What are the ten best classic PC games to play now?

April 5, 2016


Everyone does Top 10 Games lists. The problem with those? Usually, they’re full of games that earn a place because of nostalgia or industry significance. Here at Snackbar Games, we like being a little more practical: if you’re looking to just have fun, what games should you pick up and play today? This time, we remember the days before Steam with a look at pre-2004 PC titles.

System Shock 2

Can a game made 15 years ago still be scary? Yes, very much so. System Shock 2 is still just as terrifying and sinister as it was when it first released back in 1999. Best of all, the gameplay holds up surprisingly well, providing you with a tense shooter that may surprise in more ways than you might expect. If you’re curious about the predecessor to BioShock or just want to check out an exciting shooter from a team that made them best, you won’t be disappointed. – Andrew Passafiume


SimCity 2000

For simulation series, there is a sweet spot of sorts, when technology and development has progressed enough to make the simulation robust, but before the desire to continue “advancement” forces developers to make things too elaborate and complicated (or, worse, change the focus of the game for the sake of being “new” and “different”). SimCity 2000 is that game for the urban planning franchise, improving upon the classic game while maintaining what made it so special. It’s the best one to play, even now. – Graham Russell

Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos

Warcraft III brought a lot of StarCraft‘s innovations to the already-great RTS formula from Warcraft II, fleshing out the somewhat-static mission briefings into full in-engine cutscenes told from the perspective of a hero character, which served to put the player on the battlefield. The story and characters would go on to become World of Warcraft, and the once-controversial hero character is now the basis for the gameplay in Dota 2 and League of Legends. Without Warcraft III, we wouldn’t have three of the most popular video games of all time. – Jeff deSolla


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

I consider Knights of the Old Republic to be the last of the “old” BioWare style of RPG, focusing on a turn-based system featuring everything the team learned over the years making similar titles. KotOR also incorporates the now-prevalent moral choice system into Star Wars in a remarkably cool way, even by today’s standards. With an excellent story built on an expansive and legendary science fiction universe, you have a game many consider on par with the original films. This is a game every RPG fan needs to play. – Andrew Passafiume

Planescape: Torment

Planescape: Torment was the best of the Infinity Engine, and the freedom afforded by its setting showed that a game could tell a story with the D&D ruleset in a way that all but the best DM would struggle to do. Above all, the departure from the comparatively strict Forgotten Realms gameplay offered the freedom to explore aspects of the D&D settings that hadn’t been shown before, particularly the focus on characters that didn’t fit into the traditional fantasy setting. – Jeff deSolla


Heroes of Might & Magic III

Heroes of Might & Magic was the ’90s PC scene’s peanut butter cup, a mix of role-playing and strategy genres that made each part better in the process. Before development troubles sent the franchise off the rails with the fourth installment, New World Computing delivered a classic that transcends its era, made robust with smart expansions and kept alive through a thriving fan community.  – Graham Russell

Deus Ex

Deus Ex joined Half Life and System Shock in creating a story-driven shooter, and it truly shines in the way it uses gameplay to encourage exploration. Most objectives have alternate routes to accomplish them, usually involving a choice between shooting and stealth. While the visuals appear somewhat dated without mods, the gameplay ranks it as one of the best of all the classic shooters. – Jeff deSolla


The Last Express

Even if you don’t typically play adventure games, there’s a lot to like about Jordan Mechner’s The Last Express. Taking place entirely in a single location — a train heading through Europe — and complete with a diverse and interesting cast of characters, this game pushes you right into the forefront as soon as you have control and gives you a mystery to solve. With branching dialogue trees and multitude of ways to release the conclusion, The Last Express stood out when it released for its bold approach to the adventure genre, and is still just as remarkable today thanks to its excellent writing. – Andrew Passafiume

Sid Meier’s SimGolf

Sid Meier has put his name on many titles over the years (usually at the behest of the game’s marketing team), and all of them are worth your time. Sid Meier’s SimGolf, though, is possibly the only one to exist in a vacuum, iterated on by neither Firaxis itself nor outside studios. You’ll only get this smart links-building action in this game, and you’ll only get this game through the arduous process of tracking it down outside of download portals, but it’s worth the effort. – Graham Russell



Freelancer really shines because of the way it changed how space games control. Before it, the genre was really held back by joysticks and the expense and knowledge needed to get them to work. Freelancer changed this, by creating a game based around dogfighting in space using the mouse. A simple panning motion allowed the player to move in any direction, removing the need for expensive hardware and huge learning curves. Freelancer remains one of the only single-player space games to simplify its controls enough to be approachable by anyone not already interested in space sims. – Jeff deSolla