In the Continuing Search For Greatness
By Dwip October 31, 2003, 6:46 am Comments (6) RSS Feed for this post

I promised I’d shut up about gaming, didn’t I? Well, I fibbed. Or rather, I promised I’d shut up about Ultima 7. Well, I’ve been playing Ultima 4 all day, so you’re just going to have to put up with me.

Today’s topic: The Top 20 Best Games of All Time. Why that, you ask? Because I’ve been reading this and I felt like it. So here we are.

This will be slightly unconventional, as Sirian’s list is one of video games. Mine is one of all games, period. I’m funny like that. Also, this is no real order, as I lack the patience to categorize to that degree. So.

1. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Second Edition (TSR, 1989): I first ran across AD&D in the summer of my 6th grade year. The year would have been 1992 or so. Helped down the path by my brothers’ old First Edition Player’s Handbook and a role in the school production of Macbeth, I ran out and grabbed what I could of Second Edition. The rest, as they say, is history. I can say without the shadow of a doubt that this game changed my life. The rules are clunky, inferior by today’s standards – Third Edition got everything right, as far as I’m concerned. No matter. For the time, it offered a roleplaying experience second to none, and it opened up vast avenues of expression for me – world design, creative writing. I’ve now been playing for over a decade, over more worlds than I can remember. It’s been the favorite of my circle of friends all that time.

2. Battletech (FASA, 1985): I first entered the world of Battletech through I believe Mechwarrior 2. The computer game was entertaining yet subpar in areas – most who have played it think it was the pinnacle of greatness, I loved it for the background material on the Clans it included. Thus hooked, and this would have been 1995 or so, I devoured the ‘net looking for info on the game. I found it, rushed out and bought the Citytech Second Edition box, and fell in love. It’s a monster of a tactical sim – 4 on 4 battles can take hours – but it has an enormously rich storyline and gameplay that’s enormously entertaining despite the delays. Never as much of a favorite in my circle as AD&D, I’ve still played my fair share of games, and still love the game and the universe.

3. Sim City 2000 (Maxis, 1993): The fascination of this game should be familiar to most – I remember it still being installed on computers at my high school in 1999, and it was as popular then as it was when I first had it. Until I ultimately burnt out on it and the entire genre, I played this to death. Building an entire city and watching it grow like a Lego set come to life was the joy of my 13 year old existance. I can remember buying the strategy guide, memorizing the numbers, and planning out entire cities on graph paper. The joy of the game has faded to the point I have no desire to play Sim City 4, but if there were a list of Top 20 Strategy Guides, SC2k’s would head the list without a doubt. A better source of numerical and practical data about a game I have yet to find.

4. Empire Deluxe (New World, 1993): In the late 1980s, when most kids my age were still playing Super Mario Brothers, I had more or less abandoned my Nintendo in favor of games like the original Empire. I had strategy gaming drilled into me from an early age, you could say. The premise of Empire was that you controlled a number of cities, from which you produced a variety of military units, with which you conqured more cities and ultimately the world. Empire Deluxe took that a step further, with more unit types, better graphics, and a much improved interface and gameplay. A monstrously addictive strategy game, enough so that the original had a warning label on the box.

5. Ultima VII: The Black Gate/Ultima VII: Part II, Serpent Isle (Origin, 1992/1993): I’ve said much about these games here previously, but I’ll say it again. Both of these games were the first RPGs that I remember in any detail, and coming at the same time as my AD&D addiction, were two of the defining moments of my early teenage years. Years ahead of their time in world-building, graphics, and plot design, I never tired of them despite the fixed storylines and lack of real character-building. To revel in the scope of them was to be helplessly addicted. I really only stopped playing them when my Windows 95 Pentium could no longer handle them.

6. Civilization II (MicroProse, 1996): If Empire was the genesis of my love of strategy gaming, Civ 2 was the maturation of it. Gone was the wargame feel of Empire, replaced with the experience of guiding an entire civilization to domination of the world through military, diplomatic, and technological means. It was an utterly fascinating experience to lead your civilization all the way from birth to ultimate victory, helped by a stunning series of video clips – the wonder movies and the Alpha Centauri landing clip are some of the finest I’ve ever seen.

7. Morrowind (Bethesda, 2002): For years, and I’m talking about half a decade, I had been waiting for a worthy successor to the mantle of the Ultima 7s. Ultima 8 and Ultima 9 were dismal failures, though 8 managed to be an entertaining game in it’s own right once patched. Daggerfall, Morrowind’s predecessor, almost managed, and for 1996 was stunningly revolutionary, but it wasn’t quite it. Then came Morrowind. Never since Ultima 7 have I been so absolutely engrossed in a world. It almost felt, at times, as if I could taste the ash in an ash storm. Never has a world been so open, yet so unique at the same time. Character development was enormous, enough so that I have played through four odd times with radically different characters. The world is big enough that I have yet to explore it all. Bethesda said, once, that they were looking to create the ultimate single-player RPG. They succeeded.

8. F15 Strike Eagle II (MicroProse, 1991): These were the days when flight sims were flight sims. The focus was not so much on the mechanics of making the plane fly, as is the case with many flight sims since (including the third in the F15 series, barely played by me for it’s complexity), but on thinking. How do I avoid that radar station? Do I have the weapons do take care of those fighters? Can I hit that juicy target and still make it back? Do I have the fuel to make it back? Those questions kept me playing this one for a long, long time, until it finally collapsed from age and died.

9. Goldeneye (Rare, 1997): I do not normally play first person shooters, though recently I’ve begun wavering on that. Bond, though. Bond is a thinking-man’s FPS, with lots to do besides just gun people down. Couple than with a truly addictive multiplayer setting, and you have a game that kept my friends and I busy until the release of it’s successor game, Perfect Dark.

10. Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings (Ensemble, 1999): Those of you in Tonto will understand why I love this game. It is, to date, one of three online communities I’ve become involved with. Why? Because it is an RTS done right. I hated Warcraft. Starcraft went unplayed by me. Age of Empires was a good game, but wasn’t quite there yet. Age of Kings solved all the interface problems, balanced the game not quite perfectly but close enough, and featured stunningly brilliant multiplayer, made even better by the expansion. This is one of a rare few games that I have played so many times, to such length that I can no longer bear to look at them – I’ve sucked everything they have to give. Such it is with this game, so much so that it taints it’s successor, Age of Mythology.

11. Fantasy Empires (SSI, 1993): Shogun: Total War is often credited with being the first to couple a good turn-based strategy game with a compelling real-time strategy game under it. Not so. Before Shogun, there was Fantasy Empires, a D&D strategy game with many of the same elements: conquering provinces, combined arms armies, income management, and the like. Yet it was simple enough to be played in the course of a day or so, which is why my friends and I adopted it as a game of choice in the mid-90s, until we couldn’t run it any longer due to advancing computer tech.

12. Civilization III (Firaxis, 2001): Researching the date on that, I’m amazed that it’s been two years since this came out. It doesn’t seem like it. This is Civ 2 taken to it’s logical progression, with Age of Kings-style uniqueness tossed in for good measure. Despite a lackluster combat model, everything else is there, including features like culture borders you never knew you needed before, but can’t live without now. Most games, I’d have burnt out on by now. Civ 3 has another expansion coming out, and I’m buying it. It’s my third online community, as well.

13. Rush 2 (Midway, 1998): When racing games go slightly odd. Rush 2 is a Nintendo 64 racing game that, while it has a lot of adrenaline-based gameplay to it, doesn’t take itself too seriously – the physics can sometimes be way out there, and every level has a series of jumps and shortcuts that would never be there in real life, plus a stunt mode, but no matter. The adrenaline rush, coupled with gigantic customizability and level replayability, still has us playing the odd game of it.

14. Daggerfall (Bethesda, 1996): This is, perhaps, the bottom of my top 20 list. I include it for it’s scope. Not since Ultima 7 has a world been this huge, a plot or world this involved. Buggier than all hell when originally released, this was eventually overcome, and one could enjoy the same deep character customization that would later appear in Morrowind, along with a randomized world, which led to enormous replayability.

15. Their Finest Hour: The Battle of Britain (LucasArts, 1989): Another of the old-school flight sims, I picked this one up with a joystick I bought in the early ’90s. Unlike F15, TFH was mostly adrenaline. How many enemy planes CAN I shoot down before I run out of ammo, and can I manage to keep my pilot alive to get all the medals, do amazing missions? Ultimately, this game, too, faded when I started running out of computer to play it on.

16. Super Mario Kart (Nintendo, 1992): Before there was Rush 2, before there was Bond, before the monstrously addictive Mario Kart 64, there was Super Mario Kart. We played this one to death during high school. A racing game, but with a twist – you could lay traps, shoot your opponents with turtle shells, or just go drive around in battle mode. Eventually we played ourselves out of this, into Rush 2 and Bond, and came back for the Nintendo 64 version, which was just as good.

17. The Crystal Shard/Alsherok (1996/1997+): My first great online community was that of multi-user dungeons, MUDs to us players. The experience is akin to playing D&D, except online with dozens of other people. The forerunners of the modern massively multiplayer RPGs, MUDs are all text, with written descriptions replacing graphics. There was a time when I was on Shard that I would go to school, return home, fire up the MUD, and lose myself until I needed to get up 4 hours later. My parents actually got me my own phone line for a while because I was using up their own. Also through Shard and later as head builder on Alsherok, my world design and creative writing skills were further honed, and later my skills as a game designer and balancer.

18. Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance (Microsoft, 2000): A first-person shooter in a giant robot, Mechwarrior 4 is the successor to the giantly popular, giantly successful Mechwarrior 2. The third in the series went unloved, the worthiness of the fourth is hotly debated in the community. Some criticize it for not remaining true to it’s Battletech roots. I don’t care. For the most part, it’s the best balanced of the Mechwarriors, and the missions are stunningly realistic and challenging. And the multiplayer? The multiplayer shines. Despite other contenders, MW4 is the current LAN game of choice in my parts.

19. Baldur’s Gate/Baldur’s Gate 2 (Bioware, 1998/2001): A friend showed me the original BG after it came out. He got it back, eventually, when I got my own copy. BG did a number of things well – a highly engaging story better than any I had seen in years, hooked to one of the best renderings of the AD&D 2nd Edition rules on a computer with great graphics for the time. BG2 did everything just as well. Sure, the story was pretty screwy, but once you got into it, your life was over. This game and Age of Kings killed my sophomore year in college. Replayable by default of the rules set, I’ve played multiple characters through both, including partyless solo attempts.

20. Perfect Dark (Rare, 2000): Goldeneye’s successor game, Perfect Dark required me to spend more money on a memory card just to play it. No matter. What I ended up with a game light years beyond Bond. The missions were challenging – truly the thinking man’s FPS, enough so that I have yet to beat some of the missions on hardest difficulty. More guns, each with two different fire modes – a great addition, and multiplayer to beat all multiplayer. Feel like cooperating against the computer? Fine. Or one player can play through the mission while the other player takes the bots against him. Or you can just shoot it out, with or without AI friends and enemies. Far more levels to play on. Had we not burnt ourselves out in an orgy of Bond/Perfect Dark playing, this would still be played.

I’m done now, really.

Alsherok, Battletech, Computer Games - Baldur's Gate Series, Computer Games - Civilization Series, Computer Games - Elder Scrolls Series, Computer Games - Uncategorized, Dungeons and Dragons Comments (6) RSS Feed for this post
Comments on In the Continuing Search For Greatness
avatar Comment by toasty #1
October 31, 2003 at 4:13 pm

*agrees on aok/aoc*

Awesome game simply, but as you said, there’s no way I’m gonna play that anymore now. The only game that ever really hooked me to the point where I couldn’t quit (aom took me something like 3 months to quit. Aok took me well over 3 years)

avatar Comment by Whir #2
November 1, 2003 at 4:33 am

I might make mention that Realms Beyond really needs a new style board system.

avatar Comment by Regina #3
November 1, 2003 at 10:55 am

I should really find some of those games one of these days…

avatar Comment by Dwip #4
November 2, 2003 at 1:46 am

Though most of them are long out of print, hard to find, or not worth playing in light of recent games, there are a few.

Morrowind is brand new, and will be released in a combined edition with the Xpacks soon. Unfortunately, if you haven’t got at least a Pentium 500 with a bunch of RAM, you’re in trouble. Both Baldur’s Gates are still available, though, with Xpacks, and aren’t all that expensive anymore.

I think you’d really enjoy Civ 3, though. Given that’s a game based on history, and all. Dunno how much of the Tonto Civ threads you followed, or if you’ve read any of my Epics reports (anybody at all read them, ooc?), but it’s a whole lot of fun. Plus the second Xpack, which seems to be getting rave reviews, comes out in, uh, 2 days.

As for Alsherok, there’s a link over there —–> that you can check out anytime you want. Hook you right up. ;)

And yes. RB’s N54 boards are…hurty. Unless you have a popup blocker. Then they’re only sort of hurty. They’re free though. You can’t beat free.

avatar Comment by toasty #5
November 3, 2003 at 7:06 am

*has read atleast two epics*

avatar Comment by Whir #6
November 3, 2003 at 5:48 pm

phpBB is free. The popups are from their server. That’s what happens when you don’t pay for hosting.