As a kid back in the early 1990's, my grandfather used to tell me about having to entertain himself with a ball and a wall. Well bully for you granddad. When future generations ask me how I entertained myself in my first two decades on this planet they may well be presented with this list. Because these, my friends are the five computer games EVERYONE should play.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 - Sonic Team (1994)
It really took a lot to get on this list. Sonic 3 nips in at number 5 ahead of such mighty games as Medieval: Total War, Halo 2, Lands of Lore, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. But why? I hear you ask?
Sonic 3 makes the cut for a number of reasons. Firstly, it's my fond memories of the blue blur. Sonic 3 was the first game I played until it gave me a migraine and the first game I completed without assistance. Secondly, it contains one of the most iconic villains in computer game history. The nefarious Dr Robotnik1. Thirdly, and most importantly, it's the sheer unbridled joy of it. Even now the discovery of a Sega Megadrive and the Sonic 3 cartridge will elicit cries of "Bagsy Sonic!" and "Bagsy Tails!" as people clamour to take control of our eponymous hero and his sidekick. It's impossible to put the fun of this game into words. Try it. Just let me know first. Bagsy Sonic!
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn - Black Isle (2000)
Baldur's Gate II. It's like a game of Dungeons and Dragons without having to associate with the sort of people who play D and D. The intricate plot is worthy of a David Gemmell novel, there are sideplots of love, hate, betrayal, war and erm, more war. You have almost limitless control over creating your character, but the real joy lies in interacting with your companions. Well, one companion in particular. The reason that BG:II is a game you should play is 6ft tall, has a blue tattoo and carries round a miniature giant space hamster called Boo. That reason is called Minsc and is rightfully the greatest computer game sidekick ever. Despite what Gamespy might say. "Butt Kicking! FOR GOODNESS!"
Championship Manager/Football Manager Series - Sports Interactive/Sega 1992-2007
"The Most Realistic Football Management Simulator Ever." So read the packaging of the first Championship Manager back in 1992. Fast forward to 2001 and I acquired my first copy of the legendary game. Since then, weeks of my life have been spent managing Europe's best and brightest. And Leeds United. It doesn't matter which edition you buy, so long as it's not one of the pretend Championship Managers made when some soul-less corporation bought the CM name. Nowadays you want Football Manager. Just make sure you have a week or three spare, because if it's a choice between playing one more game or doing anything else in the world, you'll be playing one more game. Even if it's a Scottish 3rd Division midtable clash.
Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun - Westwood Studios(1999)
The first Command and Conquer was a classic, the two alternate history 'Red Alert' games provide hours of campy Cold War fun, but it's the first true sequel to Command and Conquer that makes our list. It could be the intuitive control interface, it could be the interesting and varied missions and units, it could be the fantastic Full Motion Videos. Well, it's all three. Fun and easy to play, but still challenging, Tiberian Sun's campaign is unbeatable. Whether following James Earl Jones'2 orders as part of the Global Defense Initiative, or fighting for the Brotherhood of Nod, the immersive battles linked by fantastic videos can steal days of your life. Oh, and the first time you start it up, it says "Welcome Back Commander" in a way that can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
and the number one computer game that everyone on Earth should play, given half a chance is...
Doom - iD Software, 1993
There are two kinds of computer gamers. The way to tell the difference is to ask them "What's the best FPS3 ever?" They may say Halo, in which case they're probably between 12 and 17, like shouting internet acronyms at random strangers, and have never, ever, ever had a girlfriend. They may, and should, say Doom. Because Doom is brilliant. Doom is the reason that everyone I know who's into computer games is into computer games. Because playing Doom as a young man is an experience. The brilliant midi music and claustrophobic surroundings are immersive enough for a 14 year old game, but there's a list of reasons to play Doom. Zombies, Space Marines, Helldemons, Bigger Helldemons, Massive Spider Demons, Shotguns, Chainsaws, Chainguns, a gun called the BFG 9000 and the fact that if you play the most recent Doom game, Doom3, in the dark, on your own, you might just wet yourself. Don't take my word for it, go and try it. Just remember to keep an eye on your ammo counter and keep your torch to hand.
So why are you still here? You must have access to a PC to be reading this, so go out and get gaming! Oh, and read Meet Mr Inquisitor [Redux] too.