Digital Obsession: The Most Addictive PC Games Ever - HotHardware

Digital Obsession: The Most Addictive PC Games Ever

7 thumbs up
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.

Article Index:

1 2 3 Next
+ -

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.

+ -

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.

+ -

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.

+ -

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.

+ -

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.

+ -

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.

+ -

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.

+ -

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? 

+ -

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

+ -

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

1 2 3 Next
Login or Register to Comment
Post a Comment
Username:   Password: