PC Gamer’s List of “The Most Important PC Games” Includes Ultima 4, Ultima Underworld, and Ultima Online


PC Gamer have published a list of the Most Important PC Games:

Imagine PC gaming today without World of Warcraft. WoW turned Blizzard into a juggernaut. It defined a genre so utterly that MMOs have aped it or struggled to leave its shadow for 10 years since.

Imagine PC gaming without Minecraft. Without League of Legends. These are today’s juggernauts, the games that define the the platform as we know it. But now, imagine the PC without Commander Keen. Without Rogue. Without Pinball Construction Set. Maybe you’ve haven’t heard of all of them, or only know them vaguely. Yet they’re some of the most important games in the PC’s history.

A few months ago we set out to highlight the 50 most important and influential PC games of all time. Unlike our collection of the Top 100 PC Games, it doesn’t matter if these games are still fun (or even possible) to play today. What matters is how they changed the PC gaming landscape. How they established the blueprint of the run-and-gun shooter. Propelled adoption of the compact disc. Changed how millions of people grew and socialized across years and thousands of miles of cables.

The most important PC games of all time changed how we make games. How we play games. And they changed us. To celebrate them, we did something a bit different on the following pages of this feature. We reached out to game designers—look out for Richard Garriott, John Carmack, Sid Meier, Chris Avellone, Jane Jensen, Tim Schafer, Cliff Bleszinski, Warren Spector and more—plus many former PC Gamer editors and a few other writers you may recognize to help celebrate the legacy of the PC. Enjoy!

Naturally, the list includes Ultima 4 (on its third page; the list is sorted by era rather than by numerical ranking):

Why it’s important: Morality systems largely started here, an RPG focused not on killing baddies (at least, not as a major goal), but proving yourself worthy of being seen as a hero—the Avatar of the Eight Virtues, there to show both our world and Britannia what they could become.

And none other than Warren Spector provides an additional write-up about the game:

…around 1985, Ultima IV appeared, not exactly out of nowhere, but certainly like a bolt from the blue that changed everything for me. This was no dungeon crawl—this was a philosophical journey, a quest not for glory and riches or a quest to defeat the Evil Bad Guy threatening the world with… well… something bad, but a parable on the strengths made possible and the limitations imposed by ethical behavior.

You knew something was different from the moment the game started. There were no dierolls to determine your character’s nature and capabilities. There was a gypsy who posed questions for which there were no right or wrong answers, only each player’s views on right and wrong behavior. Character creation wasn’t about fantasy fulfillment, but about creating an idealized version of yourself. It wasn’t Frodo or Conan in the world of Britannia—it was you.

Ultima Underworld also made the list (on page 4):

Why it’s important: A technological achievement beyond almost any other game. Its 3D world, sloped surfaces, complex levels and the immersion of its dungeon environment were both unparalleled in any game, and breathtaking. Bear in mind, this was before Wolfenstein 3D.

Richard Garriott chimes in with his thoughts on Myst (on page 5):

The first game I ever played to completion, that I did not work on myself, was Myst. I remember well the first time I loaded up Myst and was transported to a marvelous world, envisioned and expressed in a powerful and unique way I had never conceived of previously. The full screen renders of their beautiful world combined with visual puzzles solved at your own pace, made an experience which captivated me from the first screen to the last.

Myst taught me just how much story telling could be done purely through visuals, and the importance of mood, style and UI. This was before the days of the internet, and I spent tons of time on the phone and comparing notes with fellow staffers as we all powered through to the end.

And Ultima Online merits mention as well (on page 6):

Why it’s important: Not simply another MMO, but a whole virtual world. Ultima Online gave players almost full freedom to live a virtual life, spoiled only by how many of them proved to be less than worthy of the Eight Virtues. On the plus side, it spawned fantastic moments, not least the assassination of wise Lord British himself, in one of the most beloved early MMO stories.

Anyhow, the rest of the list is well worth checking out; a lot of classic games come up for mention, and I can’t really say that any of them don’t deserve to be there.