Good games for an underpowered laptop?
August 14, 2010 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Best PC-only games of the last few for an underpowered laptop?

I've just picked up an older thinkpad with windows 7 on it, and it hasn't a chance of playing any 3d shooters or games like starcraft 2, but I haven't had a windows box at all for the past few years (mac and xbox only) and I'm sure I missed a bunch of great pc-only strategy games or other games that don't depend on the latest and greatest hardware.

What should I be looking for? I already picked up Immortal Defense and enjoyed that a lot.
posted by empath to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (question should be of the last few YEARS)
posted by empath at 12:22 PM on August 14, 2010

Master of Orion and Master of Magic are not exactly recent, but in just the last few months they became available again for download for just $6 each. And they work fine under Win 7, using DOSBox (included in the download).
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:28 PM on August 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Rise of Nations (and the expansion Thrones and Patriots) are a bit older than the last few years (2003) and run perfectly well on older hardware and netbooks. It's still my favourite Real Time Strategy game. You can pick up the Gold Edition (game+expansion) for about £6.
posted by hjd at 12:31 PM on August 14, 2010

The Civilization IV Complete Edition with all addons is currently on sale on Steam.

I can also recommend Plants vs. Zombies, a very entertaining Tower Defense game (should be cheaper on Steam than directly from Popcap) and maybe take a look at Torchlight, a Diablo-style Action RPG with tons of levels that should run well on older hardware. (Steam-Link)
posted by starzero at 12:42 PM on August 14, 2010

Nthing Civ 4 and Master of Orion and MoO2 (avoid MoO3 like the plague). And Torchlight, yes. Steam has a lot of games that will happily run on older 'ware.

Diablo and 2 aren't bad standbys either. Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri is one I keep on my decrepit laptop. I've enjoyed the Heroes of Might and Magic series, though I hear 4 was not as good as older versions (lucky you!).
posted by Heretical at 12:55 PM on August 14, 2010

Morrowind! Although the new mods and texture replacers can make it as gorgeously detailed as anyone could want, the base game would probably run quite nicely.
posted by saveyoursanity at 1:02 PM on August 14, 2010

Seconding Rise of Nations. It is fucking awesome.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:09 PM on August 14, 2010

If you're not already familiar with, I'd recommend you check it out. Classic and discontinued games to download, mostly between $5.99 and $9.99. They work with the publishers and copyright holders so it's legit.

They're all DRM-free and updated to run seamlessly on Windows XP / Vista / 7 without needing DOSBOX or any other tricks. Some of the games are as recent as 2007, but it's mostly classic games from the late 90s, early 00s.
posted by Alabaster at 2:37 PM on August 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Even though they're a bit older than two years, I would totally recommend (if you don't already have them) Victoria and Crusader Kings by Paradox Interactive. The depth and the amount of choices the Paradox games offer is just immense. They run just great on older hardware (I've played them on my laptop, a three years old Samsung with a Celeron CPU). Newer Paradox games (I see that Victoria II was released yesterday) probably don't, though.
posted by daniel_charms at 2:39 PM on August 14, 2010

You can get the first Starcraft through Blizzard's online store.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:49 PM on August 14, 2010

If it can handle Portal, give that a whirl. I enjoyed it.
posted by backwards guitar at 3:12 PM on August 14, 2010

I've had a ridiculous amount of fun playing Heroes of Might and Magic III on older machines, especially if you get a friend or two and play in "hot seat" mode. Also, if you're able to run Windows 7, Warcraft III might be an option.
posted by Mr Mister at 3:27 PM on August 14, 2010

Thirding Torchlight here. It's a great single player game with some ridiculously low system requirements. Also, agreeing with the above mentions of Steam. They have a great back catalog of games.

Also, the Command and Conquer series of RTS games are great; Red Alert 2 was released ten years ago and is still a really fun play.
posted by Geppp at 4:18 PM on August 14, 2010

Nthing the Paradox suggestions. I've got a five year old laptop and Europa Universalis III runs just fine. With all the add-ons, it's a fantastic game. In fact, I would advise against installing it as it will quickly become an obsession. Pretty steep learning curve if you haven't played other Paradox games, but the god...the depth!
posted by conifer at 5:42 PM on August 14, 2010

Response by poster: Am playing Rise of Nations now -- excellent recommendation, thanks :)
posted by empath at 7:11 PM on August 14, 2010

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri is one I keep on my decrepit laptop. I've enjoyed the Heroes of Might and Magic series, though I hear 4 was not as good as older versions (lucky you!).

Votes for both of those from me -- A.C. and HoM&M (III). Tastes differ on this one, but I have a soft spot for Age of Wonders II, which will work just fine on an older laptop.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:25 AM on August 15, 2010

What starzero said. Get Steam, grab Civ4, Plants v Zombies, Torchlight, and Alien Swarm. Probably $20-40 total, depending on current sales.
posted by sophist at 12:25 AM on August 15, 2010

If you liked Immortal Defense, Defense Grid is awesome!
posted by Xany at 1:02 AM on August 15, 2010

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