Sid Meier's Civilization series
Developer: MPS Labs
Civilization is hard to encapsulate. It is the whole of human existance, after all—culture, war, science, religion, language, and human interaction. Similarly, Civilization the videogame series is difficult to summarize. Spanning almost twenty years of games, and four incredibly talented lead designers, this epic series of exploration, colonization, and conquest has more than earned its evergreen status as one of the greatest series of all time.
The core gameplay has remain unchanged through its numerous iterations and variations. You begin as a lone settler off in the world, the leader of a tribe that has only just decided that hanging out collectively is probably better than trying to brave the universe alone. You establish a city, build an army, and start exploring the darkness that lies beyond your borders. Along the way, you research new technologies, meet other nations, and jockey with them for superiority over limited resources and space. In other words, you simulate life itself.
But the heart of the game has never been the base mechanics, which are one slightly animated step above your average European board game. The hook which keeps bringing people back turn after turn, day after day, is the "Just one more turn" syndrome. Just as a gas strives to fill the boundaries of its space, a Civ player is always looking to explore one more step into the fog of war. The game fosters an atmosphere which forces players to always be looking not at the next turn, but three turns down from there, when Iron Working will be discovered, and four turns from there when you can churn out your first swordsman, and six turns from there when your new army can attack those damned Egyptians who have been encroaching on the location of your ideal seaport for the past 20 turns.
And when you think you have a handle on the game and can safely put it down for the night, a new threat appears, or one of your wandering phalanxes discovers a new technology from a goody hut, or your production town was hit by a famine and lost a population, or a Great Artist was born and set off a golden age. And suddenly, your plan is completely sidetracked, and you have a brand new mental queue of actions for the next forty turns that have to be acted on RIGHT NOW, and those Egyptians aren't going anywhere, and suddenly they've been joined by those crafty Koreans who have been irritated at you ever since you signed that trade agreement with their most hated enemy, the Persians, but on the other side George Washington wants you to sign a Defensive Pact with his Zulu tribe, but you know that's only going to cause Queen Victoria to sic her Aztec spearmen at you and on and on and on and suddenly is that the sun rising outside of your window? But where did the time go? After all, you swore you were just going to handle your worker actions and then go to bed. After you checked out that goody hut. Oh, and built that aqueduct. And captured that barbarian city right outside your borders. And...
Oh, crap, is that the sun rising again?