Digital Obsession: The Most Addictive PC Games Ever

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Gaming is something we've done quite a bit of over the years, but sitting down to pick a list of the most addictive games ever proved surprisingly tricky. Addictive games aren't necessarily the top sellers, or record-smashing behemoths. Sometimes, their appeal is measured in near-perfect execution of a narrow concept, while other games keep us up 'til 3 AM because, despite their flaws, they offer a compelling, challenging experience.

Orcs Must Die 2 has eaten more of my life than I want to admit in front of my employers.

Here is our criteria:
  • No mobile/pocket/Facebook games:  I've been a Tetris fanatic for decades, while games like FarmVille and Angry Birds enjoy huge audiences. Are they addictive? Yes. Are they in the same league as major MMOs, RPGs, or the best FPS's?  No. A list of addictive browser/mobile games is just as valid as a PC focus, but it's pointless to try and compare across such different spaces.
  • PC-Centric:  Cross-platform games are included on this list. Console-only titles aren't.
  • Franchises vs. specific titles: Game publishers rarely leave a successful title standing all by its lonesome. Additional gameplay and features may be added via expansion packs, full sequels, or online updates, but one way or the other, new content gets made. This makes it difficult to split the difference between multiple sequels and a single title. Rather than try, we've weighted them equally. When one game in a series particularly stands out, we've mentioned it individually. If multiple products are similarly habit-forming, we name the series.

Let's get started...

Civilization: (I - V, Alpha Centauri)


The original that started it all...

Most of the computer franchises that I loved in my childhood are dust. Space Quest, Quest for Glory, Wing Commander, and Ultima are all relics of another age. Sid Meier's Civilization is a happy exception to this sad state of affairs. The original game that I played on my 386 is long gone, but the sequels have endured the intervening years in remarkable form. Civilization II, which debuted when Windows 95 was still the primary OS shipping on systems, can apparently still run under Windows 7.

Civilization is a classic 4X game (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate). It wasn't the first series to implement turn-based gaming, but it became a ubiquitous example of deep, empire-building strategy. The first game allowed for ahem, creative exploitation; in a joint game, my best friend and I once discovered railroads in 1200 BC. Completely random warfare results meant it was possible for a Greek Phalanx to defeat a 20th century battleship -- and yes, I write from experience. Later titles sharply increased the role of espionage, diplomacy, trade negotiations, environmental changes, and added racial factors, religious influences, and a great deal more. 

Civilization II introduced a three-quarter view and visible cities that evolved from age to age.

Each game has introduced enough changes and additions to stand independently of its fellows, with their own unique play styles and capabilities. What they share is a finely tuned balance of short-term goals, random events, and long-term planning. Whether you're planning a war, racing to discover new technologies, or fine-tuning the economy, it's easy to get lost in the lure of "just one more turn." 

Civilization III introduced new unit level mechanics, an entirely new graphics engine, unit animations, and added the concept of culture as a gameplay mechanic. 

Civilization IV made religious affiliation part of the game, expanded the use of Great People, was built to allow for 3D zooming from close-ups to space-based views, and fine-tuned a number of characteristics thanks to extensive use of Python scripting. Added bonus: The game was narrated by Leonard Nimoy.

Civilization V revamped unit movement, city squares (now hexagons), simplified water movement, allowed cities to defend themselves (and attack nearby units), and added city-states -- neutral cities that can be allied with for mutual gain and defense.

Each iteration of Civilization has built upon the title that came before it, but the previous games stand firmly on their own two feet, even after later titles were made available.

Tags:  Nvidia, AMD, ATI, Gaming, CPU, games

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dorkstar 2 years ago

Man, I know all of these games as to well with the exception of civilization, I just couldn't get into it. I wish I still ran x-fire so I could tell you how many hours I had in WoW, Minecraft, and CS:S. I didn't get into Diablo 2 until years after it was released, and even then I just played single player. I was probably bigger into the first Diablo honestly.

Warcraft definitely was the worst. At one point I took a 9 day vacation and literally just sat at home playing warcraft for the entire duration. Do I regret it now? Nope. It was something I really enjoyed, and still wish I could find a way to play it, unfortunately that game just demands way too much of your life than i'm willing to give it. I'll just stick with planetside 2 for now.

RWilliams 2 years ago

If you happen to remember the nickname you used there, you can still access the profile online:

That's mine; so just replace my name with yours at the end.

sackyhack 2 years ago

The multiplayer grind typically doesn't do it for me. It's usually open world games that keep me coming back. I think the most hours I've clocked in was in Morrowind, followed closely by Shenmue on Dreamcast. Skyrim is up there as well.

OSunday 2 years ago

Personal experiences with every one of these.

I loved civilization and ended up getting sucked into more than a few 12+ hour games (not consecutively though), but it was that very facet that turned me away from it. It took SOOO long to complete just one game, other than that it was challenging enough to be pretty damn hard against the computers but not impossible to win (although it got close)

I never played counter-strike but I've heard good things about it everywhere, I might have to give it a chance because Half-life and the source engine is among my favorites so something based off that has to be decent at the very least, I loved the comparison to the COD series that cannibalizes its self, that's a really interesting way to look at things

I remember playing Diablo II at about 12 years old for hours with a friend.. the cache, it wasn't online it was single player. A friend and I would make a character and just take turns playing through quests and would switch at a quest completion or death. This was also played for entire days at a time over the course of sleepovers lol.

I played WOW towards the end of Middle school, experimented with a character up to level 40 and never got into the guild/raiding aspect of the game but it's appeal was the continuation of the story I enjoyed from WC3, but I definitely preferred RTS to MMO games. I found the repetition of Kill X and get Y really boring.

Minecraft is a continuation and evolution of Legos from Childhood and I still play it every now and then and sometimes play with friends on small servers they have set up.

marco c 2 years ago

A bunch of games REALLY sucked me in over the years...

Impossible Mission - C64: Spent WAY too many hours trying to beat that one.

All of the classic Sierra games - PC: Kings Quest, Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, Manhunter, etc.

Wing Commander Series - PC: Simply one of the best franchises ever.

CoD Series - PC: Up to MW3

And my ol' standby - Left 4 Dead 2. When I want instant gratification and don't have much time to game, I jump in, kill a bunch of zombies, and jump out.

sackyhack 2 years ago

The Walking Dead is another one that really pulled me in. It wasn't much of a "game", but the story was so gripping, I plowed through all 5 episodes in 2 nights.

Dorkstar 2 years ago

What about Ultima Online?  Anyone here ever get into that?  I played for about 5 years, and made my first man sized paycheck of $1200 playing that.  I was 13 at the time I made all the money, so i'm pretty sure the money went to music and t-shirts.

OSunday 2 years ago

Leisure Suit Larry?!
Marco... dirty dirty.. hahaha

Also have you seen any of the stuff for the planned sequel to Wing Commander? I never played any of the originals but this upcoming game looks like it's going to be amazing.
Also do you have any input on that 100% indie fan-made Wing Commander game? 

CDeeter 2 years ago

If you like Wing commander, the you should go download Wing Commander Saga. Great game to break out the old Wingman joystick for!

RWilliams 2 years ago

Games that I've sunk more than 200 hours into, each:

Asheron's Call (MMO)


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Civilization V

Counter-Strike: Source

Duke Nukem 3D

Half-Life 1 Multiplayer

Lineage II (MMO)

Test Drive Unlimited 2

OSunday 2 years ago

 I may not have sunk 200+ hours into them but my personal favorites are

Mass Effect Triology



Age of Empire: The age of Kings and the Conquerors expansion


And a game for the sega genesis that comes in at #1 called Shining Force 

fat78 2 years ago

Definitely would have to agree wow is the most addictive game. Most of my alts get more hours longed in play time then in most other games i have played. (Its sad when you read the play time in days instead of hours because you realize how much time you really spent playing the game lol)

Mattos 2 years ago

Diablo 2 was one of the first PC games I ever played and man did I play the hell out of that game. I also played a lot of Age of Mythology and became addicted to the Total War games after playing Rome Total War.

CDeeter 2 years ago

For me I'd say the Mechwarrior and Need for Speed series of games, along with WOW too.

FubarJeb 2 years ago

Two games that should be added to the list are Master of Orion 1&2 and X-COM UFO Defense. Also, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri was another old huge hit that I still play today. All of those games are so addicting and fun to play.

Dorkstar 2 years ago

I'm really surprised there's no Ultima Online or Meridian fans on here.  Those games made MMO's what they are today, plus Ultima Online was awesome.  

OSunday 2 years ago

Never tried any MMO other than WOW and then Guild Wars for a very short amount of time.

I remember being younger I always thought Everquest looked cool because it mean't I wouldn't have to wait and save up money to buy a new game once I beat one I already had lol... This was at about 10 years old, and I could never convince my parents to to buy it for me or let me buy it for myself because of monthly subscriptions and their fear of using credit cards, and second because the scantily clad female characters on the cover made them think it was filled with softcore porn/nudity for my young innocent eyes lol

I thought Star Trek Online and Star War: The Old Republic looked like they had some potential though, anyone know anything about either of those two?

One of the biggest turn offs from Fantasy/Sci-Fi MMO's for me aside from the repetitive gameplay is when they create their own universes or lore from scratch it tends to be less flushed out, compared to something based off an existing franchise that has a lot of depth and dynamics to it's universe (A.k.a Warcraft, Star Trek, Star Wars etc.) even though they too initially had to start from scratch they didn't do so with the idea of we're making this stuff for an MMO game which effects the way the story line and storytelling translate over to the actual game. 

Dorkstar 2 years ago

Ahh yes, Everquest.  That one should definitely be on this list.  That was WoW before WoW.

OSunday 2 years ago

Was the basic structure of Ultima online and Everquest similar to WOW?
Considering they were out for almost an entire decade before WOW how similar were they in terms of gameplay?

I know the contrast between non MMO games from the 90's and and 2000's to 2010+ can be pretty stark but I'm wondering how much of a difference you can have between massive multi-player online games

Dorkstar 2 years ago

I never actually played everquest.  I powered through the decline of Ultima Online while Everquest was stealing players away.

Ultima was like medieval times, but realistic.  You could steal anything from other players, you could buy a house, you could break into peoples houses if you made it in the door before they could lock it, and basically anything else you can think of.  Eventually houses became secure so people couldn't steal from you anymore, and they made a cloned world where you couldn't murder or steal anymore.  After all that happened, or rather after EA implemented all that after they bought OSI,  the game just went into a steep decline.

  The only real similarities between WoW and UO are the unique items you can get from harder dungeons.  However with UO you could solo just about everything with the right amount of skills, and it didn't take 3 hours to do it.  Plus there were no such things as bind on equipped items, so when you murdered someone you could just walk up to their corpse and take it.  Strangely enough UO is still going strong with 90% of the players being based out of Korea and 10% in other countries.  Last I checked they only had about 60,000 players still.  UO2 was announced, but eventually got scrapped, so the franchise just stopped here.  EA killed it.

OSunday 2 years ago

Wow Ultima Online sounds a lot like something you'd see from the Elder Scrolls series in an MMO, definitely sounds interesting. Sad to hear it's died out though>
I'm not sure if you've heard of it but Bethesda has actually announced their plans and development for an Elder Scrolls Online MMO. There are some gameplay video's out already too but I'm pretty sure their early. But considering how the single player Elder Scrolls games were in Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim where you could break into houses, steal things and kill almost anything and anyone it sounds like this could be the great successor to Ultima Online for you. I'm definitely gonna check it out because I love the Elder Scroll Series and what Bethesda has done with the games as far as entertainment, and depth in the stories.

From some of the other comments and a lot of the positive things I've heard about GW2 it sounds like it might be worth checking out as well.

@ an earlier comment, about a year ago I actually looked up some of the classic games that achieved legendary status and with some emulators gave Master of Orion 1&2 and X-COM UFO Defense and Alpha Centauri a quick go through but I'm too adapted to 21st century games and graphics, they were enjoyable but the limitations of mechanics compared to modern games made me lose interest after the retro pleasure effects of old school gaming wore off haha.
Speaking of X-COM, i've recently been playing the new Enemy Unknown game released and have found that pretty fun too. 

Dorkstar 2 years ago

There already is a game similar to skyrim called Mortal Online. I played it during the Alpha and Beta stages, then they billed me for 8 months and refused to refund my money even though I never played after release (they changed their TOS to bill those who were being billed after release).  So because of all that I refuse to give them another dime.  The game probably sucked anyways.

Dorkstar 2 years ago

Sigh, the post pending moderation got me.  I'm not rewriting all that.

fat78 2 years ago

I thought stars the old republic had a ton of potential but something about the gameplay didn't feel smooth and fluid. It also had several other problems that brought it down, which is sad because it good have been a great game.

WendellWoW 2 years ago

Ah, Wing Commander is probably my all-time favorite. That game sucked up a LOT of hours. Currently I've put WoW on hold to play some Guild Wars 2. I'm very impressed with how GW2 plays and it's event driven quests.

I was also totally into all the old Sierra games, Kings Quest, Leisure Suit Larry (chuckle), Space Quest etc. I'd love to see all those updated with modern graphics for nostalgia reasons.

Dorkstar 2 years ago

[quote user="WendellWoW"]

Ah, Wing Commander is probably my all-time favorite. That game sucked up a LOT of hours. Currently I've put WoW on hold to play some Guild Wars 2. I'm very impressed with how GW2 plays and it's event driven quests.

I was also totally into all the old Sierra games, Kings Quest, Leisure Suit Larry (chuckle), Space Quest etc. I'd love to see all those updated with modern graphics for nostalgia reasons.


How is GW2?  I played the first one for a little while, but after my friend ran me through everything and got me all the best gear/skills within a few hours, I just got bored of it.  I'm not a huge fan of the point-and-move type of games.  I like the freedom that WoW had to move around, giving you an edge over someone with better gear if you could move around right.


WendellWoW 2 years ago

GW2 is no longer click to move. Moves like WoW with the WSAD keys, plus Q E for side-stepping. I haven't done any dungeons yet. I've just been doing the zones and the events/quests. It's different with the level adjustment as well, which makes doing the other starter zones interesting. So if you are level 30, and go into a starter zone you are dropped to an appropriate level for that zone so you don't just run and kill it all willy nilly. Granted you keep all your higher level abilities and gear bonuses which still makes it pretty easy, but the level adjustment makes it more interesting as you an still get killed by a level 5 mob while you are level 30.

AaronSmith one year ago

League of Legends is another game I would put into that list, I can't tell you how many hours I've spent playing with friends in that game.

yagami one year ago

well....for me, the best and addictive games ever were:

Gunz (Korean server)

Gunz 2 (Korean server)

Raiderz (Korean server)

Rakion (Korean server)

KOF XIII (japanesse version)

Sengoku basara (japanesse version)

Gound bound (Korean server)

Asda story (no longer avariable :S)

and last but not least....Wolf team (Korean server)

Clixxer one year ago

Meridian 59. Nuff said. Best PVP system ever build and used.


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