The Top 100 PC Games of the 21st Century

 

 

10.
Age of Mythology
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Ensemble Studios
Released: Oct ‘02
Estimated Sales: 870,000
Franchise Sales: 1.3 Million
Revenues: $31.9 Million
Game ranking: 89.7%
Other Franchise Hits: Age of Mythology Titans expansion

Ensemble’s first attempt at straying from Age of Empires was a completely new beast – Age of Mythology had a new 3D engine and a new distancing from historical context. It all paid off – the game looked great, captured the imagination with its battles between ancient polytheistic religions, and played just as well as any of the respected studio’s previous efforts.

9.
Medal of Honor Allied Assault
Publisher: EA
Developer: 2015
Released: Jan ‘02
Estimated Sales: 900,000
Franchise Sales: 1.9 Million
Revenues: $34.2 Million
Game ranking: 90.7%
Other Franchise Hits: Spearhead expansion, Breakthrough expansion, Medal of Honor Pacific Assault

There have been many attempts to unseat it, but in terms of sales and brand recognition it’s still hard to top Medal of Honor, the patriarch of the entire WWII first-person shooter subgenre. Allied Assault is considered by some as the apex of the series, capturing the pure adrenaline of combat with impeccable scripted sequencing and phenomenal sound direction.

 

8.
RollerCoaster Tycoon 2
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Chris Sawyer
Released: Oct ‘02
Estimated Sales: 940,000
Franchise Sales: 4.4 Million
Revenues: $21.6 Million
Game ranking: 75.1%
Other Franchise Hits: RollerCoaster Tycoon, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, myriad expansions

There are fewer and fewer one-man acts in the games industry these days, but Chris Sawyer has always been one of the most successful even in that elite club. RollerCoaster Tycoon and its sequel were almost entirely his own work – a huge accomplishment when you consider that the game is both a theme park management simulator and an accurately described rollercoaster designer – a fantastic combination that sold to a multitude of ride lovers. 

7.
Warcraft III: Reign Of Chaos
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Released: Jun ‘02
Estimated Sales: 1 Million
Franchise Sales: 2.9 Million
Revenues: $49.4 Million
Game ranking: 93.0%
Other Franchise Hits: Frozen Throne expansion, Warcraft II and expansion

It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again – Blizzard doesn’t just make games, it makes lifestyles. Warcraft III is, astoundingly, merely a low-end example of this – it’s a universally loved nearly flawless game that’s played professionally even today, but if failed to seize the lives of countless millions like Starcraft did and still does (though comparing anything to the Starcraft phenomenon is admittedly unfair). So it has to settle for being #7, the lowest-rated Blizzard entry on this list. Think about that.

6.
Sim City 3000 Unlimited
Publisher: Maxis
Developer: Maxis
Released: Jan ’00
Estimated Sales: 1.1 Million
Franchise Sales: 3.4 Million
Revenues: $27.5 Million
Game ranking: 78.0%
Other Franchise Hits: Sim City 2000, Sim City 4 and expansions

Unlimited was a cheaper enhanced repackaging of a 1998’s Sim City 3000, and the fact that it’s this high on the list speaks to how the Will Wright-created brand has resonated with just about every type of gamer. A lot has been said about the city planning game’s elegant but deep mechanics, how they use play rules to make statements about how the world should work, etcetera. For our purposes it’s enough to say we’re glad people are playing it in such high numbers.

5.
Zoo Tycoon
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Blue Fang Games
Released: Oct ‘01
Estimated Sales: 1.1 Million
Franchise Sales: 2.9 Million
Revenues: $28.2 Million
Game ranking: 69.4%
Other Franchise Hits: Marine Mania expansion, Dinosaur Digs expansion, Zoo Tycoon 2

Think of Zoo Tycoon as a game that lets players live the fantasy of owning an entire milieu of exotic pets. Looking at it that way it’s much clearer where the charm of it lies, but Zoo Tycoon is also very kid friendly with its cute animals and relatively easy gameplay. It’s also pretty parent friendly – who wouldn’t want their kid to be a tycoon, after all – but in a sea of business-oriented games the child factor helped make the game stand out and give Microsoft a win.

4.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Publisher: EA
Developer: KnowWonder
Released: Nov ‘01
Estimated Sales: 1.3 Million
Franchise Sales: 2.7 Million
Revenues: $33.9 Million
Game ranking: 68.1%
Other Franchise Hits: Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter is an unstoppable children’s franchise in books, so it’s no surprise that it does this well in PC games as well. Until you take into context that it was significantly lower on console and handheld lists, the PC version of this game outselling the console version two to one. It might be because PC SKUs are traditionally cheaper than console ones, or it may be because there’s a large overlap between young (and young-at-heart) reader and PC fans, but let’s not wax philosophical on the specifics. It’s Harry Potter – enough said.

3.
World of Warcraft
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Released: Nov ’04
Estimated Sales: 1.4 Million
Franchise Sales: 1.4 Million
Revenues: $68.1 Million
Game ranking: 91.6%
Other Franchise Hits: None

Just leave everything to Blizzard. World of Warcraft cracked open the MMORPG market when common knowledge said that market was saturated. The familiar, well-loved setting and clean implementation caused fans to throw caution to the wind and learn to love subscription fees, and as the game reached critical mass it even began pulling into itself players from its entrenched competition. Now more people live World of Warcraft than any other game of its type.

2.
Diablo II
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard North
Released: Jun ’00
Estimated Sales: 1.7 Million
Franchise Sales: 4.5 Million
Revenues: $67.1 Million
Game ranking: 88.4%
Other Franchise Hits: Lords of Destruction expansion, Diablo

Diablo II is one of the few games on this list older than five years that still has an active fan base, though since it is a Blizzard game that’s hardly surprising. The game has since spawned countless contenders, and though many of them are on this list, they will have to content themselves with nipping at Diablo’s heels – the game was and is so popular that it has existed on the shelves of major retailers since it was created.

1.
The Sims
Publisher: EA
Developer: Maxis
Released: Feb ‘00
Estimated Sales: 3.2 Million
Franchise Sales: 17.6 Million
Revenues: $129.9 Million
Game ranking: 89.8%
Other Franchise Hits: The Sims 2, any expansion for either game

It’s all true; The Sims is the best-selling PC game of all time. But what you don’t often hear is how much better it has sold than any other PC game. Here the numbers tell the story; even compared to something as overwhelmingly popular as Diablo II, The Sims outsold it nearly two to one. It’s a classic story of huge publisher risk reaping incomparable financial reward – while the scope of its victory may be surprising, it’s hard to contest that The Sims deserves it.

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