As game developers, we love a wide range of games–and no single platform spans a wider range than the PC. For the return of Ten Things, we’ve picked out ten of our favorite PC games from the last fifteen years or so.
It’s not a “top ten” or a ranking. These are just a few of the games that have special significance to Irrational team members, from mega-hits to some more obscure titles. Share your own favorites in the comments.
We’ve also updated our Now Playing list over on the Studio page–and two of the games featured were also singled out here.
Ian Davis, Rigger/Technical Animator
Diablo II (Blizzard North, 2000)
It’s gotta be Diablo II. The first Diablo got me thinking about being a game artist in the first place, then Diablo II refined all the goodness in Diablo and made it better.
Justin Pappas, Level Designer
STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl (GSC Game World, 2007)
After System Shock 2, which is probably unfair to call out on our own site, my favorite PC game is STALKER with the Complete mod or Redux mod. Mods make this game, and mods are exclusive to PC gaming. STALKER creates a world that feels very real and very scary, while providing the player with interesting choices and simulating most accurately a desperate survival situation.
Alexx Kay, Senior Designer
Minecraft (Markus “Notch” Persson, 2009/2010)
Minecraft stitches together a huge, powerfully expressive sandbox world with just enough gameplay to encourage the emergence of player goals.
John Fuhrer, Quality Assurance Tester
Baldur’s Gate II (BioWare, 2000)
This game excels in pretty much every area, but what keeps me coming back are the customization options. With tons of class options, a huge gear selection, and the ability to customize your biography, portraits, and choose companions and romantic interests, every character in BG2 feels unique. The ability to make my persona my own got me invested and in the role-playing mood, and made each playthrough special.
Forrest Dowling, Principal Level Designer
Deus Ex (Ion Storm Austin, 2001)
The depth and breadth of player choice was groundbreaking, and allowed for an unprecedented level of expressive play, invention, and player discovery. Also, it had inventory Tetris.
James Bonney, Audio Director
The Dark Eye (Inscape, 1995)
I’ve never forgotten this game based on Edgar Allen Poe stories. All the characters’ faces were modeled out of clay, with creepy stop-motion animation, so the entire game had a very unique look. Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs was one of the voice actors, and the music was by Thomas Dolby (“She Blinded Me with Science”)…how could it lose? Well, I guess it did, because I’ve met very few people who have even heard of The Dark Eye. And for better or worse, I’ve never seen a game like it since.
Adrian Murphy, Associate Producer
World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment, 2004)
This is still a game I find has no end between the constant content updates and personal attachment I have to my characters. WoW has moved past “game” into “hobby.” It’s constantly giving me returns on my time investment, no matter how little or how much I play.
Kayla Belmore, Personal Assistant
Team Fortress 2 (Valve Software, 2007)
Each class plays very differently, accommodating just about any play style or mood–though, I confess my mood most of the time is “kill it with fire.” The character videos and frequent content updates keep me playing despite having a short attention span. Also: HATS!!!!
Chris Remo, Community Manager
Far Cry 2 (Ubisoft Montreal, 2008)
An impressive simulation of being totally screwed in the middle of a gorgeous, sprawling savanna. If you can invest yourself into an experience where your weapons will fall apart, careful plans will blow up in your face, and you will contract malaria, Far Cry 2 can give you some of the most surprising, memorable, and triumphant FPS experiences you’ll ever have.
Shawn Robertson, Lead Artist
Silent Storm (Nival Interactive, 2003)
A turn-based RPG set in an alternate WWII universe featuring Nazis, robots, and robot Nazis. All environments were destructible–if you don’t want to spend action points running down the stairs, just blow a hole in the floor. The best part is that the AI would understand these new routes and use them against you, and bullets had ballistics and would bounce or go through walls. If anyone knows how to get this game running on Windows 7, I will love you forever.
theblackbandit | October 15, 2010 1:14 pm
Uh… why is there a puffin on the player’s shoulder in the Far Cry 2 picture?
spambot | October 15, 2010 1:35 pm
At least it was just a puffin and wasn’t the version with the wizard.
asamericanas | October 15, 2010 1:46 pm
Man diablo2 is/was a great game and Im pumped for number 3 which I will play a demo at blizzcon next week.
kashwashwa | October 15, 2010 2:24 pm
I’m so happy to see Silent Storm on the list… what a gem.
It has to be ARMA II for me. Gameplay is completely dynamic by nature (to the same degree as battle in real life I guess you could say).
It’s the only game where you could play a mission for two hours, never even necessarily fire a single shot, yet still directly influence the outcome of a mission.
Runner-up would be Theme Hospital. To this day I still can’t identify what it is about the game that grabs me in such a good way. I guess it was simply that everything Bullfrog did with it, they did right.
valkyri9 | October 15, 2010 3:09 pm
@Shawn Robertson: Both Windows Vista and Windows 7 do not play well with games that use pre-Vista anti-piracy measures such as Safedisc because the anti-piracy portion of the software needs to be able to have full Administrative access to your operating system (very bad).
As a result, the only way I have been able to get my old games such as Knights of the Old Republic working in Windows 7 was to use a cracked executable that bypasses the copy-protection. It is also necessary to right-click the executable file, select Properties, select the Compatibility Mode tab and choose Run as Administrator and Windows XP Mode.
I’m going off of memory since this was from when I was using Windows 7 Alpha so these details may not be 100% accurate. I’ve switched back to XP due to these frustrations and because I didn’t feel entirely comfortable using a cracked executable file – I was taking a significant risk of infecting my system with malware or a rootkit by downloading them.
I would recommend setting up a Windows XP machine for your vintage gaming rather than fight with Windows 7s security mechanisms.
gvaz | October 18, 2010 12:00 pm
Uh…the gains of windows 7 outstrips the possibility of any of that. Plus, if you download from the right places, you wont have to worry about any malware or viruses.
deadinthedream | October 15, 2010 3:12 pm
Agree with everything but Far Cry 2, as an owner I must say it failed as a game, very boring.
quatto | October 18, 2010 7:49 am
Far Cry 2 doesn’t fail as a game; it’s the players that often fail Far Cry 2. Because everything arises systemically it takes some ingenuity and patience to test the limits of the game’s simulation. Thankfully it’s one of the few modern shooters that doesn’t mimic Call of Duty’s bankrupt design of rendering player participation as meaningless as triggering a script.
levyathyn | October 15, 2010 7:03 pm
I’ve never heard of The Dark Eye. Reading about it, I am disappointed by this fact.
October 15, 2010 10:14 pm
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dpenn | October 15, 2010 10:51 pm
Wow, I was really surprised to see The Dark Eye here, or I suppose I was surprised to see someone else on Earth had played it.
It’s a time capsule from the ’90s, but a fairly good one, if you’re patient and you can get it to run. It had a ton of style and atmosphere, though it could be fairly obtuse. See also: Bad Day on the Midway, another Inscape-published game.
dpenn | October 15, 2010 10:57 pm
Fellow word nerds:
… it could be fairly abstruse, I meant to say.
morgoon | October 15, 2010 11:01 pm
Oh god yes, you guys are great!
parrotfeathers | October 15, 2010 11:30 pm
Dark Eye was one of the greatest games ever made!
this makes my heart happy to see that someone still remembers it!
my favorite part was with the teeth 😀 i wish i could remember which story that was from though.
someone was nice enough to put up most of the game on youtube.
i also found someone put up clips from Bad Day on the Midway. wow…memories….
jayakers | October 16, 2010 2:06 am
No Civ or Starcraft love? I’ll have to check out The Dark Eye and Silent Storm, as I haven’t played either of them. PUFFINS!!!!
axident | October 16, 2010 2:17 am
Far Cry 2? OK, otherwise you guys have similar taste to myself. 😛
October 16, 2010 3:55 am
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number47 | October 16, 2010 4:14 am
OK, I am going out on a limb here, but I would rather take 30 hours of Far Cry 2 than 1 hour of WOW any day of the week. I could talk for a long time about balancing you weapon loadout according to the mission, how you can find alternate routes to bypass security outposts. How the game offers up alot more freedom than many other games in the same genre, how the approach to any mission is entirely up to the player and how appealing the african setting is and so on.
ragingmudcrab | October 16, 2010 4:25 am
Man, I lost many months of my life to Diablo 2. Classic game.
October 16, 2010 8:15 am
[…] Irrational Games picks its top 10 PC games of all time. […]
See Original Post at http://iloveonlinegames.com/big-downloads-news-bits-bytes-october-15/
October 16, 2010 9:04 am
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October 16, 2010 5:39 pm
Ten Things: Our Favorite PC Games | Irrational Games…
Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……
See Original Post at http://www.worldspinner.us/games
darthkiwi | October 17, 2010 8:54 am
Yay, someone has played The Dark Eye! Go Poe!
I must say, despite the gameplay frustrations and the really arbitrary ways of moving the game along (the “you must click this useless thing before this thing can happen” device), it really captivated me. The Cask of Amontillado is probably my favourite 😀 Oh, and the Mask of the Red Death monologue with crazy illustrations 😀
swamiepstein | October 17, 2010 11:35 am
Good taste in games, you guys. 🙂
October 17, 2010 7:36 pm
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heyimwyatt | October 18, 2010 1:49 am
I am surprised none of the fallout games made it to your list, but FarCry 2 and Stalker are two games I would very much like to play.
gvaz | October 18, 2010 11:58 am
Why aren’t you saying System Shock 2? I just played that for the first time and it was much better than either Bioshock or Bioshock 2.
sunjammer | October 18, 2010 12:07 pm
Happy to see The Dark Eye and Far Cry 2 represented. FC2 is one of the best FPSes i have ever played; The criticism against it is valid, but that doesn’t detract enough to break the sensation of being utterly fucked in a country that doesn’t need you.
sunjammer | October 18, 2010 12:14 pm
Also, hell yes Silent Storm! I’d almost forgot about that game!
My Silent Storm moment where i was like HOLY SHIT THIS IS THE FUTURE OF XCOM was when i was on the second story of a building, turned a corner, and faced a nazi at close range. My dude had a shotgun and i spent my last AP to get one shot off. The game stuttered for a bit to calculate, then the dude was blown the EFF back, hitting a window which he crashed through, tumbling down to the street below where he landed in a pile of trash.
I don’t know why such detailed physics (you could shoot bricks out of brick walls) and turn based combat haven’t been more prominent. It truly elevated the game.
sliceco | October 18, 2010 12:21 pm
My #1 PC game of all time has to be Fallout 2. What a classic
sunjammer | October 18, 2010 12:22 pm
Surprised to see so much disappointment in Far Cry 2. It’s certainly not perfect but it makes me wonder if you played the game “right”, which is a totally dickish thing to say but I will anyway. For me, FC2 is about the immersion of simply travelling. It’s a “road-game”, where you occasionally stop to set massive fires. If you were not constantly using molotovs, the flare gun or the flame thrower, you were doing it wrong. Some of the best moments in that game were driving up river, constantly looking for anyone who might get at you. If you spot them first, for me at least, the game became a combat puzzle game; How do I set enough fires here to utterly FUCK these guys so that i can funnel them into an area where i can pick them off easily with my half broken Dragunov?
Also, it was pretty powerful the first time my ally went down, i tried to save him but he literally died in my arms.
It’s a unique game. Treating it so harshly for its mechanical deficiencies while ignoring all the good things it does is what makes games like Medal of Honor appear, where a developer looks at the most pop FPS and tries to emulate. It’s just sad. I’ll take 100 FC2’s over a single Modern Warfare 2
IG.Chris | October 18, 2010 5:22 pm
I think one of the great things about Far Cry 2 is that my experience was entirely different to yours (I pretty much never used fire-based weapons) and yet I still had no shortage of amazing experiences. It’s really a game that will reward you in spades if you make the effort to invest yourself in it.
borrego | October 18, 2010 5:36 pm
Sweet list! The Dark Eye sounds like a very cool concept.
IG.Kraack | October 19, 2010 10:12 am
Heh…apparently none of us programmers play games good enough to make the list. 😉
pinkypowers | October 22, 2010 12:48 am
Deus Ex first and foremost to me. No game has come close, in my opinion.
Great story, powerfully immersive, a real sense of world travel…
It was a linear story with nonlinear map design, and your choices were subtle yet very consequential.
The thing didn’t hold your hand very much, either.
piranha | October 25, 2010 9:11 am
Nice list. IG.Chris…
PC best games of all time has to be : Call of Duty (CoD.1 and CoD.4: MW)), Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, Return To Castle Wolfenstein, Commandos 1 Behind Enemy Lines, Commandos 2 Men of Courage, Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem 3D, Fallout, Half-Life (H.L.1 and H.L.2), Tomb Raider I – T.R.II – T.R.IV The Last Revelation, Thief I The Dark Project, Thief II The Metal Age, Thief III Deadly Shadows, System Shock and “BioShock”… All in one is classic…
buckybit | October 26, 2010 9:11 am
Age of Empires
System Shock 2
[i](yes, I am bad at counting)[/i]
edclombe | October 26, 2010 12:36 pm
Too much fav games: first all of the origin / looking glass era (terra nova, system shock 1&2, thief etc…), fallout 1&2 (ok…3 too), I played the dark eye a few weeks ago (i was interested in this game since when it came out, but only able to find it nowadays as abandonware), syndicate (and syndicate wars), duke 3d, deus ex, the longest journey, leisure suit larry 7, swat 4 etc…… too much favorite games.
rybow73 | October 28, 2010 1:49 am
undeniably | October 28, 2010 2:20 am
No Fallout(s)? Tsk tsk…
jackebensteiner | October 28, 2010 7:39 am
I can’t say I agree with Far Cry 2… I played my fair share of it for sure, but I couldn’t find myself playing it for that long. Beautiful and absolutely believable as an environment for sure, but as a game, I wasn’t impressed.
Also, no HL/HL2? Aww..
jordan | November 8, 2010 2:39 am
love Diablo 2.. also its expansion.
fpcmaddog | January 5, 2011 4:08 pm
swat 4 tss!!!