games / Columns

The 8 Ball 4.30.13: Top 8 Slightly Old PC Games

April 30, 2013 | Posted by Marc Morrison

Welcome to another edition of The 8 Ball. Last week I said how the topic was going to be “Top 8 PC games from 2005 till now”, but frankly, I came up with about 40 games for that alone, and I needed to be more specific. So I chose to do it from 2005 to 2009, cutting out 2010 (which would’ve included Mass Effect 2), and 2004 (which would’ve included WoW). I tried to only pick really PC-centric games, either games that solely exist on the platform, or benefit best on the platform. Or else games that originally came out on PC, then were ported to everything else. With that said, let’s begin:

8. League of Legends (2009)

I’ll be honest, this is a game I’ve yet to play still, and likely never will. The community/people who play scare me beyond belief. *They* are who WoW-obsessed people make fun of, for having no social life. That should tell you all there is, really. Still, considering how the game is exponentially more popular since its release, becoming one of the most popular games to be played on the PC platform. While I detest their “Refer a Friend” program, thinking it’s just a pyramid scheme to trap people in; the game is beloved by some. I would say more about the game, but I’m afraid of some insane LoL fan showing up at my house one day wielding a meat cleaver, it is still a seminal game in PC history, even if I have no desire to play it.

7. Red Alert 3 (2008)

When you come down to it, there’s not a lot differentiating Red Alert 3 and C&C 3. Both games have similar strategy mechanics, visual cues, both games even run on the same game engine (SAGE), albeit with some upgrades with RA3. I think the reason I enjoy RA3 more though is because it doesn’t take itself nearly as serious as C&C3 did. Even though C&C3 had Kane, the game felt like a very dour affair, with not a lot of interesting characters. Red Alert 3 was chalked full of them, and had the faction system done right. The Japanese faction was a ton of fun to play, with most of the units being able to transform for different situations. Plus, the game had Gemma Atkinson and Autumn Reeser in it, so that makes it good, by default.

6. Fallout 3 (2008)

Fallout 3 was a multi-platform game, but “Come on”, it’s a PC game. Just like all of Bethesda games really are. Fallout 3 really blew people away when it came out, coming somewhat out of left field from Bethesda but hitting big. Above all else, Fallout 3 was just perfectly fun to play and explore. More than any other Bethesda game, it is the game I will always come back to just to see what new things I can find in the world. It’s not a perfect game, the technical issues make it a bit “odd”, but the almost infinite amount of replayability with the mod system means you could easily spend hundreds of hours of trying other people’s work.

5. Plants vs. Zombies (2009)

This game has been ported to damn near everything under the sun. I’m sure if I still had my Tiger system, Popcap would be making it for that as well. The reason is, because it’s just the perfect distillation of the tower defense genre. It isn’t too challenging at first, but ramps up insidiously to become very difficult and complex. The cartoony art style lends itself very well to the game, letting you know that it’s all in good fun. I have friends now, 4 years later who own the game on at least 4 or 5 different platforms and play it on all of them. We all can only hope that Plants Vs. Zombies 2 lives up to its predecessor.

4. Torchlight (2009)

Honestly, it’s a bit shocking that it took 8 years for there to be a really good Diablo 2 follow-up. Others did come but they mostly went, with not bringing the right mix of combat, dungeon exploration, and level progression that Diablo 2 had. Well, Torchlight had it in spades, and was superb in reminding people about the dungeon-crawler genre. It does copy a *lot* of the Diablo 2 trappings, but the small upgrades it makes, with the classes, and having the pet being able to sell your gear, made it more enjoyable to me. This Torchlight vs. Diablo debate was brought to the forefront in 2012 when sequels to both games came out, with Diablo 3 (obviously) looking better, but Torchlight 2 being a much better game overall. Like with Fallout, the mod scene helped Torchlight’s replay factor a great deal, by extending it out to years after the original game came out. Torchlight 2 is well on that way already.

3. Dawn of War 2 (2007)

Dawn of War 2 remains my favorite RTS game of all time, period. It has an ingenious mix of cover-based warfare, and incredibly small army sizes. At most, you’re only ever controlling 4 different units in a given story match, but each has their own specialty, with Cyrus being a good sniper/scout, Avitus being the heavy-weapons specialist, or Thaddeus having a jump-pack equipped for getting in and out of situations. You equip your units with gear found on the battleground as you take down various Orks, Eldar and Tyranid foes. It is still the best type of strategy game on the market, and if Liana and I do a more recent PC gaming list, expect DoW 2: Retribution to rank fairly high on it.

2. Audiosurf (2007)

Audiosurf really ignited for me the music genre, at least for me. Other games had come out for console systems, and some made their way to PC’s but it wasn’t done especially well. Audiosurf made the superb move of letting you use your own music with the game. It gives the game damn near infinite replayability since you can just use whatever music you want. Add to this that every song has a leaderboard, so you can compete against your friends, or against the world, extends the game’s life out even more. The gameplay is deceptively simple, just picking up different colored notes and matching them together, but the difficulty is all in line with the music.

1. The Orange Box (2007)

This is technically a “cheat” since Valve packed 5 games into one thing, but I don’t care. I honestly couldn’t give a damn about 3 of the games in this package (Half Life 2, Episode 1 and Episode 2). Really, it’s all about Portal, and Team Fortress 2 with me. Portal broke some new ground (that Prey briefly touched upon) by making you really question orientation and how levels are laid out. Plus the twist of having GlaDOS going crazy was executed nicely. It was a unique experience that few games have dared to even approach. Team Fortress 2 on the other hand was an upgrade to the classic Team Fortress game with an insane new art style. Over the years Valve has supported/experimented with TF2, giving you different weapons, a crafting system, an in-game store, holiday events, and new play modes. Even with TF2 being free to play now, the Orange Box is still an incredible bargain on Steam.

The Better Half


Note: I somewhat changed this topic before Liana wrote her column up. So it is a little different from mine, but she didn’t have enough time to change it, and it’s still valid in her thoughts. Enjoy

I learned something about myself this week. I learned that my gaming habits shifted radically around the year 2000, the year the Playstation 2 came out. Throughout the 90s, I was a PC diehard. Then video card compatibility issues drove me to consoles. I remember the game that was the last straw, too. Vampire: The Masquerade — Redemption. Ran properly on maybe six video cards on the whole planet, none of which I had.

So when Marc said the topic was “Top 8 PC games post 2005”, my selection was really limited. Sure, I could have included World of Warcraft and The Sims 3 just for their cultural significance, but that felt cheap somehow. I want these lists to reflect what I personally enjoy, because otherwise we could just publish sales charts, and I could spend my time doing cosplay galleries. Actually, that might bring in more traffic. Anyway, here’s my list! Enjoy! Or don’t enjoy! If you don’t enjoy, get drunk or something, because life is too short to not be happy!

8: Portal/Portal 2 — The first time I played Portal, it was the Playstation version and I found the second last-level infuriating because of console gamepad controls. While Valve released a console version of these games to make gobs of money, playing Portal games on anything but a PC is far from the ideal experience. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s not even the same game on consoles, so I just pretend that those versions don’t exist! This should probably be higher on this list, but in Portal everything is relative, so think of this as the blue portal. The orange one can be in the number one spot if you want.

7: Fallout: New Vegas — Long games are more enjoyable for me on PC than on console. You’ll notice that factors into a lot of the entries on this list. Hot keys just make things so much simpler with complicated RPG control systems. I gave the nod to Fallout: New Vegas instead of Fallout 3 because I felt that the tone of Vegas was more in tune with the classic Interplay Fallout games… okay I also played Fallout 3 on Xbox and I think that was part of the reason I wasn’t as big on it. Big Bethesda games like this really stress out consoles, and even my mid-range gaming PC provided a far better experience than Xbox or Playstation.

6: Papo & Yo — I absolutely adored the PS3 version, but the PC version is now, I believe, the definitive one. The graphics are better, bugs are fixed, and there’s a wider range of facial expressions, causing some of the cut scenes with the kids to take on more nuance. I thought the original version was pretty well-tuned to the PS3 control scheme, but if you haven’t played it yet, I’d recommend the PC version, mainly because it really does just look noticeably better, and the game is short, so it doesn’t take up a lot of hard drive space. I’m a big supporter of this game because it shows how indie games can innovate with storytelling choices and emotional depth, not just quirky gameplay. I have to give credit to Playstation for supporting this game, but I’m very glad to see if available to a wider audience.

5: The Walking Dead — I think that this game was one of the most pleasant surprises of recent gaming history. While Telltale had done some cute stuff before this episodic point-and-click adventure, The Walking Dead was a quantum leap forward for the company. While it was available on consoles, I got it for the PC, partially because of a Steam sale, but also… well… because it’s a freaking point-and-click game!

4: Mass Effect 3 — This game just looked and performed so much better on my PC than on consoles, most notably with skin textures. The only downsides were that the driver update was kind of unstable at first, and very few people I knew played ME3 on PC, leaving me out of the multiplayer experience. Still, I don’t regret choosing to go with the PC version, because I like having hotkeys for the biotics, and a mouse for aiming.

3: Warlock: Master of the Arcane — The first of two turn-based strategy games on this list is a title I discovered through the review pool at another website I write for, and I ranked it at number 3 because it is a PC exclusive game. While I recognize that there are some issues with Warlock, the sheer fun of a Civ-style game with sword and sorcery characters and a focus on open warfare carries it through the rough patches. It’s also one of the best values for your money in terms of play hours, since TbS games lend themselves to replayability. The ability to stomp your opponents with goblins, skeletons and other monsters is just way too much fun.

2: Civilization V — This is another game I spent hundreds of hours on according to my no good gossiping Steam profile. While not my personal favorite of the series — that would be Civ II — Civ V was just so darned perty. Sure, it seemed like it created a step back in exchange for every legitimate improvement, but I still thought that it was a wonderful way to present history and civics to students and I’d love to see it incorporated into classrooms. I’d also love to see Alpha Centuri come back in this format, because man I loved that game.

1: Dragon Age: Origins — Five HUNDRED hours of my life, okay? I talked about this last week, but seriously, I am obsessed. There is no way I would have put that much time into this game on console simply because of the arthritis it would cause in my index fingers.

Epic RPGs belong on the PC. Dragon Age: Origins gave a nod to that by including an extremely useful feature on the tab key that highlights important items in the environments. Of course, my utopia was short-lived and the bloody awful dialogue wheel infected Thedas in Dragon Age II onward. I know, I know why they did it, just…. grrrrr, consoles are using blood magic on my game! But I suppose that freedom needs to override my own personal comfort. What’s that, Lady Pounce-A-Bunch? You’re going to go pee in the dialogue wheel’s plants?! But they’ll start suspecting you’re a pride demon again! … Um, I’m doing it again, Monkey. You gotta cut down on my lyrium doses. Wait… what do you MEAN lyrium’s not real?! Does this mean I’ve been chugging Blue Curacao and being a run-of-the-mill crazy cat lady this whole time?! Next thing you’re going to tell me is that swooping is not bad! No matter what, Dragon Age is still good.

Complainer’s Corner

Well, I’m sure everyone will have a ton of games for this, but the two games that jumped immediately to mind were BioShock and Dragon Age. Dragon Age will likely be on Liana’s list (if not the top spot), and actually, BioShock on all platforms handled itself fairly well. But feel free to leave a comment about what games you would’ve put down.

The General Roundup

A few of the comments from last week piqued my interest. For the Parasite Eve guy, I thought you had to either climb up the stage, or run to the side of it, so you could get up some stairs? But I’m not sure, it’s been over a decade (at least) since I played it last. Vince? You should always feel shame for owning a copy of BMX XXX. I liked THPS2X, but Halo 1 was obviously a much better game. The fact that someone actually disagreed with this, means people are crazy. I’ll agree that Goldeneye was the “first” console FPS to actually be good, and it was probably one of the best N64 games of all time. That said, the N64 controller wasn’t a great controller. Having to move around with the C buttons and aim with the R button/analog stick is WEIRD. Goldeneye is a masterpiece, but its bit too awkward to go back to now for most people.

Next Issue

Top 8 XBLA Games


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Marc Morrison
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