Best PC games of the 90s

The 90s was without a doubt the golden age of PC gaming, one which every 20+ year old can fondly cast their minds back to and recall a solid handful of stand-out titles.

It was a decade characterized by considerable growth and development. The mass acceptance of Windows saw the PC become a primary platform for gaming, and developers began to spring up all over the globe to deliver the kind of titles that still hold a special place in their hearts today.

Below is a list of the top ten PC games of the 90s, according to review score aggregating website Metacritic 

1) Half Life (1998) 96%

Valve’s first person science fiction shooter was initially released by Sierra Studios in 1998. To date it has won 51 PC Game of the Year awards and is generally regarded as one of the greatest games of all time. It carries a Metacritic score of 96 and, without doubt, has shaped the way that first person shooters (FPS) are made.

2) Quake (1996) 94%

The original Quake, which carries a Metacritic score of 94, defined multiplayer and online FPS gaming for years to come. Released by id Software, it also paved the way for a number of advances in 3D rendering and is still arguably the most popular instalment in the Quake franchise.

3) Grim Fandango (1998) 94%

Grim Fandango, developed by Lucas Arts, was the first game to use 3D rendered characters overlaid on a 2D background. Its adventurous puzzle solving plot and layout combined with the cartoonish film-noir feel of the game meant that it gathered positive praise in almost every review.

4) Command and Conquer (1995) 94%

The original Command and Conquer, released in 1995, saw the factions of GDI and NOD battling it out for the ‘tiberium’. It brought modern RTS gaming to the masses and paved the way for the likes of Blizzard and Cavedog to release more 90s RTS classics, such as Warcraft, Starcraft and Total Anihilation. The franchise is still alive and kicking with Electronic Arts recently announcing development of Command and Conquer 4.

5) Diablo (1996) 94%

Blizzard undoubtedly set the tone for RPG gaming in the years to come with Diablo, its mid ninetees dark fantasy themed action role player. Its addictive gameplay and multiple gaming levels and items resulted in the game gathering an enormous following that still thrives today.

6) Civilisation II (1996) 94%

Civilisation II expanded on what strategy gaming could be and advanced the levels and intricacies of units, buildings, upgrades, hit points etc. The franchise is still going strong and has spawned a number of additional titles.

7) Homeworld (1999) 94%

This RTS title, developed by Sierra, carries a Metacritic score of 93 and was praised for its engrossing storyline and impressive three dimensional movements. It spawned a sequel;  Homeworld II, in 2003.

8) Day of the Tentacle (1993) 93%

Day of the Tentacle, which carries a Metacritic score of 93, was released by Lucas Arts in 1993 and adopted one of the first point and click movement systems in gaming. A number of sources have since highlighted it to be one of the best examples of graphical adventure games of the decade.

9) System Shock 2 (1999) 92%

System Shock 2, which was developed by Electronic Arts, carries a Metacritic Score of 92 and employed persistent levels where an item could be dropped on one level and retrieved later. It is also the ‘spiritual predictor’ to Bioshock and has often been cited as one of the greatest role playing FPS titles of all time. It is also cited by many as one of the most terrifying games ever made.

10) Thief: Dark Project (1998) 92%

Thief: Dark Project, published by Eidos Interactive, carries a Metacritic score of 92 and is generally hailed as one of the greatest first person stealth titles ever. It has been credited with influencing modern games such as Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell and Assassin’s Creed. Eidos is currently working on a fourth Thief game.

Shocking Omissions:

Some of the more shocking omissions from Metacritic’s top ten scoring games of the ninetees include the Age of Empires series, the Unreal series, the Fallout series, Starcraft, Duke Nukem 3D, Doom II and Warcraft amongst others.

My Gaming’s Picks:

My Gaming’s most nostalgic games of the decade are Age of Empires, Theme Hospital, Command and Conquer: Red Alert, Total Annihilation, Starcraft, Quest for Glory 5: Dragon Fire, Sim City 2000, Duke Nukem 3D, Carmegeddon, Omikron: The Nomad Soul, Command and Conquer: Tiberium Sun, MDK, Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey and Warcraft II.

Discuss the best PC games of the 90s in the forums

  • Dox

    Tie Fighter my goodness TIE FIGHTER !:)

  • JP

    Warcraft 2, earthworm jim, Ultima 7(pagan) Descent shall i continue…

  • Derp!

    You've got to be kidding, JP. Ultima 7 was The Black Gate, while Pagan was the eighth of the series. How does someone who's played the games make that mistake? That said, if you're suggesting that Ultima 7 — an ahead-of-its-time, spiritual grandfather to all immersive, sandbox RPGs — ought to be on the list: good. If you're talking about Pagan and its Super-Mario-jumping, linear, univerally-panned gameplay: no, don't bother continuing.

  • blargh

    @JP – earthworm jim felt to much like a console port. limited edition and its redbook audio was a nice inclusion but, i'd have <shareware> jazz jackrabbit over earthworm jim for playability any day.

  • Unholier than thou

    Myth II, morons

  • Blackhand

    There were truckloads of great games released in that era, it would be tough to list them all.

    All the games mentioned so far I have fond memories of (except Ultima 8: Pagan, 7 was superb), most of them shaping me into the game junkie that I am today =)

  • fabrulana

    Grim Fandango & Day of the Tentacle is sorely missed… oh Tim Schafer please do another adventure.
    Loved Half Life too, still remember that cinematic start – it was awesome
    Diablo was just plain fun
    I agree on the Oddworld, Starcraft and Carmegeddon (lots of multiplayer fun)
    I miss Daggerfall from that list …

  • Q121

    DIABLO 2!!!!!!

    I agree with half life, was a ground breaking game.

  • Hans

    Star Control 2?

  • Gurumaguaffi

    +1000 for starcon 2!

  • Gurumaguaffi

    C&C Tiberian Sun?!
    Are you serious mygaming? It is universally regarded as the worst game in the C&C series

  • Tom

    Don't judge me, let's put it down to youthful notalgia:)

  • RoosTa

    3) Grim Fandango (1998) 94%

    Grim Fandango, developed by Lucas Arts, was the first game to use 3D rendered characters overlaid on a 2D background.
    This is not the case, Alone in the Dark (1992) already used that technique long before.

    I think this was a miss-print from Wikipedia: "It is the first adventure game by LucasArts to use 3D computer graphics overlaid on pre-rendered 2D backgrounds."

  • Gurumaguaffi

    best of the 90s for me:
    star control 2
    dungeon keeper
    Grim Fandango
    Day of the Tentacle
    Monkey Island 2
    Full Throttle
    Indiana Jones and the fate of Atlantis
    Monkey Island 1
    Kings Quest 6

  • dudu73

    Thief:the Dark Project is the most badass stealth game ever!!!!

  • dar

    dont forget MDK!

  • very wise person says:

    lick my nuts my salty crackin nuts!

  • GhostMagic

    +1 for TIE Fighter, my all time favorite game, why it hasn't been remade is beyond me.

  • Windreaver

    Yeah, shocking that no BlackIsle or Bioware game made it onto the list. Any one of Planescape Torment, Fallout 2 or Baldur’s Gate should have made it.

    And I also vote for Tie Fighter, Starcraft, Red Alert, Half-life and Unreal (which was absolutely groundbreaking), either of Riven or Myth, and of course UFO/XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

  • wo0two0t1

    Boldurs Gate, StarCraft and Red Alert all should have made the list in my opinion.

  • Sou1Co11ector

    Baldurs Gate, most definately

  • Wurnman

    erm… and Tomb Raider? and oh Wing Commander
    The worst part is this is a really old article that i am commenting on

  • ChevronZa

    Tim Schafer is busy with Broken Age now. It’s on Steam.

  • Whoever

    XCom Enemy Unknown (Microprose)! Come on…
    Full Throttle, The Dig (LucasArts), Sam & Max, Monkey Island
    Command & Conquer Tiberian something (NOD vs. GDI, the first one, with commandos lol), and finally, Total Annihilation