Brogue There’s ASCII, and then there’s the ASCII in the roguelike Brogue, enhanced by dynamic lighting and mouse-based interaction so that navigating its procedurally generated dungeon is not only easy but a pleasure.
Download it: Brogue
08. Cave Story
It’s probably not entirely accurate to credit one game with the birth of a movement, but it often feels that way with Cave Story, a labour of love that showed the world how polished and well -designed indie projects could be.
Download it: Cave Story
07. N V2.0
A minimalist platformer that focuses squarely on level design. With no fancy backgrounds to distract you, you’re free to concentrate on the only thing that matters: the graceful arc of your ninja’s fluid jump.
Play it: N V2.0
That it’s still one of the most vital works of IF, even after the recent explosion in the genre, says much about its unique premise. Choose Your Own Adventure meets the soap opera in this explosive, over-the-top murder mystery.
Play it: MASQ
05. The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
This RPG boasts over 62,000 square miles of space, and some 15,000 towns full of stealable goods. There’s something to be said for a game you’ll never be able to fully explore in your lifetime.
Download it: TESII: Daggerfall
The original Spelunky’s chunky sprites, catchy music and purity of design mean it’s still worth playing today. It’s a marvel of procedural generation, designing a thrilling dungeon full of traps, treasure, and f***ing bats every time you play. The mysterious win conditions and hidden worlds may have been picked clean, but reaching them remains just as satisfyingly tough.
Download it: Spelunky
03. Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun
Westwood’s sequel is still one of the go-to RTS games. The fresh isometric viewpoint enabled terrain with variable height, while the day/night cycle brought the futuristic battlefield to life – even as the new mech units did their best to stomp it out. Along with many other early C&C games, it’s now freeware, playable online with support for newer PCs.
Download it: C&C: Tiberian Sun
02. The Dark Mod
This is an engine for creating new Thief missions, of which there’s a pile of excellent examples. While the creation tools are slightly boggling, The Dark Mod makes it a trifle to find and play great maps including the Garrett-less William Steele series, and the multi-part Thomas Porter chronicles. Thanks to The Dark Mod, Thief will never die.
Download it: The Dark Mod
01. Dwarf Fortress
Madly ambitious, this ASCIIbased masterpiece doesn’t just procedurally generate a world: it generates a history, a society, nuanced characters and even poetry, giving you the tools to engage with its complex simulation in a sophisticated, if unwieldy manner. A landmark game.
Download it: Dwarf Fortress