PC Gamer’s “The Best PC Games List” Includes Ultima Underworld, Drops Ultima 7

PC Gamer produces a yearly feature entitled The Best PC Games, in which their editors…well, here’s their explanation of the decision process:

Every year, the international PC Gamer team puts its heads together to hash out a list of the hundred PC games you need to play. This year, we’re stressing ‘play’. With a handful of exceptions, every game on the list is one that you can access and enjoy today. Where that’s not the case, it’s because that game is special and we feel you should know about it anyway. The hope is that you’ll read through this list and discover a classic that you’d never otherwise have played.

Our selection process is democratic and subjective. Every member of the jury put forward their personal top 15 games of all time, and those lists were combined to produce our longlist. Finally, one person each from the UK and US teams entered a room (well, a Skype call), went through the entire thing, and emerged with a final list that we’re proud of.

This year, they’ve got Ultima Underworld (a new entry on the list, actually) listed at #59, which is a reasonable score. And they certainly heap praise upon the game:

Tony: Before Doom, before even Wolfenstein 3D, this was the game that took players out of two dimensions into immersive, texture-mapped, first-person reality. And where id’s games would be mere shooters when they arrived, this was a sophisticated fantasy RPG, where you could swim, talk to people, pick things up, develop skills and cast magic. You could even look up. And incredibly, we got it all at once, all in one game.

Ultima Underworld was a leap forward in gaming technology that has yet to be equalled. In the narrative of videogame evolution, this is the bit where one monkey smashes another monkey’s brains in because he was told to by a monolith.

Chris T: I’m always banging on about how Thief invented the meditative FPS, and that’s true if you stick to shooters. Ultima Underworld is a vital part of the same chain, however, developing the idea of first-person fantasy in a way that The Elder Scrolls would, decades later, run with. This was an RPG developed with the goal of immersing yourself in a world that was entirely yours to explore and manipulate: a fantasy that developers still chase, that players still flock to Kickstarter to support.

However, there’s also a bit of an upset in the list; Underworld is the only Ultima game included on it. Last year’s list listed Ultima 7 at #82, and while that score was certainly unacceptable, at least the game was on the list. This year, it has been dropped, which is a rather upsetting turn of events.

Quite the upsetting tradeoff, though somewhat fitting in a certain sense. Last year and in mid-to-late 2013, Divinity: Original Sin was still claiming the mantle of Ultima 7 as one of its major design inspirations, so perhaps the game was fresher in mind. This year, Underworld Ascendant has brought Ultima Underworld back into the spotlight, which could explain its inclusion on the list this year.