The PC has stood out throughout the years for its rich abundance of games, something that has only accelerated through the years thanks to download services like Steam and Origin.
We're a diverse bunch here at TechRadar and a list of favorites was never going repeat titles. Hitting our rundown is every type of game out there — from the massive arenas of Team Fortress 2 to the sprawling metropolises of Sim City, the random slapdash mayhem of Worms and a bit of Star Wars thrown in for good measure.
So buckle in and get ready to be taken on a discovery of PC gaming through the eyes of our motley crew of writers and editors.
Welcome to TechRadar's 3rd annual PC Gaming Week, celebrating the almighty gaming PC with in-depth interviews, previews, reviews and features all about one of the TechRadar team’s favorite pastimes. Missed a day? Check out our constantly updated hub article for all of the coverage in one place.
Command & Conquer
Command & Conquer is probably the PC game I have played the most over the years, with its alternative Cold War followup Red Alert a close second. Playing local multiplayer using a null cable connected to my two PCs against a school friend from down the road will always be one of my favourite PC gaming memories. Especially the times I won.
Super Monday Night Combat is a name most people don’t remember, but it was a third-person MoBA ahead of its time. Equal parts bizarre and polished, it was a blast playing as a ninja versus a talking gorilla, and thanks to some witty banter from the announcers it had a unique style of its own.
Few PC role-playing games from the ’90s nailed the scope, fun mechanics and breadth of choice inspired by the Dungeons and Dragons tabletop game series than Baldur’s Gate. Sure, having access to the D&D license helped a little (OK, a lot). But regardless, few RPG adventures stand up to hours I’ve spent exploring the world of Baldur’s Gate, its inhabitants and the consequences of my actions therein.
Age of Empires II
Fancy yourself as a desktop Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan? Computer gaming tacticians since the turn of the millennium have settled down for a session with Age of Empires II.
For me, it's the purest RTS out there, with excellent balancing between civilizations, a wonderful art style and a great mix of city building, resource management and unit-rushing combat. Plus, if your mum and dad popped in to ask why you'd not stepped away from the computer in three days, its historical setting meant you could legitimately (if vaguely) talk up its educational value, too!
If you've never enjoyed the delights of Age of Empires II, a simple recent HD remaster rerelease of the game makes it look lovely on modern systems, adding high-resolution options without overly tweaking the core look of the game. It's just as fun today as it was back in 1999.
Team Fortress 2
When it comes to online first person shooters Counter Strike may rule the roost, but for me Team Fortress 2 was always Valve’s best competitive shooter. Its nine classes might be almost perfectly balanced after nearly a decade of tweaks and updates, but the simple brilliance of the game type ‘Payload’ is what’s kept me coming back to TF2 time and time again.
While other online shooters will see players scouring the map just trying to find something to kill, payload keeps the action focused around a single (albeit moving) point. You gain little by hiding away in a corner with a sniper rifle or camping a spawn point, and this keeps games dynamic and fun, even with a smaller amount of players in a larger map.
Yes it sucks when everyone wants to play as a Spy, and yes TF2 has become almost unbearably bloated with additional content, but that hasn’t stopped the core game from remaining infinitely playable.
My PC gaming experience has never been about high power, more playability. Which is why I adored Worms in all its forms, from Worms 2 (although I was allowed to play Worms 1 on a friend’s computer once) to Worms Armageddon, I couldn’t get enough. In fact, I played the demo version of Armageddon for about a year before realising I could just save up and buy it.
It was the simplicity and the nuanced levels that got me, that you could be a lone worm and with a few judicious drills and girders could destroy the stupid computer team. There’s nothing more satisfying than inching over a map for 28 seconds and poking your last enemy off the cliff.
My first ever computer game was Sim City. I remember the box it arrived in, an old fashioned TV made up the artwork and the sheer excitement of popping in the floppy disk and booting it up for the first time was incredible. It had moving cars (read: tiny white rectangles), awesome disasters and those graphics… well, I was in love.
I thought long and hard about Counter-Strike but, in the end, I had to plump for the game that spawned the mod, Valve’s Half-Life. From the mono-rail intro to the jokes and characterisation, via some of the greatest scripted events to grace the world of game and the famous crowbar, the first adventure of Gordon Freeman remains a bona fide classic.
I still rank the moment that you finally catch up with the ‘rescuer’ soldiers and they try to kill you as one of the most brilliantly realised early-game twists of all time. Counter-Strike, Steam, the Grav Gun, Portal and virtually every first person shooter since owe a debt to the original Half-Life, so I do as well.
I loved everything about Deus Ex. The dark tone, the massively interactive world, the guns, the trenchcoats, the silly accents, and even the creeping-about stealth bollocks that I usually find tedious beyond belief. I even loved the fact that when you sniped someone from a dark corner, his mates would run around furiously in little circles for about 2 minutes, a bit like they were moshing.
Then they’d stop and resume patrolling as if nothing had ever happened, even going so far as to step over the corpse of their dead colleague as they continued their rounds. And the ending! How much more bleak could you get than choosing between plunging the world into tyranny, anarchy or a new dark age? None more bleak. Sorry, spoilers there.
I’d hate to count up the hours of my life I have sunk into Counter-Strike: Source. CS: Source didn’t need a story, it didn’t need new maps, it didn’t need to be renewed each year like CoD. It just needed the simple yet near on perfect gunplay with a continuous loop of game rounds to keep me glued to the screen for hours on end. That alongside a massive mod community creating all new game modes kept me addicted for years and as I write this I’m starting to wonder why I even stopped.
Fade To Black
I was pretty much a console gamer from the beginning but when I did play PC games I always loved something that would push the envelope with graphics – for me in the 90s this meant Fade To Black. I lost hours in that game. Granted it wasn’t as good as its predecessor, Flashback, but it was my first steps into the world of third-person gaming, something that has stayed with me ever since.
Peter Molyneux may like to fluff up his projects, but The Movies deserved the hype. It’s a Hollywood studio simulator where I had a blast spending my time sifting through the local (not talented) talent for my next movie masterpiece and recording voiceovers for my interpretation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
I always was and still am a huge lover of shooters so it was hard for me to not choose one of the FPS games I played on PC when growing up; Wolfenstein 3D, Doom II, Dark Forces, Project IGI, Soldier of Fortune, Operation Flashpoint, Half-Life… I could go on. But the game that will always have a place in my heart above all others is Lucas Arts’ adventure classic Grim Fandango.
To this day it remains the hardest game I’ve ever played – I’d sometimes play for a whole evening without getting anywhere at all. The controls were truly appalling. In places it was infuriating. But those characters, that humour, those amazing locations, that script. Grim Fandango was one of a kind, and with the recent remaster, if you’ve never played it you no longer have an excuse!
While great games like Warcraft, Half-Life and Diablo could hold my attention for hours at a time, it wasn’t until I played The Sims that I truly lost days of my life staring at the warm glow of my CRT monitor. Curmudgeons write the series off as a waste of time or, worse, a game only girls play.
The beauty of The Sims franchise, in my mind at least, is its ability to appeal to either gender equally, and enrapture anyone from age nine to 99 with the simple act of living the life you’ve always wanted. Will Wright’s creation went on to be one of the highest grossing PC games of all time and inspired millions of gamers around the world to appreciate simplicity and out-of-the-box thinking in game design.
I’m going to shout out to the local Aussie indie dev scene and celebrate the awesomeness of ScreenCheat. The result of a GameJam event in Melbourne, Screencheat captures those amazing four-player split-screen battles from the days of GoldenEye, and pops them into a ridiculously bright, happy setting. The catch is that you, and all your rivals, are invisible, and you need to “cheat” to work out where they are. It’s also the only game where you can “Windows Vista” another player, which is worth the price of admission on its own.
It’s the only PC Game I’ve ever played and offered me hours of relief from all the extra-curricular homework my pops set me to do on my ancient computer.
I loved the simplicity of the game and genuinely got a thrill from hitting my opponent with that banana.
With great sound effects it also needed a little brain work.
It was a difficult decision trying to choose between Wolfenstein and Doom, but I think the prize has to go to Doom. When you learn that the creative team were originally planning on making a game of the 20th Century Fox film Aliens, it suddenly makes sense of all the organic walls, high calibre weaponry, and inescapable screaming terror.
Aliens is one of my favourite films, but in a way I’m glad that Doom ended up going in a different direction. It meant they had so much more room to create the unforgettable world they achieved with the finished product. Doom felt wrong to be playing it, it was too violent, too scary, too exhilarating.