We’re doing lists of games again, and this time we’re looking at those released between the mid-late 90s and 2001. My friend and colleague has already taken us through the first part of this particular selection, the content of which was the subject of some fevered debate (okay, a series of friendly e-mails) before we finally came to an agreement.

This was perhaps the time when I was paying the most attention to what was going on in the PC gaming world, so I felt reasonably confident about our choices this time. An argument could be made for some genres to be more well-represented than others, but again, we’ve gone for a fairly even spread. I must stress, though, that I did make a concerted effort to persuade Stoo to sacrifice any of my choices for System Shock 2, but he wasn’t having any of it. (I couldn’t make it one of mine, as I haven’t actually played it).

Apart from those minor discussion points, consider this our agreed choice of games from the period, for an imagined Win 9x based mini-console in the shape of a beige box that would run any and all of the listed games with pristine visuals and no OS or driver issues. I don’t know if such a mini-console would even be possible, but let’s not get bogged down in the details. It’s about the games, after all. Let’s begin!

Over my shoulder

The third person action-adventure grew in popularity during this period, aided somewhat by the decline of the traditional point and click adventure. An obvious reference point would be Tomb Raider, although I never actually played any of the games in that series, save for a few hours on the first one at a friend’s house, and the ambitions of the series were constrained somewhat by the need for the games to fit onto the first PlayStation. So instead we’ll include a similar game, that I have played, and was PC only: Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine.

If we’re looking at games with a bit more of an adventure focus, we could consider The Nomad Soul, although I personally found it a bit of a chore to get through. So instead we’ll got for Outcast, a favourite of Stoo’s. For a bit more action, we’ll stretch the limits of the period under consideration by including the slo-mo stylings of Mr Max Payne.


Have you ever retired a human by mistake?

The old school adventure wasn’t exactly flourishing, but there were still a few bright spots. LucasArts eventually abandoned point and click and went 3D with Grim Fandango, an approach they repeated when returning to the Monkey Island franchise for the final time. The adventures of Manny and Glottis have to be included, but if we’re going to go for another Monkey Island game then I’d rather go for the more traditional approach of The Curse of Monkey Island from 1997.


I’ll also make a case for including Blade Runner. Ok, it’s a personal favourite of mine, but (voxels aside) it’s still a very nice-looking game, and although it doesn’t totally succeed in everything it’s trying to achieve, it’s a decent example of the late 90s adventure, and I think more people should play it. Finally, we’ll put forward The Longest Journey, which isn’t perfect, but kind of a standard bearer for the genre at a time when it was more or less being abandoned by the major players.


I know that was then, but it could be again

Sport! Speeeort! Speeeeeoooooorrrrt! It’s ace, innit? Mate? Yeah? Sport? As I mentioned last time, these games don’t necessarily age that well, and are possibly better enjoyed on other formats. I’d love to avoid simply putting forward games from long-running franchises, and there’s a part of me that would be in favour of suggesting cult favourite Puma World Football ’98, but I don’t think I can justify it. FIFA arguably had a rare high point during this period, with FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 eradicating memories of the dreadful 97 edition, and the World Cup tie-in that followed delivered the peak 90s FIFA experience. Even the console types who had access to International Superstar Soccer were willing to concede that EA had made significant progress. Sadly, it was downhill after that, and subsequent FIFAs were too fast and overly reliant on silly trick and pirouette moves. So, we’ll take World Cup 98.

I know we included Championship Manager 2 last time around, but I don’t think you can have a collection of games from this period without including a version of Championship Manager 3. The latest eligible edition of the long-running series would be the 00-01 release that we reviewed on here some time ago. And I’m going to stick to management for our final sporting choice: International Cricket Captain 2. Yes, everyone who buys our imaginary small beige console will be given a cricket game to try.


Vorsprung Durch Technik

If we’re talking about racing games, then we have to include one of the 10,000 rally games that were released between 1998 and 2001. My choice would be Rally Championship Xtreme, except it was released in late 2001, so isn’t eligible for selection. So we’ll instead plump for Colin MacRae Rally 2.0, which at least gives an excuse to include a Codemasters racer, if we’re going to ignore sentimentality and omit TOCA Touring Car Championship. Formula 1 was relatively well-represented too, although it’s hard to pick a winner from the console port Formula 1 ’97, Grand Prix 3 (which, for many, was a disappointment) and the various EA F1 games released during this period.


The Need for Speed brand was pretty dominant around this time, although by this point it was just a name attached to EA’s racing franchise. I have a soft spot for Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit, but it’s edged out by Porsche 2000, which might look superficially similar, but actually has a lot more depth than NFS III or Road Challenge. Finally, we’ll go for the Microsoft racer that everyone thought would be a silly rip-off of Driver but turned out to be better: Midtown Madness.


Kom-en schnaller?

That’s most genres covered, but I think there’s one more game we need to include: The Sims. Ignoring the franchise and the add-on packs, and everything else, it had to be acknowledged that The Sims deserves a place among the most significant games of the period. Whether it’s torturing your Sim by walling him/her in a room, unable to access a toilet, or causing real-life friction by recreating all your friends and loved ones in the game, there’s plenty of fun here for everyone.

Those are our games, but of course you may not agree. Such lists are designed to invoke friendly disagreement and discussion! So feel free to tell us what idiots we are in the comments below.