||Top 10 People's Choice
March 04, 2004 Jakub Wojnarowicz
Summary: The people have spoken! Our Top 10 Games contest is over and we've selected the winners, the very best games with the best entries. No top 10 list can ever be complete, but we hope that any grievances filed against FS in the international court of gaming goodness can be set aside with this article. Contest winners, instructions for claiming your prize are inside.
Welcome to the Reader's Choice edition of the FiringSquad Top 10 PC Games list. Games were of course chosen by their own merit, but beyond that, the author had to be convincing and clear in his arguments for including the game in the list. The list is fashioned in no particular order, however, and is not split into multiplayer and singleplayer as the original was.
| Giants||Page:: ( 1 / 10 )|
Note To Winners: Please contact "GX-WarSpite" through private messaging on the forums in order to certify your identity, and include an email address at which you can be contacted at.
The winners are: mdk30, AhrimaaN, carnyge, Catachresis, Brute, Spiney, leliel, skraut, Oats and Yoshi.
The first entry is by mdk30, with his entry for Giants: Citizen Kabuto.
Giants: Citizen Kabuto
I don't know about anyone else, but when I think about some of the best games I've ever played, the ones that really stand out are the ones that were just amazingly FUN to play. That may sound like a very obvious statement, but how many games have you played that were legitimately good and entertaining, but if you stopped to look at your reflection in the monitor while playing, you'd never once see even a crack of a smile on your face? Not that serious games can't be "fun," but when I use the word in this case, I'm talking about a game that doesn't just entertain you, or make you smile, it nearly makes you laugh yourself right out of your chair. The game I have in mind here is the relatively overlooked title "Giants: Citizen Kabuto" from the comedic geniuses at Planet Moon Studios.
The number one feature that distinguishes Giants from 99% of the other games out there is that it's exceedingly funny. Never, before or after Giants, have I played a game that actually made me laugh out loud more than this one. The wacky setting and characters, along with stellar voice acting and a hilariously written script, make Giants the hands-down funniest game I've ever played.
If you only bought Giants for the humor of its cut-scenes it would still be worthy of your purchase, but for it to be a truly great game, it needs to have equally impressive gameplay, and this game most certainly does. Giants' single player game is primarily a 1st/3rd-person shooter, but throw in some aspects of real-time strategy and base building, and you have a truly unique gameplay experience. The astounding thing is that what I've just described is only the first third of the game, when you play as the British-accented Meccaryns, one of three playable races in Giants. You get to do more strategizing when you play as the villain's daughter, Delphi, who wields magical powers that contrast the run and gun style of play of the Meccs. Finally, the last third of the game is played as the Giant himself, Kabuto. Starting out, Kabuto is not full-grown and you must feed on the elusive Smartie race in order to grow to your full strength. Once full grown, Kabuto is truly a force to be reckoned with. He can demolish buildings and dozens of enemies with a single blow when at full strength.
The humor of the game, combined with this variety of quality gameplay, make Giants a truly great game, but the most overlooked aspect of Giants is its equally enchanting multiplayer. Although it never really gained much popularity online, I've enjoyed many a LAN party with friends, playing this game almost exclusively at times. Once you've flown a Gyrocopter through the legs of a 30 story Kabuto, played by one of your friends, with 2 of your other buddies shooting their guns and rockets at him from both wings, you're hooked. Trust me!
Our second winner is AhrimaaN, who submitted the LucasArts adventure classic, The Secret of Monkey Island.
| Monkey Island||Page:: ( 2 / 10 )|
The Secret of Monkey Island
In a world where the home computer was just starting to take off, Lucasarts created one of the most charming game worlds in the form of The Secret of Monkey Island, the original in an ongoing series of four (possibly five) episodes in the greatest point and click adventure game franchise ever. Adventure games, although somewhat popular at the time, didnt really take off until Lucasarts single handedly injected real comedy and style into the genre. Most notable in the first Monkey Island was the array of fantastic, varied, original and altogether hilarious characters that the player interacted with, and of course the one and only Guybrush Threepwood. Who can forget Stan the Salesmen, Governor Marley, the Voodoo Lady, the vegetarian cannibals or the pirate ghost LeChuck, who are still some of the most unique and memorable gaming characters of any game to this day.
The story involved the quest of one Guybrush Threepwood to become an accomplished treasure seeking pirate, who in the process of gaining the pirates' confidence, falls for the Governor of the Melee Island, who is set upon by the evil ghost pirate LeChuck and his crew. Although not particularly inspiring, the story was adequate enough to consist of many hilarious moments and unique experiences for the gamer and as a testament to its strength has spawned three sequels. Many fiendish puzzles were implemented carefully into the game without being entirely too abstract or difficult to the average gamer. Perhaps of most notable fame is the 'sword fighting' that was facilitated by an ingenious and entirely all too funny and ridiculous dialogue system between player and opponent. One had to learn appropriate responses to the enemies phrases. What other game has the player saying "How appropriate. You fight like a cow." to win a fight? This legacy of dialogue based combat has lived on in the sequels.
Not content to sit on the laurels of previous graphic adventure game releases, Lucasarts implemented new graphics scaling techniques to allow complex camera angles and further streamlined and improved the SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) point and click interface. Animation was fluid, graphics were colourful and detailed for the day, and the interface was easily learnt. Combining character items with objects on the environment was a simple affair, and most items had a default action associated with them.
Combine stunning character design with excellent cartoon-styled imagery, fantastic animation, brilliant (and very funny) writing, memorable music and Monkey Island really came alive. Many a gamer will fondly recall the light-hearted escapades of a pirate wannabee through his travels on Melee Island and beyond. Last but not least, some of the in-game gags still live with me today, and make me laugh even now. The 3-headed monkey and rubber tree will always make me smile. It is because of this, that even with Monkey Island's contemporaries such as The Dig, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Beneath a Steel Sky (and many others) that Monkey Island deserves a spot in the top ten PC games of all time before the others.
A unique title because of its educational value, Oregon Trail was submitted by carnyge.
| Oregon Trail||Page:: ( 3 / 10 )|
This game was full of dynamics that made the game not only fun but educational too. Something few games have actually accomplished. Can’t you remember? You were halfway to your goal, but your wagon broke its rear axle and it lay crippled as you lacked the foresight to buy the part that it so desperately needs. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, Your family in desperate need of food. So you picked up your rifle and with a grim determination went looking for a boon from Mother Nature, you went hunting. Everything riding on your aim and skill, After missing a few ducks and a few small rodents you happen to spot a deer through the brush and you carefully take aim, praying that the beast would not bolt . . . This game was unique and was displayed in such a way that was both appealing and addictive. You had a responsibility to your family and to yourself to see it through to the end.
You start out from Independence, MI with everything you own on your wagon. You encounter hardships that would make men weep as the trek exacts its murderous toll. This game also has an educational value that didn’t overwhelm one with useless dates and facts. You encountered the same problems and hurdles and even some of the same landmarks that the actual pioneers did. Crossing the country on a wagon is no easy task as it soon becomes apparent. Through playing this game you gain a true understanding of how hard it actually was. You’re given choices that put you in complete control of any situation.
This game succeeds in pitting you against Mother Nature in a ruthless bout for freedom. Which will be your lifeline whilst you make your hazardous journey? A Handcart, Or a Covered Wagon? Will you stock up on extra parts, Or fly by the seat of your pants? Do you buy huge amounts of food goods, Or rely on Mother Nature to supply your food and save a little money for inevitable disaster?
Although its true strength lies in its resource management, it had a strong storyline to keep you going through all the hardships and setbacks as you made your way to Oregon. Its story was one of untold difficulties and the ruthlessness of dear Mother Nature, of the lessons learned through the agony of defeat, the iron-fisted rule of the suns scorching rays and the rain hammering mercilessly at your already frayed nerves. Its story. . . Your story.
Perhaps not a unique entry, but certainly one that deserved mention. Catachresis suggested and backed up Doom with the following arguments:
| Doom||Page:: ( 4 / 10 )|
There’s an episode of "The Simpsons" where Barnie Gumble recalls hanging-out with Homer after high school. Barnie was clean-cut then and studying for his SATs. When Homer asks if he wants a beer, Barnie refuses, but Homer applies peer-pressure. Barnie takes a sip and then a second. With the third swig, he belches with that window-rattling “Br-u-u-e-e-eghk!,” and all his features visibly slouch into familiar, drunken despondency. After that, Barnie never had another sober moment.
Something like that happened to me in 1995. I’d just lost my first real job and had to move home. It was tough. Still, my Dad gave me one of his office’s old Pentium Pros. When my pal Brian saw that, he said, “Well, now you’ve got you a real computer, so you can play DOOM.” I wasn’t interested in computer games, I said, but Brian insisted, so I fed in those five-and-a-quarter-inch floppies and loaded to the splash screen. That night I told Brian I didn’t care for the game: the controls were too awkward, it was too hard. The next night I called and begged him to tell me where all the secrets were in Level One. Three weeks later, he was loaning me DOOM 2. I was totally, irredeemably hooked.
The details of DOOM are now legendary. You play a space marine who has been teleported to Phobos, second moon of Mars, to investigate a disaster, only to find that scientists have inadvertently opened a portal to Hell. You must fight your way through a world of murderous zombies, brown and smiling demons, horned eyeballs, and goat-footed fireball-lobbing abominations. DOOM wasn’t the original first-person-shooter, but it was the first to possess such engrossing and appalling detail. It sucked you in. I remember a friend of ours was playing DOOM, and when he saw the flaming skulls come at him, he yelled and swerved his torso away from the CRT monitor so quickly he fell off his chair. DOOM taught millions of people to strafe. Most importantly, it created one of Last Century’s most influential distopian visions: the idea of being the last human alive in a world of endless enemies. It showed that every victory was temporary, but it taught perseverance. It also taught you to conserve ammo. Half of what I know about coping when the chips are really down, I learned from DOOM.
Recently, after my twelve-year-old stepson was allowed to play Quake III for an hour, he regaled me with stories of how deadly he is with the BFG 10K, so I asked him whether he knew what “BFG” stood for. No, he didn’t – he was wild with curiosity – what did it mean? His mother was in the room, so I told him something plausible. But when she went out, I said, “C’mere.” and whispered what it really meant, and his eyes sparkled. I felt a surge of pride – I was passing the shotgun down to the next generation of survivors in the modern world.
I had surprisingly few friendly "comments" in email about this, but Brute was kind enough to include an entry for Homeworld.
| Homeworld||Page:: ( 5 / 10 )|
One of the real shortcomings of real-time strategy games is the lack of a strong story. Games like Command and Conquer and Warcraft, for example, gave the player just enough story to justify the fighting. So when Homeworld came out in 1999, players were more than a little surprised at the quality of the game's narrative. The story was unique in that the player didn't really represent a character, yet it was still gripping enough to hold them all the way through to the end. Homeworld's singleplayer campaign also benefited from excellent level design. Simply massing your forces into a large group and heading straight into a fight wasn't always the best solution, particularly in the junkyard dog level where a rogue ship that could not be destroyed would steal ships from the player's fleet and drag them off. Homeworld's other major innovation was a fully 3D environment that was fairly easy to manipulate. The addition of a third dimension of movement gave the player more options strategically. Task forces of capital ships could now attack from above and below as well as from all sides.
It didn't hurt much that the game was superb in all other regards. While the textures were simplistic, Homeworld was absolutely beautiful when it came out, with a very clean look to all the ships and some awe-inspiring backdrops. As a result of the clean look, the environments took on a cold, lonely appearance, sometimes adding to the player's sense of sympathy to the Hiigaran's plight. The story is progressed both through in-game cutscenes and storyboard-like cinematics, which are a refreshing change from the full-motion video that's so prevalent. Sound effects are sparse but solid, fitting in with the minimalist tone but never seeming insufficient. Battle chatter was a nice addition, giving the player a sense of how a fight is progressing without looking at it. The soundtrack to the game was also fantastic. Beginning with Samuel Barber's "Agnus Dei", the haunting sounds of the choir add to the empty feeling. The minimalist feel continues throughout the game until the end credits, where rock band Yes breaks a trend and actually produces a very good exclusive song for a video game.
The most impressive thing about Homeworld, though, is the lack of other games like it. Two-dimensional strategy games like Warcraft and Command and Conquer spawned dozens of games like them, varying from decent to poor quality. Only a small handful of games, though, attempted to do the same as Homeworld, and none have been able to match its overall quality (not even the sequel). It still stands as the measuring stick for 3D real-time strategy games, and thus earns a spot in the top 10 games of all time.
Perhaps I am biased as a Wing Commander fan, but I think few would dispute Spiney and his arguments in favor of Privateer.
| Privateer||Page:: ( 6 / 10 )|
Wing Commander: Privateer
When games first began making the move from 3.5” disks to CD-ROM, Wing Commander: Privateer burst onto the scene. For those of us who had never played the predecessor, Elite, this was a one-of-a-kind game that had everything: great graphics, great sound including speech, open-ended gameplay, and the opportunity to play any role you wanted, be it merchant, mercenary, or pirate.
The optional speech pack added a level of immersion never before seen in such a game. Your opponents would taunt you, beg for mercy, and generally make their presence known. Who can forget such great lines as “Die by the very weapons you adore!” and “Contraband detected. All units close and terminate.” For those who have played the game, I am sure you can still hear these lines in your mind as clearly as when you first heard them from your PC speakers.
Privateer instilled so much personality in the ships available to the player that it was impossible not to fall in love with yours. Painstakingly modified and customized with the B&S Omni sensor package, a quad of tachyon cannons, and a full load of IRec missiles, you felt pride in your Centurion heavy fighter. Moreover, you felt anger that others would attempt to harm it. I remember how I would cringe when the “whoop whoop” of enemy fire splattering on my shields would switch to the “ping ping” of shots hitting the hull. When my steering thrusters gave out I would shake my fists in helpless frustration while my assailants would make strafing runs against my beautiful Centurion.
Finally, Privateer was the first game I encountered to offer a truly player-driven experience. While the main story line was a linear sequence of missions, there was an entire universe to explore at your leisure. The player had complete control over their next move. Pirate a few merchant vessels, haul food from a farm planet to an orbital station, or even smuggle drugs to the denizens of New Detroit. All these options were open to the player, and each affected your standing with the various factions represented.
For its open-ended gameplay, great character, and level of immersion, Privateer belongs on the list as one of the best games of all time.
leliel submitted the classic gem, Star Control 2.
| Star Control 2||Page:: ( 7 / 10 )|
Star Control 2
Part space exploration, part alien diplomacy, part Asteroidsesque action: SC2 gave you a huge universe to explore and dozens of species to interact with one way or another. The initial goal of the game is to harvest minerals from various worlds to develop your Precursor alien warship, then branch out and search for other alien races that can help you stand against the Ur-Quan that have enslaved the rest of humanity. The overall story is fairly straightforward but the many distinct characters you interact with along the way make it really memorable.
The ship-to-ship combat is simple to learn but difficult to master. You control one ship at a time in a top-down field of space, and attempt to destroy your enemy. There is always a planet (even if you battle in outer space, far from any world) and you can use its gravity to help you if you are careful. There are asteroids that generally serve to interfere, although strange collision physics glitches could sometimes send you careening wildly if you ran into them just right. Each species' craft has its own speed, acceleration, maneuverability, energy capacity and recharge rate, and of course its own weapon and special weapon.
The wide variety in ships makes for an interesting balance and the combat-only Super Melee mode lets you match up ships that would always battle on the same team during the main game. For example the Thraddash ship is not particularly strong but is uniquely well-suited to taking on many of the strongest ships of both the New Alliance of Free Stars (good) and the Ur-Quan's Hierarchy of Battle Thralls (bad), including the extremely powerful Chmmr Avatar.
SC2 is the first game I can think of that employed a full digital four-channel MOD soundtrack, far superior to the FM synth that consumer sound cards were limited to at the time. It even made a valiant attempt using the internal PC speaker.
Although I am admittedly completely unfamiliar with the game, skraut went to so much effort to describe it, I am convinced it belongs on a Top 10 list.
| Kennedy Approach||Page:: ( 8 / 10 )|
Few games released throughout the history of game development have ever been as original or unique as Kennedy Approach. Originally developed for the Atari 800 and Commodore 64 it pushed the limits of existing technology to create a deep engaging game in a time when shallow button mashers ruled the arcades, and their crude looking clones invaded early home computers.
Instead of creating another “shoot-em-up” or sports title, the developers of Kennedy Approach created an game which put the player in the role of an Air Traffic Controller and gave the player a glimpse into their stressful and frantic world. Using an rather inuative user interface, the player gave commands to all the planes in his airspace, telling them when to take off, land, what altitude to fly at, and what direction to fly. While the planes followed your orders, they had their own parameters that needed to be met. Planes needed to take off and land according to their schedule, and they needed to exit your territory on a predetermined course and altitude, and each had to maintain a certain distance from every other plane in the sky. Adding to the challenge the game made it necessary to plan ahead and “see” each flight plan because the player was dealing with agonizingly slow turning and climbing passenger planes. And just when all seemed to be planned out and prepared for, a plane enters the players airspace declaring an emergency, and forcing all planes to be rerouted to accommodate the emergency.
It is really hard to classify Kennedy Approach into one genre. It simulated a real world activity, and so could be called a sim. It was a strategy game which took place in real time in an era when all strategy games were turn based, and long before the term RTS was coined. It featured all the aspects of a classic puzzle game including the planning and mental juggling of elements years before Tetris was developed. When simple beeps would do for sound of most games of the time, Kennedy Approach featured synthesized voices of pilots giving their call sign, giving their status, acknowledging your orders, and declaring an emergency. And perhaps most impressive, Kennedy Approach managed all of this on computers with only 48K of memory.
The best aspect of Kennedy Approach was that it just worked. There have been a few other air traffic control games since, but they have focused making the experience as realistic as possible, and have left out the fun found in Kennedy Approach which was easy to learn, easy to play, but a challenge to master.
Oats posted a very convincing submission for Out of this World.
| Out of this World||Page:: ( 9 / 10 )|
Out of this World
“Out of this World” was a very unique game – with highly original graphics, gameplay, and storytelling. Everyone who played it recognized an excellent game, with a huge amount of time put into it (two years, a lot for a game back in 1990).
The graphics engine was a stunning technical achievement for the time. Every object was composed of simple 2D polygons, but each polygon could move – this allowed for scaling and rotating, which was used to full potential. The animations were so fluid that despite the simplicity, it was extremely realistic. It is reported to be the first game to use rotoscoping (polygons superimposed over actual footage of the actor to lend realism to the animation). This was also one of the first (if not THE first) game to use cinematic cutscenes.
The key to this game, though, was the gameplay. Your character was extremely weak - he was a lousy jumper, he threw like a sissy, and strained to pull himself up on ledges. Therefore everything was a challenge. Jumping over crawling slugs, sneaking past a guard, avoiding creatures, even pulling levers was too much for him.
One of the best parts of the challenges was that nothing was explained. How do you climb a ledge? How do you pull a lever? You’re given a weapon, but you have no idea how to use it. You see a guard make a shield with his weapon, they you’re trying different combinations, trying to make it do the same thing.
You meet someone – how do you communicate with them? Maybe you have to walk around, or pick something up and bring it to them. You’re stranded in a cage suspended from a chain – how do you get out? You try walking back and forth, and the cage starts swinging… if you time your walking right, the cage swings even more. This gave a sense of accomplishment that I have never felt repeated in any other game.
The story was also presented in a unique way - there was no dialogue at all, yet it managed to convey a deep story. A scientist is conducting a strange experiment in an underground facility. Lightning strikes just as the experiment is starting, and you appear in an underwater pool. You die several times before you realize you should try to swim up (how do you swim? Another few deaths before you figure it out…) You couldn’t talk the alien language, so communication was by gestures and actions. You learned about your alien friend, his personality, about the facility you were in, the culture of the world. Your friend, who helped you escape, was a well developed character – all conveyed without a single word.
The graphics, gameplay, and story contributed to a true one-of-a-kind game. Most of the highly original elements have not been incorporated into more recent games, and since it was such a popular game, serves as a testament to what at achievement it was to make these elements actually work.
Yoshi spammed us with so many entries, it was inevitable one of them got accepted. He could have saved himself the effort though, and just stuck with his first one - TIE Fighter, a worthy addition if there ever was one!
| TIE Fighter||Page:: ( 10 / 10 )|
When X-Wing first came out it gave a chance for Starwars fans to do what they always wanted. Though Lucas Arts found a way to improve on the game by letting you play as a Tie Fighter pilot. Not many games let you play on the side of evil army let alone make the side of evil look almost like the side of good. Most games that focus on letting you play the side of evil do it for shock and really lack depth. This game made joining the Empire look like you where fighting to protect the galaxy from rebels who wanted anarchy in space.
The Tie Fighter story also was deep with optional tasks to do in the missions giving the game a lot more depth found in most games. The game even giving you an option to do special tasks that the Emperor himself wanted completed so you could join his inner circle. The voice acting was also well done in the game and fit in perfect with how the officers in the Empire sounded.
Instead of just shooting everything in site you had to manage energy as well as complete tasks before time ran out. When you started in the Tie Fighter you knew what Lucas meant when he said it’s a flying eggshell in space. As you got better ships the game also increased in challenge and always kept things hard enough to be fun instead of leveling off in challenge nor did the game get too hard to frustrate the gamer.
What really put the game above others was the ability to record missions and go back to see what went wrong. Or to go and look up information about different craft most of which where never seen in the Starwars universe. While most times the information wasn’t needed it did give the world a lot more depth making it one of the best sims ever released.
I think it’s pretty clear that Tie Fighter is a game that will for a long time be remembered and looked back to as one of the few movie tie in games that worked well and places it as an example of how a space sim can be done.
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