Reminder: Try not to stress out too much about the order of the items on this list, what games made it and which ones didn’t. This list is just PC games, limited to the ones I’ve played and I thought were worth discussing. If you rage out because I left out your favorite game then you’re just making a fool of yourself. Also remember the rule: A particular franchise can only appear in the list once, so if Resident Evil 4 makes the list then Resident Evil 2 can’t.
Just use this as an excuse to talk about / praise / eviscerate games we might not get to discuss very often. Read the intro to learn why we’re doing this.
Tetris only appears on the list because it feels strange to leave it off. Consider this an honorary position. Or something. Still, it’s one of the most famous games ever made, I played it back in the day, and it’s been on the PC in various forms in the past, so it technically qualifies to be on the list. Long before Angry Brids, long before Bejewled, Tetris was the original coffee-break game.
More than any other game, Tetris seems to transcend platform distinctions and eras. It’s been everywhere… except Steam. Yes, you cannot buy any version or variant of Tetris for the PC right now, short of buying used. Who owns this license, and how dumb are they?
Largely considered a classic, Homeworld is something of a historical dead-end. There weren’t any clonesAlthough you could maybe argue that Sins of a Solar Empire is a descendant. and the series vanished after the sequel.
I didn’t finish the game. Like a lot of people, I got bored and frustrated on the mission where you have to fly through some asteroids to shield you from radiation, or something. I kept telling myself I’d come back to it later. But then I read that the game auto-balances: The more economical you are with your forces, the more bonus units the game gives to your foes. Knowing this, I don’t see myself ever booting up the game again. Why bother mastering a game that punishes efficiency and rewards carelessness?
Still, that soundtrack was something amazing. Watching an epic fleet battle backed by a haunting score was deeply appealing.
Myst was a game that launched a genre. Okay, not a great genre. The “explore a fantastical world built by an obtuse obstructionist jackass via pre-rendered video clips” thing came and went in the 90’s, and it doesn’t hold up well today. But during its brief time in the sun, Riven stood out as the perfection of that formula.
It’s also, in a strange way, a defense of games built around graphical fidelity. Long before Crysis came along and tried to offer visuals in place of solid gameplay, Riven was offering a game so detailed that its screenshots can almost be mistaken for photographs.
61. Burnout Paradise
I’m not much for racing games, but every once in a while something special rolls along that captures my interest. Paradise has a wonderful, immediate feel to it. You just explore the map and jump into activities as you encounter them, a bit like the mini-games in Saints Row 2. Also, your goal is to smash other cars more than out-race them, which I find more appealing.
On the downside, I used to like that Guns & Roses song, but this game drowns you in it. WE LICENSED A REAL SONG! LOOK HOW COOL WE ARE! HOW ABOUT YOU LISTEN TO IT THE ENTIRE TIME YOU’RE USING THE MENU AND WAITING FOR LOADING SCREENS AND ON THE TITLE SCREEN AND WHEN YOU LAUNCH THE GAME AND…
60. Stanley Parable
It's an extended joke, an essay, a stand-up routine and yes â€" a parable. Sort of. But it's a joke that could only be told in the context of a game. It doesn't have one-liners you can repeat to get a laugh. The only way to get the joke is to participate in the joke, and in participating you find there's nothing for you to do, because that's the joke. Or whatever. It's all very meta.
It was smart and amusing and very, very charming.
59. Leisure Suit Larry and the Land of the Lounge Lizards
I remember discovering this game in 1989. It was my first adventure game of the Sierra variety. It was my first (genuinely) humorous game. It was the first game I ever played with risque humor. It was the first time I played a game not explicitly aimed at kids. It was, in its own way, strangely educational. The constant references to the pop-culture of the 60’s and 70’s rubbed off on meI refer to the decade right before your birth as a “Historical Blind Spot”. The stuff that’s too far back for you to remember, but too recent to be in history books.. It was where I discovered that Nixon was probably not anyone’s favorite person.
I was delighted to see the game get a re-make in 2013. At least, I was delighted until I tried to play it.
The humor had aged very poorly. It’s been a quarter century. I changed. The culture changed. Games changed. “Ha ha condoms!” was funny to me in 1989, but I can’t seem to see this game through those eyes.
Still, it was special in its day.
58. Medal of Honor: Allied Assault
This may look suspiciously like an entry to round out the bottom of my list, but… yeah, it is.
This came at the tail end of the World War II craze that happened around the turn of the century, but it’s most notable for being the genesis of the modern military shooter. I add it here not because I remember it vividly, but because I don’t. It perfectly encapsulates everything about the genre today. The only parts I remember now are the bits it ripped off from the movies it wishes it were, and the only impression I still carry with me was that the end was a bit of a slog. There was nothing particularly wrong with it, but it felt strangely ephemeral and disposable.
And in a strange way, it probably led to the next entry…
57. Spec Ops: The Line
How did they get away with this? It’s a conventional bro shooter that condemns conventional bro-shooters.
Some people criticized the game for railroading you into into taking morally repugnant actions. They also rejected the options offered them by the game as invalid or unacceptable. That’s fair, but I want to use a really asinine and obnoxious defense:
I don’t think the game was designed for you.
I get that defense all the time when I criticize games, so I know how annoying it is. But hear me out. If you were questioning the morality of your character’s actions and looking for justifications for all the killing you were asked to do, then you were probably immune to the central hook of this game. This game was designed with the assumption that the player would see themselves as the good guy and therefore their actions would naturally be in the service of good. It wanted the player to just accept that everyone who ends up on the other side of their gun must therefore be “bad” and worthy of killing. It wanted the player to feel empowered and courageous, and to see themselves as avatars of justice. And then it wanted to condemn them for such a juvenile approach to violence, war, and morality, because that’s exactly how horrific war crimes are perpetrated. Don’t assume that you’re on the side of justice because you mean well. Don’t blindly trust your leaders, and don’t see yourself as a force of good simply because you’re killing people you’ve been told are bad.
The game did this by simply allowing you to follow the exact same mechanical path that you follow in all military shooters: Weapon upgrades, grenades, vehicle section, bomb-dropping section, the sniping section, the “hold off waves of foes” section, and the “hurry through a crumbling landscape” section. You’re supposed to settle in to the familiar mechanics and blindly follow the orders given to you by the game.
Now, if you want to say this makes for a frustrating or unfair game I can’t really argue with you. But what amazes me is that the designers didn’t seem to care. This game burned all its bridges. You can’t pull this trick on players twice, and they left no room for a sequel. They had to realize when they made this that they weren’t going to get to make another one. Since the game seems to hold the intended audience in contempt, I don’t think success was ever their goal. The designers had something to say, and that was more important to them than financial success. Which makes me wonder: Did the publisher understand the game they were backing and publishing?
It’s an angry game. It’s equal parts ugly, unfair, audacious, subversive, and offensive. It’s like a version of Michael Bay’s Transformers where the human characters all realize that they’re irrelevant and the Autobots suddenly realize they’re all violent children. The only people who would enjoy it are people who would never watch it, and the people who would watch it would never enjoy it.
How did they get away with this?
 Although you could maybe argue that Sins of a Solar Empire is a descendant.
 I refer to the decade right before your birth as a “Historical Blind Spot”. The stuff that’s too far back for you to remember, but too recent to be in history books.
Crysis 2 has basically the same plot as Half-Life 2. So why is one a classic and the other simply obnoxious and tiresome?
Bad and Wrong Music Lessons
A music lesson for people who know nothing about music, from someone who barely knows anything about music.
Mass Effect Retrospective
A novel-sized analysis of the Mass Effect series that explains where it all went wrong. Spoiler: It was long before the ending.
Mass Effect 3 Ending Deconstruction
Did you dislike the ending to the Mass Effect trilogy? Here's my list of where it failed logically, thematically, and tonally.
Trusting the System
How do you know the rules of the game are what the game claims? More importantly, how do the DEVELOPERS know?