Top 12 PC Games Of All Time

Sep 25, 2010 (02:09 AM EDT)

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One of the most successful, interactive CD-ROM games in history, brothers Rand and Robyn Miller are the forces behind the award-winning Myst series, which was first released for the Mac followed by a PC version. Upon its release in 1989, Myst quickly sold 6 million copies and is widely credited for more widespread adoption of CD drives. The adventure game held onto the top-selling spot until The Sims debuted in 2002.

From realistic battle scenes and debate-inducing virtual thuggery to make-believe cities and computerized versions of familiar board games, people spend hours playing the dizzying array of PC games available for sale. Despite competition from consoles, handheld game devices and online game developers, the time people spent on PC gaming grew 6% in January 2010 when compared with a year prior, according to NPD Group. Avid PC gamers represent 11% of the gaming community vs. 8% of avid offline gamers, the research firm determined.

In 2009, revenue from the PC game software industry dropped, falling 23 percent to create $538 million in revenue last year, NPD Group found. The total console, portable and PC game software industry generated $10.5 billion, an 11% decrease from 2008 revenue of $11.7 billion, the researcher said. In 2000, the total market represented $7.98 billion in sales, according to NPD.

Last year, individuals purchased 21.3 million full-game digital downloads in the United States and bought 23.5 million physical units at retail, NPD Group said. In 2009, PC digital downloads made up about half the unit sales and accounted for 36% of dollar sales, according to the researcher. The top five frontline digital retailers, based on the percent of unit share, were Streampowered, Direct2Drive, Blizzard, EA and World of Warcraft, NPD Group said.

Developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts, The Sims quickly took the gaming world by storm, selling more than 6.3 million copies within its first month. In the simulation game, players interact in a community as they grow from infant, to child to adult. Sequels and related titles -- including The Sims 2, The Sims 3 and expansion packs targeting everything from animals to management -- soon followed.

Monopoly City for Pogo represents just one of the many board games that transitioned from cardboard boxes to software CD-ROMs and downloads. The software version, based on the popular Hasbro board game, features 3D representations of streets, residential and commercial buildings, and includes automatic banking. Unlike the traditional game, Monopoly -software players also can disrupt their competitors by building jails, sewage plants and other value-decreasing properties, and earn bragging rights for accomplishments such as ending the game with more than $50 million or passing 'Go' 10 times in one game.

Call of Duty, a first-person World War II game, hit gamers' hands in 2003 and continues to flourish. In fact, Activision plans to release Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 -- the eighth member of the Call of Duty franchise -- in 2011, according to reports. Activision soon will ship Black Ops , which drops gamers deep behind enemy lines into the world of deniable operations as a member of elite Black Ops units.

Valve Corp.'s first game, Half-Life received more than 50 Game of the Year awards and tops the list of many players' best ever game rankings, in part due to its combination of action battles and puzzle scenarios. After the success of the debut first-person shooter game, Valve expanded its Half-Life universe, adding titles such as Half-Life 2 and Half-Life 2 Episodes 1 and 2 to the series.

Gamers impatiently awaited the release of Halo-Reach in September, the fourth episode of the game, developed by Bungie and distributed by Microsoft. The science fiction game revolves around Master Chief, a cybernetically-improved human super-soldier, and Cortana, his artificial intelligence companion. In addition to buying millions of games for PCs and consoles, fans -- known as the Halo Nation -- also snapped up related novels, graphic novels and other licensed products.

StarCraft II became the best-selling PC game of 2010, selling more than 1 million copies worldwide in one day, developer Blizzard Entertainment said. And Blizzard is expected to sell 6 million units of the real-time strategy game by year-end, according to NPD Group estimates. In its first few days of retail, StarCraft II sold 721,000 non-digital units in the U.S. alone, the researcher found.

The action role-playing games Diablo I, II and III have millions of fans around the world. Gamers can play solo or participate in multi-player games via a LAN or In the game, players select a character: Diablo III, which is under development, includes the Barbarian, the Witch Doctor, the Wizard, and the Monk.

This third-person shooter game by Illusion Softworks and published by 2K Games, a publishing label of Take-Two Interactive brings players into the virtual world of organized crime. The sequel to Mafia -- which sold more than 2 million copies -- the game includes mobster-driven tale, foot action and car chases.

Beloved by parents and children alike, the Reader Rabbit series introduces young children to computers, reading, math and other subjects. Since launching in 1993, people have bought more than 3 million copies of the software, aimed at toddlers. Distributed by Broderbund, related software titles offer edutainment to older children.

World of Warcraft (WoW), a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, was unveiled in 1994 and continues to inspire awe in players around the globe. Players assume the roles of Warcraft heroes as they explore, adventure, and quest across a vast world, according to Blizzard, a division of Activision. Thousands of players interact within the same world, forging alliances and friendships and competing with enemies.

A turn-based strategy game, Sid Meier's Civilization players' objective is to create an empire that will withstand the tests of time. Beginning in 4000BC, players' empires evolve as they attempt to reach the modern day, competing against two to six other civilizations. Civilization V, distributed by Tale-Two Interactive, is scheduled for release this fall.