36 Classic PC Games From The '90s That Still Hold Up

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Vote up all your favorite old-school computer games from yesteryear.

In the past, running an older game on a newer PC was often seen as a Herculean task. Having to find the right system patches and download codes was a hassle for most, and simply not worth the effort for some. Thankfully, digital platforms like Steam have made it easier than ever to revisit some of the best retro PC games, giving gamers a new look at old favorites. From RTS epics like Command & Conquer to forgotten adventure gems like Grim Fandango, this list ranks 35 of the best classic '90s PC games that are still worth revisiting today.

While each game was acclaimed and popular during its initial release, some have aged better than others. Still, these classic PC games all offer their own unique sense of nostalgia, especially if you played them growing up. With that in mind, check these 35 nostalgia-inducing titles and vote up all the best '90s PC games, and vote down all the games you'd rather forget about entirely. That way, new gamers can see which classics to revisit next.

  • 1
    612 VOTES
    Photo: id Software

    It's pretty rare to find a game that practically invented a genre and is still fun as heck to play. Although Doom isn't actually the first FPS (that honor probably goes to its predecessor, Wolfenstein 3D), it's the one that put everything together into a completely satisfying experience.

    Ultima 1, or Dune 2 (arguably the first true 'RTS'), or the first King's Quest have their charms, but you have to make allowances for the time they were made to really enjoy them. Not Doom. You can just dive right in. The demons are out there. Are you tough enough to blow them away?

    You can get Doom on gog.com or on Steam.

    • Released: 1993
    • Developer: id Software, Williams Entertainment Inc.
    612 votes
  • Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings
    Photo: Microsoft

    The late 1990s were arguably the golden age of the real-time strategy genre, and one of that age's pinnacles was this fantastic followup to 1997's Age of Empires. The action moves from antiquity to the medieval era, and improved unit AI (check out those sweet marching formations!) makes the battles feel more epic than before.

    Although the prevalence of early rush tactics means some matches end before anyone even builds a castle, other games can blossom into true empire-vs.-empire slugfests. Some of the greatest RTS units of all time live here, from the deadly English Longbowman to the breathtakingly powerful trebuchet.

    The game's available on Steam, in both a modestly updated HD Edition and a new Definitive Edition.

    • Released: 1999
    • Developer: Ensemble Studios
    470 votes
  • 3
    389 VOTES

    Half-Life brought a new level of storytelling panache to the still-young FPS genre. Instead of just dropping the player into monster-filled levels, Half-Life slowly introduced its situations with in-engine cutscenes, expository dialogue, and deliberate-yet-relentless pacing. You play Gordon Freeman, a mild-mannered nuclear physicist at the Black Mesa Research Facility who gets caught up in a teleportation experiment gone horribly awry. Before long, you're grappling with an invasion of hostile extraterrestrials - as well as soldiers whose job is to clean up the mess by eradicating anything that moves, friend or foe. Overseeing the proceedings is a mysterious G-Man who bears a striking similarity to The X-Files's Cigarette Smoking Man, and whose presence adds a frisson of government paranoia to the experience.

    Half-Life's creative creature designs, superb enemy A.I., palpably atmospheric setting, and masterful pacing all combined to make it an instant classic, quite possibly the best FPS of all time. Its graphics are quite dated by now, but the gameplay remains superb - particularly the tense encounters with enemy grunts who will take cover and even try to flank you. You can play Half-Life in its original incarnation on Steam, or you can try Black Mesa, an acclaimed fan-made update/remaster that is truly a labor of love.

    • Released: 1998
    • Developer: Valve Corporation, Gearbox Software
    389 votes
  • 4
    363 VOTES


    After the success of Doom, John Carmack and the gang at id Software realized how much potential online multiplayer had in first-person shooters. With that in mind, they reworked the Doom code to create the Quake engine. Its full freedom of vertical movement advanced Quake beyond the "2.5D" technology of Doom and its peers, while the Lovecraftian Gothic vibe opened a new tonal palette for the genre.

    Quake was also the first game to have maps designed specifically for multiplayer. It allowed for eight players to play in a match, which was double the standard at the time. The modern FPS can be said to begin here.

    You can buy Quake on gog.com and on Steam.

    • Released: 1996
    • Developer: id Software
    363 votes
  • 5
    468 VOTES
    Photo: Blizzard Entertainment

    CRPG fans didn't quite know what to make of Diablo when it released in 1996. It didn't have much story, character customization was minimal, and the gameworld was mostly limited to a town and the dungeon underneath it. But Diablo wasn't trying to be Ultima or Might and Magic. It was its own thing - a Skinner-box fantasia in which you clicked on minions of evil, ended their sad little lives, and scooped up loot in their wake.

    Thus was born the modern action RPG. Diablo was a massive hit, spawning two sequels (with a third on the way) and imitators too numerous to mention. The graphics and interface have dated somewhat, but that old pull remains.

    Diablo (with its expansion, Hellfire) can be purchased on gog.com.

    • Released: 1997
    • Developer: Blizzard North, Climax Group
    468 votes
  • 6
    359 VOTES
    Duke Nukem 3D
    Photo: Gearbox

    Duke Nukem was the spitting image of what little boys wanted to look like when they grew up. He was a handsome dude with machismo to spare, who wore sunglasses and a red tank top, and didn't take crap from anybody. Duke Nukem 3D let you live out this fantasy while battling aliens across highly interactive environments with an array of weird, creative weapons.

    It's a great game to turn your brain off and have some fun. As for its long-delayed sequel, Duke Nukem Forever? That's a long story.

    You can buy Duke Nukem 3D on Steam.

    • Released: 1996
    • Developer: 3D Realms, Lobotomy Software, Tiger Electronics, Tectoy, MachineWorks Northwest
    359 votes