The golden age of PC gaming is something that fans look back on fondly to this day, with the evolution of this gaming platform taking center stage as a host of amazing titles ended up gracing the PC in the early 2000s. From excellent first-person shooters - a staple of PC gaming at that point - to some truly imaginative titles that pushed the boundaries of gaming to new heights, PC games were on a meteoric rise at the start of this phenomenal decade.
Those who want to check out some of the greatest games to have been released on the PC in the early 2000s need only take a look at this list. Regardless of your preferences when it comes to certain genres in gaming, these games have the pedigree and quality required to woo even the most stubborn gamers around.
Updated on September 20, 2022, by Ritwik Mitra: The golden age of PC gaming is something that fans still look back fondly on to this day. While consoles were definitely capturing the interests of more players, there's no denying that the PC still had a home in the heart of most gamers. The platform was absolutely loaded with games, and the early 2000s saw some of the greatest games ever made appear on the PC and absolutely wow players.
20 The Operative: No One Lives Forever
A first-person stealth-shooter hybrid that featured a quick-witted femme fatale protagonist, many fans of gaming in these years remember Cate Archer fondly to this day. The levels in this game were colorful and varied, and there were times when No One Lives Forever featured shades of the immersive sim genre at times.
The franchise may not be talked about nowadays, but the overall gameplay of the first two games is still solid and hold up to this day. Players who want to enjoy this nostalgic romp in modern times will be pleasantly surprised at just how fun the game is. Fans can only hope that interest arises for a sequel that lets players peek into the next chapter of Cate Archer's entertaining adventures.
19 Diablo 2
Diablo 2 Sorceress Frozen Orb Blades Going Across The Map
The Diablo franchise is one of the most legendary hack-and-slash franchises of all time, and it's easy to see that the second game had a huge role to play in that. It was a groundbreaking game full to the brim with engaging enemies and great dungeon design. Fighting your way through the many baddies was a truly exciting experience that many fans still gush over.
The fact that many gamers still play Diablo 2 to this day shows just how brilliant the game was for its time. This game, along with Warcraft, cemented Blizzard's name as one of the greatest video game companies around at that time. While this reputation might've been severely damaged in recent times, Blizzard is aiming to win back the trust of their fans once again with another entry in the Diablo series.
The Thief series is beloved by many for its steampunk aesthetic, nail-biting gameplay, and unflinching focus on stealth that makes every level tense and engaging. At the heart of the series is Garrett, everyone's favorite thief whose illegal actions land him in a heap of trouble.
Thief 2: The Metal Age took everything great about the first game and implemented it in a world where fantasy and technology were mixing together to make something wholly unique. The end result is that each level of Thief feels like a story in its own right as players look at the various ways new and old have combined in this universe.
17 Halo: Combat Evolved
Halo is one of the most popular video game franchises out there. So, it was a given that the release of the first game on PC was a monumental event for the platform.
The first Halo game is a great stepping-off point for the series that's a blast to play through. Later games might've polished up some of the technical aspects of the franchise, but Combat Evolved has a charm of its own that's hard to resist.
16 Far Cry
Far Cry is the poster child for Ubisoft's copy-paste game design, but there was a time when the franchise was truly groundbreaking. This was with the release of the first Far Cry game, which was an absolute blast to play through, quite literally.
Far Cry wasted no time in unleashing players into massive levels with impressive open-ended design, a huge achievement for its time. The game might feel dated by modern standards, but it's still fun to play when everything clicks into place.
15 Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy
Most people have really mixed feelings when it comes to David Cage and his writing skills. However, regardless of personal opinion, there's no denying that his studio has been pushing the boundaries when it comes to narrative-heavy games.
This could be seen in Fahrenheit, which was an engrossing game with a brilliant narrative. The quick-time events were surprisingly engaging, with the measured nature of the game's pace being one of its biggest shining qualities.
14 Fable: The Lost Chapters
Fable is a legendary franchise that had remained dormant for the longest time before the announcement of another game rocked the Xbox fandom. Now is the perfect time to revisit the glory years of this franchise, with the first game being an obvious starting point.
Fable was a decent game in its own right, with The Lost Chapters adding way more content to the already solid title. While Fable: Anniversary is the best way to experience this great game, The Lost Chapters was the optimal way to play the first Fable for the longest time.
Counter-strike 1.6 Dust
The release of Half-Life opened the floodgates for a whole host of computer games from the early 2000s that have been monumental in their own right. The manner in which these games used the malleable Source engine was pretty fascinating to witness.
One such amazing squad-based multiplayer shooter that was released through this engine was Counter-Strike. The game quickly established itself as one of the most tactical multiplayer titles around, spawning a franchise that is still going strong to this day.
12 Hitman: Codename 47
Hitman is one of the most iconic stealth gaming franchises of all time. Watching this series develop with the times and come into its own was fascinating to witness for long-time fans of the series.
Hitman: Codename 47 was the first title released for this series and is still extremely playable to this day. Sure, the gameplay might not have aged that well... but the old Hitman games had a charm of their own that is extremely noticeable in this game.
11 Max Payne
Speaking of legendary games that spawned epic franchises, it would be impossible not to mention one of Remedy's finest titles. Max Payne was a neo-noir crime thriller that completely impressed players upon release.
The amazing story and gameplay of this title made for one of the greatest action games ever made. Max Payne 2 might be considered by many to be the better game, but there's a charm to the original that will still endear itself to most newcomers.
10 Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time
The Prince of Persia series has seen its ups-and-downs, with the Sands of Time trilogy being the undisputed heyday of the franchise. The first game in the series was easily the most memorable of the lot due to its unique art style, great combat, and amazing story.
This was an era when Ubisoft wasn't afraid to take risks with its games, and it showed in the innovative gameplay of The Sands of Time. Watching the Prince develop from a cocky brat into a genuinely likable character never gets tiring.
9 Beyond Good & Evil
Another Ubisoft title that didn't enjoy the sales it deserved is Beyond Good & Evil. Stepping into the shoes of Jade and exploring a unique world made for a fresh and bold adventure that should've been way more popular at the time.
While a sequel was announced a while back, we are still waiting for more news on the upcoming title and its release. Fans can't wait to see what the next chapter of Beyond Good & Evil has in store for them, given how excellent the first game really was.
8 Deus Ex
Featuring perhaps the best level design featured in any game up to that point, the original Deus Ex was a landmark title that cemented the status of the immersive sim as one of the best genres to experience the magic of gaming. Stepping into the shoes of JC Denton, you unraveled a massive conspiracy that included everything from covert government plagues to the existence of aliens.
Even now, playing through Deus Ex is an absolute blast. The levels are as tight and well-paced as ever, and the characters still feel as fresh and life-like as ever - regardless of just how poor and muddy the graphics might be by today's standards.
While Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series might be considered by many to be one of the most popular RPG series in modern times, there was a time when the franchise was relatively obscure. However, the release of The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind changed this perception completely.
All of a sudden, you could immerse yourself in one of the most gigantic open worlds of all time, full to the brim with deep systems and thrilling encounters. You could put a hundred hours into Morrowind and still only experience the tip of the wondrous iceberg that is this game.
6 Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows Of Amn
BioWare's reputation might have fluctuated over the years, but you can't deny just how big the studio was in the early 2000s. After all, it did release the sequel to one of its most popular and beloved games, Baldur's Gate, around that time.
Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn was everything a sequel was meant to be - a bigger, better, and vastly more entertaining title than its predecessor in every sense. It was clear for everyone to see at that time, and any RPG fan would be elated at the prospect of playing this classic CRPG.
5 Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic
Of course, it would be impossible to talk about BioWare's dominance during the early 2000s without mentioning a title that most people still consider to be the best game in the Star Wars franchise - Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Featuring a group of memorable characters and one of the greatest plots in video game history, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is a game that no fan of the Star Wars series or good RPGs should miss out on.
The plot twist present in this game is the stuff of legends, throwing gamers for a loop after learning about the true identity of the character they were controlling all this time. Even after all these years, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic still holds up as a brilliant title that you should definitely check out.
4 The Sims 2
The Sims was one of the biggest games of its time, but the game was still fairly lacking in many departments. However, with the advent of The Sims 2, players finally realized just how impressive the true potential of this franchise really was.
Featuring a new engine, balanced gameplay mechanics, and a massive chunk of content that has still kept the game vastly playable to this day, The Sims 2 is a legendary title that finally cemented the franchise's name in the annals of gaming history for good. Whether you wanted to enjoy a relaxing game in Pleasantview or uncover the mysteries of Strangeville — The Sims 2 was an extremely addictive life sim game that has kept players hooked for hours, days, months, and even years.
3 The Longest Journey
While point-and-click titles were all the rage on the PC during its golden years, even the most devout fan of the genre had to admit that the genre started dying out after the advent of the 21st century. So, props must be given to The Longest Journey for managing to be a commercial success even during the downward spiral of the point-and-click genre's popularity.
Featuring a truly mind-bending story, coupled with some of the most interesting characters ever featured in a video game, The Longest Journey is a title with a ton of personality that fans of classic PC titles should definitely check out. However, beware of the infamously convoluted puzzles in this otherwise brilliant game.
2 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
While Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was initially released on the PlayStation 2, it was the game's release on the PC a year after that arguably cemented the title's reputation as one of the best open-world games of all time. Stepping into the shoes of CJ and getting embroiled in a wildly captivating story of crime and betrayal was quite a blast indeed.
To this day, the deep and intricate mechanics of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas are still awe-inspiring. You can level up numerous skills, alter your body type, date many characters in-game, and engage in numerous side activities, among a host of other distractions that allow players to truly lose themselves in a massive open world rife with content and personality.
1 Half-Life 2
It was only a given that a list talking about PC classics from the early 2000s would mention the Half-Life series at some point. The first game was a brilliant FPS in its own right, but the incredible quality of Half-Life 2 cemented this series as one of the best franchises in gaming history.
The fact that Gordon Freeman has managed to bag a spot in the Video Game Hall of Fame without speaking a single word proves how beloved Half-Life 2 is. In fact, the only bad thing about Half-Life 2 is that it eventually ends with no word of an official third game in the series.
Sure, you can try out Half-Life: Alyx, but that's still nowhere close to a third installment and requires an expensive VR headset to try out as well.
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