in my heart. No wonder why the third instalment of the series is hands down my favourite PC game as well. This instalment has the hapless pirate-wanna be Guybrush Threepwood saving Elaine from a cursed ring which turns her into a solid gold statue. He must overcome adversary from giant man-eating snakes to bald French pirates, from ghost-brides to lactose intolerant volcano gods, from megalo-maniacal laughing demonic skulls to annoyingly cheery carnival mascots.

The game simplified the series gameplay greatly, but still had great puzzles and funny dialogue. The game was also the swan-song title for the Scumm game engine with brilliant Disney-esque cut-scenes, top-notch voice-acting and an orchestral soundtrack from Michael Land. The game has great locations from the cheery and sunny Plunder Island to the dark and mysterious Blood Island. You get the series’ trade-mark insult sword fighting and lots of awesome gag-moments. And who can forget the awesome song number “A Pirate I Was Mean to Be”?

The Curse of Monkey Island is simply a game I never get tired of. It is the adventure-game amongst adventure games. I also recommend the rest of the series (particularly The Secret of Monkey Island), but this one is definitely a cut above the rest.

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