Monday, December 11, 2006

Top 20 best computer games ever

The obsessive list making continues. This time it's the best computer games of all time, prompted by a piece on the revival of retro gaming in this week's Guardian Guide and the UK launch on the Nintendo Wii (which will resurrect a number of classic games by making them available for download via the Wii's Virtual Console).

Inevitably it's a very subjective list which probably has more to do with the age I was when these games game out than their empirical merits. That said, I have attempted to stick to some basic criteria. All of the games listed below are in some way innovative, unquestionably addictive and they have all have stood the test of time (hence only one game from this millennia). I've added commentary to the top 10 to help explain my choices. So, without further ado...

1. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge

Platform: PC
Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts
Released: 1991
Genre: Adventure



The Star Wars of the gaming world, the Monkey Island series not only owes its genesis to George Lucas it also captured the hearts and minds of a whole generation of teenagers and set the standard for so many elements of the medium which the vast majority of recent releases are still struggling to match. The second installment in the series was its apogee, delivering unprecedented narrative depth and complexity coupled with engaging characters and laugh-out loud humour. Here's hoping for a Monkey Island 5.

2. Tetris

Platform: Nintendo Game Boy
Developer: Bullet Proof Software
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1989
Genre: Puzzle



Along with Pong, Space Invaders and Pac-Man, Tetris is one of the most iconic computer games of all time. What sets it aside from those other games is that it managed to tap into something deep in the human psyche to create a game so fiendishly addictive that it needed a new term to describe its effect on people; the Tetris effect is defined by Wikipedia as "the ability of any activity to which people devote sufficient time and attention to begin to dominate their thoughts, mental images, and dreams". Originally developed by Russian computer engineer Alexey Pazhitnov way back in 1985, Tetris found its true home of the Gameboy where it could be slipped into a generously-proportioned pocket and taken anywhere. Nintendo has reportedly sold over 35 million Tetris cartridges to date.

3. Lemmings

Platform: Various
Developer: DMA Design
Publisher: Psygnosis
Released: 1991
Genre: Puzzle



Lemmings is testament to the value of innovate thinking. At a time when most software houses were churning out run-of-the-mill platform games, DMA Design thought way outside the box and came up with something genuinely new. Of course the real triumph of Lemmings lies not in its innovative blend of strategy and manual dexterity, but in successfully conveying so much personality is so few pixels.

4. Day of the Tentacle

Platform: PC/Mac
Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts
Released: 1993
Genre: Adventure



Building on the success of Monkey Island 2, Day of the Tentacle upped the absurdity quotient a notch or two to deliver a irresistible tale of time-travelling tentacles. It also took adventure game production values on a step with full voice acting throughout (on the CD version) and lovingly rendered animations. The ability to play three different characters, each stranded in different eras and therefore able to influence the future in a Back to the Future stylee, provided extra charm.

5. Goldeneye 007

Platform: Nintendo 64
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1997
Genre: First-person shooter



The received wisdom is that every new gaming platform needs a killer app. Nintendo hit pay-dirt early with the release of Goldeneye 007 and cannily started bundling the game with its new N64 console. Whilst the one-player mode was a cut-above the current crop of first-person shooters it was the multi-player deathmatch mode which caught the imagination of gamers worldwide and it remains unsurpassed as a multi-player experience.

6. Sensible World of Soccer

Platform: Amiga/PC
Developer: Sensible Software
Publisher: Sensible Software
Released: 1994
Genre: Sports



Forget FIFA, with its overly complex keypad combinations, Sensible Soccer delivered unadulterated football joy with just one-button and a joystick. What's more, the simplicity of the interface and the birds-eye view of the pitch allowed for far more frenetic gameplay than rival efforts. The addition of international teams and a twenty season career mode made Sensible World of Soccer the ultimate Sensi experience.

7. The Secret of Monkey Island

Platform: Amiga/Atari/Mac/PC
Developer: Lucasfilm Games
Publisher: Lucasfilm Games
Released: 1990
Genre: Adventure



It's easy to forget quite what a breakthrough The Secret of Monkey Island was when it first launched in 1990. For starters, the main character (the now legendary Guybrush Threepwood) couldn't die, which had been a frustrating staple of the graphic adventure thus far. It was also the first adventure game to use character scaling, enabling Guybrush to grow or shrink depending on his position on screen. However what really set The Secret of Monkey Island apart was the calibre of its characters and storytelling, which put many a Hollywood movie to shame. It even made the transition to stage thanks to a enterprising high school student whose Monkey Island Play has attracted something of a cult online following.

8. David Leadbetter's Golf

Platform: PC
Developer: The Thought Train
Publisher: Microprose
Released: 1992
Genre: Sports



Like Sensible Soccer, David Leadbetter's Golf was always in the shadow of its more attractive sibling, Links. However, Links' beauty was only ever skin deep, whereas David Leadbetter's created an immersive 3D world with contoured greens and fairways which, shock horror, obeyed the laws of physics. Moreover, because the six available courses were all rendered in polygons, the camera could track and spin around the ball in real-time. Whilst the Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise has since mastered the tricky combination of photorealism and real-world physics, David Leadbetter's will always be the original and best golf game in my mind.

9. Cannon Fodder

Platform: Amiga/PC
Developer: Sensible Software
Publisher: Sensible Software
Released: 1994
Genre: Action



Another gem from Sensible Software, Cannon Fodder combined tactical thinking with frenetic mouse manipulation to produce one of the most addictive games of 2004. It's cartoon-style graphics and tabloid-baiting tagline ("War has never been so much fun!") may have given the impression of trivialising conflict but those who've played the game will know Cannon Fodder has its tongue very firmly in cheek. A PSP version of the game is planned for Spring 2007.

10. Super Bomberman 2

Platform: Super NES
Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Sony
Released: 1994
Genre: Action



Another game falling into the fiendishly addictive category, Bomberman is all about the multi-player battle mode, which is arguably the most fun consenting adults can have with their clothes on. Enough said.

11. Super Mario Kart

Platform: SNES
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1992
Genre: Racing



12. Sam & Max Hit The Road

Platform: PC
Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts
Released: 1993
Genre: Adventure



13. Super Mario 64

Platform: Nintendo 64
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1996
Genre: Platform



14. The Curse of Monkey Island

Platform: Mac/PC
Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts
Released: 1997
Genre: Adventure



15. Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament

Platform: Various
Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Codemasters
Released: 1994
Genre: Racing



16. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Platform: PS2/PC/Xbox
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Released: 2004
Genre: Action



17. California Games

Platform: Various
Developer: Epyx
Publisher: Epyx
Released: 1987
Genre: Sports



18. Grim Fandango

Platform: PC
Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts
Released: 1998
Genre: Adventure



19. Super Mario Bros.

Platform: NES
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1985
Genre: Platform



20. Bubble Bobble

Platform: Amiga
Developer: Taito
Publisher: Romstar
Released: 1987
Genre: Puzzle

7 comments:

DFG said...

Hello, fabric of folly. I've read your article, the games are really amazing. I'd like to help you choosing the best DOS games. I think you can find out about more games here: Top 100 DOS Games.

√Čbano Augusto said...

Where is Civilization ???? I should at the TOP 3 of any "Best games ever" List !!!

;)

www.forexfreedownload.com said...

Well i think one of my favorites is the free to download version of return to castle wolfenstein.
the free version is the multiplayer one called RTCW enemy territory.

just a very good multiplayer community, and lots of servers to play on. also it gives some freedom for modifications on servers that makes playing on different servers very nice to do

Neil Bramah said...

It's a great list but I would personally place Grim Fandango much higher, one of the greatest games ever!
Also I'm surprised that none of the Broken Sword games made the list, as these are some of the great P&C of all time!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_Sword
N

elenora123 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
matt said...

Great list. Well over half would be in my Top 20, too.

David Leadbetter's Greens (aka Microprose Golf) is a real classic.

Matthew Devereux said...

I love this. I have added a link to it at my World Cup online novella "The Gambler".

http://matthewdevereux.blogspot.com

Good luck. And here's to Sensi.