If you might believe that the greatest games ever made are currently being produced by video game developers, you could not be more mistaken. Although there are some excellent titles available today, many of them pale in comparison to some of the best classic PC games made when the PC was still in its infancy. These games not only helped developers define an era of PC gaming, but they also served as inspiration for many of today’s most famous gaming franchises, and best of all, they can be played on even the most basic of gaming laptops.
Today, we look at 15 of the best retro PC games you can play so you can learn about the history of PC gaming and appreciate all the classic period had to offer gamers. I believe you will find many of these titles to be just as entertaining today as they were back then, and you might even find that you prefer some of these originals to their more recent iterations and equivalents currently available on the market.
- Wolfenstein 3DWolfenstein is unavoidable when discussing classic games. Without Wolfenstein 3D first-person shooters, they will not be what they are today. Wolfenstein is the game that popularized the first-person shooter genre, and its Nazi setting was an immediate success with series fans. Despite the lack of a Z-axis in this title, you can still run through a variety of dungeons and even find some fan-made levels that will keep you entertained for hours.
- Oregon Trail
This game, one of the oldest on our list, was one of the most unforgiving games ever played. It was initially intended to be an educational tool to help students learn about the hardships of pioneer life, but it quickly found a much wider audience in the gaming community, and it now has what I would term a cult following. Anyone who has played it will recall the line, “You have died of dysentery!”
- Prince of Persia
Prince of Persia, one of the most impressive games of the classic period, provided remarkably realistic controls over your character, allowing you to walk, run, climb, crouch, and more. In this one-hour timed adventure, you must escape your prison and save the princess while racing against the clock. Of course, how many of you just played for an hour? I know I spent hours searching for the best routes and bonuses in the game.
- Secret of Monkey Island
In addition to classic Star Wars games, LucasArts developed a number of point-and-click adventure games that have withstood the test of time and are still enjoyable to play today. Secret of Monkey Island was influenced by Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride and focuses on discovery and gameplay rather than only holding the character alive, as in the Quest series of games. It was lauded for its wit, graphics, and gameplay, and it has stood the test of time as one of the best point-and-click adventure games ever released for the PC.
- Sid Meier’s Civilization II
Turn-based strategy games were commonplace once upon a time, and one man was responsible for this rise in popularity: Sid Meier. His Civilization games revolutionised gaming and spawned one of the most popular gaming franchises of all time. Civilization II took gaming to a whole new stage, allowing players to customise their experience and even compete against one another online. This was the title to get for many, and it is a much better experience than any other title before or since.
- King’s Quest
Sierra’s King’s Quest game series epitomises the 1990s. Both of these games have one thing in common: the developers enjoy killing your character. You’ll never play a more frail hero in any game, but watching your character die has never been more exciting. Half the fun of playing them was finding out different ways to kill off your hero. Of course, if death isn’t your thing, you could still play the hero and save the day.
- Duke Nukem 3D
Duke Nukem 3D encapsulates the world of first-person shooters in the 1990s. It’s short, noisy, and full of explosions. Back in the day, the Duke Nukem series of games was quite popular, and this first “3D” line featuring our favourite, but irritating, character quickly became very popular, particularly among the growing player base of FPS fans.
- Space Quest
Another Sierra game series, these titles take you on a similar adventure as the King’s Quest series, but in a more comic sci-fi world. Originally published in the late 1980s, these games would go on to become one of the defining titles of early PC gaming, alongside other classics such as King’s Quest and some of the first real-time strategy games. These are the games for you if you like an adventure in a sci-fi world.
- Warcraft: Orcs & Humans
Warcraft: Orcs & Humans was the first game in what would become a massive franchise for Blizzard, topped off by the massively successful World of Warcraft. This version, on the other hand, is a real-time strategy game that will introduce you to the world of Azeroth and begin to flesh out the massive backstory found in World of Warcraft. If you’re a fan of World of Warcraft, I recommend playing all of the Warcraft games to learn more about the franchise’s lore and even live through some of the iconic battles mentioned in the massively popular MMO.
- Star Wars: Xwing/Tie Fighter
Space sims are hands down one of the best times you can ever have on your screen, and playing a Star Wars-inspired space sim is absolutely unbeatable. As these games hit the market, Star Wars fans were able to take command of their favourite ship and blast their enemies from space for the first time. Tie Fighter, my personal favourite, allowed players to play as “the bad guys,” taking control of the famous Tie Fighter ships in an effort to exterminate rebels.
- Command & Conquer
One of the most successful real-time strategy franchises of all time is the Command & Conquer series. Take charge of tanks, troops, and even fighter jets as you attempt to beat your rivals and win the day. Today, if you want to give it a shot, EA makes it simple with a kit that includes all 17, yes, 17, games that you can instal and play for hours on end.
The Best SEGA Mega Drive Games
- SimCity 2000
This is maybe the greatest city builder of all time. Sure, it lacks some of the multi-city collaboration options found in later games, but when compared to the most recent SimCity title, the classic SimCity 2000 wins every time. If you’ve never played it but enjoy city-building games, I recommend you pick it up and see how much fun it can be. You’ll also hear a little bit about the origins of this game genre.
Following the success of Wolfenstein 3D, id Software took it to the next level with their Doom series. This game pits you against a slew of monsters and is much more visually appealing than Wolfenstein 3D. Back in the 1990s, the company made a name for itself for its gritty material, which depicted creatures being torn apart and blood everywhere. Who knew this game would become so tame in terms of graphics?
I almost didn’t include StarCraft on the list, not because it isn’t worth playing, but because there was no need to remind anyone. Blizzard took over a decade to release a sequel to this game, and they still have a large number of players who play it every day. StarCraft is similar to Blizzard’s other real-time strategy games, and it will feel really familiar. It is still a worthwhile game to play, however, since it provides a level of difficulty found only in classic games, giving you a true sense of achievement after you complete the game.
- Full Throttle
Full Throttle, another LucasArts point-and-click adventure game, places you in the year 2040 as the leader of a biker gang. The game’s point-and-click adventure style, as well as its distinctive visual style and plot, helped propel this small game starring Mark Hamill in a voice acting role to become one of the mid-90s’ biggest hits.