PC gaming has been around forever now, and of course like any other gaming system there are a ton of classic games worth revisiting… even seeing for the first time.
#5 Goldbox Series
SSI is one of the top classic gaming companies. They made a variety of strategic games, one of their best known series though is nicknamed the “goldbox” series due to the franchises’ gold boxes.
SSI was the first major company to hold the DND license, this time from TSR and in the form of early 2nd edition ADND. Like SSIs other games this game had strategic turn based battles. Exploration contained both an overworld map and exploring areas were first person and pseudo 3d similar to Doom. Like modern RPGs these games had story however the choices within the story were fairly limited. The games ruleset and character building are identical to games like Baldurs Gate due to it being the same game system.
Due to the age of the game things you expect from a modern game like maps telling you where you are kind of are hard to use on this. You really have to know where you’ve been. Since it’s not like Final Fantasy and it’s 1st person when in a zone this can lead to confusion.
There are numerous games in this franchise going from the mid 80s to the early 90s with slight graphical improvements.
In the franchise there are multiple sub franchises. The main one is the Pools of Radiance series which spans 4 games. These all take place in Forgotten Realms which is the most known campaign setting of DND. Then you have the Savange Frontier series, also forgotten realms, which takes place around Neverwinter. It contains one of the first MMORPGs, Neverwinter Nights, which was released in 1991. Then you have the Dragonlance series which all were produced in the early 90s. So if you like this franchise there is 100s of hours of gameplay.
Finally you have Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventure. This is a toolset, similar to what you got in Neverwinter Nights, and the most advanced form of Goldbox gameplay. There are 1000s of campaigns you can play in this, many are word by word remakes of classic DND modules from 2nd edition.
Best thing about these games is they are free. They are abandonware and are hosted on abandonia and other similar sites.
#4 Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
Recently Civilization Beyond Earth came out, that game was supposed to be a spiritual successor of this game. It failed.
Alpha Centauri is a Civilization style 4x game that takes place in a setting where humans are trying to colonize a new world. Multiple “factions” emerge on the colony ship and each try to rule in their own way. Each of the AIs had their REAL own distinct personality, not just visually. The game’s diplomatic system was pretty much a multiple choice RPG system similar to what you would see on Skyrim or Pillars of Eternity. All the options you picked mattered, the flavor oozed off the screen. It is by far the best system before or since.
In the game you could research and select the type of government you wanted which had all kinds of bonuses and negatives, and it affected how the other AIs would talk to you. It was a revolutionary system for it’s time and I wish more games in the genre used something similar.
Basically if you liked the idea of Civilization Beyond Earth but wanted to play a near-perfect game this is without question one of the best to try again.
#3 Neverwinter Nights
Neverwinter Nights was kind of a derided RPG when it came out. It was a clear step back from the glory of Planescape Torment and Baldurs Gate 2. However after numerous patches and expansions they finally refined it enough to where it became classic status.
Unlike previous games this game played similar to Diablo, it was very much an action RPG which upset Bioware’s fanbase at the time. However it was a good one. The gameplay was fluid and it was great to see kind of cinematic battles unfold. However the AI of your team mates was stupid and there was no way to really control them. None the less the game still manages to be fun. Character customization was great, many choices in classes and builds if you are into that.
This is also a RPG where modding was highly encourged day 1 from the developers. The mod database for this game is EXTENSIVE. Like Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures if you like this game you can sink 1000s of hours into it playing all the modules that have come out over the years. It’s highlight being this:
Someone created Diablo 1 entirely in this game’s graphics engine. All dialogue, music, monsters, etc ported over using the DND 3ed game system. It is excellent for multiplayer, and played it with a friend of mine a couple of times back in the day. This game is worth playing this for this mod alone and things like this is why Neverwinter Nights is worth trying again.
#2 X-Com UFO Defense
An all time classic. Most people should know this game now due to it’s recent successor released by Firaxis. The current game is based on smaller squads and a more story based gameplay and I don’t feel it captures all of what this game had. Here we had manga inspired graphics, large squad based combat, an at your own pace system, and random generated maps. The game was also heavily influence by RPGs with it’s character system and as a result has great immersion. Also it’s easy to get to run on a modern PC because there were “windows” versions of these games released in the early 2000s that still work quite well
I like the current X-Com but I feel the game is too artificially paced and I liked the fact that you could have around 20 people in this game than the 6 that you get in the new one. Plus you had all kinds of more technologies and had to do much more managing the world map than the recent incarnation as well.
#1 Infinity Engine Games
Infinity Engine games, like the Goldbox engine games before it, are all time classic RPGs. Baldurs Gate, Baldurs Gate 2, Icewind Dale 1&2, and Planescape Torment, are all worth revisiting or visiting for the first time. Several of these have been remade in recent years as “enhanced editions” and are available on Steam.
Recently there has been a resurgence in this type of RPG. Divinity Original Sin, Pillars of Eternity, and Shadowrun are all similar in their own wars. Pillars of Eternity is clearly the most.
Excellent story, great gameplay, good strategic battles, all that you would want from a game of this type are available here. Some people consider Planescape and Baldurs Gate 2 to be the best rpgs made on any system ever, and there’s plenty of reasons why. If you ever liked RPGs at all and you have not played these you are seriously missing out.
Being that PC games are so numerous there are many that I haven’t mentioned here. Star Control 2 (or the open source Urquan Masters) is probably #1 of other games to check out and should have probably made this list. It is a very well written game with excellent arcade-style gameplay with great RPG dialogue. Personally I don’t feel like classic FPS or RTS are worth revisiting, however there are many options there as well. Even some like the venerable Counter-Strike are still active online.
The two Fallout games as well are without question a good one to look up. If you like games like Baldurs Gate or recent games like Divinity Original Sin you need to check these out.
Other than these Tie Fighter and X-Wing (the 3d remakes from the late 90s), Ultima 7, Syndicate, Elder Scrolls Daggerfall, and the classic Diablos are also worth checking out. Lucas Arts adventure games like Day of the Tentacle and classic Sierra titles like the Kings Quest games may be worth it as well if you like the “adventure” genre.