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150 Best Games of All Time


From Computer Gaming World's November 1996 Anniversary Edition

1. Sid Meier's Civilization - Microprose, 1993

While some games might be equally addictive, none have sustained quite the level of rich, satisfying gameplay quite like Sid Meier's magnum opus. The blend of exploration, economics, conquest and diplomacy is augmented by the quintessential research and developemnt model, as you struggle to erect the Pyramids, discover gunpowder, and launch a colonization spacecraft to Alpha Centauri. For its day, Civ had the toughest computer opponents around - even taking into account the "cheats," that in most instances added rather than detracted from the game. Just when you think the game might bog down, you discover a new land, a new technology, another tough foe - and you tell yourself, "just one more game," even as the first rays of the new sun creep into your room...the most accute case of game-lock we've ever felt.

2. Ultima IV - Origin, 1984

3. Mule - EA, 1983

4. Red Baron - Sierra, 1990

While Falcon 3.0 (see below) may be the most impressive from a technical standpoint, there is little question that Red Baron is the better game. Damon Slye honed his craft while designing action hits like Stellar 7 and Skyfox, but with pure flight sims, he found his metier. With all the realistic options turned on, Red Baron is a bear to fly; it's all you can do to keep the fragile wings from tearing off. Rotary aircraft snap to the right, machine guns jam at the worst time - just exactly how you would expect these rickety constructions of wood and fabric to behave. When you toss in the interesting missions and wonderful campaigns, it's hard to imagine a better flight experience. A tribute to the design is that despite its dated VGA graphics, it is still selling. If Red Baron II is anywhere near as good, flight sim fans will have ample reason to rejoice.

5. Doom - id Software, 1993

Simply the best action game of all time. Even though DOOM wasn't true 3D, it transformed the way everyone thought about the PC as a fast gaming machine. If you want to see us phapsodize some more, check out this month's Hall of Fame.

6. Sim City - Maxis, 1987

The ultimate in software toys almost never got published. Supposedly, there just wasn't "enough game," a description belied by the dynamic city construction involved. After you built your city from scratch, you had to run it, and the continued success comes not so much from the mechanics, but from tapping into the sheer joy of discovery. Challenging on many levels, it evaluates your performance even as you enjoy it. It's hard to ask much more than that from any game.

7. Wing Commander - Origin, 1990

8. Empire - Interstel, 1978

9. Wasteland - Interplay, 1987

A fascinating science fiction story set in a post-nuclear world of disintegrating technology, dysfunctional society and mutant organisms, Wasteland was the first game many of us played where the other members of the player's adventuring party acted like "real" people instead of inventory cabinets with names and automatons with skill sets. Ask the party to divvy up the cash and one or more might refuse. Try to get a party member to cough up his/her last clip of ammo? No way!

10. Falcon 3.0 - Spectrum HoloByte, 1991

Falcon 3.0 was the first jet simulation to offer a truly realistic flight model, but it didn't stop there. It also introduced the useful (and necessary) wingmen and the first truly dynamic flight sim campaign. Moreover, Falcon 3.0 was also one of the first games to support multiplayer network play. The fact that the game is still in the shelves more than five years after its initial release is testament to its quality and advanced design.

11. FPS Football 1995 - Sierra, 1994

12. Lemmings - Psygnosis, 1991

The cries of "Oh no!" as you'd sacrifice a Lemming in an effort to save its brethren proved that the death of little animals had never been so cute. This diabolical puzzle game starts with simple challenges and works you steadily towards ultra-challenging conundrums that require split-second timing with the mouse. In its initial release, the PC version was a poor imitation of its Amiga predecessor, but the Win 95 update included with Lemmings Paintball should be snatched up by all who missed this classic.

13. Zork - Infocom, 1981

It all started with a little letter in a mailbox outside a small white house. From here began a magic journey into the land of Frobozz. This seminal Infocom text adventure combined challenging puzzles, wonderful descriptive prose, and a touch of humor to create a rich universe that existed not in SVGA graphics, but within your head. A far different tone than the campy Return to Zork or the dark Zork Nemesis made this a universe many early gamers would spend all their non-school hours glued to until it was fully explored.

14. Tetris - Spectrum Holobyte, 1988

This insidious little puzzle game may have been the Soviet Union's last-ditch attempt at destroying American productivity. If personal computers had been more commonplace in 1988, it darned well might have succeeded. The seemingly simple task of matching falling blocks would become an obsession, to the point that many gamers would find themselves rotating Tetris blocks in their dreams.

15. Panzer General - SSI, 1994

Most of us that play wargames began for a variety of reasons, but chief among them was that we wanted to be Patton, or Lee, or Rommel for a day. Panzer General lets you do just that, in a series of tough scenarios and exciting campaigns. PG isn't for everybody, since every time realism and fun clash, the latter wins out. But what the game lacks in historical insights, it more than makes up for in variety: the amphibious invasion of Norway; the airborne assault on Crete; the sweeping armored battles of Kursk and North Africa. Panzer General made more realistic games like Steel Panthers possible, because it made wargames fun - and marketable - again.

16. Wizardry - Sir-Tech, 1981

17. Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within - Sierra, 1996

A hauting tale from Jane Jensen, the interactive Ann Rice, which successfully blended the psychological and supernatural, an adventure game interface and full motion video.

18. Sid Meier's Pirates! - MicroProse, 1987

The Amiga version of this hybrid game of exploration, combat and role-playing was by far the best, with smooth ship combat and fast-action sworldplay.

19. Secret of Monkey Island - LucasArts, 1989

Who could ever forget the insult-driven duel system or the identity of the mysterious Swordmaster?

20. Archon - EA, 1984

21. Their Finest Hour - LucasArts, 1990

22. X-COM - MPS, 1994

The best tactical system for squad-based combat combines with an excellent R&D model and pop culture about aliens and UFOs for an incredibly addictive strategy experience.

23. Might & Magic - New World, 1986

24. Raid on Bungeling Bay - Broderbund, 1984

25. Earl Weaver Baseball - EA, 1986

26. Links 386 - Access, 1992

When a "386" golf game is still selling to Pentium Pro owners, you know it's good.

27. MechWarrior 2 - Activision, 1995

The atmosphere and background story made this giant robot game an amazingly immersive experience.

28. Warcraft II - Blizzard, 1995

Doesn't reach all of its lofty goals, but it's fast, furious and compelling - what Interplay's Tolkien games should have been.

29. Star Control 2 - Accolade, 1994

StarControl 2 was a fast-paced space game with a stunning blend of adventure, action, and humor.

30. Populous - Bullfrog, 1988

31. NASCAR Racing - Papyrus, 1994

Its fast action on the track introduced computer gaming to a whole new market.

32. M-1 Tank Platoon - MPS, 1989

33. Master of Orion - Simtex/MPS, 1993

Steve Barcia leaped to the stage with this Sid Meier's Civilization meets Reach for the Stars game of space conquest.

34. Day of the Tentacle - LucasArts, 1993

DOTT completely blew away its ancestor, Maniac Mansion, with its smooth animated sequences, nifty plot and great voiceovers.

35. Chuck Yeager's Air Combat - EA, 1989

Three eras of air combat came together in this flight sim classic. For the Korean War, this is the only flight sim which has addressed it.

36. Quake - id, 1996

The ultimate implementation of the deathmatch, Quake also creates the spookiest atmosphere ever presented in an action game.

37. Duke Nukem 3D - Apogee, 1996

A close match for Quake, with any deficiencies in its 3D engine made up for by its bizarre, and sometimes earthy, humor.

38. Crusader: No Remorse - Origin, 1995

In an industry dominated by Doom-clones, this shows that the view action game has a lot of very visceral appeal left.

39. Red Storm Rising - Microprose, 1989

40. Harpoon - 360 Pacific, 1989

41. Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon - MPS, 1990

Sid's fascination with railroading begat a combination of SimCity, 1830 and the ultimate model railroad that will be a strategy game icon for years to come.

42. Hitchhiker's Guide - Infocom, 1985

43. Betrayal at Krondor - Dynamix, 1993

The universe of Raymond E. Feist came to brilliant life in this 3D, first-person perspective role-playing game.

44. Ultima VI - Origin, 1990

45. Rocket Ranger - Cinemaware, 1988

46. Chessmaster - Software Toolworks, 1986

The best of a competitive pawn-pushing lot, Chessmaster stays ahead of the competition with AI opponents based on real-life Grandmasters.

47. Aces of the Pacific - Dynamix, 1992

Corsairs came alive in this WWII sim that set new standards for graphics and performance.

48. Command & Conquer - Westwood, 1995

Not quite as complete a design as Warcraft II, this still set a new standard for great multiplayer play combined with a good back story told through top-notch cinematics.

49. Dungeon Master - FTL, 1987

50. Pinball Construction Set - EA, 1983

51. Reach for the Stars - SSG, 1984

52. F-19 Stealth Fighter - MicroProse, 1988

53. Steel Panthers - SSI, 1995

Gary Grigsby's superb implementation of tactical combat in WWII was the culmination of such successes as Kampfgruppe, Panzer Strike and Typhoon of Steel.

54. Wing Commander III - Origin, 1994

Thrilling space action in the first successful interactive movie. The beginning of a new breed?

55. Starflight - Electronic Arts, 1986

56. TIE Fighter - LucasArts, 1994

A far better simulation of the Star Wars universe than X-Wing, winning in this space combat game relied more on flying skills than puzzle-solving.

57. NBA Live - EA Sports, 1994

58. Suspended - Infocom, 1983

Controlling remote robots gave this SF text adventure a unique flavor.

59. Gettysburg - SSI, 1986

60. EF2000 - Digital Integration, 1995

Graphics, sound, and realism took a flying leap forward in this combat sim.

61. Seven Cities of Gold - EA, 1983

62. Incredible Machine - Sierra, 1993

This Rube Goldberg-style puzzle game was fresh in concept and long on gameplay.

63. Faery Tale Adventure - MicroIllusions, XX

64. Marathon - Bungee, 1994

65. Wings - Cinemaware, 1991

66. World Circuit - MicroProse, 1992

67. Syndicate - Bullfrog, 1993

68. Ultima Underworld - Origin, 1992

With the 3D look that paved the way for other point-of-view games, the Looking Glass design team immersed gamers in a more intense Britannia.

69. Leisure Suit Larry - Sierra, 1988

Lowe's Larry's lascivious, lecherous life was launched in this remake of lewd text game, Softporn.

70. Dune 2 - Westwood, 1992

Command & Conquer's predecessor used the universe of Dune as the environment for a fabulously engaging real-time strategy game.

71. Aces of the Deep - Dynamix, 1994

This U-boat simulator is still unrivaled for creating an authentic atmosphere.

72. Solitaire's Journey - QQP, 1992

73. Quest for Glory - Sierra, 1987

Whoever heard of combat in a Sierra adventure? Attributes? Skills? Corey and Lori Cole made it work in the hybrid adventure/role-playing game.

74. Secret of Monkey Island II - LucasArts, 1990

LeChuck was back and managed to provide the unhappily ever after for a washed-up pirate hunter named Guybrush.

75. You Don't Know Jack - Berkeley Systems, 1995

This irreverent cyber game-show will glue the most computer-phobic to the screen.

76. Shadow of the Beast - Psygnosis, 1989

77. Warlords II - SSG, 1993

78. Balance of Power - Mindscape, 1983

79. Flight Simulator II - SubLogic, 1984

80. Lode Runner - Broderbund, 1983

81. Loom - LucasArts, 1982

Loom featured one of the most beautiful scores ever to grace an adventure game and a musical staff interface that was most original.

82. Rescue at Fractalus - Epyx, 1987

83. Rise of the Dragon - Dynamix,1990

84. Prince of Persia - Broderbund, 1990

An acrobatic platformer with amazingly fuid action, Prince of Persia let you become the legenday Thief of Baghdad.

85. Robot War - Muse, 1981

86. Silent Service - MicroProse, 1985

87. F/A-18 Interceptor - EA, 1987

88. Alone in the Dark - I-Motion, 1992

Following on the heels of Out of this World, Alone in the Dark showed that 3D action needn't get in the way of a tense, exciting story.

89. Bard's Tale - EA, 1985

With three-point monster animations, 3D maze window and new character classes, Michael Cranford's story started the successful trilogy.

90. Carriers at War - SSG, 1992

91. Battles of Napoleon - SSI, 1985

92. Defender of the Crown - Cinemaware, 1986

93. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis - LucasArts, 1993

Three games in one, Hal Barwwod's Indy adventure let the gamer regulate the way it was to played without losing its impact as a story-based game.

94. King's Quest V - Sierra, 1990

With King's Quest V, Roberta Williams horrified Sierra tradionalists by getting the parser out of the way of some of the most beautiful graphics ever.

95. Sam & Max Hit the Road - LucasArts, 1993

The adventure game that redefined "wacky" as Steve Purcell's crazy animal detectives visit alligator farm miniature golf courses and freak shows.

96. Star Trek: Judgement Rites - Interplay, 1994

97. Wolfenstein 3-D - Apogee, 1992

98. System Shock - Origin, 1994

This hybrid action/adventure/RPG didn't get the credit it deserved for its tight cyberpunk plot, believable characters, and SHADAN, an excellent villain.

99. Under a Killing Moon - Access, 1993

Campy humor combined with amazing 3D scenery in this futuristic film noir.

100. AH-64D Longbow - Jane's, 1996

The first helicopter sim to match its fixed-wing counterparts for realistic play.

101. Kampfgruppe - SSI, 1985

102. Gunship - MPS, 1989

103. Eric the Unready - Interplay, 1992

Full of puns, punchlines and personality, Eric the Unready was not only one of the funniest games of all time, but Bob Bates' masterpiece.

104. Deadline - Infocom, 1982

Deadline was a tough text adventure that placed you in the midst of an intricate police procedural and let you wander around a mansion.

105. Crusaders of the Dark Savant - Sir-Tech, 1987

106. Battle Chess - Interplay, 1988

Star Wars' Chewbacca would have felt right at home with this chess game enhanced by funny, elaborate animated sequences and spectacular special effects.

107. Perfect General - QQP, 1989

As in Empire, Mark Baldwin (with new partner Bob Rakowsky) took a proven design (Bruce Williams Zaccagnino's table-top strategy game) and made it better.

108. Neuromancer - Interplay, 1988

109. Pacific War - SSI, 1992

Arguably the most ambitious wargame design in history, Gary Grigsby's magnum opus lets you refight the campaigns in the Pacific on a day-by-day basis.

110. Operation Crusader - AH/Atomic, 1994

111. Wayne Gretzky Hockey - Bethesda, 1989

112. TV Sports: Football - Cinemaware, 1987

113. Monopoly - Virgin/Hasbro, 1995

Based on the quintessential family boardgame, this Internet-capable version of Monopoly offered more than we ever expected in a computer version.

114. Jagged Alliance - Sir-Tech, 1995

115. BattleGround: Waterloo - Talonsoft, 1996

The grand age of warfare comes to life with colorful uniforms, delightful landscapes, and above-average opponent AI in this recent release.

116. Castle Wolfenstein - Muse, 1981

117. Beach Head - Access, 1983

118. Fighter Duel Pro 2 - Jaeger Software, 1993

119. Pinball Dreams - 21st Century Entertainment, 1990

Smooth scrolling and great ball physics made this Amiga game a wizard's choice.

120. Trinity - Infocom, 1986

Brian Moriarty's text adventure based on the Manhattan Project was a tense, ethical tightrope walk through the Cold War.

121. Virtua Fighter PC - Sega, 1996

The best of the horizontal-scrolling fighting games, this title succedds on a platfor for which it was not designed.

122. Indianapolis 500 - EA, 1989

The nascent Papyrus redefined the racing sim on the PC and Amiga with this game that allowed you to go backwards on the Indianapolis "Brickyard" for the first time.

123. Descent II - Interplay, 1996

Builds on the promise of the original with better 3D effects and enemy AI.

124. Deathtrack - Activision, 1989

125. Warcraft - Blizzard, 1994

A spirited real-time rendition of the age-old conflict between Orcs and Humans, with an especially elegant network setup routine.

126. War in Russia - SSI, 1984

Gary Grigsby's strategic level game of combat on WWII's eastern front was the first "monster game" on the computer that came close to SPI's huge boxed sets.

127. Star Control - Accolade, 1992

Space War enters the 90s with a touch of humor.

128. Tony LaRussa 3 - Stormfront, 1995

129. MiG Alley Ace - MicroProse, 1984

130. Ogre - Origin, 1986

131. President Elect - SSI, 1981

132. Lexi-Cross - Interplay, 1991

133. Heroes of Might & Magic - New World, 1995

This award-winning remake of The King's Bounty is a brilliantly balanced game of fantasy combat the quickly becomed addictive.

134. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream - Cyberdreams, 1995

Harlan Ellison's dark, despairing story makes a smooth transition to dark, despairing adventure game.

135. NukeWar - Avalon Hill, 1983

136. Dark Castle - Silicon Beach, 1986

137. Magic Carpet - Bullfrog/EA, 1994

Darned weird rules were offset by a rich, 3D world to explore and conquer.

138. ArcticFox - EA, 1986

139. Mean Streets - Access, 1989

140. Crystal Caliburn - Starplay, 1993

Not as many tables as we'd like, but it looks and sounds like real pinball. The multiball action leaves Tristan in the dust.

141. Master of Magic - MPS, 1994

Once patched, this fantastic strategy game was almost a Sid Meier's Civilization/Magic: The Gathering hybrid.

142. Blue Max - Synapse, 1983

143. Typhoon of Steel - SSI, 1987

144. Ultima III - Origin, 1983

145. Kasparov's Gambit - EA, 1993

Not up to the standard set by Chessmaster, but this was the first to effectively use multimedia in illuminating the mysteries of chess. Strong AI didn't hurt, either.

146. Shangai - Activision, 1986

This mah-jongg style game not only transfixed puzzle games of both sexes during the '80s, but even has version on dedicated word processors in the Far East.

147. Sword of Fargoal - Epyx, 1992

148. Tigers on the Prowl - HPS, 1994

149. Courtside College Basketball - Haffner, 1984

150. StarFleet I - Interstel, 1985




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