10 Classic PC Games That Aren't Available Digitally

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Writtwen by:  pcgamer-futureus
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Digital distribution services dominate the PC gaming industry. Storefronts like Steam and GOG have done a great job of opening up PC games to players, and exciting new indie games have a huge marketplace to compete in. However, not every classic PC game has made its way online. Companies going out of business or have a contract expiring might leave some of the best games off of digital distribution. These are our ten favourite games that, for one reason or another, can only be played from a  CD drive.
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Operative: No One Lives Forever

Operative: No One Lives Forever has become a classic of the first-person shooter genre since its original release in 2000. PC Gamer’s January 2001  review heralded the game’s winking send-up of ridiculous spy movie tropes as a return to fun for self-serious FPS. It is fast-paced, zany, and a joy to play. 

Unfortunately, it’s not on any digital service, so the only way to pick up a copy is to buy a physical game disk. After a valiant effort to bring NOLF back to life, the campaign to get permission to use the trademark failed in 2014. Any future attempts will have to sort out layers of confusion between Activision, Fox Interactive, and Warner, all of which might own a piece it. 

In the meantime, the only way to enjoy a great shooter and a hilarious spy thriller is to buy a  physical copy of the disk.
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Freelancer

Space games are experiencing a renaissance right now, and PC gamers can take our pick between FTL, Elite: Dangerous, Homeworld, and many others. Back in 2003, the space faring Freelancer was a bright star in a much less crowded genre. Its open-world design had rarely been seen in a space game before, and having a universe to explore was an immediate hit. 

Freelancer’s creator, Chris Roberts, is still in the business working on a “spiritual successor” to Freelancer, the crowdfunding mega-hit Star Citizen. A lot of Star Citizen’s best ideas were originally pitched as part of Freelancer, but cut because of time, money, and technology constraints. 

If a Star Citizen fan wants to know what Star Citizen might look like when it releases in 2016, they’ll have to track down a  physical game disk to find out.
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Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle

The 1993 sequel to the excellent adventure game Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle featured sillier jokes, fiendishly difficult puzzles, and wonderful pixel art. DOTT regularly tops our list of the greatest adventure games of all time. 

The only problem: you can’t download Day of the Tentacle anywhere. While other classic adventure games like Grim Fandango and Curse of Monkey Island have been remastered, Day of the Tentacle’s announced special digital edition still doesn’t have a release date. 

In the meantime, adventure game aficionados who want to guide Bernard, Laverne, and Hoagie through colonial misadventures will have to track down a  physical disk to play it. An added bonus: Day of the Tentacle has a hidden computer with a fully playable edition of Maniac Mansion inside. That’s two adventure gems for the price of one. 
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SWAT 4

Rainbow Six continues to go through various action and shoot-em-up permutations, but for my money the best police game of the last decade was 2005’s SWAT 4. While it features a lot of the tense close-quarters-combat we’ve seen in other tactical shooters, it always remembers that players are taking the role of police officers. They’re supposed to arrest and disarm criminals whenever possible—a deeply unattractive thing for police to do in games where shooting terrorists is a way of life. 

Tools like cameras, tasers and stun grenades help officers subdue suspects and calm down situations. At higher levels of difficulty, the death of even a single bad guy would fail a mission. 

Rainbow Six: Siege is a completely different take on militarized police response, and there’s nothing in games quite like SWAT 4 nowadays. This great tactical shooter can’t be downloaded anywhere, so finding a copy on eBay is your best option. 

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Mechwarrior 2

Mechwarrior 2 is a strange item for this list — unlike most of the others, the Mechwarrior universe is alive and well with the free-to-play competitive shooter, Mechwarrior Online. Mech fans have no shortage of walking robot tanks to blow up, and yet 1995’s Mechwarrior 2 is a completely different experience. The simulation in Mechwarrior 2 was slower and more methodical than the latest free-to-play version. 

There’s also something immensely satisfying about playing a single-player campaign in a Mech, something you can’t do in the multiplayer-only game. If you want to understand how Mechs' captivated a generation of players,  find a copy of this classic and boot it up. 
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Black & White

Peter Molyneux can’t stop making headlines with his latest high-profile disappointment, Godus. Younger gamers might wonder why Molyneux commands such awe and reverence, when he hasn’t made a well-received game in a number of years. 

Some might point to Populous, but for my money, Molyneux made his name with 2001’s Black & White. As a powerful god, players could choose to be a benevolent force or a terrifying despot. A pet creature grows in power along with the player-god, and unleashing a terrifying demonic tiger on an apostate village remains one of my fondest gaming memories. 

Black & White isn’t available for download anywhere, and it’s unlikely that the series will be revived any time soon. If you want to play god, find an  old disk copy and make it yours. 

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Discworld

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is one of the most popular literary worlds on Earth. Before his death in 2015, Pratchett’s work had been translated around the world and sold 85 million copies. 

As 90s adventure game fans know, Pratchett’s bizarre sense of humor also found its way to a 1995 adventure game titled simply, Discworld. The game follows Rincewind, the incompetent wizard, as he tries to sort out the rampaging dragon plot from the novel Guards! Guards! Exploring the pestilent city of Ankh-Morpork in colourful pixel art is a pleasure for fans, and the puzzles are as difficult as Pratchett’s famous wit could make them. 

After Pratchett’s death, the Discworld series is essentially done, and it seems unlikely that this niche adventure game will ever see a digital re-release. Discworld fans should do themselves a favor and pick up a  used copy

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XIII

XIII, the 2003 stealth shooter, exudes charm from every cell-shaded level. In ways that even modern cell-shaded games don’t quite match, XIII used the visual style of a comic book to build an interactive story. In addition to the stylish hand-drawn style, illustrated sounds follow the tap-tap-tap of guards’ footsteps, and every headshot is illustrated with a pop-up caption straight out of comic books. 

Unlike some of the games on this list, there’s probably nothing stopping Ubisoft from re-releasing XIII in digital form. So far, though, there’s been no movement. If you want to walk around inside a James Bond comic book, the closest you’ll get for now is a  physical copy of XIII. 

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Soldier of Fortune

Back in 2000, the world of first-person shooters was changing dramatically. Half-Life had just turned everything upside down, and advances in physics modeling were making levels and characters interactive in new ways. Naturally, Soldier of Fortune used that power to blow people’s legs off. 

As a historical artifact, it’s cool to look at Soldier of Fortune and remember people having a full-throated freakout about this unprecedented level of interactive violence. Soldier of Fortune is also still a lot of fun as a shooter. Developer Raven software has since moved on to collaborate with Infinity Ward on Call of Duty games, so it seems unlikely they’ll pull this old warhorse out of storage any time soon. Your best bet to check out this piece of FPS history is with a  physical copy


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Metal Gear Solid 1


We’ve been having a great time with Kojima’s latest (and, it seems, final) entry to the Metal Gear universe, Metal Gear Solid V. Though the MGS series is frequently thought of as a staple of the PlayStation, Metal Gear Solid 1 did make its way to PC. The PC version has a lot of great stuff, including a disc of 300 VR missions, puzzles that test players’ sneaking and fighting skills. 

When you feel like taking a break from the open-world chaos of Metal Gear Solid V, die-hard PC fans should check out how the MGS series began with an  old copy from the 2000 release.

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