|developer/publisher||BioWare/Black Isle Studios/Interplay Entertainment|
|past years||2019: #12, 2018: #12, 2017: #9|
Baldur's Gate is one of the best attempts to bring a Dungeons&Dragons campaign to a video game. It had D&D license and made a lot of stuff very truthfully to the source material. The world is based on the D&D campaign-setting Forgotten Realms in the region of the Sword Coast. For this game the Infinity engine was developed, which was the base for a lot of similar games, including the sequel Baldur's Gate II, but also Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale.
As in a D&D round you gather a party of individual adventurers and step out in the world to exterminate evil… or get rich… or both. You create your main character, following the D&D rules, but the other characters you find in the game and include them into your party, if you want. But once they are part of your group, you control them all directly. In combat things happen in real-time and you can give orders. If you are overwhelmed (and probably a good idea at the start of battle), you can pause the action to give direct orders. This can be in very fine detail, including which enemy to target, which spell to cast or which weapon to use.
Also outside of battles the game uses D&D rules, for instance for stealth, for pickpocket or for other interactions. Freedom to do what you want is the key philosophy here. Baldur's Gate is a game which often allowed you to play how you want. Therefore systems exists for a lot of things. Decide which party members to recruit. Which way to go. Be evil or a do-gooder. In a way it is a Skyrim with isometric view, a party (instead of a single fighter) and a much deeper battle system.
In Baldur's Gate you create your character based on the D&D-system, which starts out at the fort Candlekeep were you grew up. One day your mentor hastily wants you to leave the keep with him. Outside you encounter a figure that demand of your mentor to hand you over. Your mentor denies this request and fights to allow your escape. On your own now you try to uncover the secrets about this encounter and meet a lot of interesting characters on the way.
The characters are also great in this game. Who doesn't remember Minsc and his miniature giant space hamster Boo? Look, how lovely they are:
Interplay projected 200K sales for the game, in the end it sold past 2 million, a major success for the time.
These group of games seemed gone from the market after the demise of Black Isle, but Black Isle veterans founded Obsidian and developed Pillars of Eternity, Interplay veteran founde inXile which released Torment: Tides of Numenera and Larian Studios started to go in this direction with Divinity. So in modern times we have more games in the style Baldur's Gate started, including after a long time Baldur's Gate III by Larian Studios.
The game got an Enhanced Edition some time back (also including console versions), which probably is the best way to play it these days.