July 30th, 2010
Face it, fellow PC gamers. Our world has changed. Although epic fantasy, shooter, and racing games still play a large role, the following mean more to the mouse and keyboard today than Doom and Ultima ever did.
1. Warcraft (i.e. “World of”)
The biggest PC game in the world also happens to be the one most like its predecessors. World of Warcraft is a role-playing game—the platform’s most persistent genre. And it looks like something you would expect from a Tolkien novel (i.e. “Night Elf Mohawks”). But the real reason World of Warcraft is the biggest PC franchise? It’s more social than most, with more than 12 million people connecting via voice chat and text. So while other plebeians update their Facebook, PC players raid with their friends... for the horde!!!
My mom has enjoyed only two video games in her life: Pac-Man and Farmville. Yup, it took 30 years of game design before she was hooked again. Granted, Farmville likely doesn’t appeal to savvy “Hot Story” readers such as yourself. And it’s not what critics would consider a traditional video game by any means. But it’s played by more than 50 million people in several minute spurts. And its follow-up, Mafia Wars, is almost as big.
3. Call of Duty
The first three Call of Duty games were solid. But it wasn’t until 2007’s Modern Warfare that the series went postal in a big, big way. Nowadays, it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t played (or at least heard of) the game. Indeed, “everybody’s doin’ it.” World at War is doin’ it. Nazis and Zombies are doin’ it. And Modern Warfare 2 is certainly doin’. And having seen the upcoming Black Ops version in action, it’s safe to say the franchise will keep on doin’ it for some time.
Hey look, everybody! Another juggernaut game series made by Blizzard on my list. Wanna know why? Because no one knows PC gamers better than Blizzard. No one loves the platform as much as them either. And this is the best real-time strategy game ever made. So good, in fact, that people kept playing the original for 12 straight years, that is until the sequel finally arrived earlier this month. If that’s not staying power, I don’t know what is.
5. The PopCap Trifecta
Don’t let the simple graphics fool you. Bejeweled, Peggle, and Plants vs. Zombies—all made by the same Seattle company—are the real deal. Okay, so I cheated a little on this one. But no list would be complete without mentioning the rise of casual PC games. And alongside Zynga, PopCap is the front runner in this territory. Like a new Alexey Pajitnov (Tetris). Only more prolific with their follow-up efforts. A lot more prolific.
6. Left 4 Dead
Half-Life put PC heavyweights Valve on the map. And rightfully so—the sequel is the highest rated PC game of all time. And the game’s Counter-Strike spin-off is still a PC staple. But over the last two years, Left 4 Dead is where the party’s at. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s another “social game,” i.e. best when played with friends. Only this one you can replay 1000 times. And there are endless waves of zombies to kill. Mmm, zombies.
7. Mass Effect
New school role playing game? This is is. And who else should have created it, if not BioWare, the same friendly Canadians that brought Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and Knights of the Old Republic to the PC. The developer has another recent RPG hit on their hands with Dragon Age. But Mass Effect is the crown jewel right now in terms of single player RPGs. To be cheeky, its impact is massive.
8. The Sims
Remember when Second Life burst onto the scene in 2005? The so-called “virtual world” was suppose to be the next big thing. But it wasn’t. Because it was boring. The Sims, on the other hand, is anything but boring. In many ways, it’s a lot like Grand Theft Auto. Only without the theft and auto. But full of the same mindless interactions that never seem to get old. Although the series has lost some of its novelty in recent years, at 125 million copies sold, it’s still the best selling PC franchise of all time. By far.
I promise Blizzard didn’t pay me to include three of their games on my list. But I’ve already named their top RPG and strategy games. This one just happens to be their most action heavy title. Another top 10. And an influential one at that, creating an entire sub-genre of point and click action games dubbed “Diablo clones.” Need more proof? After admitting that neither World of Warcraft or StarCraft appealed to him, a friend today told me, “I’m buying a new rig just to play Diablo III upon arrival (2011).” Replied Blizzard, “All your base are belong to us.”
Let’s see. Ginormous sandbox. A more realistic and mature version of Grand Theft Auto. Critically acclaimed. And the sequel arrives in t-minus one month. Admittedly, Mafia isn’t as “big” as the aforementioned franchises in terms of sales, yield, and/or popularity. But it’s a big game. It’s developed for PCs first and foremost. And it’s the most compelling action-adventure arrow in the platform’s quiver.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Assassin’s Creed, aka the new Prince of Persia. Yes, it’s a port. And it perpetuates lame digital rights. But that doesn’t stop it from being a great action-adventure game. Also, don’t forget Crysis, the “show and tell” (if not the technology driver) of the platform.
Agreed? Outraged? Tell me why I’m wrong in the comments, and your voice shall be heard.
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