If you ever want to start a heated argument, ask some gamers, “Which games are the Top 10 PC games of all time?” Stand back and watch the opinions fly! Some will point to unit sales, others to pivotal games in technological development.
Stepping without fear into the fray, we offer our own version of the Top 10. Each game listed here not only sold buckets of units, it moved the industry forward in the use of technology, art and imagery, characters, audio design, story development, weaponry or some other important way.
10: The Sims
The Sims is a simulation game centered on the activities of virtual people called Sims in a suburban house located near SimCity. The Sims was created by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts. It was originally developed by designer Will Wright.
The Sims uses both 2-D and 3-D graphics. Players start with 20,000 Simoleons in each family’s bank account. They can use this cash to buy a vacant lot or a small home. All the features and furniture in each home can be modified or customized in the Build and Buying modes.
In 2002, The Sims replaced “Myst” as the top selling PC game of all time. That year it sold more than 6.3 million copies. One of the reasons for its success is it is easy for casual gamers to play and it also attracts female gamers which make up to 60% of its player base.
Designed by game designer John Romero, Doom was released by id Software. It is a first-person shooter game originally released in 1993. Experts say it was the first game to make first-person shooter games popular with game players. It is also noted for being a pioneer in 3-D graphics and networked gaming with multiple players.
According to Game Spy magazine, Doom was voted the Greatest Game of All Time in 2004 by industry insiders. What set Doom apart when it was released was its realistic 3-D imagery, at the time far above other games on the market.
Half-Life is a first-person shooter game similar to Doom. It was developed by Valve Corporation and released by Sierra Studios. First appearing at game conventions in 1997, Half-Life players take on the role of a theoretical physicist who is trying to battle his way out of a research facility whose experiments have gone terribly wrong.
Jeff Green from Computer Gaming World called Half-Life, “one of the best games of any year, an instant classic.” In several yearly polls, PC Gamer magazine named Half-Life the best PC game ever.
7: The Elder Scrolls
The Elder Scrolls is a role-playing action video game series developed by Bethesda Game Studios and subsequently published by their partner Bethesda Softworks.
The original Elder Scrolls was called the “Elder Scrolls: Arena.” It was published in 1994 for PCs. In this game, a player assumed the role of a combatant inside an arena. Development soon changed to a RPG or role-playing game. The guiding principle while designing the game was that players “could be who they want, doing what they wanted.”
The Elder Scrolls is recognized for its realism, expansive number of details regarding dates, places, names, intricate history, societies, cultures, and spiritual groups.
Halo is a fiction video game developed by Bungie, Inc. The title is now owned by Microsoft Studios and managed by 343 Industries. The Halo story focuses on an intergalactic battle between humans and a group of aliens known as The Covenant.
Considered one of the best first-person shooters ever, Halo was a major driver for Xbox sales. It quickly was adapted for other formats. Halo 2 introduced innovations like the ability to fire two weapons at once. It also made it easier to find like-minded groups online.
Originally released in 1993, Myst was developed by Cyan Worlds and published by Broderbund. The brainchild of brothers Robyn and Rand Miller, it was the largest product out of Cyan Worlds up to that point.
Myst is extremely popular due to its ability to immerse players into richly drawn worlds. It differs from other video games in that there is no set objective, foe or time limit. It is all about exploring and creative thinking.
Also developed by Blizzard Entertainment, Starcraft is a military science fiction real-time action game. It was first released in 1998 and sold 1.5 million copies that year, making it the best-selling PC videogame of the year. It sold over 11 million copies by 2009.
The game takes place in the 26th century, where three different species are battling to control a sector of the Milky Way galaxy. Starcraft has been noted for its excellent use of story, creative use of real-time strategy and the use of unique cultural factions.
3: Call of Duty
Call of Duty was primarily developed by Infinity Ward and Treyarch companies. First released in October of 2003, Call of Duty is a first-person and third-person shooter game originally set in World War II.
Call of Duty 2 is also a first-person shooter. It was released in 2005 on multiple platforms. Call of Duty 3 follows the lives of several armies following the D-Day invasion. Call of Duty: Black Ops was released in November of 2010, and was set in the Vietnam War.
GameSpot says the Call of Duty franchise is “one of the best in the business.” Game Informer commented that Call of Duty is “one of the most successful franchises of all time.” Near the end of 2009, the Call of Duty franchise had moved over 55 million copies of various titles.
2: Deus Ex
Deus Ex is an action role-playing game. Published by Eidos Interactive in 2002 , it was developed by game developer Ion Storm. It has elements of first-person shooter games as well as role-playing, adventure and immersive simulation.
Deus Ex is recognized by knowledgeable gamers for its creative use of multiple narratives and player choice. It is also innovative in its use of weapon customization, allowing users to add scopes, lasers, silencers and make other modifications including range and reload time.
Deus Ex has garnered over 40 nominations and awards for Game of the Year or Best in Class from Game Spy, PC Gamer and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
1: World of Warcraft
Developed by Blizzard Entertainment, World of Warcraft is one of the most popular “massively multiplayer online role-playing games” ever. Originally introduced in 1994, the Warcraft series began with Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, followed by Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness, Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, and finally World of Warcraft in 2004.
World of Warcraft is known for its wide variety of creatures including elves, dragons, zombies, werewolves, various aliens as well as detailed spaceships and exotic worlds. It combines fantasy elements with science fiction and was much faster than previous role-playing games–that speed helped it gain immense popularity.
Opinions may differ, but no one can deny each of these titles was a game changer. When you look at video games today compared to the originals, you can see the incredible advancements that have taken place in a short period of time. Each game listed here played an important role in that growth.
Part of the fun of video games is the constant influx of new titles. Technology is moving at breakneck speed. Yesterday’s hot title may never regain its lofty status (see “Duke Nuke ‘Em”). New games not only have to beat the competition, they have to beat themselves, which makes our top 10 list even more impressive.
The pressure from outside the video game industry is daunting. Critics point to video game addiction and game violence. For example, The American Psychological Association reported that video game violence increased aggression in children. The industry responded in part by reminding parents they are responsible for what their kids consume.
Despite these pressures, the market continues to grow. New console systems like Kinect and Wii are transforming the way we interact with games. Stunning new graphics, engrossing stories and world-class audio production create new video game fans every year. In fact, technology research company Gartner projects the industry will grow rapidly for years to come, reaching $112 billion in sales by 2015.
And that’s no fantasy game.