Trav's Favorite Games
Okay, this page is probably of much more interest to me than to you... It lists my 5 favorite games for various genres and what game characteristics I like in general. If you find yourself already liking a bunch of these games, you might want to check out some of the others on this page.
Many of these games are pretty old, and can be downloaded for free from Home of the Underdogs or other abandonware sites.
Rankings last updated 2005-08-10
Here are my general preferences for games (so you know if our tastes match):
- I prefer turn based strategy games because I like thinking and planning, and taking my time doing it. I also like to exercise while I use the computer, and reaction-based games are difficult when you're using an exercise bike or jogging up and down holding a joystick.
- I prefer excitement over realism. If it's not fun to me, then it fails as a game (though it might still make a good simulation). For example, I vastly prefer Panzer General's abstract fun to Harpoon's slow and impersonal realism.
- I don't care much about graphics and sound. If they're consistent with the mood of the game and aren't full of bugs, that's all I need.
- I prefer single-player to multiplayer, and, with the exception of Day of Defeat, almost never engage in the latter. I like to play sporatically, often when multitasking. I don't want my interruptions or pace to cause me to lose or other people to get frustrated.
2. Strategy Games
This is definitely my favorite genre. I've spent more hours playing the top two games in this genre than all other games combined.
- 1. Civilization 3 (Firaxis)
- Incredibly addictive and replayable (thanks to random maps). I love historical games, and this one covers all of history! It's the only game I play regularly these days, and I've been playing it almost daily since it came out (in 2001). The conquests and mods keep things fresh. I'm anxiously awaiting Civ 4!
- 2. Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (3DO)
- Fearsomely addictive, second only to Civ 3 in number of hours played. It's an abstract, turn-based fantasy. Campaigns let you carry over your characters from scenario to scenario, so you can get attached to them. It's almost like an RPG in the way you assign skills and choose which roles your heroes will fill. I absolutely loved this game, but it sequel (Heroes 4) didn't have the same addictive simplicity. Heroes 5 is due out in late 2005.
- 3. Panzer General (SSI)
- They call it a "beer and pretzel game" but for me it was more of a "wine coolers and ramen noodles" game. I loved the way combined arms were so important. Panzer General 2 and 3 were solid sequels, but didn't hold my attention as much; I think the scenarios got too slow and difficult to be fun. Also check out Fantasy General, which is an awesome fantasy version on the original Panzer General.
- 4. Perfect General 2 (QQP)
- This is an abstract, turn-based WW2 game. I loved the control you had over which units you bought and where you could deploy them; few games let you get away with such perversely unrealistic orders of battle! Also, the delayed artillery plotting made for some delicious tension. This is a very simple game to play, which means you get to focus on the situation rather than on deciphering the representation of the situation. Too bad the series died so young!
- 5. X-COM (Microprose)
- This had real-time elements but most of the combat as turn-based. I loved the tactical feel, but didn't enjoy the sci-fi elements. There have been a couple WW2 and modern-day variants (e.g., Soldiers at War, Jagged Alliance), but I didn't really get into them as much as the original X-COM.
3. Role-Playing Games
- 1. Angband (freeware)
- Angband is probably the most detailed game I've ever played, and it certainly has the steepest learning curve. After playing it for more more than a decade, I still don't consider myself good at it. If you want to know what the heck it is, and why I like it so much, see my Roguelike Review.
- 2. NetHack (freeware)
- This is another Roguelike, also incredibly detailed. Although Angband has more stuff, NetHack has more easter eggs. This was the first Roguelike I played. My friends and I used to conference call each other while we all played at the same time. Great fun.
- 3. Betrayal at Krondor (Sierra)
- This game oozes thoughtfulness. Its interface is incredibly intuitive, its plot is actually immersive (rare for a game), its wilderness exploration gives a delightful sense of freedom, and the side quests are numerous and fun... I think what really made me fall in love with it were the ambient noises! Too bad the sequels weren't any good; Betrayal at Antara kept the interface but lost the game world, while Return to Krondor kept the game world but lost the interface.
- 4. Might and Magic 7 (3DO)
- I got into MM6 after Heroes 2 and thought it was really cool. When MM7 came out (around the same time as Heroes 3), I liked it even more, because its story was better, its turn-based fighting was more practical, and the different areas of the world were richer and more internally consistent. Also, MM7 is set in the Heroes 3 universe, with the same monsters, spells, skills, etc. The gameplay itself in MM7 has a lot of variety: some times it's like a first-person shooter (outdoor fighting), at other times it's a puzzle/adventure game (quest completion), some times a strategy game (collecting certain resources enables you to change your battle tactics), and sometimes even a card game (the addictive game-within-a-game Arcomage). I really liked MM7 (and to a slightly lesser extent MM8), but the reviews on MM9 were horrible, and I didn't like Heroes 4 that much, so I lost interest in the franchise.
- 5. The Sims (Maxis)
- What a mind-blower this was when it first came out! Some people might say it's not really an RPG (or even a game), but in my mind, it's probably the truest RPG out there... I didn't like SimCity all that much, but The Sims just took over my life for many days... It completely changed the way I thought about domestic time management, and compelled me to change my apartment around almost every weekend for a year!!! I haven't kept up with all the expansion packs, but if The Sims 2 comes out with a gold version, I might get it.
4. Action Games
- 1. Day of Defeat (Half-Life mod)
- I didn't get into multiplayer Internet gaming until 2001. I had bought HalfLife a few months earlier, but thought Team Fortress and Counterstrike were so-so. As soon as I read about Day of Defeat, I was intrigued by the WW2 flavor and decided to download it. As soon as I played it, I was hooked. For several months, I played it almost every night. I loved the WW2 theme, and the sniper rifle, and the machine gun, and the knife fights... I didn't even need a fast connection (only having a 56K modem at the time). Of course, nowadays there's so many WW2 shooters that it's hard to decide which one(s) to try.
- 2. Duke Nukem 3D (3D Realms)
- This game had an incredible sense of "being there," especially in Episode 1, where you run around modern day cities. I used to play it a lot with my roommates... pipe bombs ruled! I liked its prequels (the platform games), and am very curious to see if Duke Nukem Forever lives up to the wait...
- 3. DOOM (id)
- Doom was the most repeatedly startling game I played: "Holy BLEEP!!!" I'd yell again and again. Doom's ability to convey mood was revolutionary; some of those dark corridors completely freaked me out, again and again! It definitely scared me more than any other game, and up until Day of Defeat was probably the most fun I've had with multiplayer gaming. I tried the Doom 3 demo but thought it was boring; I guess I'm tired of the shooter genre.
- 4. Carmageddon 2 (Stainless)
- This game gives you fantastic freedom to drive where you want, and multiple ways to win a scenario. The landscapes are real-world and detailed, so it has Duke Nukem 3D's "nooks and crannies" appeal. The only faults were a shortage of maps (you had to repeat each one 3 or 4 times) and levels which were too hard (I had to do lots of data file editing to give myself more time). A new version might be coming out soon; let's hope it has more tracks!
- 5. Rise of the Triad (Apogee)
- Don't laugh! The first multiplayer level in the shareware version had my friends and me addicted for almost a year! All the other levels in the game sucked, but that first level has yet to be beat for sheer fun.
- 6. Trespasser (Dreamworks)
- The interface was one of the worst ever (oh how I hated that arm!!!) and there were glitches galore. However, I thought the game did a brilliant job of conveying the idea that nature was in control. It was very scary at times, and watching dinosaurs fight each other was cool. I really wish someone would make a sequel of this game!
5. Non-Computer Games
These are my favorite board games, war games, card games, etc. Some have been ported to the computer.
- 1. Ambush (Victory Games)
- This is a solitaire WW2 tactical combat war game with an almost role-playing feel. It has the highest level of character attachment of any game I've played. There's no save and restore (since it's not a computer game), so the tension is extreme. This also plays brilliantly as a two-player game; my friend controlled half the men on the squad, I controlled the other half. I haven't been able to find a computer version, or any other computer game that comes near to capturing the tactical excitement of this game.
- 2. Settlers of Catan (Mayfair)
- Abstract strategy, easy to learn. Very fun. Check out my Catan page for more info. There are at least three computer versions, one of which I've packaged for download.
- 3. Middle Earth: the Collectable Card Game (MECCG) (Iron Crown Enterprises)
- Tolkien, Tolkien, Tolkien!!! This is harder than Magic the Gathering, but is more adventurous. Plus, it's Tolkien, Tolkien, Tolkien!!! :) There's a computer version (NetMECCG) which lets you play against other people over the internet, but so far no single-player game.
- 4. 1830 (Avalon Hill)
- Railroads, building, stocks. There is no randomness in this game! There's an old-but-good computer version which you can download from www.the-underdogs.info.
- 5. Zarcana (John Cooper)
- Another abstract strategy game, this time played with IceHouse pyramids on Tarot cards. It's unbalanced, but fun. I don't know of any computer versions, but you can check out the rules at www.wunderland.com. There's a sequel to it called Gnostica, but I haven't tried it yet.