It’s 15 years since Windows XP lit up monitors with its idyllic green hills and welcoming blue interface.
XP had some mighty fine gaming chops and was the default option for PC gamers between 2001 and 2006, with many iconic titles released during its tenure. Whether in camp Nvidia or ATI, gamers had a blast.
Microsoft’s zombie-like OS may be dead as a dodo two years after the company stopped patching it with security updates, but the stats show that despite this 10.9% of computer owners are yet to upgrade to a newer platform.
Whether you fancy a trip down memory lane or are looking for a new adventure to embark on Microsoft’s rusty vessel, here are the 10 best games to have graced Windows XP.
1. Unreal Tournament
M-m-m-m-m-monster kill! Released in 1999, Unreal Tournament hit its stride in the XP years and was one of three first-person shooters played at the 2001 World Cyber Games (along with Quake 3 and Counter: Strike).
From the best sniping map of all time (that’s Facing Worlds, natch), to the Flak Cannon and its pioneering Assault Mode, UT99 had it all. Its futuristic multi-level arenas, frenetic mods (remember Instagib?) and snarky insults made for an addictive shooter that’s still played by a hardcore minority today.
Epic is co-developing a totally Godlike remake, IRC QuakeNet channel not included. (For shame.)
2. Half-Life 2
Gordon Freeman’s second outing hit the rocks when Half-Life 2’s source code spilled onto the torrent sites with 12 months of development yet to go.
Gabe Newell and Valve somehow turned it around to unleash a classic sequel, and the first FPS to make physics an integral part of the gameplay (thanks to the Gravity Gun). Set in the Orwellian City 17, Half-Life 2’s clever enemy AI, high-tech weaponry and atmospheric locations made for an FPS like no other.
Unfortunately for fans, Half-Life 3 is yet to surface some 12 years later. Even the All-Knowing Vortigaunt doesn’t know whether it will see the light of day.
3. Black and White
Black & White: the best game to ever receive a rating of 85% from Playboy magazine, and a Peter Molyneux classic.
Part strategy game and part Tamagotchi sim, you’re a God tasked with ruling over a tribal village while mentoring a skyscraper-sized creature – such as a cow or an ape. Molyneux described the game as a “big personality test” due to its gameplay, which brands you as good or evil depending on your actions.
Morality systems in videogames are commonplace now, but Black & White managed to make you feel genuinely guilty if you bashed your cow over the head too many times back in 2004. Which you totally did, you monster.
4. Counter Strike 1.6
Camping. The AWP. De_Dust. “It’s gonna’ blow!” They’re just a small sample of phrases from the Counter Strike 1.6 lexicon, familiar to anyone who spent an unhealthy number of hours camping in corners, playing ‘Gun Game’ well into the night and perfecting that all-important AK47 headshot.
Simpler than its modern equivalents, the original Half-Life mod is just as fun to play in 2016 as it was when its big CD box landed on videogame shop shelves in 2001. Remember them?
5. World of Warcraft
With more than 5.5 million subscribers, Blizzard’s MMORPG still has the same number of online players as Singapore has people.
It’s little wonder then, that WoW has raked in more coin than any other game in history. Launched in XP’s 2004 gaming heyday, World of Warcraft’s original art style and accessible gameplay helped it appeal to just about any kind of gamer.
You can delve into a few side quests on your own over a weekend or spend hours tackling lengthy raids as part of a clan. Or, if you’re Leeroy Jenkins, well, you know the rest…
6. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Improved combat, ragdoll physics and gorgeous graphics helped the fourth Elder Scrolls game feel like the first truly modern entry into the Elder Scrolls series.
Oblivion’s Prison Break-style intro set the bar high, and not just because the Emperor’s opening monologue is voiced by a certain Patrick Stewart.
Before long you’re badgering NPCs, punching boars in the snout and legging it from multi-limbed Land Dreughs, which came four years before Dead Space’s hellish Necromorphs.
7. Doom 3
The daddy of the “Nope!” moment, Doom 3 rebooted id Software’s classic franchise and a whole genre in the process.
Much of the game’s tension is generated by the id Tech 4 game engine which – unlike Unreal Tournament, Quake III and other FPSs of its era – computed lighting on-the-fly. This was used to great effect by forcing you to hold either a torch or a weapon at any one time, placing you on the edge of cardiac arrest when venturing into a pitch-black room.
With most of the game set aboard a Mars research facility inhabited by creatures from the depths of Hell, being in the dark for most of the game proved slightly problematic.
8. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Set four thousands years before before the events of the movies, SW: KOTOR was the first RPG set in the Star Wars universe. As the story went, Darth Malak had unleashed a murderous Sith army onto the galaxy and needed to be stopped.
Naturally, you spent half your time squaring up to bartenders in Tattooine cantinas, conscripting droids into your band of allies and helping wookies fight anyone who looked at them funny.
Combat was tactical, with damage caused by every blaster shot or lightsaber swing determined by a dice roll, and stealing armor from your downed enemies’ backs was vital to gaining the upper hand. Three basic classes gave you an excuse to revisit the game after a while, as did its numerous mods.
9. Battlefield 2
Battlefield 2 wasn’t just a game in 2004 – it was a way of life for many bedroom-bound soldiers. Clans and friendships were forged and broken over who piloted the AH-17 aircraft, and using the medic’s defibrillator to literally give enemies the shock of death was more fun than it had any right to be.
Shooters from that era demanded fast reflexes, but Battlefield 2 was a better fit for savvy tacticians. It was a game that introduced scores of PC gamers to team-based chat programs such as Ventrillo, making it one of the most social shooters of the XP era.
9. Far Cry
There were few games worth waiting for your humming desktop PC to boot up for than the original Far Cry. A, ahem, far cry from ‘Primal‘ and its other modern incarnations, the first game in the series was one of the first open-world shooters in an era when a ‘sandbox’ was something that kids built castles in.
The game that introduced Crysis developer Crytek to the world, Far Cry’s visuals were stunning at the time, requiring a GeForce2+ or Radeon 8500+ GPU to render its large maps.
Taking out mercenaries from afar with an assault rifle was all part of the fun. Its mutated Trigrens that could kill you with two swipes of their muscular arms? Yeah, not so much.
10. Neverwinter Nights
After five years in Development, BioWare launched Neverwinter Nights at a time when Diablo 2 was king of the RPGs.
Slow paced and less arcadey than the isometric RPG, Neverwinter arrived with fully 3D graphics, a greater emphasis on table-top RPG elements and far more class and spell options.
It was a great game if you enjoyed RPGs with a heavy literary slant, its vast collection of readable books almost matched by its many side quests.