With an ever-changing video game market it is not uncommon to see franchises established on one system eventually arrive on another.  No one would have believed that Sonic, Spyro the Dragon, or Crash Bandicoot would grace a Nintendo platform but they all have.  Halo began its life as a PC exclusive before it caught the eye of Microsoft, became a flagship title for the Xbox, and subsequently was ported back over to the PC a few years later.  Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series, once one of the driving forces behind the unprecedented success of the Playstation 2, is now on all the major platforms. (Barring the Nintendo Wii)  The departure of PC centric developers like BioWare, Epic Games, and Lion Head Studios to multi-platform or console exclusive development has been disappointing to say the least.  Not because of a desire to keep these studios solely within the PC community, but because their titles haven’t really been the same since their shift towards console development.

Though it is evident that the success and proliferation of piracy on the net has caused some of these developers to jump ship and swim for friendlier waters, newer independent developers and some prolific console ones have braved the waters to try and reap some of the booty from the largely untapped treasure that is the PC games market.

Most of these games are released multi-platform to maximize profits and safeguard from PC piracy though there are several key experiences available only on PCs – at least for the time being.  The following games are great – though not always perfect – showcases for computers as viable gaming platforms.

RPGs:

The Witcher – Strong well acted lead role for a protagonist? Check. Immersive and original fantasy setting? Check. Gorgeous scenery and visuals? Check Check.  The Witcher, a breakout hit in 2007 and based on the fantasy novels of Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowsky, made a strong impact in the RPG genre at release; it’s dark and magical world resonated with a sense of stark realism and palpable issues not usually covered by the fantasy genre.  Racism, vice, political corruption and intrigue are all important themes back-dropping a world filed with cloak and dagger spies, cutthroats, mercenaries and ravenous monsters.  Though not open world like the Elder Scrolls series, The Witcher still managed to deliver a satisfying story while giving the player choice over matters of morality in the main story and the many side quests – always with varying shades of gray and often to weightily consequences. Perhaps one of the unfortunate shortcomings of the game was that that it originally shipped with several annoying game-play bugs, though fortunately they were patched and a re-mastered version containing additional material released.

The Witcher 2 has recently been released to wide acclaim and builds on the original’s engaging world and protagonist by upping the cinematic presentation, incorporating stunning graphics, and streamlining the combat and controls.  The game remains a PC exclusive for now but is slated to be released for Xbox 360 by the end of the year.  The PC version will definitely be the superior if your hardware can handle it.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.  The Shadow of Chernobyl series:  Released more than a year before Bethesda’s massive hit Fallout 3, Stalker allowed gamers to explore an irradiated world filled with mercenaries and mutants.  Not quite in a ‘wasteland’ setting, the game none the less made you feel like you’re in something very close, perhaps due to it taking place in the heart and surrounding area of the real life Chernobyl nuclear disaster.   Largely a first-person shooter with some RPG elements, Stalker is a semi-open world game where exploration plays an important part in a very bleak and dangerous world.  The game and its several sequels have great graphics and atmosphere while offering tight shooter controls.  Not quite as an RPG as fallout 3 the games still contain just enough role-playing elements to keep RPG fans engaged.  Like with the Witcher, Stalker and its sequels have contained some bugs that have kept the series back from universal acclaim, though most have been fixed through patches and by the community.

World of Warcraft: Little needs to be said for this titan of a game.  Even those not familiar with computer games – or RPGs for that matter – most likely know about WoW.  The game underhandedly revolutionized the MMORPG genre at release in 2005 and has since dominated it with more than 60% of the market share.  If playing a fantasy RPG full of orcs, goblins and elves with millions of other people sounds appealing, then World of Warcraft along with its several expansions could be worth trying as it still stands as one of the better MMO experiences available today.

Star Wars the Old Republic:  If there is any game with the potential to bite into the enormous market share of WoW, it’s the upcoming Star Wars The Old Republic MMORPG by Bioware – with over a million and a half beta subscribers already on board, the game is shaping up to be a big hit in the online community.  BioWare is pouring a tremendous amount of resources into shaping the story and the mechanics of the game and with a proper launch and a steady stream of content it might be the next big MMO to play.  SWTOR is slated to be released later this year.

Diablo III – This upcoming sequel in the classic Blizzard Diablo franchise looks to give fans what they want: bloody isometric action-RPG gameplay with plenty of loot to collect and monsters to slay.  The game is shaping up to be a great revival of an endeared franchise, much in the same way Star Craft II turned out to be.  Fans of the dungeon crawl have allot to look forward to, and Blizzard rarely (if ever!) disappoints.  Look for Diablo III to be out sometime next year -hopefully.

Shooters:

Crysis: Crytek has joined the club of PC game developers who have jumped on the multi-platform bandwagon with the release of their latest though not so greatest hit, Crysis 2.  It’s wonderful that console gamers can experience some of the tech and gameplay that has made the series into the blockbuster it is today, though the sequel by no means tops the original –  surprisingly not even in the visuals department.  The original Crysis’ open ended game-play and large jungle environments are replaced in the sequel with linear shootouts in a concrete New York City.  Sure Crysis wasn’t totally perfect; the story left much to be desired and the incredible graphics required a powerful computer, but ultimately the game delivered on its promise of being a super-soldier in a non-linear jungle.  The game’s last third section is amongst the best I have ever played, featuring Matrix inspired aliens and jaw dropping battle sequences.  Some gamers may ascertain that the game is shallow and focuses on visuals over substance.  The majority of these naysayers probably have never played past the demo level. Crysis will undoubtedly be remembered as a benchmark for computer graphics – it’s worth noting that though it won’t win any writing awards, it’s a blast to play from start to finish.

Team Fortress 2:  I thought this game was released on the consoles as part of the Orange Box? Why is it on this list? Yes Team Fortress 2 was released on both the Xbox 360 and the Ps3.  Yes it belongs on this list.  To say that console gamers received TF2 is as if to say that you can receive a half written book and call it a complete read.

TF2 is a multi-player team based online first person shooter featuring quirky characters not unlike ones you might find in a Dreamworks 3D animated film.  Different classes such as the minigun toting heavy weapons guy, the team-mate healing medic, or the long range sniper can be used to lead your team to victory through the capture of a particular objective, the capture of the enemy’s intelligence documents, or the pushing of a large cart full of high explosives.

The game as it is now on the PC is a wholly different animal, Valve software has revamped the game-play, added an enormous amount of free content and incorporated an online store for the purchase of premium content like hats and crafting materials to make custom hats.  The console versions are in comparison, a beta of the TF2 being played now.  The game was fairly good at its release in 2008.  In 2011 it stands as one of the most popular online shooters on the PC due to the extensive support by Valve Software.

Real Time Strategy:

Dawn Of War 2: Ready at Dawn Studios’ well crafted Dawn of War 2 is a shining example of how to expand the RTS genre by streamlining the game-play so that those who may not know the difference between micro or macro management can enjoy the game alongside strategy veterans.  The single-player campaign’s focused story takes place in the gothic-scifi universe of Warhammer 40,000, and revolves around a squad of well armed space marines. It puts the players’ control on the action rather than base and resource management; with a few RPG elements such as leveling up squad members and gear thrown in for good measure.  The multi-player is completely different beast with up to six players controlling multiple squads to outwit and outmaneuver their foes.  The single player campaign may be to simplistic for the hardcore RTS gamer, but anyone who likes a side of action and RPG with their tactics will appreciate the new direction Ready at Dawn goes with Dawn of War 2.

Star Craft II: As American football is to the states and soccer is to much of the world, the original Star Craft became somewhat of a past time for many South Koreans with televised matches and endorsements for professional players.  Indeed throughout the entire PC RTS community Star Craft reigned as the game of choice of millions of gamers despite being released over 13 years ago.   The good news is that purists need not fret, the sequel Star Craft II: Wings of Liberty has retained much of what made the original the hit it has been albeit with more focused and cinematic storytelling and an expanded multi-player mode supporting up to 12 players.  The plot revolves around a group of human (terrans) rebels as they fight both the powers-at-be and the multitude of alien infestations.  The game-play is much of your traditional RTS fare revolving around base building, resource gathering, and massive battles involving both infantry, armored vehicles, and space ships/ air support.  Unlike the original game the sequel only presents the player with the terran campaign an not those of the bug-like Zerg or the high-tech Protoss aliens – those campaigns are slated for future expansions.  It’s a small gripe in an otherwise outstanding game but should be noted considering Star Craft II’s hefty $60 price tag.  The next expansion pack will focus on the Zerg and will be out sometime next year.

Total War Series: If 300 pound space marines, savage space Orks, or the high-tech Protoss don’t have much appeal, and neither does base building or resource management, then the Total War series might be of interest to the RTS fan.  Grounded on history, the past two games in the series, Empire Total War and Shogun Total War, are excellent installments in a franchise where seeing thousands of troops fighting it out on screen at any one time is common place and the feeling of being part of a real historical battle is very palpable.  The campaign mode features turn based movement of your forces across the world map while managing finances, trade embargoes, and political alliances.  With installments taking place in Europe, North Africa, the Colonial Americas, Ancient Rome and Asia, the series has covered a large segment of history all the while featuring some of the best tactical gameplay in the genre.

Simulation:

The Sims: Out of all of Will Wright’s Sim games – including SimCity, SimLife, SimEarth -none have shaped and expanded the simulation genre as much as the Sims.  Perhaps it is only natural that gamers would be most fascinated with controlling the lives of a few animated characters.  He who has the power to command a computer generated individual to empty their bowels is truly powerful indeed.  Or so I’ve been told. Perhaps just me….

In any case though some of the games in the series have made it to other platforms, none have replicated control or attention to detail of the originals on the PC.  Partially due to the ungodly amount of expansion packs and spin-off titles that have presented the world of the Sims for almost every possible angle.  The latest game in the series, The Sims Medieval, has added RPG elements to a backdrop of a fantasy world full of heroes and wizards.  It seems that becoming a Monarch in a videogame is all the rage these days.  The Sims is still a good series for those looking to control all aspects of a group of hapless humans in their strife to live meaningful (or at least accident free) lives.

Games That Aren’t Exclusive but should be played on the PC

The Elder Scrolls series – It may be available on the consoles but the extensive mod community can only be found on the PC.

Fallout series – Like with Elder Scrolls expect the series to remain computer-centric under Bethesda’s development

Unreal Tournament – Epic may have shifted ‘gears’ and focused on Microsoft’s console but its original hit franchise may see a comeback in the future on PCs.

Command and Conquer – To say that the RTS is not suited for consoles is not a PC-centric view; it’s simply a fact of the limitations in console controls.  The C&C series should still be played on a computer. (unless those Nintendo Project Cafe touch screen controller rumors come out to be true!)

Dragon Age Origins – Perhaps Bioware’s swan song to the age of the infinity engine powered RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment.  Definitely a must play on the PC.

There are a ton of others that are not listed here

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