Released as a competitor to the Atari ST, the Commodore Amiga was part of a brand new style of computer and gaming machine that put detailed, vibrant graphics and sound at the forefront and positioned the medium as not only one of the future, but as a mainstay of the entertainment industry.
Computers back in the day were about as primitive as their console counterparts, with most functions controlled via text inputs and nearly all desktops requiring some kind of familiarity with how things worked, in order to operate.
This all changed when things like the mouse and graphical user interface – both features of Commodore Amiga – came into being and the rest is history, more or less. Back then, PC manufacturers tried to position their products as catch-all devices, that could solve any and all needs from both personal to business uses.
Even so, the Amiga settled into a comfortable market position as a family PC, and this is thanks in large part to a huge library of both awesome software and great video games. In this article, I am going to talk about my top 10 Amiga games and why they mean so much to me. Just like the Commodore 64 list, there will not be any arcade ports.
Do not worry – the Amiga has plenty of great titles. From riveting sports games that were ahead of their time, to strategy titles and point-and-click adventures with lush graphics and intriguing storylines. There is a little something for everyone in the Amiga library, and I hope this list illustrates that pretty clearly.
I will be honest: never has making a list been so hard for me. So many amazing games to choose from; it was painful to leave out the likes of Another World, International Karate +, Railroad Tycoon, Roadkill, Superfrog, Zool, etc.
Anyway, it is only 10 games plus 3 honorable mentions, and I had to make choices.
As many of you know, this is my favorite system alongside the PS2, and I have a ton of memories with it.
That is what has made this so difficult to write. Ever since receiving an Amiga 600 in 1993, I have been hooked. I hope that comes through on this list.
Talking too much and getting too emotional lol, sorry… Below are the 10 best Amiga games:
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10. All Terrain Racing (developed and publish by Team 17; 1995)
Team 17’s isometric racing game with an emphasis on drifting and dune buggy-like racing. Like something that would later become a common feature in track racers, All Terrain Racing has hidden shortcuts in the tracks and even course obstacles, like oil and small jumps.
Interestingly, a dispute between Team 17 and the go-to Amiga magazine of the day, Amiga Power, led to ATR getting an awful initial score though, as conveyed here, time has proven it to be a great game.
Next time you toss a banana in the Mario Kart, you can thank Team 17’s innovations with ATR for that.
9. Turrican 2: The Final Fight (developed by Factor 5, published by Rainbow Arts; 1991)
Factor 5’s second game in the legendary run-and-gun shooter, Turrican 2 employs a massive, maze-like stage setup that is similar to Metroid, with the action broken up into five stages and ending with a boss.
You have access to a range of powerups including the indestructible “Wheel” and the temporary invincibility protection known as the “Shield.” A single-player epic, Turrican 2 is notable for its amazing graphics, immersive environments, and impressive OST. In fact, its music is cited even now as some of the best in a video game.
8. Flashback: The Quest for Identity (developed by Delhpine Software International, published by U.S. Gold; 1992)
Described as a cinematic platforming game, Flashback is remembered for two salient points: Its steep difficulty and its artistic, if not abstract graphical style. Delphine Software’s Flashback shows inspirations as far-ranging as the Prince of Persia to side-scrolling sci-fi action platformers.
Centered on a deep story that is told using in-game graphics, Flashback is a touchstone for many gamers because it is among the few games of this era to present an immersive, living world that seems to exist on its own terms.
For many games, we had to fill in the details but, with Flashback, we get to discover them. It is this process that makes it a great game even if it is a little bit hard. What Flashback shows us, from an early period, is that video games could be more and, indeed, should be more than simple diversions. They should be cinematic and narrative experiences like the best from Hollywood.
7. Maniac Mansion (developed and published by Lucasfilm Games; 1987)
What do you get when you take a concept that would be great for a Hollywood movie or a television serial and you make it into a video game? You get Maniac Mansion. But do not take my word for it, let me explain.
Text-based adventures like Zork were all the rage in the early days of PC gaming. Why? Because it was nearly impossible to display graphically what these games often aspired to in terms of scope and world.
Developers had to rely upon text and, for a long time, that was what dominated. Like I said, the introduction of powerful graphics, a GUI, and a mouse point and click input function really changed the game for the PC gaming scene.
One genre born out of this is the point-and-click adventure (that also mixes in text-based elements): Maniac Mansion. Populated by a quirky cast of characters and a story that is both compelling and immediately understandable, Maniac Mansion made an appearance on many other formats and inspires game design even now. Of all the games on this list, it has really aged quite well and it is a must-play for any true gamer.
6. Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe (developed by The Bitmap Brothers, published by Image Works; 1990)
An action sports game that uses a conceit that is somewhere between football and the American style sport of the same name, Speedball 2 is the beginning of the 1990s bend towards anything “eXtreme,” but shines today for being a solid single-player and multiplayer game.
There are multiple gameplay modes, knockout, cup, league, practice and multiplayer, with each session lasting 180 seconds. Speedball 2 is often regarded by Amiga connoisseurs as one of the best titles on the system and, after just a few plays, you will likely agree with that assessment.
5. Cannon Fodder (developed by Sensible Software, published by Virgin Interactive Entertainment; 1993)
A shoot ‘em up game that employs real-time tactics as its conceit, Cannon Fodder is a game that, first and foremost, preferences action over all else but, as it proceeds, increasingly rewards strategy and punishes foolhardy gameplay.
Played from a top-down perspective, this is another game that really pushed the Amiga and showed off what a graphical powerhouse it was.
A later inspiration for The 3DO Company’s Army Men game, Cannon Fodder is still a lot of fun today, and leans more towards PC strategy titles than arcade action games, as its veneer would seem to suggest.
4. Simon The Sorcerer (developed and published by Adventure Soft; 1993)
One theme that you will readily pick up from this list is just how good the point-and-click adventure games on the Amiga were. Simon the Sorcerer is one of those games. After being given a magical book by a magician, Simon finds himself transported to a mystical land where magic is very real – and key to his survival.
Told with beautiful graphics and puzzles that are challenging without being daunting, STS is a truly timeless game and, like many of the point-and-click titles on here, totally worth it. In fact, most of the point-and-click titles on this list have that style of gameplay that cannot help but age well.
3. The Settlers (developed and published by Blue Byte; 1993)
What do you get when you combine real-time strategy with what is basically a city-building game? You get The Settlers and it is a game that was also ahead of its time in many ways. While this genre is largely dominated by handheld and smartphone apps now, The Settlers is basically your tap-fest game, but with a lot more maturity and no paywalls preventing you from progression.
One of my favorite things is how detailed and beautiful the game is even now. Gamers that want a straightforward, easy-to-understand gameplay system should not look any further than The Settlers’ classic gameplay formula.
If you are a fan of the Sid Meier’s Civilization games or you just like city-building sims, The Settlers offers enough of a unique take on the genre to warrant a once over.
2. Lemmings (developed by DMA Design, published by Psygnosis; 1991)
A term for someone that follows orders unquestioningly, Lemmings the game takes much the same concept and expands it to a whole tribe of green-haired klutzy heroes, that need help to escape from a variety of landscapes. You can tell them to what they need to do to overcome environmental obstacles but it is not as simple as that.
You have to think two steps ahead, because you might be inadvertently leading them all to their doom. And trust me, they will all walk off the ledge of the world without a second thought. Their only abilities are walking forward and doing what you tell them to do but stopping is not among those things.
The stages are constructed in such a way as to make them like gigantic puzzles, and this adds loads of replay value because, often, there is more than one solution. Another game that has aged extremely well, Lemmings has timeless gameplay and graphics that are equally good without the need of the patina of nostalgia.
It is definitely not a case that I ranked it first on my list of the best puzzle games ever.
Syndicate (developed by Bullfrog Productions, published by Electronic Arts; 1993)
This isometric real time strategy game is set in a dystopian, almost cyberpunk future in which the world is dominated by corporations. You lead a team of one to four combatants that you tweak and outfit for the mission as you see fit. You also direct research and development of new weapons and armor.
Overall, if any game on this list needs a modern installment, Syndicate is that franchise. It is simply bleeding with concepts that are hot right now and is vaguely reminiscent of the Shadowrun series that would later come out on the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo.
The Secret of Monkey Island (developed and published by Lucasfilm Games; 1990)
Another single-player graphical adventure from LFG, The Secret of Monkey Island is one of those games that has you scratching your head that it exists, but that quickly overwhelms your misgivings with its charms and rock-solid gameplay. Who knew that George Lucas and his team were such creative people?
A beautiful graphical adventure that is told with an almost storybook quality to it, TSOMI requires you to explore and solve puzzles to advance more of the story. A supremely charming game and another title on this list that deserves the attention of modern gamers.
Loom (developed and published by Lucasfilm Games; 1990)
Yet Another game from Lucasfilm that uses the same SCUMM engine as The Secret of Monkey Island, Loom is from the creators of the aforementioned Zork and transplants that series’ gameplay over into a beautiful, lush world.
This would not happen in the Zork series until the CD-based Return to Zork sometime later but Loom, with its beautiful graphics and quirky approach to story and narrative, is a proud member of the Zork lineage without a doubt.
I do not need to introduce number 1, do I? If you know me, that is a very easy guess…
1. Sensible World of Soccer 96/97 (developed by Sensible Software, published by Renegade; 1996)
Ever since Steve Jobs made minimalism a hot thing in consumer products, more and more people are noticing the beauty in limitation and the compelling nature of simplicity. It is no easy thing to call a game a masterpiece or a best of all time without qualifying that – especially when you are talking about a game from the sports genre which tends to annual and iterative.
Sensible World of Soccer 96/97 is a study in compelling gameplay done without any excess or bloat. There are a ton of fun modes in the single-player game but what really makes SWOS a lot of fun is that it empowers you in ways that were unheard of back then.
I am talking about customization – from player appearances to names – and stats. Many sports games at the time were primitive affairs but Swos offered amazing levels of complexity and depth that gives its multiplayer mode both an online and an offline life even today.
If you grew up with it, you will know what I am talking about, but if you have not, you will quickly understand what makes this game such a big deal even now within moments of playing. Just do not blame me for the hundreds of hours of your life drained away enjoying it. 😛
Seriously, If you are a regular here, you know how much I love Swos and that this is not the first time I talk about it. But if you are reading my blog for the first time, and want to know more about The King, you can check my list of the top 10 retro soccer games.
A very “emotional” list is in the books retro folks, but what about you? Do you have any Amiga favorites that I did not include (I am sure you do, lol)? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Till next retro post!