While you may think that the best games ever made are currently being churned out right now by the video game companies, you couldn’t be more wrong. While there are some great titles out there today, many of them can’t even begin to compare to some of the best classic PC games that were created back in the days when the PC was still young. These games help developers not only define an era of PC gaming but also served as the inspiration for many of the most popular gaming franchises you will find today and best of all, they can be played on even the most basic of gaming laptops.
Today, we take a look at 15 of the best classic PC games you should play so you can learn where PC gaming came from and enjoy everything that the classic era had to offer gamers. I think you will find many of these titles to be every bit as engaging today as they were in their time and you may even find that you like some of these originals better than their more modern versions and counterparts currently on the market.
1. Wolfenstein 3D
You can’t talk about classic games without talking about Wolfenstein. The first of its kind, without Wolfenstein 3D first person shooters wouldn’t be what they are today. Wolfenstein is the game that created the first person shooter genre and its Nazi backdrop was an instant hit for fans of the series. While there is a lack of a Z-axis in this game, you can still run through many different dungeons and even find some fan-made levels that can keep you playing for hours on end.
After the success of Wolfenstein 3D, id Software took it up another notch with their Doom series. This game pits you against a huge assortment of monsters and is quite graphic compared to Wolfenstein 3D. The company made waves back in the 90s with its graphic content showing monsters cut apart and blood everywhere. Who knew that this game would one day be tame in the graphics department.
3. Oregon Trail
One of the oldest games on our list, this game was one of the most unforgiving games ever played. It was designed originally to be a teaching aid to help students learn how difficult life as in the pioneer days, but it found a much larger audience in the gaming world and today even has what I would call a cult following. Anyone who has played it will remember this, “You have died of dysentery!”
4. Prince of Persia
In one of the most impressive games of the classic era, Prince of Persia offered surprisingly realistic controls over your character that allowed you to walk, run, climb, crouch and more. You race against the clock to escape your prison and rescue the princess in this timed adventure that is designed to only last for one hour. Of course, how many of you just played it for one hour? I know I spent hours finding the best routes and bonuses throughout the entire game.
5. Secret of Monkey Island
In addition to classic Star Wars games, LucasArts also created several different point and click adventure games that have stood the test of time and are still great plays even today. Secret of Monkey Island was created and based on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney and focused on exploration and gameplay much more than just keeping your character alive as in the Quest line of games. It was praised for its humor, visuals and gameplay and has stood the test of time as one of the very best point and click adventure games ever released for the PC.
6. SimCity 2000
This is perhaps the best city builder of all time. Sure it lacks some of the multi-city cooperation options found in later titles, but if you set it side by side against the most recent SimCity title, the classic SimCity 2000 would win every time. If you have never played it but love city building games, then I would suggest you pick this one up and see how much it can be. You will also learn a little about where this genre of games came from.
7. Command & Conquer
The Command & Conquer series is one of the most beloved real time strategy franchises of all time. Take command of tanks, soldiers and even fighter jets as you try to defeat your enemies and win the day. Today, if you want to try it, EA makes it easy with a package that contains all 17, yes I said 17, games that you can install and enjoy for hours on end.
8. Star Wars: Xwing/Tie Fighter
Space sims are hands down one of the best times you will ever have on your laptop, and playing a space sim that is Star Wars themed simply can’t be beat. When these titles reached the market, for the first time Star Wars fans could take control of their favorite ship and blast their enemies from space. Tie Fighter, my personal favorite, gave players a chance to play “the bad guys” as you took control of the iconic Tie Fighter ships in an attempt to wipe rebels out of existence.
9. Sid Meier’s Civilization II
At one time turn based strategy games were all the rage, and this popularity was created by one man – Sid Meier. His Civilization games altered gaming as we know it and created one of the most successful gaming franchises of all time. Civilization II, brought the gameplay to a whole new level and even offered a chance for gamers to mod their experience and even play online against each other. For many, this was the title to get and is a far better experience than any other title before or since.
10. King’s Quest
Nothing says the 90s like Sierra’s King’s Quest series of games. One thing all of these games have in common is the developers love of killing your character. You will never play a more fragile hero in any game but at the same time watching your character die has never been more fun. When I played them, half the fun was figuring out different ways to kill off your hero. Of course, if death isn’t your thing, you could always figure out how to be the hero and save the day.
11. Duke Nukem 3D
Duke Nukem 3D pretty much sums up the world of first person shooters in the 90’s. It’s loud, fast and filled with explosions. The Duke Nukem series of games rose to become very popular back in its day and this first “3D” line featuring our favorite, yet annoying character, quickly became quite popular especially among the growing player base of FPS fans.
12. Space Quest
Another line of games from Sierra, these titles take you on a similar adventure as the King’s Quest line of games only they are set in a more comic sci-fi setting. Originally released in the late 80s, these games would go on to be one of the defining titles of early PC gaming alongside other greats like King’s Quest and some of the earliest real time strategy games. If you enjoy adventure in a sci fi setting, these are the games for you.
13. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans
The game that started it all, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans was the first in what would become an enormous franchise for Blizzard capped off by the widely popular World of Warcraft. This version, however, is a real time strategy game that will introduce you to the world of Azeroth and begin to build the huge backstory that you can find in World of Warcraft. If you are a WoW fan, I recommend playing all of the Warcraft games so you can learn more about the lore surrounding the franchise and even live through some of the iconic battles that are referred to in the hugely successful MMO.
I almost didn’t put StarCraft on the list, but not because it’s not worth playing, but because there was no need to remind everyone. It took Blizzard over a decade to release a sequel to this game, and they still had a huge array of players enjoying the game every day. StarCraft is much like other real time strategy games created by Blizzard and it will feel very familiar. It’s still a worthy game to play, however, as it offers a degree of difficulty that can only be found in classic games that gives you a true sense of accomplishment once you complete the game.
15. Full Throttle
Yet another point and click adventure game made by LucasArts, Full Throttle places you in the year 2040 as the leader of a biker gang. The point and click adventure style of the game along with a unique graphic style and story helped propel this little game featuring Mark Hamill in a voice acting role to becoming one of the bigger hits of the mid 90s.
This is only a small sample of some of the best games ever made for the PC back in what I refer to as the classic era. Do you agree with our list? If you think there is a game that should make this list but didn’t, drop us a line in the comments and let us know what you think some of the best classic games of all time were and maybe, just maybe, we will start a part 2 to this list.
Until then, we hope you enjoyed this list and if you need help running some of these older games, stayed tuned to LaptopNinja as we will soon feature a new guide on how to run some of these classic, older games on modern laptops.