There are some excellent games -- some old enough to buy their own alcohol -- that are as good today as the day they were released. You may not have heard of all of them. After all, when a game has been out for a while, people generally stop talking about it. They are still out there though, waiting patiently for someone to pick them up and play.

Unlike with consoles, a game from 1995 may work on modern PCs just fine. In this article, we are looking specifically at games that are still fun to play, ten or more years old, and are the best of their style in their series (e.g. Civilization 4 is not considered, because Civilization 5 was better; Fallout 2 is considered, because Fallout 3 and 4 looked and felt quite different). We've also considered remasters of games that fit that description. Most of these games are available relatively cheap and will offer many hours of enjoyment, even on modest hardware.

A special point of note: games have generally become more forgiving over the years, with things like autosaves and regenerating health becoming more or less standard. Expect very little of this sort of mollycoddling with these old-school games.

Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition

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  • Works: Yes
  • Source: Steam, GoG ($12-20)
  • Genre: RPG, Isometric, party, turn-based
  • Similar: Fallout, Planescape, Neverwinter Nights (gameplay)
  • Graphics: Passable
  • Gameplay: CRPG, Pausable real-time tactical, isometric, plenty of dialogue
  • Difficulty: Selectable

This is one of the CRPG greats. It’s full of travel, discovery, NPCs and oodles of story to uncover. As with other classic CRPGs, expect plenty of written dialogue. The remaster adds support for widescreen, some content, as well as some visual enhancements over the classic.

Quake 3 Arena

Click on image for gameplay video
  • Works: Yes
  • Source: Steam ($12), Also see ioQuake3.org for a free almost-clone
  • Genre: FPS, Arena style
  • Similar: Unreal Tournament, Tribes
  • Graphics: Passable
  • Gameplay: FPS, pure and simple - competitive

If you take a modern multiplayer shooter, and boil away all the theatre, strip it of military pretensions, and speed it up a good deal, you’ll find something that looks a lot like Quake 3 Arena.

It is the very soul of a competitive first-person shooter – brutal, fast, and more dependent on skill than anything else. As its name promises, it is focused on arena combat, with small to medium maps with various environmental features, damage, speed, health and armor boosts, as well as weapons. It is, my opinion, the pinnacle of the Quake series as far as multiplayer is concerned.

Did I mention it was fast-paced?

Grim Fandango Remastered

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  • Works: Yes
  • Source: Steam ($12)
  • Genre: Point-and-click adventure, humorous, puzzle
  • Similar: Tales of Monkey Island
  • Graphics: Passable
  • Gameplay: 3D point and click

An excellent point and click adventure, remastered to look and work nicer on modern hardware.

The several hours’ worth of entertaining story follows the adventures of Manuel Calavera, travel salesman to the dead. The game takes place in a loose interpretation of the underworld of Aztec mythology, seen through film-noir goggles, making for an unusual, quirky, and immensely enjoyable aesthetic. The excellent voice acting only makes it more immersive, selling the setting and characters better than the best visuals ever could.

Unusually, for a game of its era, most of the dialogue is spoken; so if you don’t have the patience for reams of text, this one’s for you.

Diablo 2

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  • Works: Yes (tweaks may be required)
  • Source: Blizzard ($10)
  • Workarounds: Run as admin, disable desktop composition and/or end explorer.exe from task manager, launch
  • Genre: Birds-eye dungeon crawler, Action RPG
  • Similar: Fate, Torchlight, Bastion
  • Graphics: Low res, high quality
  • Gameplay: Dungeon crawler
  • Difficulty: Low/medium. Adjustable after first playthrough

Built on the rich mythos of Diablo, Diablo 2 follows the story of a hero battling trough the world of Sanctuary to stop dark and terrible powers. The game gives off a macabre, tainted vibe, a good part of which can be credited to the outstanding ambient music.

The story is very good – however, little of it actually takes place during gameplay. Rather, the story is mostly told (very well) through cinematics between acts.

If you pick this one up or revisit it, do yourself a favor, and read up on the lore – it will greatly enrich your experience of the world as you play through what would otherwise feel like a generic, albeit excellently executed dungeon crawler thanks to the many me-too clones that exist of the style.

Homeworld Remastered

Click on image for gameplay video
  • Works: Yes
  • Source: Steam ($35)
  • Genre: Space Sim, Strategy
  • Similar: Supreme Commander
  • Graphics: Good
  • Gameplay: Fully 3d space, pausable realtime
  • Difficulty: Dynamic

Homeworld is a space strategy game. Not a strategy game set in space (StarCraft), mind you. A strategy game truly in space, all three glorious dimensions of it.

The player gets to control space fleets, gather resources and fight spectacular battles in full 3d, maneuvering and commanding in all three axes. The game works – like most strategy games – on a series of counters. Ship ‘x’ counters ship ‘y’ and so on. The gameplay is very engaging, demanding a lot of attention and awareness of the positions of various vessels, current orders, capabilities, etc.

An excellent game, and a must-play for fans of strategy games. The HD remake makes it truly gorgeous, by any standards.

Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos

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  • Works: Yes
  • Source: Blizzard ($10)
  • Genre: Strategy, Fantasy mediaeval
  • Similar: Starcraft
  • Graphics: Passable
  • Gameplay: Multiple campaigns, multiple races. Heroes in strategy with items and inventory, several unusual/interesting missions.
  • Difficulty: Selectable

A fun game in every respect – excellent story, solid gameplay, and varied missions.

The main campaign leads players through several different views (i.e. races) and phases of an epic conflict – first dawning, then raging in the world of Azeroth.

The lore, like most Blizzard games, is deep, and adds an extra dimension to what is already a very good game.

A point of note here is that it is not exactly fast-paced – units will be engaged in combat for a comparatively long time before either perishing, or taking down their targets.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

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  • Works: Yes
  • Source: Steam ($10)
  • Genre: Stealth
  • Similar: Thief, Metal Gear
  • Graphics: Very good
  • Gameplay: Stealth – hide in the shadows, take out (or avoid) bad guys, security systems and similar. The main focus of the game is to accomplish your objectives without being detected.
  • Difficulty: Selectable

The third game in the Splinter Cell series before it somewhat changed its playstyle, Chaos Theory does an admirable job, keeping most of the good stuff from previous games, while adding gameplay features made possible by better technology.

The player takes on the role of Sam Fisher, covert agent. Sam goes where no one else will go, and do things no one else can do – all without being detected. The game focuses heavily on stealth, sticking to the shadows and pouncing on enemies from behind, above, and underneath – or better yet, avoiding them altogether. There are some minor puzzle mechanics (i.e. ‘hacking’, and ‘lockpicking’ minigames) that, depending on your disposition, either enhance the sense of urgency, or disrupt the main gameplay.

The story is, unsurprisingly, yet delightfully, worthy of a Tom Clancy novel, with plenty of international intrigue, betrayal and plot twists.

Unlike most games on this list, this one could be mistaken for a modern game in bad light, boasting very impressive visuals for its time.

Rise of Nations Extended Edition

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  • Works: Yes
  • Source: Steam ($20)
  • Genre: Strategy, Empire builder
  • Similar: Age of Empires, Civilization
  • Graphics: Passable
  • Gameplay: Civilization in real time, pretty much.
  • Difficulty: Selectable

Rise of Nations is an empire building game, with elements of Risk, and Age of Empires. A player nurses their civilization from a nomadic tribe settling down for the first time, through the various ages, right up to the modern age. The player is in competition with AI or other players, defending, attacking or allying with various other players (AI or human) on the map, trading resources and money, with the ultimate goals of acquiring resources and territory until they have it all – or achieve other victory conditions in the game within a set number of ‘turns’ (i.e. real-time scenarios). The game alternates between a turn-based ‘macro’ game where they can choose to move armies or units around between territories, and real-time ‘micro’ games where the effects of their ‘macro’ moves are felt.

The remake mainly adds HD support, leaving the excellent core gameplay untouched.

Commandos series

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  • Works: Yes
  • Source: Steam ($4 each)
  • Genre: Isometric, tactical, real-time
  • Similar: Desperado, Fallout Tactics
  • Graphics: Bearable to decent
  • Gameplay: Tactical micromanagement
  • Difficulty: Unforgiving

This series is based on the tactical command of – you guessed it – commandos. The games are set during the Second World War, giving the player control of a handful of elite soldiers. The idea is to execute various maneuvers to attain the level’s objectives while avoiding detection, or at least annihilation. The commandos themselves are quite individual, having different skillsets and specialties.

Most missions will involve combining the abilities of the forces at your disposal to formulate and execute a plan to achieve that mission’s objectives.

The game is quite unforgiving of sloppiness in planning or execution – which only adds to the sense of achievement in finally beating a mission.

On the next page, 8 more legendary titles. Want to take a guess?