computer games.
March 7, 2012 1:37 PM   Subscribe

Pretend I've been in a coma since 2002. What are the absolute best, classic PC games I've missed?

Short version: I recently installed Windows 7 on my MacBook Pro (Early 2011, 2.3GHz i5, 4 GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 3000 384 MB) and I want recommendations of your favorite games that'll run on a machine with those specs. RTS and FPS are preferred, but I'm open to any genre.

Understand that recommendations for older titles are OK -- I've played only a few computer games as a lifelong Mac whore, so I want your suggestions for greatest hits/classics/perfect 10 games, whether or not they're the latest and greatest. Remember how you could still play Goldeneye 5 years after it came out, and it was still AWESOME? Same deal with Starcraft -- it was still fun to play even after it was 'outdated'. Also, slightly older titles work well because

1. The integrated graphics chip in my MBP won't be able to handle the slickest titles from the past few years and

2. I've never had a PC before, so if I ain't seen it, it's new to me! And new games cost $60 but older ones can be had for a fraction of that, and while I appreciate the eye-popping visuals on something like Crysis, I don't need the very latest to satisfy my gaming itch.

Bonus points for games with solid single-player modes -- multiplayer is OK, but I'm neither skilled nor patient enough to contend with most online opponents, especially if the game in question is 5 years old and likely to be populated by people who've played hundreds of hours when I log on for the first time. (For example, I looooved playing TF2 after Valve released it for free last year, but I wasn't able to survive very long against the folks who have already got years of experience under their belts. I know TF2 shines when you're playing online with others, but whenever I tried that I'd get sniped within 30 seconds of spawning, so I just play the computer offline, and even though that's the practice mode, the game is so amazing it's still a ton of fun. L4D2 was a little better, since it's a newer title and I started playing shortly after it came out on OSX, but even then, I almost preferred the story/single player mode.)

In the past 18 months, I've enjoyed the hell out of the below, which are among the few great games available on a Mac.

-Starcraft II
-Warcraft III
-Rome: Total War (from 2004! But I still love it, clunky graphics and all, and have spent 50 hours in the past few months happily taking over the Mediterranean) and Medieval Total War
-Left4Dead 2

Are there any others like the Total War series? Those are pretty unique in my mind, since there is a full-on, Risk/Civ-style campaign map AND a full-on battle mode. Are there others like it?

Also, I'm interested in the Civ series -- I enjoyed Civ Revolutions on the PS3 (I know, I know, it's dumbed down compared to the complexity available in the PC version). Is Civ V the best of the lot? Assuming it'd work on my machine, will I be able to jump into V without having played the previous IV in the series?

I also liked Red Dead Revolver when I tried it out on the PS3 -- Thoughts on the PC version? How about Command and Conquer Generals or Red Alert II or whatever the latest version is?

Thanks in advance!
posted by andromache to Computers & Internet (49 answers total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
Check out Paradox Interactive's games.
posted by edguardo at 1:40 PM on March 7, 2012

Portal Portal Portal.
posted by inigo2 at 1:46 PM on March 7, 2012 [10 favorites]

Galactic Civiliations II > Civilization V in my mind. GalCiv2 is a classic.

The Witcher for RPG.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:49 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Age of Empires?
posted by stoneandstar at 1:50 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I found that Skyrim lived up to its hype. If your computer can't run it, try Oblivion.
posted by Nightman at 1:51 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love the total war series, but unfortunately it seems you're just under the requirements for Empire, and the others following. I'd highly recommend upgrading your CPU when you can, if you like Rome, you'll probably love Empire and Shogun2.
posted by Monkeyswithguns at 1:52 PM on March 7, 2012

The original Deus Ex was amazing and I think it came out right around the time you fell into that coma.
posted by gauche at 1:52 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sim City.
posted by dfriedman at 1:53 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Half-Life 2 (along with Episodes 1 and 2), since you certainly played the original HD between 1998 and 2002.
Portal and Portal 2. These games are not optional.

COD: MW (the first)
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for fun SP, Battlefield 3 for exceptional MP. All the BF games were good in their time, but I can't imagine anyone's still running a server for BF 1942.
Mass Effect series.
Moonbase Commander (Turnbased Strategy with awesome balance)
Supreme Command and sequels-- Chris Taylor RTS and the "spiritual successor" to his "Total Annihilation," featuring detente-breaking special units. 3-sided SP campaign and good MP.
Fable II and III if you're a Molyneux fan. Also Black & White 2.

If you never played the 3D space RTS "Homeworld" from 1999 that's a definite winner (you'll never again hear Adagio for Strings without thinking of this game). Also, there's been a community that has updated the hell out of Freespace 2 (1999), which still bears the crown for best space shooter.

I'm not much for fantasy games or RPGs-- clearly Elder Scrolls has been paving a path for itself, culminating in the current fifth episode, Skyrim. I think Fallout 3 broke the mold for RPGs latley.

If you can handle the graphical demands, try Far Cry. Maybe even Crysis.

Oh, and skip the Duke Nukem game which was overdue when you went into a coma.

Check out -- "Good Old Games." They've created a marketplace for abandonware, but all their games have been converted as needed to run on modern OSes.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:53 PM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

er, "the original H-L between 1998 and 2002"
posted by Sunburnt at 1:54 PM on March 7, 2012

Yeah, Oblivion & Portal, definitely.
posted by willpie at 1:55 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed Napoleon:Total War (haven't played Empire) and it runs fine on my 2009 MBP so you should be able to run it with no problem.
posted by ghharr at 1:55 PM on March 7, 2012

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and GTA IV
Sins of a Solar Empire
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 1:55 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are there any others like the Total War series?

Crusader Kings 2 (which just came out! You've hardly missed anything!) is that full-on, Risk/Civ-style campaign map turned into a incredibly intricate game of its own. I don't even miss the real-time battles; I'm too busy trying to defend my naturalized bastard son, the heir and hope of the Duchy of Lancaster, from the machinations of my daughter's Irish husband's depraved master of spies, all while weighing whether I should throw in with the minor counts raising the flag of rebellion against King Arnulf the Unready* while the bulk of the crown army's in Poitou.

*The game actually named him that on its own! It will also assign names to wars; admittedly usually something dry like the Third Breton War of Independence, but the engine's smart enough to notice when nobles named Erik are butting heads and announce The War of the Two Eriks.
posted by Iridic at 1:56 PM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

Also, this is an obscurer game but Arx Fatalis, it was a spiritual sequel to Ultima Underworld which is IMO one of the best games ever made.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:57 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great, thanks for these! Keep 'em coming, by all means -- I'll look into each suggestion tonight when I get home. You guys are the best.
posted by andromache at 2:00 PM on March 7, 2012

Civ IV - more so than Civ V, for me anyway, it was pretty much all I played from 2005 until towards the end of 2011.
posted by sarahdal at 2:01 PM on March 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

Civ IV - more so than Civ V, for me anyway, it was pretty much all I played from 2005 until towards the end of 2011.
posted by sarahdal

And, if possible, Civ IV with the Beyond the Sword expansion, which really makes an already awesome game super-way-awesome by tweaking some rules, improving the AI, and adding a bunch of late-game units. Actually, you could play this natively on your Mac (for cheap!) if you use Steam.
posted by COBRA! at 2:17 PM on March 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

Portal (also in a OS X version)

Oblivion was good, but I thought Fallout 3 and New Vegas were better. Morrowind fits your range and is a game that I revisit now and then because of its brilliantly written approach to in-world history.

The Geneforge Series (also an OS X title)

Neverwinter Nights: Skip the original campaign and go right for Shadows and Hordes. Runs reasonably well under Crossover/Wine on OS X. Go to for Win7-friendly installers.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:25 PM on March 7, 2012

Try Mount & Blade: Warband. All sorts of amazing mods have been developed so it's more than just a swell medieval combat game, now you can ride around and kick ass in a variety of historical and fictional realms. It's a whole lot of fun.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 2:27 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Grand Theft Auto (preferably San Andreas, I didn't really like IV); Portal; Not Civ IV or V - didn't like either; Minecraft!! ; Bioshock;

Bonus: You can buy a lot of these very cheaply on steam.
posted by BigCalm at 2:30 PM on March 7, 2012

posted by ringu0 at 2:32 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Divine Divinity
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:34 PM on March 7, 2012

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is also worth playing.
posted by Bonzai at 2:39 PM on March 7, 2012

Dragon Age.
posted by rachaelfaith at 2:44 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think people might be missing the fact that the OP is using a MacBook Pro with integrated graphics. A lot of the games people are recommending will be beyond it.

As for my suggestion: install the Mac version of Steam and have a look at their Mac-compatible library. Psychonauts, Half-Life 2 (plus expansions) and Portal would be my 'must have' picks, along with maybe Left 4 Dead if you're into multiplayer. (Apparently L4D2 will also run on a MacBook Pro, but I have my doubts...)
posted by anaximander at 2:47 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

(Whoops - obviously you're not limited to the Mac-compatible games if you're running Windows 7. Even still, those same suggestions are good!)
posted by anaximander at 2:49 PM on March 7, 2012

Came in to mention Civ IV but see I was beaten to it. I still play that game obsessively. I don't know what specs you need for Minecraft but I find that game fantastic, turn it up to hard level and the hiss of a creeper behind you might just be the scariest sound in gaming history.
posted by wwax at 3:05 PM on March 7, 2012

Sim City 4. Get it using Valve's STEAM servers. It will include all the bug fixes.
posted by jchaw at 3:17 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

League of legends. Free game. Been playing it daily for 2 years. It's becoming competitive in the esports scene. Watch pros playing all day at
posted by bprater at 3:29 PM on March 7, 2012

Portal, Portal 2, Braid.
posted by blueshammer at 3:36 PM on March 7, 2012

Beyond Good and Evil. Space Rangers 2.
posted by Errant at 3:38 PM on March 7, 2012

I'm not even a Star Wars fan, but I enjoyed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 1 & 2 quite a bit. Pretty sure you can get both for dirt cheap now. If you like those then move on to other BioWare games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect.
posted by erstwhile at 3:39 PM on March 7, 2012

I'm surprised nobody has said anything about the Command and Conquer series. Red Alert 2 came out in 2000, but if you haven't played it, it's very good. Red Alert 3 came out in '08 and is great if you liked the other Red Alerts. It has an extremely long single player campaign (Three factions, three full campaigns) and is a blast to play.

Command and Conquer: Tiberium Wars came out in '07 and is a much more serious command and conquer game. The campaign was pretty solid, and took me over 20 hours as well. If you're into RTS games, Company of Heroes is one of my favorites. Really excellent campaign and released in '06, so it shouldn't be a tax on your system.

Also, Portal, Portal 2, Half-Life, Half-Life 2.
posted by Geppp at 3:56 PM on March 7, 2012

I loved Beyond Good and Evil (sold by Steam and but the port wasn't designed for multi-core systems and I've always had to do a fair bit of fiddling to get it running.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:01 PM on March 7, 2012

N'thing the people who have mentioned Civ.

Civ IV is available on both Mac & Windows. If you go this route, get the Beyond the Sword expansion pack. That makes it a lot more enjoyable. You can probably get it at or Fry's electronics (if they're in your area).

Civ V is also available on both platforms. I've only played it a little bit, but the gameplay seems to be totally different than all the previous versions of Civ, so you wouldn't be missing out on a whole lot if you don't have much experience with previous versions.

I've also heard good things about Spore (I know it's out for Windows, not sure about Mac), but have never played it myself.

Given the incalculably large number of hours I've spent playing Civ, Civ II, Civ III (including both the Conquests & Play the World expansion packs), Civ IV (including the Warlords & BTS packs), and even Civilization: Call to Power (though that's non-canonical), I can't honestly recommend anything else. The replay value is abundant, and well-nigh infinite.
posted by AMSBoethius at 4:22 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Minecraft of course. Dwarf Fortress. And there are a lot of indie games now that you can get through Steam.
posted by JHarris at 4:23 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I will say that I enjoyed GTA: Vice City more than San Andreas. The characters and setting felt more humorous than San Andreas. Also less taxing to run on an old system.
posted by cosmicbandito at 4:59 PM on March 7, 2012

Half-life, Half-life 2.
you said fps, and the whole learning curve, but with so many servers and creating your own game with bots, I have to recommend Counter-Strike 1 & 2.
GTA is great
I really enjoyed Rise of Nations its a RTS.
posted by handbanana at 5:00 PM on March 7, 2012

L4D2 will most certainly run on a Macbook Pro, at least the late-2011 ones at 1280x800. You just have to turn down the graphics a bit. But it looks like the OP already drank that particular Kool-Aid. =)

Generally all the Valve games (Portal series, Half-Life series, TF2, Left 4 Dead series) are super great and will run decently on a Macbook (in OSX, even!). Highly recommended, all of them.

I'm a pretty avid PC gamer who just got into Mac gaming, here are the Steam games I recommend. These are mostly newish since studios are only recently starting to regularly offer Mac versions:

- Plants vs. Zombies - super cute tower defense-alike, nice difficulty curve, less "casual" than it appears at first glance; if you have an iThingy the touch versions are almost identical to the PC one
- Braid - exceedingly cleverly-designed time-bending platformer
- Limbo - grim moody platform/adventure game with excellent atmosphere
- Frozen Synapse - great cyberpunk tactical game, doesn't work very well with the trackpad + small screen of a Macbook unfortunately, but on a larger screen with a mouse it's marvelous, iPad version coming soonish
- SpaceChem - super clever puzzle game
- Amnesia: The Dark Descent - infamously freaky first-person horror/adventure
- Psychonauts - Average 3D platform game, but beloved by many because it's packed to the gills with weird humor. (Litmus test: Do you like Invader Zim? If so, you'll probably like Psychonauts.) Haven't tried this on Mac yet but it should be fine since it's an older game.

For Windows, but should run on a Powerbook:
- Mount & Blade Warband - surprisingly awesome medieval strategy/tactical/action/RPG hybrid; run around a fictional Europe recruiting an army, making your reputation, and getting personally involved in massive battles. I haven't actually tried this on Macbook myself but system requirements should be pretty modest. Don't get the original Mount & Blade, Warband is more of an "enhanced" version of the original.
- Super Meat Boy - ultra-masochistic platformer, there's a Mac version lately but it's the worst Mac port I've ever seen

Not on Steam:
- Minecraft - oh god Minecraft oh god oh god

I strongly suggest you buy games on Steam, by the way, because that way you get both the Windows AND Mac versions (when available).
posted by neckro23 at 5:34 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

World of Goo
posted by cseibert at 7:04 PM on March 7, 2012

Seconding Arx Fatalis, a great and neglected RPG.
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:09 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not much of a gamer, but I really enjoyed Nobody Lives Forever 2. Cool 60's spy style, great graphics (for the time), good story, smart humor. I wish there were more games with the kind of humor element NOLF2 has.
posted by SampleSize at 9:03 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Lately I have enjoyed the following games that should all run well on integrated graphics (and haven't already been mentioned):

The Binding of Isaac -- super-hard dungeoner.
Orcs Must Die! -- fun tower defense game where in addition to setting traps for the Orcs you can run around and blast them with fireballs.
Defense Grid -- really, really slick tower defense game. Has a Portal-themed expansion that's also really fun.
The Ball -- puzzler.

Regarding Skyrim, it is apparently possible to get it running reasonably well on Intel HD 3000 graphics. I'll let you be the judge of whether that looks like a playable experience or not! Similarly, the Mass Effect series appears to run pretty well. (Bear in mind when watching these videos that the video recording software used tends to hurt performance while it's running.)

I think you should build up a huge Steam wishlist and then check back on it regularly, as games are always going on sale even outside the Summer/Winter mega-sales. I think I got the Binding of Isaac for about £3!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:34 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Came in to recommend Mount & Blade Warband for your "campaign and battle mode" part, but I see it's been recommended already!

Also, if you are interested in playing TF2 against other old farts who don't always shoot so good (of course there are very good players as well, but the atmosphere is very relaxed and we even have "newbie" sessions to help teach new folks the ropes), perhaps check out, which originally started as an offshoot from here for TF2, but now has expanded to include everything gaming.
posted by Grither at 4:17 AM on March 8, 2012

Darkest Hour (from the already mentioned Paradox publisher), a grand historical war simulation of around WWII times. It's excellent, a great polishing up of the older Hearts of Iron 2 with much better performance, and tons of new details. And if you get bored, there are some stupidly easily installable mods that are just as good as the original scenarios (Kaiserreich, Mod33, New World Order 2, AAR).
posted by Iosephus at 6:39 AM on March 8, 2012

Half Life 2 is absolutely essential. Still.
posted by Decani at 9:03 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dragon Age - cheap and awesome - one of my favorite games in the last couple of years.
League of Legends - free and awesome (online only)
Orcs must Die - combination of tower defense and FPS with a Ash from Evil Dead hero...

Mostly I would install the Steam service. They have VERY good daily and weekend deals, not to mention seasonal sales events actually can change some achievements and/or add levels to your older games which has been a big surprise for me.

If you like total war you should check out Total War Shogun 2

There is a demo and is highly recommended!
posted by Mardigan at 11:32 AM on March 8, 2012

In a bid to beat gaming addiction I stopped playing games for almost 10 years between 2001 (when I was addicted to Baldur's Gate 2) and 2010. You could say I too was in a gaming coma.

Since I started playing again the standout titles for me are: Half-Life 2, Portal and (especially) Portal 2 (the best game I've played since the turn of the Millennium) and Dragon Age:Origins (Dragon Age 2 was a disappointment).

Skyrim has currently consumed 180 hours of my time because I got so distracted by sidequests that I never got anywhere near finishing the main questline before boredom set in. Impressive but disappointing.

All the above are great single player experiences.
posted by inbetweener at 1:53 PM on March 14, 2012

« Older AMT, not ATM   |   Mother cat wants to pick fights with daughter cat!... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.