There's a certain charm to booting up a classic PC sim, shooter, or adventure title on your clunky old computer that's just unmatched. Many point to the '90s as sort of a golden age of gaming, but this quality extends beyond consoles and arcades. There were a number of tremendous games to be had on the PC as well.
Many of these offered a unique and in-depth experience that consoles simply couldn't provide. This is thanks, in part, to the intuitive keyboard and mouse setup and the more advanced hardware PCs were capable of. These attributes helped keep computer gaming on the cutting edge in terms of ideas and horsepower, setting the stage for tons of memorable titles. The '90s, in particular, was a distinctly exciting era for unique gaming experiences on PC.
So without further ado, let's take a trip back into the age of Windows 95 and 98 as we take a look at the overall best PC games of the 90s.
10 Roller Coaster Tycoon
This classic God Sim can be filed somewhat under the "underrated" category, as it often gets lost in a sea of other Tycoon games. It also can get overlooked by the more popular Sims and Sim City titles. And yet, Roller Coaster Tycoon can go toe-to-toe with just about any simulation or God game in terms of its charming and addictive nature.
This creative romp provides a foundation of insanely entertaining themes - after all, who wouldn't want to design their own theme park and watch their own rollercoasters in action? This game is bursting at the seams with all sort of enjoyable content and diverse scenarios that keep you coming back for more.
9 Baulder's Gate
Before WRPG pioneers Bioware were producing full 3D epics like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, they were making a name for themselves with this 90s masterpiece, Baulder's Gate. The game may not look as flashy as some of their modern efforts, but its elaborate gameplay and abundance of content make for an equally epic experience.
The Dungeons and Dragon overlay provides the backdrop for some engrossing world-building and lore that's a joy to take in. It's absolutely rich with its immersive open-world gameplay, satisfying progression elements, and intriguing dialogue throughout your journey. Baulder's Gate helped to shape the sandbox WRPGs that developers like Bethesda would run full steam with.
8 Sim City 2000
There aren't too many Sims that have pinned down that superb balance between simplicity and complexity quite like Sim City 2000. This game arguably marks the iconic Sim City franchise at its peak. The shift from top-down to an isometric view makes for an intuitive interface and an easy, digestible view of the bustling cities that can be crafted.
This follow-up to Sim City excels in its ability to provide ample satisfaction as you watch your city blossom and notch various objectives. And let's face it, how can you not have fun tinkering with the various natural disasters and UFOs you can unleash on your town?
7 Unreal Tournament
Many of the games on this list aren't just magnificent; they also serve as innovative game-changers that helped establish a new type of game. In the case of Unreal Tournament, it fleshed out the FPS style established by Doom and Duke Nukem, with its arena-style multiplayer and deep online functionality. It also showcased the ground-breaking Unreal Engine, whose successor is still a commonly used template in games today, FPS or otherwise.
Unreal heavily emphasizes a rich multiplayer experience, which provides tons of adrenaline-pumping excitement with up to 16 players. Thanks to some stellar level design, appealing physics, and a myriad of fun weapons, Unreal Tournament remains one of the iconic FPS romps for the PC.
For kids growing up in the '90s who had been weaned on 2D sprites, Everquest felt like a massive step forward in gaming and a grandiose new way to play RPGs. Stepping into the endless expanses of colorful 3D worlds with friends produced a sense of wonder rarely matched in gaming.
Everquest, and its endless stream of expansion packs, wasn't just a fun and well-crafted adventure - it was truly a game-changer that helped create a new genre; the MMORPG. The plethora of unique quests, tons of goodies to obtain, and environments dripping with character - all make for a timeless epic RPG that's still enjoyed by many to this day.
As far as dungeon-crawling RPGs go, Diablo is right up there with the best of them. This appealing action RPG for PC is simply Blizzard at their best - which is why it remains one of their most iconic franchises over two decades later.
This massive adventure completely engrosses you every step of the way with its cool demonic lore, its diversity of quests, and its satisfying sense of progression. The flexibility in the gameplay is impressive for its time, with changeable quests and randomly generated environments. Diabo is also chock full of depth which is emphasized by a myriad of stats, cool spells, and endless other ways to customize your player. The combat is appealing in its simplicity yet satisfying in its execution.
Myst's click-based adventure puzzle style might seem a bit slow-paced to modern eyes, but it remains one of the most inventive and satisfying puzzlers to this day. Using the context of a more modern analogy - this brain-buster feels like a virtual Escape Room. You're left with nothing but your wits, and a smattering of subtle clues, to guide you.
The backdrops of the desolate island locale are decorated with some nice pre-rendered environments that were impressive for their time. The game produces a distinct feeling of adventurous wonder and a tinge of eerie isolation. You begin to uncover more of the plot as you scour the unique environments, tinker with creative puzzles, and solve mysteries. Myst demands plenty of pondering, but it makes progress all the more rewarding.
3 Quake II
The original Quake helped set the groundwork for a more fleshed out single-player shooter, and Quake III Arena ran with an addictive multiplayer focus. And yet, this sequel largely has the best of both worlds. The game's campaign toys with a cool alien premise, the same way Doom amusingly emphasizes creepy monsters.
It also introduces a few fun new weapons - especially the Railgun - along with improved AI, an awesome soundtrack, and sweet new enemies to boot. The level design is clever and elaborate, without being overwhelming, as Doom 2 is sometimes criticized for.
If Quake represents FPS pioneers id Software getting comfortable with their style and flexing their creative muscle, Doom was the company exploring new terrain and striking gold. This shooter didn't just revolutionize gaming and help create the FPS as we know it, it's a straight-up fun action-laced romp that largely holds up today.
The game drops you into a number of environments which leave an impression without being too complex. It also provides a number of satisfying weapons - especially that cool Plasma Gun - for you to unload on tons of awesome creepy monsters out to kill you. This is one adrenaline-fueled classic for the PC that won't soon be forgotten.
What more can be said about this all-time classic real-time strategy odyssey? Let's put it this way - there's a reason an entire massive esports industry in South Korea is centered about this game. Blizzard's Starcraft is just that powerful.
The game masterfully balances interesting and innovative RTS sensibilities with an accessible interface that allows the player to thrive. The 3 campaigns, which follow 3 different factions, are all distinct and provide their own sense of enjoyment, as do these factions themselves. Yet the true value of this RTS comes from its insanely appealing multiplayer and its endless array of customization. Even the more glamorous sequel, while still a solid game, doesn't quite live up to its masterful, decades-old predecessor.