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My Favorite PC Games of the 90's

I began my video game playing career on consoles starting with the Atari 2600, NES, and eventually the Sega Genesis. I loved all my adventures on the consoles, and never once gave a thought to playing a game on a computer. We didn't even have a computer, why would I?


Note: Can you believe that. I mean, there was a time when most people didn't own a computer. That seems like another lifetime ago.


I played educational games in school, like Number Crunchers, Oregon Trail, and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego. But other than browsing the cool Star Wars games in the PC aisle at CompUSA, it just wasn't something that was on my radar.


In the mid 90's, the internet emerged and so did the home PC. Those 90's computers were always packed with demos and I always looked forward to checking out whatever games came with it. They were usually more of the point and click variety, but it was still so cool to see the graphics on a computer screen. Although, it wasn't nearly as cool as watching small video clips in Encarta.

Then slowly the computer began to dominate my life. My poor consoles began to collect dust, and I started focusing on playing PC games exclusively. This lasted for about six or seven years, until I finally bought a Nintendo 64, so I could play some wrestling games. Soon after, I started switching my allegiance back to consoles, so that I didn't have to constantly update graphic cards.


I got to thinking about some of my favorite PC games from that time period. I feel like they are sort of the Island of Misfit Toys. Console games, and even some classic PC games, are beloved and replayed all the time. But there were some great middle of the road games that came along, that no one seems to talk about or even remember in some cases. I decided I wanted to take some time and highlight some of the games I spent the most time with as a kid and young teenager. I wanted to give back a little, for all the enjoyment that these games brought me.


The first game we ever bought was Papyrus NASCAR Racing. Never before had a game come this close to feeling like an actual NASCAR race. Most of the tracks and drivers were included and that made for an amazing game that spawned an entire genre of sim racing games. Now, people have ten thousand dollar setups to race via iRacing (made by former members of Papyrus) and NASCAR Racing 2003, a later edition of Papyrus' racing series is still commonly played online. 2003 is considered the greatest and most realistic NASCAR game ever, and there is a huge community still supporting it.


NASCAR Revolution

NASCAR Racing was fun, but when NASCAR Revolution came onto the scene it brought an arcade style racer with graphics that were much better than what Papyrus offered. In typical EA fashion from back in the day, more attention was paid to the cosmetics in the game, rather than game play. That didn't mean the game wasn't fun, I spent a lot of time with my dad mastering these tracks and causing awesome wrecks. But we bought that game because of how great the cars looked in comparison to NASCAR Racing.


Daytona USA

This game was a huge success in arcades and as soon as my dad saw the words Daytona, he had to buy it. Myself, I was always confused by the name Daytona USA. The game didn't resemble Daytona International Speedway in any way. The car was a generic stock car, but the game had no NASCAR connection. Despite all this, it was a great arcade game and it was really cool being able to play an arcade game that looked as good as Daytona USA in my house. I didn't play this nearly as much as the other NASCAR games, but it did get some love.


Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit

This game blew my mind. The graphics were amazing at the time and never before could you enjoy this type of cop and robber chasing. The racing was fun, and you had the ability to download cars online made by the modding community. I downloaded all different types of cars, but my favorite was a General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard. The mod even included the Dixie horn. I spent all my time racing this one track that was in the country, kicking up leaves, and blasting that Dixie horn over and over driving (no pun intended) my grandma nuts.

Hot Wheels Stunt Track

I actually think this game was my brother's. For a long time he loved roller coasters, and the closest track building activity he could do (other than Rollercoaster Tycoon) was building Hot Wheels tracks. So for Christmas he ended up with this game. It's an on rails racer with excellent graphics. The track was set throughout this house and was set up exactly the way most kids set it up. The track ran off the bed, onto desks, over chairs, etc. It reminded me a lot of Honey I Shrunk Ourselves and Toy Story.


The game play was based on timing, since you had very little control of the car. You had to hit your marks by memorizing the track so that you didn't fly off. It was simple, but very fun. It's one of the games I look back on most fondly.


Command & Conquer/Red Alert

In seventh grade my friend Michael Benson convinced me to check out this game Command & Conquer. I recognized its cover art, but nothing on the back of the box screamed play me. I bought it thanks to his advice and I was not disappointed. It was the first real time strategy game I ever played, and I just about wore the disc out.


After a few weeks of playing by myself, Michael introduced me to the first online gaming I would ever do. Using our dial up modems, we would call each other's house and connect through the game from there. There was no voice chatting, so we were limited to very short text communication in the game. That really wasn't necessary though, since we usually spent somewhere between ten and twelve hours amassing a huge army and base, and then ten minutes destroying each other.


Command & Conquer was a little old by the time I got it, and Red Alert had just been released. I picked that up and Michael and I would alternate between the two games and our weekend war games. My first online gaming experience is still one of my favorites.

Ultimate DOOM

My second PC game was Ultimate Doom. My uncle got it for me for Christmas after the salesman convinced him that it was the best game on the market. At that time, I could not argue. It was way more gory and violent than anything I experienced on the Genesis, and I loved it. The music was great, the game play (my first person shooter experience) was fantastic as well. What I remember most is being scared. If I played that game after everyone went to sleep, I was terrified. Every creak the house made was one of those monsters coming out and throwing a fireball my way.



Driver is most commonly remembered as a Playstation game, but it was released on PC as well. I picked it up real cheap one day at Walmart and fell in love. It was my first open world experience, and the control on the car was amazing. I loved the slippery driving and I also loved being a bad guy. It wasn't as common back then as it is today, and sure I was an undercover cop deep down, but I still drove for the bad guys.


One of the levels that stands out the most was the training level at the beginning of the game. You are locked inside a small parking garage with a time limit, and have to complete all of the assigned activities correctly before you can actually proceed to the game. It took me almost two days to finally beat all of the activities before the time expired. Of course, once I did it once, it was easy and any other times I tried it I could knock it out in one quick attempt.


Monster Truck Madness

Microsoft's Monster Truck Madness took up more of my time than any monster truck game ever had any business doing. The game was primarily a racing game, albeit with huge monster trucks. You got to pick from twelve different real life trucks, and three different game modes: circuit racing, rally racing, and drag racing. The commentary is what made the game really stand out. It's very primitive by today's standards, but at the time hearing a real life voice making comments that related to the race was shocking. HARD WORK... PAYS OFF... FOR GRAVEDIGGER


NBA Live 97-99

The 90's were a great time for basketball fans. Michael Jordan, Shaq, Magic, Bird... it doesn't get any better than that. Like with all my interests, if they make a video game about it, I must play it and NBA Live was the only NBA game released on PC at that time. I loved playing with all my favorite players (with exception of Jordan who was always excluded - Roster Player #89!), but I loved the massive modding community so much more. It was there that I saw the power of roster updates and user creations. So much so that I even got involved.


These talented modders were making current shoes for the players, new faces, alternate jerseys, corrected banners that hang in the rafters, and they even managed to put Michael Jordan into the game. I remember when they released an amazing modification that replaced all the graphics with NBA on NBC graphics and even included the John Tesh jingle. It was just too cool.


I realized while writing this I mentioned many of these games were firsts for me. My first online, my first first person shooter, my first open world, etc. Maybe that is what made these games seem so magical to me. They opened new doors into gameplay genres that I would love for years to come.

These games weren’t always the prettiest games or had the most ground breaking gameplay, but they were fun. I think sometimes we forget that video games are supposed to be fun. We expect too much out of them because they can do so much now. Not all video games need to be groundbreaking artistic pieces. Sometimes, simple gameplay and a lot of fun are all you need.

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90schick Posted on Mar 26, 2015 at 12:59 PM

I can honestly say I didn't play much on the pc...not until 99-00s with Sims and RCT...

Vaporman87 Posted on Mar 22, 2015 at 12:18 AM

Any time you wanted a game, you should have told him it was "multi-genre" and had a racing portion somewhere in there.

massreality Posted on Mar 21, 2015 at 05:23 AM

I really should have mixed it up I didn't realize I played so many racing games at the time! I think a lot of that was due to my dad buying the games. If it didn't involve racing, he didn't buy it

Hoju Koolander Posted on Mar 21, 2015 at 03:43 AM

Ha, at first I thought you played racing games exclusively, but then you threw in Command and Conquer so I could relate. My older brother was a big PC Gamer and it was at his house that I played classics like Lemmings, Kings Quest 1-4, Wolfenstein 3-D, Duke Nukem and Doom. Those Encarta videos were a revelation at the time, that's for sure.

echidna64 Posted on Mar 20, 2015 at 05:26 PM

Great article, I sense a racing theme! Dude that training level in Driver is ridiculously hard! My friend and I took turns and spent an entire night trying to complete it. It's amazing how the tutorial can be harder than the actual game, gotta love the 90's!

Vaporman87 Posted on Mar 20, 2015 at 04:59 PM

Firstly, it's great to see you making your mark here at long last mass! You've been hiding some excellent writing talent from us for far too long.

Secondly, I played every single one of these titles (though some NOT on PC) and have my own experiences and memories of each. However, I'm only going to concentrate on two of them.

Ahh, Nascar Racing. And here I thought Papyrus' first Nascar outing had been completely lost in the dustbin of history. I loved this game for a short time when it first came out. My favorite thing about the game (as with most PC games I played) was the option for customization. I loved being able to create my own Nascar ride, complete with stickers and designs of my own creation. My car was sponsored by Rutland Furniture (our furniture store at the time). LOL. The #87 Rutland Furniture car was well known in the Nascar Racing universe for doing a 180 and heading in the reverse direction, making contact with the first car heading the other way, and watching as complete and utter destruction followed. Man, pieces of cars would fly everywhere in that game. I loved that. And since it was just a game, I was not disqualified for it, so I would turn around and win the race because nobody else's cars survived the turmoil. LOL

Finally, NBA Live! I can't remember what year it was, but my copy of NBA Live allowed you to create, not just teams, but ENTIRE LEAGUES! I never played with the NBA guys. I instead created an entire league based on a fictional league my brother and I created in order to perform a sports radio program that we recorded on cassette tape. I made the rosters for 12 teams, one player at a time, and watched as I took myself out of the game, and just let the CPU handle the teams and who would win. It was as close to creating your own basketball league and watching the drama play out as you could get. I hate that NBA games these days don't allow this level of customization anymore. I miss that dearly.

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