26. Super Meat Boy
The gaming platform Steam has been around since 2003, and has done wonders for the independent gaming community. Super Meat Boy represents everything good about Steam. The game itself is a bit quirky, and reeks of independent development (in the best way possible). In fact, the title was developed and published by a team simply named “Team Meat.”
On the surface, it doesn’t exactly look like a game that would succeed on a grand scale. Users control a humanized piece of meat in a platforming world loosely akin to one you’d see in Mario Bros. The cube-shaped red critter jumps, dodges, and climbs his way through endless levels of mayhem and destruction, and manages to keep a smile throughout the chaos. With 300 levels, and plenty of goals and hidden secrets to keep the user busy, Super Meat Boy will continue to stand the test of time.
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25. Plants Vs. Zombies
Tower defense took the gaming world by storm in the late 00’s, but nobody cashed in on the craze on a bigger scale than PopCap Games’ Plants vs. Zombies. PvZ mostly took the same principles from previous games in the genre. A few added perks and game-play mechanics allows the game to stand on its own, but what makes PvZ truly stand out is its character. Instead of using generic-looking foot soldiers and artillery, players could litter their battlefield with Melons that act as cannons, sunflowers that act as clerics, and Cherries that act as bombs (get it?).
The strategic elements put gamers in control of their own infantry, guiding their underdog plants against a horde of the undead. PvZ is endearing and filled with personality, making it an addicting title for all types of gamers.
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A puzzle game designed to test the player’s thinking and counting skills, Minesweeper was a great way to pass time while getting some brain exercise. The most patient (or smartest) players utilized all of the tools the program gave them — planting different colored flags, and tactically counting. But players that liked to live on the edge wasted no time with silly flag-planting and went right into the nitty-gritty. For a majority of us, it’s the closest we’ll ever feel to being a part of the “Bomb Squad.”
There have been countless versions of similar games since, but there’s something about that old-school yellow smiley face putting on a pair of sunglasses after an intensely close victory that kept us coming back for more.
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23. Guild Wars
Fantasy RPG’s have been around since the dawn of gaming, and it seems like every publisher under the sun has attempted their own spin on the classic genre. Although the series kicked off in 2005 with their launch title, we’re primarily focusing on the sequel here. Guild Wars 2 is essentially a modded version of the first title, but the developers, ArenaNet, made the sequel more accessible and enjoyable. Players pick one of the several different professions, customize their avatar, and set off on an epic journey.
ArenaNet hasn’t allowed their game to die out with the most recent expansion releasing worldwide in 2017. The game is now free-to-play, but the countless hours you’ll spend on it are far more valuable than your money.
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22. Oregon Trail
Anybody that took a computer class in grade school remembers the simplistically fun game, The Oregon Trail. Originally intended to be used for educational purposes, producer MECC couldn’t have imagined how big their product would get. Starting a new adventure puts you in charge of a group attempting to traverse through the rigid Oregon Trail. An incredible amount of attention to detail was put into this game, as it attempts to accurately emulate life in the 19th century.
It’s a true simulation, the players party needs to hunt for food and can even fall ill from several diseases. Balancing all of the group’s needs takes up the majority of your time, and before you knew it, real life hours had passed.
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21. Dota 2
Before the battle royale craze came to be, MOBA’s were all the craze in the gaming community. One of the earliest titles in the genre’s library was released in 2003 — Defense of the Ancients. Originally just a mod for the popular game Warcraft III, the original Dota set the stage and precedent for countless MOBA’s that followed, including its eventual sequel. Dota 2 is one of many major successes released by Valve Corporation — the same company that made Halflife, Portal, and Left 4 Dead.
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It appears as if Blizzard can do no wrong, as their first attempt in the card-game world has been a major success. Hearthstone was released in 2014, and remains one of the most popular trading card games on the market.
Contrary to TCG’s like Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering where it’s typically played with physical cards, Hearthstone operates on a purely digital format that allows for a more even playing field among players. There are thousands of different cards to collect, each with their own individual strengths and weaknesses. Being able to select one of nine heroes to lead your squad will give your deck a signature flair to it. Avid players are constantly switching cards in and out, attempting to gain any sort of little advantage they can over future opponents. You could spend hours in the deck builder, concocting unique recipes to try out online.
Allowing gamers the freedom to be creative is a strong sign of a good game, and part of the reason why Hearthstone has over 70 million players worldwide.
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19. The Orange Box
The entire collection is so great, that we decided to do a three-for-one deal and include all of the titles included in The Orange Box. Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2, and Portal are three distinctly different games, but each uniquely awesome in their own way.
Half-Life 2 is one of the most historic first-person shooters of its era. Thrown into a dystopian future in which the world is run by aliens, the player takes control of scientist Gordon Freeman who attempts to restore balance to the fictional City 17. The game earned multiple Game of the Year awards, and fans have been clamoring for a third installment in the series for years.
Team Fortress 2 is a class-based first-person online shooter filled with a ton of personality. Nothing too fancy here, but the game stands out for its eye-pleasing art style and quirky characters.
Portal is a sleek puzzle game that gets increasingly difficult as you progress. Each stage can be solved in different ways, and the added humor and charm from your AI companion, GLaDOS, will keep you enthralled through a short and sweet story. All in all, Valve knocked all three titles out of the park.
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Something has to be said about the one that did it first — and in terms of real-time strategy games, StarCraft was a pioneer. Anybody that devoted a significant amount of time into StarCraft is now an expert at micro management. StarCraft put you in the role of squad commander, responsible for creating a formidable base, developing a strong battalion, and conquering your adversaries.
Players start by picking between one of four species: the human-like Terrans, the insect-like Zerg, the alien-like Protoss, and the god-like Xel’Naga. Each species has distinct strengths and quirks, and picking between them is a matter of preference depending on the user’s style. The original campaign mode is filled with nostalgic tidbits and fascinating lore, but the game truly shines when played online. StarCraft rose the ranks of eSports prominence, and tournaments are still played to this day.
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Overwatch is the brilliant summation of Blizzard artistry with team-based, eSports-friendly, first-person shooter mechanics. Playing is like taking part in your very own version of the Avengers. Each time you load into the game, you’re greeted by a menu in which you have to select a “hero”.
Each hero is classified under a designated role (damage dealer, tank, support, etc.), but characters within each role play completely differently. You can go from a British pilot that wields dual-pistols and can control time, to a Japanese archer that has a pet dragon. Each hero feels unique, and grants an alternate experience to returning players. With a high skill-gap, emphasis on team play, and gorgeous visuals, Overwatch is a must-have in any PC’s library.
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16. Rocket League
One of the few sports games to crack the list, Rocket League has quickly risen in the eSports league as one of the top games from 2015. Matches can be played one-on-one, but Rocket League truly shines when players are divided up into teams of two or three.
Game-play is fairly simple and follows soccer (football) rules – knock the big round ball into your opponent’s goal – but with a unique twist. Instead of controlling some sort of human-like avatar, players move around the field in rocket-powered cars. These cars are customizable, allowing users to pick between several different types of automobiles – including a traditional sports car or a monster truck.
With speed boosts and power-ups littered across the field, each match is a fast-paced battle with plenty of goals and sleek driving skills.
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Sandbox games are inherently addicting experiences. Being able to create, destroy, and rebuild all in a moment’s notice is a mentally pleasing activity for creative minds. MineCraft did the best job of putting all of the tools in the player’s hand, while also providing an enjoyable single-player experience that leaves you craving more. The game branches out into two major modes — survival and creative. In survival mode, players gather resources while avoiding various enemies. In creative, all of the resources are handed to you, and that’s where the fun truly begins. Skilled players have the ability to make breathtaking works of art and architecture from scratch.
Image Source: Minecraft.net
14. 3D Pinball
Every new version of Windows came stocked with a copy of this classic. 3D Pinball was an all-time time-waster, and served as a reasonable introduction towards the direction PC gaming was trending. The rules are simple — it’s a pinball machine after all. Hitting certain spots on the board prompted special missions that would generate extra points. The animations and sounds are pure nostalgia, and the ability to play a round in just a few short minutes gave it that classic feel.
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13. Roller Coaster Tycoon
Be honest, every kid grew up wanting to be in charge of their own theme park. Setting ticket prices, picking food options, and, of course, developing and constructing the rides. Roller Coaster Tycoon put you in charge of all of that, plus more. Gamers could become massive amusement park moguls, developing intricate roller coasters while keeping their consumer base happy. Or, you could send all of your visitors through loops at mach speed and delete parts of your coasters so the carts fly hundreds of feet into the air (the far more fun way to play).
Multiple publishers have handled the series over the years (Hasbro, Infogrames, Atari), but the core principles of each title stay true to today. A quick search of the game on YouTube unveils just how creative players are today. Virtually every real-life theme park has been precisely remade over the years, and the ability to easily change and fix any minor details as time passes has kept gamers interested since the series first released in 1999.
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Making the jump to the home console arena, Microsoft knew they had to kick the Xbox off with a bang. And so they did, releasing a solid debut lineup of games, headlined by the now-classic first-person shooter, Halo: Combat Evolved. Every Xbox owner remembers the first time they played Halo. Endless hours were spent riding around in Warthogs and slicing enemies with energy swords.
However, the original game came out before Xbox Live was a thing, so you needed 15 friends that were willing to link up four Xbox’s locally if you wanted the full multiplayer experience. That wasn’t the case on the PC though, as the Windows version of Halo fully-supported 16-player matches from the time of release. Playing on legendary maps such as Hang ‘Em High and Blood Gulch against randoms online harbored some of the greatest, and earliest online memories of gamers across the world.
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RuneScape succeeded by holding true to one overarching mantra — make the game as accessible as possible. It’s an idea that mobile app developers have used during the recent boon. Making a game free-to-play opens up your audience to players that may have never tried it otherwise. Duly, lowering the graphical requirements allows even the oldest of computer set-ups to run the game smoothly.
RuneScape wasn’t aesthetically gorgeous, but it made up for it by being extraordinarily deep and easy to play. As an MMORPG, it checked all of the boxes. Leveling up was rewarding, trading between players was simple, and there were plenty of sidequests to fill up time. The original might not hold up to today’s graphically-intensive games, but at the time, gamers couldn’t get enough RuneScape.
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The biggest trend in gaming today, Fortnite has been a cultural phenomenon ever since dropping in late 2017. The main game-play follows a traditional battle royale format. Human players (up to 100) drop in from a helicopter onto a virtual map which they traverse for items and power-ups. The goal is to be the last survivor (or in team matches, survivors) by either defeating or avoiding the other players on the map. The map is consistent, meaning that the same general landmarks appear every match.
Players can develop certain strategies to either prioritize or completely avoid more densely populated areas of the land. It’s a simple concept, but Fortnite has done it better than any other game in the genre. Probably most impressively, the developers have been punctual in providing support and updates to the game. The most recent gimmick is the ability to play as Infinity War star villain, Thanos, and wield his famed Infinity Gauntlet. As long as they continue providing a good experience while giving the players what they ask for, Fortnite will be around for a long time.
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We’d be remiss if we made a list of addicting PC games and didn’t give credit to one of the titles that started it all. Thousands of gamers today kicked off their MMORPG career with the launch of EverQuest. Originally released in 1999, the fantasy online role-player was an incredibly ambitious project for its time. Less than a year after its launch, EverQuest had over 200,000 subscribers — a number that more than doubled three years later.
It helped set the bar for subscription-based gaming, a blueprint that has been followed by countless games today. It was incredibly in-depth for its time, and provided an immersive, cooperative experience that helped the game shine when played alongside companions.
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8. Faster Than Light
What Faster Than Light lacks in glitz and glamour, it makes up for in depth and charm. You play as the commander of a ship traversing the deepest areas of space. Campaign is the only mode of play here, and the entire story is meant to be played in only a handful of sittings. The game-play is hectic from the very start, prompting the player with tough choices that have lasting effects on each play-through.
Everything, from the sounds, looks and overall feel — hearkens back to the 80’s. The old-school retro feel with new-age mechanics is a perfect match in the sci-fi genre. The game is able to seamlessly blend simple early mechanics with complex late-game choices to keep the player entertained throughout the story. The overarching tension of the enemy ship on your tail quickens the overall pace, and puts more value into ship management. It’s a perfectly wrapped entry in the gaming world, and an absolute steal at its retail price of $10.
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7. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Although many gamers got their first taste of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas‘ chaotically engrossing environment on Xbox or Playstation 2, it’s actually the PC community that has stood with the title for the longest period of time.
The premise of the game is simple: you take control of CJ, a former gang member that is recently released from prison attempting to get his life in order. Early in the story, CJ gets blackmailed by a pair of crooked cops, leading to his eventual re-entry into the gang world. The game sets the stage early, and allows the players freedom to do what they please from then on.
Gamers can opt to play through an incredibly well-written story with uniquely deep characters voiced-over by some popular celebrities including Samuel L. Jackson, William Fichtner, Ice-T, The Game, and the late Charlie Murphy. If structure and order isn’t for you (or if you’re just frustrated by a certain point in the game), gamers can go on a complete rampage through a beautifully rendered Los Angeles-like city named Los Santos.
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Rather than traditional real-time strategy combat, Civilization tore a page out of the Japanese-style of role-playing games, implementing a turn-based system. In a way, the extra time added as a result of the slower game-play only intensifies each match. Not only does Civilization make you feel like the commander of one of the world’s biggest nations, it also adds a cinematic twist imperative to a great gaming experience.
Like moves on a chess board, each step you take with a unit means something, and could lead to your victory or ultimate downfall. That’s really what the Civilization series is, a beautifully rendered chess game with catapults, samurais, and (if you play long enough) space ships. Multiplayer matches are supported, so you can finally find out which one of your friends is the smartest.
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5. The Sims
The Sims is essentially the most popular real-life simulator in history. Unlike other games, there were no inherent goals. Users created one or more avatars, and essentially directed their everyday life. Activities included making friends, getting a job, getting married, building a house, and having children.
Ultimately, playing The Sims brought out the worst in everyone. After spending a certain amount of time creating the avatars that would inhabit a virtual house, gamers typically spent the following hours torturing their tenants in the crudest ways possible. Making a bathroom with no toilet, forcing sleep deprivation, or getting thrown in jail, the possibilities for torture were truly endless. Deleting the steps leading out of a pool was a personal favorite, as you watch your poor Sim helplessly swim back and forth before deciding all hope is futile.
The series has spawned three sequels and a number of spin-offs, but the first installment in the series stands above the rest. There’s something about the first time you light your Sims’ house on fire that really stuck with us…
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4. Diablo II
The pinnacle of dungeon crawling, Diablo II took loot-lovers on the adventure of a lifetime when it released in 2000. Millions of games have since tried to recreate the model Blizzard set forth with their Diablo series, but nobody has quite hit the mark at the same level. Diablo II set the bar for hack-and-slash games, and revolutionized the genre by rewarding players for their work. Playing online unlocked the full capabilities of this title, as you could join up with friends or strangers to complete tough missions or trade rare items.
Blizzard released the Lord of Destruction expansion pack a year after the original game released. LOD added in a new chapter in the campaign, a bevy of new items, and two new classes to choose from. Both the expansion and original hold up today and can stand shoulder to shoulder with any dungeon crawler currently on the market.
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For plenty of gamers, this was the first taste of an online first-person shooter. Counterstrike laid the groundwork for just about every other shooting game on this list. In its purest form, Counterstrike is a 100-percent skill-based game. It did away with cute gimmicks, and gave each player a small arsenal to defeat their enemies. As a community and game, it is still active and played by many people today. To put that in context, the game was released in 2000. 18 years of addiction is noteworthy.
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2. League of Legends
One venture to the popular gaming website Twitch.tv will give readers a quick-scope into just how big League of Legends has become. Virtually every top-viewed streamer is a professional League player, and the game has been consitently expanding since its realase nearly a decade ago.
Game-play is played on a 5-on-5 scale in which each person (or summoner, as the game refers to you as) controls a character (or champion) with a primary goal to infiltrate their opponents’ base and destroy their nexus. It may seem pretty simple, but when you have over 100 champions each possessing their own unique abilities, it becomes a test of wit and savvy. It’s one of the most popular games on the professional circuit, and hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down.
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1. World of Warcraft
Was there ever a doubt? World of Warcraft‘s addictive nature has reached dangerous levels. Gamers have spent hours, even days, in front of their PC’s grinding through endless hours of loot-collecting, dungeon-crawling awesomeness. It’s the gold standard for MMORPG’s. Quests are rewarding, multiplayer is flawless, and the unique classes and varying items make each additional play-through equally pleasing.
The game itself takes place in Azeroth, the same place the Warcraft strategy games do. When first creating your character, you’re given the option to side with the heroic Alliance or the fiendish Horde. The campaign follows a mostly linear story, but the excitement ramps up once the end-game is reached. Once the character reaches a certain level, raids are made available which allow for even rarer loot.
Form a squad, defeat a boss, earn loot, rinse and repeat. The process creates a deadly cycle, as Blizzard persistently adds new enemies and items to search for. The constant need for upgrading one’s gear has captured the attention of millions of users since the game’s original release in 2004.
Knocking WoW off its totem pole atop PC gaming is a near impossible task.
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