Ever since its launch, Good Old Games has quickly become a resource for gamers intent on playing classic games. Thanks to the diligent efforts of the GOG team, gamers can now download and play numerous classics without having to deal with the slightest hassle.
Here are fifteen select games available on the website that deserve to be played if you’re ever hankering for some classic gaming. This isn’t to say that they’re the absolute best games available, and your own list may vary, but they’re certainly up there.
Rise of the Triad
Quite possibly the campiest FPS ever made, Apogee's “Rise of the Triad” had a plot that paid homage to bad 80s action movies. You took on the role of one of five mercenaries, but the character you chose to play didn't make much of a difference in the game proper. Instead of killing nazis or zombies or undead space marines, you took on the fascist soldiers of a banana republic ruled by a tyrant named Oscuro, who as it turns out, was a monstrous human caterpillar made entirely out of heads and hands.
Spanning over several chapters, “Rise of the Triad” pitted you against numerous enemies, including a wheelchair-bound nemesis who happens to be a Dick Cheney-lookalike armed with rocket launchers.
Like the movies it based itself on, “RoTT” didn't take itself seriously, and weapons ranged from John Woo-inspired pistols akimbo to a “Hand of God” attack that vaporized everything on the screen. You could even turn into an attack dog by enabling “Dog Mode”.
“Rise of the Triad” was also the first title to use a jump pad system, a feature later revived in “Quake 3 Arena” and “Halo Reach”. Despite using the 2D Build Engine, its developers managed to successfully create the impression of a 3D environment through some clever trickery.
Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition
It's good to be the king. In “Duke Nukem 3D”, you're a one-liner spouting, gun-toting late 80s/early 90s action movie hero. You basically play the gun-toting Arnold Schwarzenegger from Predator, without the pretense of being a decent actor (I really do think Arnie's a decent actor). Instead of fighting a single Predator, you go up against countless aliens and pig alien cops.
Armed with your trusty set of boots (to kick ass while chewing bubblegum), and various guns (including a shrink ray and a freeze ray), you (I groan every time I write this) take the fight to the alien enemy while rescuing helpless female strippers. Yeah, it's definitely a game of the 90s.
Somehow I don't think the sequel's going to go down all that well with today's enlightened crowd, but with that said, it's still a great game to return to.
Temple of Elemental Evil
Released in 2003, “Temple of Elemental Evil” was Troika's first game after Arcanum, and planned as the first of many classic D&D modules to be brought onto the PC. “ToEE” was based on Gary Gygax's campaign of the same name, which is sadly as bare-bones as modules come. Despite the game's excellent combat system, colorful visuals and overall design, “ToEE” was marred by its lack of content and performance issues.
In spite of its problems, I count “ToEE” as one of the best turn-based strategy games ever created due to its combat system, which remains ahead of the curve even to this day, and Troika's solid implementation of D&D 3.5 Edition rules in a video game. I can only imagine what the RPG genre would be like today had the game been commercially successful. Troika might still be around, and we might be playing meaty RPGs like “Dragon Age” with the excellent turn-based combat of “Temple of Elemental Evil”.
Master of Magic
“Master of Magic” looks like the child of “Civilization” and “Lord of the Rings”. But it's more than just fantasy civilization. Released in 1995 and created by the now defunct Simtex, Master of Magic was the first game of its kind to feature both empire building and a tactical turn-based battles.
As an archmage vying for dominion over the land against other powerful wizards, you had to first choose a patron race, which provided you with a myriad of bonuses, penalties and special abilities. One of the races even began in the mirror world of Myrran, which was a reflection of the real world, replete with its own set of heroes, cities, resources and dungeons. You had to also choose spellbooks, which allowed you to cast a variety of spells based on the schools of magic that you picked.
While much of the game consists of building up your empire, the turn-based battles are just as much a part of the “Master of Magic” experience. You can recruit heroes who approach you seeking service in exchange for payment and use them to lead your armies to conquest. Battles are played out in an isometric map similar to Final Fantasy Tactics and your actions determine your victory or failure.
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
Developed by “King's Quest” creator Jane Jensen, “Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers” places you in the role of the game's titular character, an author and bookstore owner living in New Orleans. The game offered a balanced mix of historical and fictional elements, blending voodoo lore and New Orleans history with a compelling narrative. It was one of the first titles to place a strong emphasis on character development, with detailed human interaction between Gabriel and the people around him. Two sequels were produced to critical acclaim–the first in FMV and the second in 3D.
Jagged Alliance 2
Sirtech's “Jagged Alliance 2” remains an unsurpassed turn-based strategy experience, offering some of the most complex isometric battles the genre has ever seen.
“Jagged Alliance 2” takes place in the fictional South American nation of Arulco. Taking the role of a mercenary, you've been hired by the country's deposed leader to retake the country from the hands of its tyrant, Deirdranna. With funds at your disposal and rewards for retaking towns and completing mission objectives, you can hire a mercenary crew and recruit the aid of local citizens and militia to reclaim Arulco. There's a rebellion, and you're leading it.
Like “Final Fantasy Tactics”, the game uses a strategic map screen where the player issues high level strategic orders. Unlike the aforementioned game, you're in control of more than a single group of units and you have to also supervise the the management of your liberated cities. Combat and individual location exploration takes place in tactical screen, where player can issue individual direct commands to their mercenaries. As the game is partly an RPG, you can train your mercenaries to be more efficient killers and equip them with gear that you salvage from enemies, receive as rewards or acquire through the online gun store. One of the more interesting elements of the game is its fake internet service, which is replete with websites to recruit new mercenaries and other services.
Master of Orion 2
Designed as a 4X turn-based strategy game (explore, expand, exploit and exterminate), “Master of Orion 2” is one of the genre's finest titles. Noted for its complex gameplay, “Master of Orion 2” places its emphasis on the development of an alien civilization, through economic, technological and social development.
Players can choose between various predetermined races or design their very own race with a set of strengths and weaknesses. Players could even choose to design their own warships based on the technology they researched. All of these choices allowed for an extremely complicated game. Although complex, it always remained accessible through its well designed systems.
Age of Wonders
Sometimes regarded as the spiritual successor to “Master of Magic”, “Age of Wonders” takes a more mission based approach. You can choose between two factions: the high elves, and the dark elves. As as high elf, you play the role of an elven ruler who seeks to reclaim the elven lands. As a dark elf, you do the direct opposite of that. Along the way, you can recruit allies loyal to your cause and make enemies in the process. New heroes will join your forces and are capable of raiding dungeons for equipment and experience.
Your carry your heroes from mission to mission, along with a few veteran units who earn experience as they participate in battles, and build your cities to accumulate wealth and magic. The magic you research allows you to use powerful spells against your opponents and remains persistent throughout the campaign.
Unlike most other strategy games, the story in “Age of Wonders” was actually well written and it's very much worthwhile to play the game as both good and evil.
Disciples 2 Gold
“Disciples 2” is one of the few strategy games to feature a rich gothic motif. Set in a dark fantasy world (as opposed to a world of unicorns and rainbows), the main focus of the game’s story revolves around four dominant races in a state of constant war. Included are the human Empire, the dwarven Mountain Clans, the demonic Legions of the Damned and the skeletal Undead Hordes. It's a setting much inspired by Warhammer Fantasy and as you may or may not know, nothing in that world is particularly pleasant.
Similar to “Heroes of Might and Magic” in some ways, the game is a mission-based strategy game with a focus on overland maps, and is spread across four separate campaigns whose stories tie into each other. The gist of the game is simple: you build up a Capital City that allows you to research new units and spells, using your heroes to lead armies to perform exploration and combat, and finally the battles themselves. Combat in the game plays out very similarly to Japanese turn-based RPGs like “Ogre Battle” where placement is everything. Unlike the latest game in the series, Disciples 2 plays nothing at all like “Heroes of Might and Magic”.
Few games manage to capture the feeling of “Lord of the Rings” or “The Wheel of Time” as much as “Baldur's Gate” does. Fleeing from your sanctuary of Candlekeep, you play the role of a hunted youth, in search of the men who killed your stepfather Gorion. Along the way, you encounter allies who share similar goals and enemies sent by the killer, in attempts to thwart you from your goal. As you journey to the city of “Baldur's Gate”, you encounter a vast conspiracy to take over the iron trade along the Sword Coast and destabilize the entire region, leading the major nations to war with each other.
“Baldur's Gate” was the first game to really succeed in implementing the Dungeons & Dragons setting of Forgotten Realms in the form of a video game. By implementing D&D's D20 ruleset into a unique "pause-and-play" combat system, Bioware managed to marry the tactics of pen and paper games with the rush of real time combat.
Baldur’s Gate 2
Continuing where the first game left off, you find yourself trapped in a dungeon by a resident evil genius who goes by the name of Irenicus, or The Shattered One in his native Elven. He attempts to harness the powers you've accrued as the son of Bhaal for his own nefarious purposes and kidnaps your childhood companion Imoen to use as a lure. Like the previous game, you must gather a party of allies before venturing forth and scour various dungeons for arms and armor to aid you in your quest.
The “Baldur's Gate” series comes to a close with the “Throne of Bhaal” expansion pack that wraps up the adventure rather nicely, and you even get to include your stepfather's murderer into your party. How's that for a twist?
“War. War never changes.” Spoken by Ron Perlman, these unforgettable words define the game’s cynical outlook on the nature of war and its disastrous effects on humankind.
“Fallout” takes place in a retro-futuristic North America inspired by the pulp science fiction of the 1950s and the Red Scare, and puts you in the shoes of the Vault Dweller (referred to in later games as the Lone Wanderer), an individual cast out of Vault 13 to seek a water chip to replace the failing unit.
Released during a time when RPGs were declared all but dead, “Fallout” singlehandedly revitalized the genre with its clever dialogue, intricate storyline and explicitly violent turn-based combat. The game had a dark sense of humor that the series became well known for.
Released barely a year after its predecessor and riding upon its success, “Fallout 2” was in many ways a superior title, though it was different in the ways where it mattered. The setting was a little more offbeat, with themed towns in the form of gambling den New Reno, cowboy town Redding and a San Francisco populated by Chinese martial artists and sci-fi cultists calling themselves the Hubologists.
It was an excellent game in its own right and arguments are abound as to whether it failed or succeeded to be as good as the original game.
Heroes of Might and Magic 3: Complete Edition
The third game in the “Heroes of Might and Magic” series takes off after the events of the second game where a bunch of stuff happened that nobody remembers or cares about. Story was never the series' strong point, and most of its appeal came from its great gameplay.
Like so many other empire-building strategy games at the time, the game was split into a number of different campaigns where you took possession over one of the game's many races. Every race came equipped with its own cities, which you built up for the purpose of recruiting new units while collecting an upkeep to maintain your forces. Every army was lead by a hero, whom you could train up by earning experience in and out of battle, giving them new skills and abilities each time they leveled up. Heroes also depended on the equipment you gave them–magical items scattered throughout the lands and carried by enemy heroes.
Battles played out on a field and your army was represented by unit stacks. Ten dragons could make a barbecue out of a thousand peasants while your other units sat back.
It was a game that deprived you of sleep every time you played it, not unlike every other game on this list.
Based on the same Infinity Engine that powers Bioware's epic “Baldur's Gate” series, “Planescape: Torment” whisks you away from the relatively mundane and LOTR-inspired lands of the Forgotten Realms and hurls you into the weirdness of Sigil, the City of Doors. “Torment” might look weird and even jarring at first, but it's got more character in any single one of its buildings than most games have in entire expanses of terrain.
“Torment” puts you in the role of The Nameless One, an enigmatic being who is neither dead, nor alive — but immortal. The only problem is that he keeps losing his memory every time he gets slain — at least until now. Taking the role of this scarred, grey badass, you see that your days of amnesia are at an end and you set out to discover your true past and the legacies that haunt you. You ask yourself, "What can change the nature of a man?" and decide how and what to be this time around.
“Torment” is easily the best written game of all time, and it is as close to literature as video games have ever been. With over 800,000 lines of dialogue, it would be thicker than most books if it was ever made into print form.