The 1990s were a great time for tech, especially in terms of the PC games that came out. Building games like SimCity gave players the chance to plan their own cities and create their own stories, while shooting games pushed the boundaries of what people thought possible when it came to engrossing narratives on screen.
Things like Counter-Strike showed us why it was important not just to be good at aiming, but also good at planning and strategy in order to win – a stark contrast to the “run and gun” style of before. Plus, there’s no denying that iconic 90s PC game titles such as Doom, Myst, Civilization II and Command & Conquer went on to have far greater reach than even their programmers could have dreamed of.
So, even if popper trousers were frowned upon back then (not unjustly!), we had something else console us – some top-class 90s PC games that live long in our memories!
12. Lemmings (1991)
Originally released for the Amiga in 1991, Lemmings is a classic puzzle-strategy video game that quickly gained massive success.
Developed by DMA Design and published by Psygnosis, the game was programmed by Russell Kay, Mike Dailly, and David Jones. Remarkably, its concept was inspired by an animation that Dailly had created while playing with Deluxe Paint.
While its original version was amazing on its own merit, the title achieved true greatness after being ported to numerous other platforms over time.
With quirky characters and challenging puzzles that never cease to amaze players even today, it’s no wonder why Lemmings has remained a beloved franchise since its early days.
11. The Sims
The original Sims was an iconic game in the 90s gaming scene, being announced at the very end of the decade.
Despite seemingly previously existing for years it wasn’t actually released until February 2000, but that didn’t stop people from creating some absolutely amazing interiors and living their virtual life through the game’s characters.
Through various cheats and capabilities, players could customize their own environment to suit whatever lifestyle they wanted, from a small yet cozy flat to a rose garden-sprawled mansion.
And with a few taps of the keyboard you can gain almost any desired amount of money: just type in Rosebud and receive 50,000 Simoleons! With so many features like these, The Sims set the standard for future games in its genre.
10. Sim City 2000 (1993)
the first time I loaded up Sim City 2000, I could barely contain my excitement. I was mesmerized by the 8-bit visuals and had already come up with all sorts of ideas for growing my city.
The interface was simple enough but that didn’t mean the game was easy; even as a child, I quickly learned how important zoning taxes and resources were to providing citizens with everything they needed.
Of course, problems such as inclement weather and crime weren’t too far away either, making maintaining balance an interesting challenge.
Looking back on it now, it’s incredible to see how far the franchise has grown since then while still retaining the core concepts of its progenitor.
SimCity 2000 was one of the most definitive PC games released in the 90s, and its popularity soon spread out to every other platform available.
The level of customization it offered made it uniquely enjoyable, enabling players to shape their cities by setting hills, canals, and coastlines just as desired.
Every kind of building imaginable including schools and zoos could be placed at different locations, and lucrative business agreements with other settlements could be established.
This timeless strategy game has seduced gamers around the world for decades now and continues to bring many hours of joy.
9. Diablo (1996)
Diablo stands as a stark example of the power of isometric gaming. Its dark story and timeless characters have captivated gamers for decades, presenting players with the consequences of their actions against one of the most fearsome foes in all literature – The Lord of Terror himself.
The game offers an incentive to fight Diablo on ever-increasing levels, with latent treasures waiting to be found in distant towns around his prison.
With every skirmish comes more worthwhile rewards, piecing together a world that faces great peril but provides even greater rewards if your hero succeeds.
As rumors swirl around potential methods to banish Diablo once and for all, they build anticipation within the gaming community like none other – Isolated yet interconnected through this unifying mission. Are you brave enough to accept such a daunting challenge?
With Diablo, players get to pick an avatar and class of their choosing, each with a unique set of skills that can be enhanced as they progress through the game.
As they get more powerful, players can equip their characters with new weapons and armor to refine their build.
By taking on sidequests, collecting magic items, and obtaining attribute points along the way, there is plenty of opportunity to develop your character as you wish.
It doesn’t end there either; groups of 2 or more players can also team up and tackle dungeons together for even greater rewards.
If you are looking for a classic RPG or simply want to add some adventure into your life without breaking the bank, Diablo is a great option due to its low price point in most stores nowadays.
8. MYST (1993)
MYST is a timeless classic that immediately captures your attention with its iconic cover. As one of the greatest point-and-click adventure games, it provides an interactive mystery unlike any other.
Travel to the enigmatic island of Myst, where nothing is as it seems and there’s a surprise around every corner. Weave your own narrative as you try to unlock puzzles and uncover long-forgotten clues about a mysterious past.
MYST is an epic journey full of wonder, beauty, and awe wrapped up in a level of complexity rarely seen.
It’s not just an adventure game; it’s a chance to experience something truly special – one that will continue to captivate generations of players for years to come.
MYST is an incredibly popular game for many reasons, not least its accessibility and lack of pressure.
In a world that asks so much of us, MYST allows us to take things at our own pace: no rush to complete missions, no enemies to contend with, and even the freedom to explore without fear.
This freedom is what makes MYST the kind of game Hercule Poirot or Professor Layton would happily choose after their detective work was done for the day.
Regardless if you’re a novice or an experienced gamer, MYST has something to offer – something special, enjoyable, and adrenaline free!
7. Quake II (1997)
Quake II is one action-packed game that brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “shoot first and ask questions later.” In it, players must battle the Strogg, a race of aliens determined to annihilate us.
There’s only one way to beat them back – with an all-out fight! Players must infiltrate the alien planet and take down their leader in order to emerge victorious.
The mission may sound daunting, but people always find the path to success thanks to some intense shooting and adrenaline rushes – exactly what Quake II delivers!
Weapons and health packs litter the multiple levels in an attempt to give the gamer an edge over their robotic foes.
Body armor is also available to find, so gamers need not worry when released with a BFG chasing them around! The graphics may be simple and dark, but it only adds to creating a tense atmosphere as gamers fight a plethora of Stroggs.
So discover every power weapon, find all hidden areas, and lastly never forget that F doesn’t stand for a friendly when you step into the fast-paced world of finding weapons and scavenging your own health.
6. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (1997)
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II quickly became the first game I looked for to pick up the controller and play – in part because I was secretly enamored by the idea of wielding a lightsaber myself.
Playing as Kyle Katarn with this weapon was nothing short of exhilarating. Little did I know that all these years later, I would still be able to find new and vibrant games about this universe Nintendo Switch has to offer now!
Had I known, my days of playing this game at age 7 would’ve been immensely more enjoyable as my expectations back then weren’t even close to what developers can come up with today.
Starting out with a blaster in hand, players take on the role of Kyle Katarn and enter into classic Star Wars scenarios that take place after the events of Return of the Jedi. The mission?
To stop Jerec, a notorious bad guy, from discovering his true power in a place called the Land of the Jedi.
In this game, you have the choice to move towards either the light or dark side of the Force and your actions reflect that decision – while killing bystanders by choking them or throwing them against a wall isn’t going to earn you any favor points, some may find freedom embracing their inner Sith…
5. Unreal Tournament (1999)
The classic shooter game, Unreal Tournament, captured the 5th spot on our list of the best 90s PC games and won’t be letting go anytime soon! It was the game that had us all arguing with our parents about being late to the dinner table or spending too much time in front of a screen.
This game’s unique shoot-to-kill weapons made games like GoldenEye 007 or Turok, which had weapons like the Golden Gun or Cerebral Bore respectively, look almost like knitting needles in comparison.
Speaking of which, you probably know how much I bang on about that Cerebral Bore – Unreal Tournament just takes this kind of firepower to the next level.
The Last Man Standing mode in this game offers a unique way to play. Sure, the Capture The Flag mode is great, but to win and be the last man standing? That’s an unparalleled feeling.
The single-player mode also offers some challenging gameplay with waves of AI fighters that you have to take down.
What makes it better is that you can grab body armor and use whatever weapons you can grab to become the victor in this battle royale type of play. With its immersive atmosphere and heart-pumping combat, this Dreamcast classic remains one of the best multiplayer games out there!
4. Rollercoaster Tycoon (1999)
Rollercoaster Tycoon was one of those classic video games that everyone seemed to play and love. I remember, although I don’t like roller coasters in real life, it was the go-to game for me, the little box proudly sitting beside my PC ready to be played.
You needed to be a savvy business person in this game as you were tasked with creating a unique theme park and managing it all – from hiring staff to building attractions and ensuring there are always enough bins around (so important!).
Along the way, you had to avoid any health and safety risks that your guests may face, such as making sure not to place snack bars too near fast-paced rides. Playing Rollercoaster Tycoon was an absolute must for anyone who enjoyed this era’s classic computer games!
Rollercoaster Tycoon definitely requires some quick thinking and attentive upkeep to make sure your rides don’t crash, otherwise, there could be a scandal that no park manager would want.
To make sure your park visitors stay entertained, why not decorate the area with beautiful scenery and some fun costumes for visitors to admire while they wait in line for their turn? It’s also important for yourself as the park manager to remember to take breaks too.
Once you clock off for the day, you deserve to relax after your hard work managing the entire theme park! Managing a rollercoaster theme park would be far more difficult than managing any of our best zoo-building games after all!
3. Thief: The Dark Project (1998)
Thief: The Dark Project took the bronze medal in our list of the best 90s PC games and proved to be quite the challenge.
I remember buying this from a local second-hand games store and was eager to try it out for the first time.
Although I’m no expert when it comes to stealth games, I’ve always found them interesting for that reason – you need to be careful! During my playthrough of Thief: The Dark Project, I did die lots but thankfully kept at it in order to complete the game.
It was an amazing experience, a true testament to older video games.
The Dark Project is sure to be an enjoyable experience for anyone that loves the Assassin’s Creed series.
You’ll assume the role of Garret, a master thief who has found himself in a situation where he must work against his nature on the right side of the law. Instead of stealing and hiding out like he normally does, Garret embarks on a quest to prevent an all-powerful entity from gaining control of the world.
Sneaking around in The City and clashing swords with its guards gives a thrill that still feels great many years later.
If you’ve never played a game in this series before, prepare to be delighted by what Awaits you just beyond Garrett’s door!
2. Age Of Empires II (1999)
Age Of Empires II was a game that I spent countless hours playing at age 9, and it’s still growing in my heart today.
Face-to-face combat with enemies and creating sprawling cities were just some of the features of this classic game. Even though I haven’t touched the game for a long time now, its effects have remained as I grow older.
Today, I’m a fan of many genre of media such as fantasy-inspired TV shows like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones – something which maybe found its roots from playing Age Of Empires II so much.
Particular memories come to me of brutally trying to conquer villages with the Gothic gang! As my adult self likes to wear mainly black garments and steadily get more tattoos, I can tell that the seeds for this were planted at a young age by controlling fictional characters within this PC strategy simulation game.
That’s what happened with Age Of Empires II and me!
Pick your path – become a legend with the Vikings, spread your wings, and explore dark corners of the world as British renegades.
Lead your chosen civilization to victory, picking from a selection of currently available empires or building an entirely new one to create the greatest empire the world has ever seen.
Forging alliances, creating great monuments, or ruling with an iron fist; devise the strategy and play style you see fit.
Start with nothing. Develop your civilization by gathering resources, managing resources well, and fine-tuning that production process to obtain progression points.
Make sure to forge relationships, both friendly and dangerous as diplomatic relations could mean success or life/death in this complex game.
Ultimately, craft a unique and powerful empire to take over foes near and far but tread carefully, plans can come unstuck when least expected.
1. Half-Life (1998)
It’s official; Half-Life is the best PC game of the 90s! The game’s immense popularity upon release was due to its environmental realism, horror elements, and technical sophistication far ahead of its time.
With popular voice actors like Doug Savant delivering powerful lines in intense shootouts, Half-Life delivered an experience that held up for years to come.
It revolutionized the then-emerging genre of first-person shooters by allowing the player to experience this thrilling world from a true 3D perspective – and gamers loved it!
To this day, people still reference, reimagine, and obsess over this game as if it were released yesterday. Half-Life has truly stood the test of time.
What other game has a 10/10 rating on steam with over 60,000 reviews?! Mind blown.
Gordon Freeman’s mission is full of suspense and mystery as he tries to escape the eerie research facility filled with alien adversaries who want nothing more than to cause destruction.
Half-Life has earned critical acclaim during its tried and tested run of being one of the most recognized first-person shooter games ever created.
Not only did this game break boundary when it comes to action but its puzzles challenged players in unique and remarkable ways.
It’s impressive that Valve was able to ‘hit the ground running’ with an exceptional game like Half-Life from their very first project.
As the PC gaming industry began to boom in the 1990s, software developers found a creative way to make their games long-lasting and installed-friendly.
For example, many games from this era could be installed into different drives such as floppies, floppy emulators, or CDROMs.
This made it easier for users to install games regardless of what type of drive was available on their system.
Some of the most popular 90s PC games took advantage of this feature and allowed users to save game progress and continue whenever they’d like – making them as enjoyable now as when they first came out all those years ago!
A gaming lover from a very young age, Justin has always had a keen eye for building his own computers or racing sims so that he can race his identical twin (and usually lose at the actual race).
Justin in the founder of BeStreamer and sees it as a free resource to help all gamers around the world