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My Top 20 All-Time Favorite Computer and Console Games

Pete Brown - 11 November 2008

Just for grins, I thought it would be fun to put together a list of the games I found most enjoyable or memorable. It should be 20, but at the end count, it was only 19. :)

I haven't had a chance to play any games in a few years (coincidentally around the time we started renovating the house and then the birth of our first child), so there's no Halo or anything else recent on this list.

I've had this post sitting in Windows Live Writer in drafts for some time now (months, actually), and have gone back and filled out details for a game or two in the evenings in between other pursuits. I hope things brings back some memories for some of you (especially you 30 and 40-somethings) and introduces others to some games that were perhaps popular before their time.

So in order heading towards my number 1 favorite game, here's my rundown of my all-time favorite or most memorable games.

(unless otherwise noted, all screenshots from MobyGames)


#19 The Bard's Tale - Apple II


My Junior High School in Massachusetts (they call them "middle schools" where I now live - ours did 6, 7 and 8th grade) originally had DEC VT-180 and Commodore VIC-20s, and later had Commodore 64s -- in other words, real computers. My high school had only Apple II (II+, IIe and later a IIgs) and much later-on, Apple II clones and a single Mac+. They were ok, but they were a far cry from the full multimedia experience one had with a Commodore 64. The displays were terrible with lots of magenta shift and blooming. For doing any real work (like the Pascal class I took in 10th grade - an early experiment from the math department - Thanks Mrs Russell!) I actually preferred the amber display as you could look at it for more than a few minutes without a guaranteed headache.

That all said, I made do with what I had. During study hall, I'd often sneak over to the bank of a few Apple IIs in the library and play The Bard's Tale. Back then, personal computers were still a novelty and no one really cared what you did with them, and even fewer understood, so you could get away with playing games in study hall as long as they were relatively quiet.

The Bard's Tale was typical role-playing fare for the time. Like most such games, they felt requiring you to keep a pencil and graph paper handy was part of the fun. I hated mapping mazes, but loved the game otherwise.

Here's a walkthrough video of the version I used to play on the Apple II.


#18 Pool of Radiance - Commodore 64


One of the original gold box AD&D games, this was a ton of fun and you didn't have to kiss the DM's butt to make sure you survived the day :)

Here's a video of the gameplay. You'll see that this, except for combat, is very much cut from the same mold as the Bard's Tale. This was pretty much the standard format for all the early map/combat-focused turn-based games. IOW, anything based on AD&D generally looked like this.

I had a number of gold box and official AD&D games including this, Curse of the Azure Bonds, Eye of the Beholder etc.

Like lots of nerdy teens of the day, I started, but never completed, my own version of games like this and Bard's Tale using Commodore 64 Basic.


#17 Wolfenstein 3d - PC/DOS


For most people, this game really started the FPS craze. Sure, the 3D was pretty primitive, but it worked on some really old hardware in a time before 3d hardware acceleration was the norm. It performed really well on even modest hardware, with lower capability machines displaying the game in a smaller window.

Rated PC-13 for "Profound Carnage". Achtung! I don't recall if I ever finished this game, but it sure was fun to play.

VESA local bus , anyone?

Here's a video of the game.


#16 Times of Lore - Commodore 64


Often called "Ultima Lite", this was a really fun game. The music was good, the gameplay was simple, and the graphics were decent. I had a lot of fun playing this on my Commodore 128 at home.

The music is interesting enough that it inspired several remixes on http://remix.kwed.org

There are no videos of the commodore version on youtube, but I did find the (IMHO, inferior) NES version here.


#15 Syndicate - PC/DOS



Gauss gun anyone?

This game was great for making violence really fun. Seriously, sometimes you just had to go in and waste a whole bunch of people to do your job, and have fun doing it. The ambient music was simple, but really worked (for adlib/soundblaster-compatible music). The sound effects were original and interesting. The gameplay was easy and fun. Plus, I've always been a sucker for isometric games.

Great video walkthrough here.


#14 Ultima IV - Commodore 64


(screenshot from youtube)

This was one of a number of C64 games I actually owned originals of (instead of ones with interesting cracktros). I remember it came with a cloth map and some other feelies in a rather sturdy two piece box.

Ultima got me interested in Adventure Construction Set which allowed you to create your own Ultima-style games.


#13 Impossible Mission - Commodore 64


Another Visitor. Stay a While. Stay Forever!

That was the first time I heard a computer talk. I later had a Stephen Hawking-sounding text to speech engine running on my Commodore 128, but to have a personal computer talk to you was a pretty cool thing for the time. I used to play this during recess in 7th grade (yep, they had recess for that age back then) in the Jr High computer lab.

I never finished this game, and didn't have a manual (few of us actually bought our games back then, instead we relied on boxes of cheap 5 1/4" floppies and that wonderful pink cracking disk)

Bzzzzzt Bzzzzt

If you still need more cowbell, check out the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP port of this classic game. Love the updated graphics (it even includes a classic mode with graphics like the original, if you prefer)



#12 7 Cities of Gold - Commodore 64


In 7th grade, 3 years before I got the Commodore 128 at home, I used to just turn this game on and stare at the opening screen (with the feather pen writing out the title) both because I was amazed at the graphics at the time, but more importantly, I was stunned by the music (link includes a full game session recorded, including the opening music - oh, and he could have taken a trading approach instead of attacking all the villages. heh). Thinking back to it now, the music was hardly amazing for SID music, but this was one of the first C64 games I played that had a real soundtrack.

I also loved the gameplay. The random (or historical) maps encouraged exploration. The gameplay itself was fairly simple and easily understood. When you finally did find a hidden city (which was rare to do) you were well rewarded.

A classic that will always remain on my list of influential and enjoyable games.



#11 Pitfall II: Lost Caverns - Commodore 64


The original Pitfall was a very popular, but pretty (IMHO) boring game. I had it on the Atari 2600 and a version that came with Gary Kitchen's GameMaker on the C64. Pitfall II was a much more complex game, with a pretty large map for a platformer. It was a great sequel to the first, and a game I had a ton of fun playing. The music wasn't bad for the time either, being keyed to mood/events in the game.

Watch out for the bats!


#10 Doom - PC/DOS


Doom took the idea of Wolfenstein 3d and kicked it up a few notches. The levels were truly 3d, not just a flat single-level maze. Plus, the carnage and sound effects were even better. This easily goes down as the FPS that got me interested in FPS.

Unless you lived it, it's hard to look back and realize just how important Doom was to gaming as we now know it. Back then, First-Person Shooters were very rare and relatively unsophisticated. Most games were platformers or other variations on 2d rendering. There were some 3d games and some simulaters, but nothing like Doom.


#9 Lemmings - PC/DOS


I like puzzle-type games, and Lemmings is one of the kings of puzzle games.

I never made it through all the levels (some of those higher levels are just really difficult!), but I loved what I did play. I always enjoyed the puzzle-solving aspect of this game. I was never much of a fan of the timed nature, but I guess it wouldn't be very challenging if you had all the time in the world :)

I've played various versions of lemmings and on a couple platforms. It's a great game that inspired some pretty good knockoffs.


#8 Crash Nitro Cart - Original Xbox


(screenshot from http://nitrokart.crashbandicoot.com/ )

This is a game my wife and I used to play all the time, and recently, it's a game my 2 year old tries to play with me :) 

It's pretty standard racing fare, but we all found it really enjoyable. It's the kind of game you and a friend can pick up and play without any fuss.



#7 Diablo / Diablo II - PC / Windows


As I mentioned, I'm a sucker for isometric games. Diablo is one of the best Isometric RPGs out there, second only to Nox, IMHO.

Diablo had good music, tons of violence, a fairly original backstory, great graphics and easy gameplay.

In many ways, I wish Isometric games would not have been relegated to just RTS, as I'm not a fan of strategy. There's something about the gameplay and the pre-rendered graphics that just provide a much slicker feel than many 3d games on 10 times as much hardware.


#6 Oddworld - Abe's Oddysee - Original Playstation


One of my all time favorite platformers. I was never into Mario and the class platform games, but the graphics, sounds, very original story, and challenging gameplay in this game kept me hooked for some time.

The 3d follow-up to this series was good, but just didn't have with the original platformers did. Great stuff.



#5 LPMud

no screenshot.

I spent just about every waking hour at my first college playing MUDs (Multi User Domain or Multi User Dungeon, depending on who you ask) online, at a time when the internet had no browsers and was still primarily reserved for education and research.

Of course, that's why that college was my first college, and not the one I graduated from :)

Text-based MUDding was the precursor to today's MMORPGs. Back then, on the larger servers, you'd have so many people in a room that you had to do your best to get past the lag and the screen spam. I used to sneak time on the Sun Workstations in the computer lab late at night, when even the grad students were away, as I could scroll the screen buffer and play multiple characters in multiple windows - something you couldn't do on the VT220s in the rest of the lab.

One of the great things about MUDs was that if you were at a certain level, you could add to the MUD code and/or map yourself. You could add rooms, script using LPC, add traps, treasure, mobs, anything you'd like. It was both creative and fun.

While I no longer MUD, and won't get involved in the MMORPGS we have today, MUDs left a lasting impression on me.


#4 Nox - PC / Windows


This rates as one of my all-time favorite games. The graphics were perfect - I loved the 45 degree isometric view and the great character animation. The isometric projection in this game was more severe than Diablog and other isometric games, and really gave it a unique feel. The line of site / fog of war, and particle effects were equally well executed.

Back when this came out, I got permission to purchase something like 10 copies of this for folks at work, and to repurpose an old machine as a dedicated game server. We used to have capture the flag and deathmatch duels afterhours in the office. Sadly, around that time clients started insisting staff industry-wide work on-site rather than from consulting offices, so the after-hours game fests fizzled out.

This is one of the few games I played through multiple times. I played through to the end with all the character classes (the gameplay was different) and then also played the multi-player versions in the office.

Here's a video of multiplayer gameplay. Folks are using golems in there to just squish people :)

Here's the trailer for NOX. The music in the trailer is the music from the game.

Nox was truly an awesome game, and IMHO, still holds up 8 years later. I also really liked Diablo and Diablo II, but they just didn't quite match up to Nox, IMHO.

Sadly, Westwood was acquired by EA and then killed off, so it's unlikely we'll ever see a sequel.


#3 Starcross and Suspended (and Zork and others from Infocom) - Commodore 64


When I was in sixth grade, I used to read "Choose your own Adventure" books. Those D&D books had things in it like "do you attack, if so, turn to page 50, otherwise turn to page 75". In effect, they were the first text adventures I played. It wasn't until several years later, though, that I discovered Infocom.

It's pitch black. You're likely to be eaten by a grue.

My first experience with computer text adventures (before I played Monster, Adventure (Fortran!) and eventually the MUDs) was with Infocom games. My favorite of those was Starcross. It came in a dual boxed set with Suspended, another awesome Infocom game.

Infocom games had a very sophisticated parser and a cross-platform virtual machine on which they ran. The people who wrote the stories were bright, creative, and thorough. The games were difficult, sometimes to the point of frustration.

The best thing about these games, though was like a good book, the world existed in your head and your imagination. The descriptions of places were well-written, but you still had to build up your vision of the world yourself.

These days, there are Infocom Z-machine virtual machine ports available for a number of platforms. If you have never played an Infocom game, I recommend starting with Zork and giving it a shot. You might find it a welcome respite from the hypergraphical games we have now.


#2 7th Guest - PC/DOS CD


Here's a recorded walkthrough that gives you the back story for the game, but doesn't get much into the gameplay. This one is a walkthrough of the game itself, the atmosphere, the awesome music and just the overall darkness of it all. (The intro music was really distorted in the YouTube video, but not so in the game)

Back when the MPC (Multimedia PC) was "the thing", and we all cranked up our 1x and 2x CD ROMS to full speed to try out the latest stuff, 7th Guest came out for DOS PCs. Yes, there was a time when having an optical disk drive was a luxury and something many folks saw no need for. Two things changed that: 1. release of large programs like MS Office and Borland C++ on CD instead of 30 disks, and 2. the popularity of games and other MPC compatible applications that combined music, video and graphics.

The 7th Guest is a game you love to hate. Stauff mocks you throughout the game in a way that really adds to the play. The pre-rendered graphics were great for the day, and are still pretty good. The world was not a 3d environment where you could go anywhere you pleased, however. The views were set, and the transitions between the views were pre-rendered as video.

One thing that really set 7th Guest apart (besides the spectacular puzzles indicated by the pulsating brain) was the use of superimposed video. In certain parts of the game, you'll get additional clues by watching a video of the folks who attended the party either fighting, having a discussion, or doing something sinister. It really worked well here, and I don't recall seeing that used in any game before this one.

You can still find some of the music from the game online and on CD from the Fat Man and Team Fat.

The 11th Hour (the sequel to this game) was also a great play, but it didn't have quite the impact of the following that this game had.

#1 Myst - Windows 3.1


I also really enjoyed Riven, but Myst was the first.

This is almost a tie with the #2 game, 7th Guest. While 7th Guest had great puzzles, good music (by the FatMan and Team Fat), and that awesome mocking and taunting throughout the game, Myst had more ambiance and sharper graphics. Of course, the graphics in Myst were all pre-rendered and without as much in the way of transition. RealMyst, which came out years later, attempted to take the Myst world and allow you to explore it using real-time 3d rendering like most other games. It just didn't have that sharpness or punch that the original Myst had, though.

Many people consider King's Quest and similar to be the pinnacle of adventure games. For me, it was Myst. It allowed me to work at my own pace, had incredible graphics, great music, and well-thought-out puzzles. Many have tried to copy Myst's success, but have failed on getting the whole combination to work.

Myst is one of those games that probably has very little code. If you look at what you can do in the game, it's all design and music, with some hotspots on the screen. While the earliest games were all code and little design, designed and written by programmers, Myst brings us full circle and once again helps point out that "design is king"


That's It

So that's my list. I'm sure I missed some games that I liked but have since forgotten, and I didn't even get into the coin-op stuff we used to do. There were tons of others that I really liked (like Wing Commander, X-Wing, Eye of the Beholder, Dig Dug, Telengard, Breakdance, Pac Man, Bruce Lee, Gauntlet, Blue Max, Below the Root, Marble Madness, QBert, Sim City, Archon, Defender of the Crown, Summer Games, Zaxxon, Sacred, Dungeon Seige, Rogue/NetHack...) but I had to stop this post someplace :) Here's a great video showing a bunch of the old C64 games with some awesome SID music in the background.

Any classics that made a real impression on you?

posted by Pete Brown on Tuesday, November 11, 2008
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10 comments for “My Top 20 All-Time Favorite Computer and Console Games”

  1. JWCsays:
    X-COM: Terror from the Deep (did I get that name right?). What a game. Creepy too, you never knew what weird new critter was gonna show up and waste you. For a modern version, try UFO: Afterlight.
  2. MADMapsays:
    The most impressing games in my opinion were the old Lucasarts-ClickAndPoint Adventures. Monkey Island, Indiana Jones, Day Of The Tentacle etc. Hours worth spent :)
  3. Marcus Almgrensays:
    I can see your taste differs a bit from mine. I spent pretty much all my time playing The Last Ninja trilogy on the C64, SuperCars on the Amiga and later Resident Evil on the Playstation. After that I had accumulated a whole bunch of stuff I needed to do, so I had to quit gaming.
  4. Scott Bussingersays:
    I've been playing a version of NetHack for the iPhone http://itunes.apple.com/app/inethack/id324299096?mt=8 and while the graphics aren't exciting I have to say it's been fun reaquainting myself with the game and the iPhone port is quite well done.

    I don't think I've ever played a game with as much depth as NetHack. But I have no idea how people ever solve it without using spoilers. :)
  5. Timsays:
    I'm a few years late to the conversations, but I followed your link from the Agent Kickstarter page.

    M.U.L.E. on the C64 was my favorite. Plus it has the catchiest SID music ever. And the Infocom Hitchhiker's Guide.
  6. Jerry Berg (Barnacules)says:
    I remember having my mom take me to the computer store when I was like 12 years old and I would buy Leisure Suit Larry and she had no idea what it was and back then they didn't have ratings on anything. Good times! I remember having to turn it off when I heard her coming towards my room :P

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