20 Overlooked PC Gaming Classics (And How To Play Them Now)

Maximum PC Staff

One of the nice things about the PC as a gaming platform is that it pretty much has – in some form or another – every game ever. On the downside, however, that means heaps upon heaps of would-be classics get shoveled  off the assembly line and straight into the fiery furnace of history. There are simply too many games, and without that all-important multi-million dollar advertising budget, it's all-too-easy to slip through the cracks.

Obviously, sifting through the aforementioned entire history of gaming isn't exactly feasible, but we've done our best to give these underappreciated classics a second shot at fame and glory. So, what does that mean for you, dear reader? How about 20 great games you've probably never played for (mostly) low prices? Have at them after the break.

Anachronox
Developer: Ion Storm
Publisher: Eidos


Why It Rocked:
After John Romero – somewhat fittingly – doomed Ion Storm Dallas with his putrid pet project Daikatana, the beleaguered studio still had one last ace up its sleeve. Anachronox was a by and large fantastic fusion of the Japanese-style RPG and the point-and-click adventure genres. Its whip-smart writing, especially, forced players to stand up and take notice just as Ion Storm Dallas closed down once and for all.

Why It Flopped:
Multiple delays and a general lack of marketing saw Anachronox release to very little fanfare – the final nail in a coffin coated with Daikatana's ugly fingerprints.

Where to Buy It:
Amazon


Arx Fatalis
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: DreamCatcher Interactive


Why It Rocked:
Arx Fatalis presented an incredibly unique fantasy world in which the sun dropped its raisin scoops and promptly fizzled out, forcing everyone to live underground in order to keep warm (and, presumably, avoid the hilariously fatal rain of whale-sized raisins that proceeded to bombard the planet). The inventiveness, however, didn't stop there. Arx Fatalis' gesture-based magic system and intuitive take on crafting both stood out as high points in an otherwise solid open-world RPG.

Why It Flopped:
Arx Fatalis ran face-first into the fantastical freight train double-whammy that was Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and Neverwinter Nights. Sometimes, even the best games can't make up for a simple case of bad timing.

Where to Buy It: Steam

Beyond Good and Evil
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft


Why It Rocked:
Beyond Good and Evil may not quite have lived up to the Nietzsche text it was presumably named after, but its darkly cartoony world and portrayals of government conspiracy and media manipulation were unlike anything gaming had seen before. Contrary to the game's rebellion-focused storyline, however, its central mechanics were far from revolutionary. Even so, it was a well-paced action-adventure romp through a brilliantly constructed setting.

Why It Flopped: “One man's trash is another man's treasure” works both ways. For every one person that saw Beyond Good and Evil's bizarre world as a breath of fresh air, there were ten others that retched loudly and began searching desperately for something more familiar. Granted, in those people's defense, “one or more central characters are pig men” has rarely ever correlated with success.

Where to Buy It: Steam

Boiling Point
Developer: Deep Shadows
Publisher: Atari


Why It Rocked:
Boiling Point was a mess. A big, ugly, overwhelming mess. But it was also one of the most ambitious games ever to grace any platform, and even when it fell flat on its face, it often provided players with some of the most ridiculous impromptu “oh shit” moments the medium's over seen. Regardless of the (potentially disastrous) outcome, a trip across Boiling Point's 240 square miles of South African real estate was pretty much guaranteed to be entertaining.

Why It Flopped: So, so, so, so, so many reasons. For one, it was a glitch-ridden mess that didn't contain bugs so much as it was a sizeable Bug Metropolis, and you were an invader – an outsider that needed to be expelled. Moreover, if ever a game took the kitchen-sink approach to game design, it was Boiling Point. It haphazardly tossed Grand Theft Auto, Deus Ex, and Morrowind into a blender, seemingly not caring that the resulting mixture ranged from delicious to gag-worthy. The game was overloaded with all sorts of stats, faction systems, bells, and whistles, when maybe a third of them were actually necessary. Or maybe that was part of the game's charm. At any rate, they say an interesting disaster is better than a boring success. If that's the case, then Boiling Point may very well be the greatest game of all time.

Where to Buy It:
Atari

Crimson Skies
Developer: Zipper Interactive
Publisher: Microsoft


Why It Rocked: Crimson Skies was a high-flying, pulp-inspired hell of a time, and it didn't try to be anything else. It was hardly a flight sim, but that wasn't the point. Meanwhile, the game's story was top-notch, presenting an alternate history in which the United States dissolved during the Great Depression. And also, everyone got an airplane... using all that money they didn't have? Logical gaffes aside, Crimson Skies was pure, undiluted fun.

Why It Flopped:
Crimson Skies exemplified “cult hit” status, garnering excellent reviews and a small crowd of slavishly devoted fans – but little else. A similarly excellent console spin-off, unfortunately, reached similarly modest heights, and it's been all radio silence from the franchise ever since.

Where to Buy It:
Amazon

Drakan: Order of the Flame
Developer: Surreal Software
Publisher: Psygnosis


Why It Rocked:
Massive fantasy battles are a dime a dozen in this medium full of folks who've read/watched Lord of the Rings far too many times. What set Drakan apart, however, was your ability to hop on and off your giant friggin' dragon at will. The scope of said battles, then, was truly immense, allowing you to burninate the skies or the ground as you pleased.

Why It Flopped:
Drakan performed modestly enough to receive a PlayStation 2-only sequel. After that, the franchise faded into obscurity.

Where to Buy It: Amazon

Freedom Force/Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts


Why It Rocked:
For one, because Irrational Games (System Shock, SWAT, BioShock) can seemingly do no wrong. Honestly, though, what's not to like here? Free from the potent bonds of licensing and other such malarkey, Freedom Force was able to escape the curse that'd long kept other super hero games from leaping an untrimmed shrub in a single bound – let alone an entire building. The game had gobs of personality, combat that was equal parts hard-hitting and tactical, and addictive RPG elements.

Why It Flopped:
The original Freedom Force was a modest success, but its sequel, Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich, was only slightly more popular than, well, Nazism. As creator Ken Levine put it: “I don’t think we did enough different from the first game and it was just a little too late and too long for the sequel. It just didn’t sell very well – it sold a fraction of what the first one sold. I thought it was a better game.”

Where to Buy It:
Steam

Giants: Citizen Kabuto
Developer: Planet Moon Studios
Publisher: Interplay


Why It Rocked:
Giants was a veritable Katamari of oddball ideas rolled into one suprisingly cohesive whole. Deftly combining the multiple, unique races and resource gathering of an RTS with the ground-level action of a shooter, Giants managed to mix-and-match parts until it came out with a colossally unique experience. Oh, and it was wicked funny to boot.

Why It Flopped: Where to start? Its world was strange and seemingly uninviting, its core mechanics were – at first glance – dauntingly complex, and its sense of humor wasn't afraid to be unabashedly weird (in a good way). The end result? Critics loved it, but buyers chose to instead spend their money on extensions for their ten foot poles so they could not-touch Giants from even further away.

Where to Buy It:
Good Old Games

Grim Fandango
Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts


Why It Rocked:
Two words: Tim Schafer. More words: Grim Fandango was a brilliantly bizarre chucklefest from gaming's most daring comedian. In addition to being lauded as one of the greatest adventure games of all time, Grim Fandango's art style was an absolute treat and has actually managed to age rather gracefully. Honestly, this game should be a household name. As is, however...

Why It Flopped: Some sort of cruel diety intervened. Its name? “Market conditions.” Gamers were almost completely fed up with adventure games at the time, and Grim Fandango's uncompromising strangeness didn't make it any less of a bitter pill to swallow.

Where to Buy It:
Amazon

Kill Switch
Developer: Namco
Publisher: Namco


Why It Rocked:
The jig's up, Gears of War. Come out from behind that cover with your hands up. After all, that cover system doesn't even belong to you. That's right. Now hand over Kill Switch's credit nice and slow. No funny business.

Why It Flopped:
Google this game's box art. Now answer us honestly: If you were out shopping for any sort of gaming experience, would you give that the time of day? It's so generic-looking that – to the untrained eye – it's said to actually be invisible.

Where to Buy It:
Amazon

The Longest Journey
Developer: Funcom
Publisher: Funcom


Why It Rocked: As far as adventure games go, The Longest Journey's selection of brain-teasers was fairly standard. What really got noggins scratched and chins stroked, however, was the game's fantastically complex storyline. With two diametrically opposed worlds – each chock full of brilliantly developed characters – The Longest Journey could've gone on forever and we wouldn't have minded one bit.

Why It Flopped: The Longest Journey was another victim of gaming's lamentable “adventure games are dead” phase, which – wouldn't you know it – coincided with the genre's absolute best output. Shortly thereafter, all gamers were required to take an extensive class on the meaning of the word “dead.” Predictably, they learned absolutely nothing from it.

Where to Buy It: Steam

MDK/MDK2
Developer: Shiny Entertainment, BioWare
Publisher: Interplay


Why It Rocked:
The MDK games weren't exactly revolutionary, but who cares? Rock-solid shooting and wacky humor were the orders of the day, and both titles delivered in a way that's sadly absent in the modern gaming scene. Can you imagine how much better, say, Black Ops would've been with a six-legged dog? We bet Activision's kicking itself over that omission – and then sobbing quietly because it can only do it with two legs.

Why It Flopped: If you haven't caught on by now, let us spell it out for you: Bob Everyman doesn't like spending money on weird things. MDK, meanwhile, was as wacky as they come. It's a shame, then, that many potential players weren't in on the joke.

Where to Buy It:
Good Old Games

Myth
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Take-Two Interactive


Why It Rocked:
You may know Bungie as “those guys who've made Halo games for longer than I've been alive,” but the developer was blazing new trails long before it got bogged down in pesky pools full of money. Myth was one of the first RTSes to take its focus off gathering, construction, and other such micromanagement malarkey and put it squarely on fast skirmishes and quicker wits. It also featured a – for its time – sophisticated physics engine that added a nice layer of realism to the proceedings.

Why It Flopped:
Myth didn't flop so much as it's been slowly swallowed up – Sarlacc Pit-style – by time's cruel maw. While franchises like Warcraft, Starcraft, and Command & Conquer have continued to be synonymous with “RTS,” Myth sadly faded into obscurity, shoved out of the spotlight by the sci-fi version of the Green Giant.

Where to Buy It:
Amazon

Obsidian
Developer: Rocket Science Games
Publisher: SegaSoft


Why It Rocked: Why did games have to stop being this creative? Obsidian had it all – a crazy complex plot about environmental issues, nanobots, and the nature of sentient artificial intelligence, surrealist artwork, puzzles that take place inside people's subconscious (eat it, Psychonauts), and so much more. Adventure gamers, you owe it to yourselves to play this game.

Why It Flopped: Because there is no god . Developer Rocket Science Games – now defunct – would probably agree.

Where to Buy It: Amazon

Planescape: Torment
Developer: Black Isle
Publisher: Interplay


Why It Rocked:
Planescape was incredibly forward-thinking for its time and still puts many modern RPGs to shame. While other fantasy games were content to frolic with happy-go-lucky elves and pull baby bunnies out of their hats, Planescape put you in the tattered shoes of the ugly, scarred Namelesss One as he attempted to come to grips with his own immortality in the face of a hostile, frightening world. As a result of said immortality, the game's death mechanic was also extremely clever, allowing you to spring back to life in new locations. In some cases, getting killed was actually your most potent tactic.

Why It Flopped: Planescape, sadly, was a bit too different for many gamers, having more or less taken the Ye Olde Book O' Fantasy Tropes and thrown it into Ye Olde Woodchipper. Hell, it even had its own weird in-game language. Looking for accessibility? Well, Planescape laughs in your face, insults you in a language you can't understand, and then drops dead. Except not.

Where to Buy It: Good Old Games

Rise of Legends
Developer: Big Huge Games
Publisher: Microsoft


Why It Rocked:
The follow-up to Rise of Nations, Rise of Legends traded in its history books for some steampunk gear and a copy of StarCraft. The end result? An RTS with three wildly different factions and a seriously unique aesthetic.

Why It Flopped:
Why, gamers? Why do you complain when a sequel's too similar to its predecessor, yet cower behind your Call of Duties when a game actually gives you what you want? In case you're interested, lead designer Brian Reynolds is now chief game designer at Zynga. Once the big boss on Civlization II and Rise of Nations, he's now making social games. You did this . Gaze upon what you could have had and weep.

Where to Buy It: Amazon

Sid Meier's Pirates!
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: Atari


Why It Rocked:
Time for some word association: we say “Sid Meier,” you say... Civilization? Alpha Centauri? Railroad Tycoon? Well, the gaming legend also tried his hand at pirates long before Johnny Depp even thought about globbing on guyliner, and it was glorious. Pirates was brilliantly open-ended, allowing you to sail the seas, amass a crew, and duke it out with whomever crossed your peg-legged path on land or sea.

Why It Flopped:
This is another game that – while not quite a flop – gets depressingly little recognition given how much fun it is.

Where to Buy It: Steam

Temple of Elemental Evil
Developer: Troika
Publisher: Atari


Why It Rocked:
Temple of Elemental Evil was Dungeons and Dragons distilled down to its core. You had a dungeon. Inside it? Probably some dragons. And that was pretty much it. The game was hardcore dungeon-crawling at its purest. No smoke-and-mirrors or bells-and-whistles.

Why It Flopped:
Two reasons: 1) The game expected you to already know your way around a 20-sided die, and you'd die pretty darn quickly if you didn't. 2) “Troika Games, you say? Didn't they make that one game? With all the glitches?” Yep.

Where to Buy It: Good Old Games

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
Developer: Troika
Publisher: Activision


Why It Rocked: Bloodlines boldly crossed the divide between shooters and RPGs with style and maturity rarely seen outside Deus Ex. As with its cybernetic pseudo-cousin, Bloodlines prided itself on letting you sink your fangs into a situation from almost any angle. Guns, stealth, hacking, intimidation, seduction – you name it. The game's classes (or Clans), meanwhile, were more than mere stat sheets, providing you with a reputation, disposition, and more. Oh, it was also brilliantly written. As in, one of the best stories gaming's ever seen.

Why It Flopped: In addition to having a title so massive and winding that lesser readers physically fell into it, never to see the light of day again, Bloodlines launched as a buggy, glitch-ridden mess. To make matters worse, its developer then proceeded to kick the bucket, leaving the game horrifically half-baked. However, this story has a happy ending, as a nurturing community took Bloodlines in and created a series of unofficial patches , which put a stop to the game's larger issues and even reassembled scrapped files into playable content.

Where to Buy It: Steam

Warzone 2100
Developer: Pumpkin Studios
Publisher: Eidos

Why It Rocked:
Warzone 2100 was a little RTS with some big ideas. For one, the game downplayed resource collection to the point of nearly making it a non-factor. Also – perhaps more interestingly – it eschewed the idea of preset unit types altogether, instead allowing you to construct units from whatever parts you'd researched. The possibilities, then, weren't quite endless, but still totaled out to – according to leading professionals – “a whole damn lot.”

Why It Flopped: Warzone's developer stopped supporting it shortly after release. Unfortunately for the Vile Forces of Cruel Fate, they hadn't taken into account the fact that PC gamers rock. Before long, a dedicated community resurrected the game, added all kinds of new features, and even convinced Eidos to make the whole thing open source and freely available for all to enjoy.

Where to Buy It: It's free! You can download it here .

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