Think back to this era. In the 90s, PC gaming had really taken off and by 2000 games like Starcraft and Diablo 2 had become a staple in online gaming. There were plenty of other single & multiplayer games out there like the Baldur’s Gate series, Fallout 1 & 2, Neverwinter Nights, Asheron’s Call, Everquest, and Ultima Online. I’m sure you can even think of games that don’t make the list of “most popularly played” but still hold a place in your nerdy heart.
I know I can.
The Might and Magic Series, 6-8
The Might and Magic series went through some notable changes around its 6th installment with a graphics improvement (at the time) and skill changes, but still remained true to the original five games with its square cut-out interface and heavy RPG elements. This look stayed with all three games.
Here are some images from Might and Magic 7, my favorite out of the three.
The Might and Magic games also had a surprisingly good soundtrack. Composed by Paul Romero, each song set a memorable mood for the areas in which they were played. The “Deyja” track still takes me back to the Bracada Desert with its sad and creepy vibes.
After the 9th game came out, the series pretty much took a turn for the worse. It never recovered and 3DO ended up going under around the time of its release, too. The 9th game was so buggy that it took fans of the previous installments taking the time to mod it and make it somewhat playable. To this day there has not been another release in the style of Might and Magic RPG line, though the strategy line known as Heroes of Might and Magic still experiences some success. There is even a free kingdom based browser spin-off game.
Compared to the ultra graphics, voice acting, and bangable story characters that some modern gamers demand in an “epic” RPG, the best parts of Might and Magic 6 – 8 were straight forward and classic; intriguing lore, lots of land to conquer, phat treasure l00tz, gaining moar power through levels and stats, making game changing choices between good and evil, challenging quests, and the imaginative feeling one got from the immersive exploring. I recall feeling more immersed in this poor pixel universe than any modern, single-player RPG has made me feel since then. Back then, I liked to add my own bit of imagination to my story instead of rely on the game to present to me my entire “personal story”… which is just about as personal as the 2 million other players’ that own the same game! There was more of a “show, don’t tell” element to these games, where the game or its NPC’s did not spend five to ten minutes worth of conversation spelling out the entire encounter and story for you. You truly took the few hints it did give you, then went and explored to figure it out on your own.