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Retro gaming is all the rage. Whether it’s the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One, the consoles’ digital storefronts are loaded with classics. This seems as if it may apply to the next-generation consoles too, with both Microsoft and Sony focusing heavily on backward compatibility.
Don’t forget the PC, a platform which has been steadily growing its library for years longer than any console available. That said, not every old PC game is easy to get up and running. The games on this list are not only worth playing, but easy to get running on a modern PC.
Despite its age, the original Doom remains an eminently playable first-person shooter. It may not have the bombast of the 2016 remake of the same name, but it’s still a white-knuckle experience, especially on harder difficulties. Depending on where you buy the game, it’s relatively playable, even in its original form. Use a source port like GZDoom, and it both looks and plays more like a modern game.
2. Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
If you like the Civilization series but prefer a sci-fi setting, this is the game for you. Ditching the realistic setting of the Civilization games that preceded it, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri tasks you with establishing a new home on an alien planet. You’re not alone, however, as other groups have landed on the planet too, looking to establish their own turf. If you were let down by Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth, give this one a try.
3. Deus Ex
Created by Ion Storm and helmed by Warren Spector, Deus Ex was released in 2000, but played more like games that would come years later. While it had the look of a first-person shooter, that was only one of the ways you could play through it. Non-lethal runs of the game are entirely possible, something that’s actually encouraged in later games. That said, this is where it all started.
4. Planescape: Torment
One of the most talked about games of 2019 was Disco Elysium an RPG that all but eschewed combat. Nobody cared about the lack of combat encounters because the game was so deep already. Many reviewers noted that game’s clear influences from Planescape: Torment. While other Infinity Engine RPG’s like Baldur’s Gate made combat the focus, Planescape Torment focused entirely on storytelling. You can play the old version with a few tweaks, or you can opt for the recently released Planescape Torment: Enhanced Edition if you want to make the process even easier.
5. Diablo II
The first Diablo established the base gameplay for the series, but Diablo II is where the franchise became what we know it as now. Sprawling maps, endless loot, and so much clicking you might wear out your mouse. The game is still available from Blizzard, and the company has even patched the game to make sure it runs on Windows 10.
6. System Shock 2
Without System Shock 2, we wouldn’t have had any of the Bioshock games, and we probably wouldn’t have had Prey (the 2017 version, not the 2006 version). This is as much a horror game as a first-person shooter, but it’s also more open-ended, making replays feel very different depending on how you play.
7. Fallout 2
As with quite a few games on this list, Fallout 2 built on top of the foundation its predecessor laid down, making something much more compelling. While the graphics and gameplay are largely similar to Fallout, this sequel has a much larger world and the story is more interesting. This is available via the Bethesda Launcher, but you’ll have an easier time playing it if you buy it from GOG.
After two games in the Doom franchise, developer iD Software was ready to move on to something else. While Quake was originally planned as an ambitious RPG, multiple development setbacks put that goal on the back burner. They didn’t throw everything out through, which meant we ended up with a fast-paced first-person shooter set in quasi-medieval castles that were somehow riddled with technology. Though the single-player was great, QuakeWorld multiplayer is the real reason this game lived on. With the right setup, you can still play Quake online today.
9. Ultima 7
We’ve mentioned Ultima VII on this site before, on a list of games that were ahead of their time. This was a jaw-droppingly deep RPG when it first came out, and it’s still impressive even now. Yes, the graphics are on the dated side, but after you’ve been playing for a few hours, you probably won’t even notice that anymore.
Text adventures are an acquired taste since, well, they’re all text. No graphics, period. Still, if you’re looking to use your imagination and wit, this is the next best thing to playing a tabletop RPG with friends. If you’re going to play just one text adventure, Zork is the one to choose, just because it’s referenced so often (“You are likely to be eaten by a grue.”)
Looking for More Classic Games?
As mentioned at the top of this article and before on this website, we’re currently in the midst of a retro gaming renaissance no matter what platform you prefer. This article focuses on PC games, but we’ve already looked at retro games for consoles in the past.
If you’re looking to keep up your retro gaming binge, take a look at our favorite retro game collections across consoles and PC.