back to article Ten... eight-bit classic games

Reg Hardware Retro Week Logo I live with geeks, and when they aren't at hackfest they are in the front room playing Vindicators and Spyhunter on a Friday night. I think they only tolerate my presence because my dad works at CERN and I used to be able to program Turbo Pascal before all that PCP melted my frontal lobe. One …


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  1. KroSha

    Elite was incredible. I lost months of my childhood to that game. I still play the updated Oolite today.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Playing it on Android now...

      Search for "3D Space Game" in the "Play" store. Controls are a bit clunky, but it's still the old Elite

    2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      +1 to that, and also +1 to Oolite - great modern update.

      And nice to see Elite finally getting into the Antique Code Show, after it's top rating in the poll a while back! Now can we have the full article/review as well pleeeez?

    3. DrXym Silver badge

      I thought the ZX Spectrum version was actually better than the BBC version but it was hampered by a stupid copy protection system called LensLok. The C64 version was utterly hopeless due to the low frame rate.

      Sadly Elite II was a bit boring concentrating more on realistic astrophysics and less on fun. Frontier (Elite III) was a bug ridden mess.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Original Elite on the BBC was also well known for its complex protection, although the protection was completely invisible clever use of the 8271 floppy disk controller.

        Even after it was finally cracked and "hooky" copies were available (and I had one) I still bought an original copy. For me it was two games. One flying a space ship, and the other trying to crack the protection :-)

  2. Ian Entwistle

    Manic Miner was out on VIC 20(with 16K RAM pack) as well. I still have mine along with my ZX81. The text adventure cartridges of the VIC wasted many hours of my youth(Adventureland, The Count etc). you seem to have missed Jeff Minters awesome collection of games, Matrix, Lazerzone, Attack of teh Mutant Camels, Revenge OTMC, etc.

    you do have to wonder how they managed to get so much quality gameplay into so little memory, now each time I decide I want a quick blast of GT5 on my rarely used PS3 it downloads gigabytes of updates.... In fact it would be quicker to get my VIC out the garage and wait for it to load up Manic Miner from tape than it is waiting for GT5 to update! progress eh?

  3. Annihilator Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Jeff Minter

    Strangely missing from the list unless I've overlooked something?...

    1. lurker

      Re: Jeff Minter

      It was a short list, there were always going to be missing classics. I also have fond memories of Attack of / Revenge of the mutant camels on my C64 :).

      1. Giles Jones Gold badge

        Re: Jeff Minter

        Well they've gone for all the fairly obvious choices :)

        Jeff Minter did some rather wacky classics. Hover Bovver being one of them, borrowing the flymo from your neighbour to cut the grass? most people hate cutting the lawn yet someone make a game out of it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up

          Re: Jeff Minter

          Hover Bovver was my thought exactly!

          "Jim won't mind if I borrow his mower."

          "I'll just nip and borrow tom's..."

          "Good old Alf... He's a decent chap."

          and the inevitable "Gimme back my mower!" and that bloody dog!

          Great fun and a great sense of humour!

          There was a PC sequel but it was never the same as the C64 original, with "An English Country Garden" on repeat :)

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Odd selection

        Not a great selection all in all. Missed out any Minter games, but also Turbo Esprit, the game that is said to have partly inspired the Grand Theft Auto series.

        For those wanting a proper, definitive, list of the best 100 Spectrum games, try here:

        100 of the most varied and individual Spectrum games you are ever likely to play written by a proper games journo who had played them all.

  4. jake Silver badge


    I had 16-bit computers at home before any of that tat.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Whatever.


      Did you have a GT40 and Lunar Lander as well? First McDonalds on the Moon!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whatever.

      Wow! That's so great! jake, you're so awesome! Or a sad twonk desperately seeking praise. So hard to decide ...

      1. MJI Silver badge

        I think Jake was taking the piss

        That is how it read to me.

        He has a PDP11

    3. Simon Ward

      Re: Whatever.

      You must be *so* proud.

      Whaddya want? A medal?

    4. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Whatever.

      Okay, we get the impression you're Californian. Most of the games in the article were for the Sinclair Spectrum, an English computer that played a role in our memory of the eighties. If you read between the lines in the article, you might spot a theme: Enjoyment despite lack of graphical prowess by means of imagination and charm. One title is even a pure text based adventure game.

      At the same time, many of us would have still been losing skin by falling off BMXs- and have fond memories of doing so. Being told now that someone had a 125cc motocross bike at the time wouldn't dent those memories.

    5. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whatever.

      I had 16-bit computers at home before any of that tat.


      1. jake Silver badge

        Stike Vomit said "Whatever".


        At least someone gets it :-)

  5. It wasnt me

    Its a good list.

    Glad elite is on there. It got me into fixing me school BBC micros and i'm still coding and designing hardware now.

    A little bit disappointed no to see Jet set willy though. I really loved that game. It inspired me to do my very first coding on me Spectrum 48k. I've never looked back.

    1. Bassey

      Re: Its a good list.

      Jet Set Willy WAS good but I think it is correct that the list focus on the original Manic Miner and not the sequel.

      Love the list. I would have subbed "The Hobbit" for THGTTG but then, that's the point of these lists. They are personal possessions composed of shared memories.

  6. That's it man, game over man, game over!

    ah memories.....SIM by Joshua Portway

    How i miss you.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How come those games kept kids captivated for longer, seemed more fun and seemed harder to progress than the games that cost millions to develop nowadays?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Because it's all we had.

      I used to think the same.

      Then I fired up an emulator and tried to relive my youth...... whoa those games were slow and tedious! Takes an age to get Manic Miner from one side of the screen to the other.

      Imagine if we could beam a PS3 or XBox back to a kid in 1983, it would seem like alien tech from a UFO!

      1. annodomini2

        Re: Because it's all we had.

        Commercial aspects as well, they want you finishing the game faster so you go out and buy the next one.

        1. jason 7

          Re: Because it's all we had.

          Exactly, back then 12-14 year olds didn't get everything they whined for like they do today to shut them up cos mum and dad are too busy 'working' and forget that kids are not a lifestyle accessory to be ignored when the novelty wares off.

          So finding £5 to £8 for your next game was not an instant option.

          God I remember saving up £15 to buy Valhalla. Talk about disappointment.

          I'd still like my money back.

  8. GlenP Silver badge

    Played most of those at one time or another. Even built a dedicated joystick for Elite on the Beeb B.

    Could probably add a few more - Halls of the Things on the Speccie was a favourite at the time (modified joystick with 4 independent fire buttons and a custom built patchable interface for that).

    Think I've been a Geek for too long!

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      You needed a BitStik!

      Put thrust on the twist of the joystick and had three buttons. Made complex manoeuvres less like shaking hands with an octopus!

      And when you ran Elite on a 6502 second processor (if you bought a BitStik, then you probably had one of these as well to run the CAD software), you got Mode 1 graphics and none of the 'mode change' interrupt tear when it switched from Mode 4 and Mode 5 3/4 of the way down the screen.

  9. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    What?! JK Greye and Malcom Evans!

    Where's the fathers of 3D maze games without whom we'd have no Doom and all the little Doom-lets? I am talking about the great JK Greye and Malcolm Evans who wrote a full 3D monster maze game on the ZX81 in 1981!

    Let alone other obvious ones you missed, Trashman, Skooldaze, Sabre Wulf, Head Over Heels, Dizzy series!

    1. Thomas 4

      Re: What?! JK Greye and Malcom Evans!

      Seconding all of these.

      You also missed classics like Pitfall, Boulderdash and for CPCers amongst you - the Roland series (Roland in Time, Roland on the Ropes, etc). Also, I saw a reference to Adrian Mole but no Monty Mole? For shame.

    2. Chris Harrison

      Re: What?! JK Greye and Malcom Evans!

      I second that - Monster Maze was excellent. Especially with the lights out.

      As long as you didn't suffer from epilepsy.

    3. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Re: What?! JK Greye and Malcom Evans!

      Anyone remember a FP3D game on the C64 called Scarabaeous which had you exploring an Egyptian tomb looking for treasure? There were all sort of nasties patrolling the corridors, but I especially remember it for the soundtrack of a heartbeat which got faster the more damage you took. Delivered in splendid Commodore chunk-o-vision, it was still absolutely terrifying.

      oooh I wonder if that's available anywhere?

  10. GitMeMyShootinIrons

    Let's not forget that before EA owned nearly all the sports franchises, we had a few sports classics.

    Who can forget Daley Thompson's Decathlon? Those poor soft rubber keys on the Spectrum didn't stand a chance.

    1. andy mcandy

      neither did my zipstick

      1. Shonko Kid

        "neither did my zipstick"


    2. Xpositor

      ...with the RSI inducing "cheat" of using a table-tennis ball when doing the 100 metres!

  11. Dr Wadd

    Manic Miner, Jetpac and Sabre Wulf were all available for the BBC B as well, and I'd argue they were superior versions compared to the Spectrum.

    1. Irongut Silver badge

      And you'd be wrong. Every fool knows that the BBC versions of everything were inferior to the Speccy.

      1. Steve Evans

        Yes, how can a computer which could display pixel level colours and do true multichannel sound rival the character based attribute clashing and farting noises of the speccy.


  12. ThomH

    Getting in on the titles-you-didn't-pick wagon...

    Chaos? Xeno? Bruce Lee? Stop the Express? Nebulus? Driller? Exolon? Target: Renegade? Thrust? Splat? Turrican? Dan Dare? Wizball?

    I'm confident those were all very good.

    1. philbo

      Re: Getting in on the titles-you-didn't-pick wagon...

      Frak!, Zalaga and Firetrack (

      (CoI warning: written by a cousin of mine)

      1. PaulW

        Re: Getting in on the titles-you-didn't-pick wagon...

        FRAK! Oh now that was a game - and IIRC the graphics were way ahead of anything else at the time. The killer yo-yo!

        (Had both a BBC-B and Speccy - much preferred the Speccy though I did go through 3 keyboards playing i-Ball!)

      2. defiler Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Getting in on the titles-you-didn't-pick wagon...

        Zalaga - responsible for the total destruction of the switch under my Return key.

        Frak! - impressive graphics handling, but ultimately quite slow.

        Firetrack - A fantastic game; one of the greats on the Beeb. I remember the author (Orlando) telling me that the music from the loading routine was called "She's The Main Attraction". He's your cousin? Say thanks for me, please!

  13. Alfonso Garcia-Patiño Barbolani
    Thumb Up

    Selection is a bit UK biased for BBC and Speccy

    But that's ok since I played most of those. I'd replace two of the lesser know Spectrum entries with two Jeff MinterC64 classics: Mutant Camels and Dropzone.

    1. A J Stiles

      Re: Selection is a bit UK biased for BBC and Speccy

      Remind me what the last two letters of the URL for this site are again?

      1. some vaguely opinionated bloke

        Re: Selection is a bit UK biased for BBC and Speccy

        The letters O and M.

        Handily viewed in your browser's address bar ;-)

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Commodore

        You do know that they sold a lot in the UK?

        You do know that Jeff Minter is British?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Selection is a bit UK biased for BBC and Speccy

      dropzone = archer mclean

      1. Alfonso Garcia-Patiño Barbolani

        Re: Selection is a bit UK biased for BBC and Speccy

        Just shows that I was a Speccy person...

    3. Simon Ward

      Re: Selection is a bit UK biased for BBC and Speccy

      Dropzone was written by Archer McLean, not Jeff Minter.

      If I had to put a C64 game in there, it would be a toss-up between 'Bruce Lee' (one of the first licensed games that *didn't* suck, despite having a couple of insidious bugs) or M.U.L.E. (OK, it was originally written for the 8-bit Atari, but was one of the first games I bought after I'd saved up for ages to buy a 1541)

    4. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Selection is a bit UK biased for BBC and Speccy

      There are a lot of C64 games in the list. It's just the author doesn't know his arse from his elbow and has listed titles such as Knightlore and Manic Miner as being Spectrum only when in fact they are available on lots of platforms. Even the Sam Coupe has a spiffy Manic Miner port! Hell so did my Psion Series 3!

      1. Joefish

        Re: Selection is a bit UK biased for BBC and Speccy

        Err. 'His'?

        Though I did notice that's an Amstrad screen shot of Knight Lore, despite it only listing the Speccy version. Actually, a lot of those screenshots are from versions other than the one mentioned.

  14. Mint Sauce
    Thumb Up

    So many classic games..

    On the good ol' speccy (expanded into a DK Tronics keyboard ;-) for some reason I particularly remember playing 'a day in the life' starring none other than Clive Sinclair!

    But the game that absorbed many...many...many.. hours in two-player mode was Gauntlet. ISTR there were about 10 real levels and you just had to keep turning the tape over and pressing play to load each one. I think the game went on for several HUNDRED levels of repetition... Never finished it ;-) We discovered that taping down 'symbol shift' let you walk through walls though.

    Also used to love it in the arcades.... "Valkyrie needs food - badly!" :-)

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


      Flashback alert!!


      closely followed by 'Stuart you numpty..not again!' :)

  15. Shonko Kid
    Thumb Up

    Great list

    Some real gems on there, though everyone has their favourites that have been missed off. Perhaps an El Reg poll is order?

  16. cdilla

    Jeff Minter

    Surely at last one of Gridrunner, Matrix, AMC, Ancipital, Batalyx, Yaks Progress or may of the others should be there?

    The baffling paucity of Jeff Minter titles in this list aside, it's good to see these games getting coverage still from time to time. The glasses may be a little rose tinted but I still do play these from time to time (on iPad these days) and recapture the essence of those heady days.

  17. Khaptain Silver badge

    Shaping the gaming industry

    Putting aside the graphics capabilities, these games are the foundation of all the games that we have today, Adventure, Simulation, RPG, Platform.

    The sound effects and graphics were a lot less important than game-play, and most of these games had excellent game-play. In part I believe it is because they left quite a lot for your own imagination, everything was not as spoon-fed as it is today.

  18. Dave Schofield

    Other classics...

    How about Paradroid? Uridium? Way of the Exploding Fist? Thing on a Spring?

    Are any of these classics available on modern platforms?

    1. Simon Ward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Other classics...

      Someone did a 'Paradroid' clone which ran under Linux; can't for the life of me remember the name of it, though.

      Can't really argue with the contents of the list, although Jeff Minter is notable by his absence. I remember spending far too long playing 'Elite' on the Beebs at school instead of doing my O-level Computer Studies project, and 'Chuckie Egg' must be one of the most infuriatingly addictive game ever.

      Was never that keen on 'Manic Miner', though. 'Jet Set Willy', on the other hand ...

      1. Daniel Jones 1
        Thumb Up

        Re: Other classics...


    2. John 48
      Thumb Up

      Re: Other classics...

      There is a flash port of The Way of the Exploding fist... runs in your browser...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Other classics...

      Uridium had nice smooth scrolling but disappointing gameplay.

      Paradroid, on the other hand, is a classic. How I remember being desperate for energy and crossing my fingers while trying to take over an 811 from a 101.

      However, I preferred his Gribbly's Day Out although my first version had a tendency to crash my 64.

  19. blapping


    Pyjamarama was absolutely magical. So was Trapdoor.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Elite on the Spectrum

    Best (worst?) bug ever...

    Start the game and launch from the first space station. Stop your craft. Flip over so you have the space station in front of you, slowly revolving. Press "H" to hyperspace. Check your status. Voila! You're classed as "Elite". Kind of spoiled things a bit.

    I bought the game for my Spectrum (remember the "Lenslok" security device you had to hold on the screen and read what was essentially a primitive version of a "capcha" code?), had the poster displaying all of the ship types on my wall, and played the game for hours but never once found a single thing - no ships, no planets, nothing. Must have been doing something wrong. It was lovely and quiet though.

    1. jason 7

      Re: Elite on the Spectrum

      My memory of that bug was that it instantly sent you to the station you had set course for so you didn't actually have to travel all the way there. Turned it into a faster trading game which I enjoyed far more.

      Space pirates didn't interest me.

  21. Scob

    Ah, the memories ...

    Thrust and Daley Thompson's Decathlon!! I know so many people (including me) who got a completely new replacement speccy from Boots because their keyboards fell apart. Still can't believe they didn't twig it was because of DT Decathlon :)

    I still give all of the credit for getting me into this industry to the venerable ZX81 though. You had to know what you were doing with memory back then. Disgusting what goes on now.

  22. Ageless Stranger

    Where was Jet Set Willy

    Surely that was the pinnacle of Speccy gaming?

    1. ravenviz

      Re: Where was Jet Set Willy

      Probably unfair to count a sequel if the original is already in the list!

  23. Pretz1

    Elite changed my life

    Elite changed my life. I gained an immense amount of satisfaction trading computers (rather than food) between worlds and making insane profits - partly spent on the mega-powerful military laser. EVE Online can't ever bring that back. Sigh.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Elite changed my life

      Same story on Elite here. In most galaxies you could often find a couple of planets close by with vastly different economies and ship computers between them to rack up the credits - I'm hoping the X3 space games might recapture the magic.

      I'd also rate Thrust, most AcornSoft games especially clones like Defender (before it got renamed), Super Invaders, Philosopher's Quest (Blatch) all Level 9 text adventures especially Snoball 9 ....oh, I'm going to have to fire up an emulator or get the BBC B down from the attic now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Elite changed my life

        As noted at the top - if you want to recapture the magic, check out Oolite.

        1. Pretz1

          Re: Elite changed my life

          Thanks to your post, I installed Oolite and a bunch of OXPs. This game rocks - thanks for the tip.

      2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Re: Elite changed my life

        Shirley slaves and narcotics were where the real money was at?

  24. Lloyd
    Thumb Down


    Horace goes skiing, Hungry Horace, Horace goes dating (the rohypnol edition), in fact any game by Melbourne House (slightly worried that I remember the name) should be consigned to the 8 bit scrap heap. Ultimate on the other hand, now they were the shizzle.

    1. David Gosnell

      Re: Horace????

      Penetrator (wouldn't get away with that name today, I suspect) bucked the trend there, if I recall.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Daniel Jones 1
        Thumb Up

        Re: Horace????

        IIRC Melbourne House also released Way Of The Exploding Fist.

        1. Lloyd

          Re: Horace????

          Did they? But WOTEF was excellent, they must have had an off day?

          And as for the Hobbit, groundbreaking it may have been but it was it was as buggy as a termite mound.

  25. Peter Mount

    Ah Chuckie Egg

    I still play it on the odd occasion using an Electron emulator on the mac - sometimes you just can't beat the old games :-)

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lode Runner

    Was my personal favourite.

    You could even create/save/swap your own levels.

    1. David Kelly 2

      Re: Lode Runner AND Raster Blaster

      Also forgot Raster Blaster which was a fantastic computer version of a pinball table.

  27. MartinB105

    Am I the only person who remembers that 8-bit games were still made after 1984?

    Bubble Bobble, Chips Challenge, Creatures I and II: Torture Trouble, Head Over Heals, Loopz, Mayhem In Monsterland, The Last Ninja I, II and III, Turrican I and II (and III if you count the unofficial Smash Designs 2004 release), Wizball...

    To name just a few classic 8-bit games.

    I know you can't put everything on a list of ten, but this list is severely lacking in terms of the 8-bit life time.

    1. defiler Silver badge

      Some great 8-bit games post-1984...

      Revs, Stryker's Run (and its sequel, Codename Droid), Zalaga, Repton (and especially Repton2), and, of course, Exile. Exile was truly epic.

      You can tell I had a BBC Micro...

  28. Dave 126 Silver badge

    jumpers for goalposts

    How to be a Complete Bastard, Rockford, 1941, Quazatron, Super Stuntman, Jet Set Willy, ATV... placing cushions over the Speccy for ten minutes (and other voodoo) to prevent any cat-related loading failures. My mate even had the Magic Robot device for circumventing copy protection... I can hardly find a mention of the thing on Google - anyone got a link?

    But there was also plenty of tree climbing, making rope swings, damming of small streams, and disappearing across the hills all day until tea time without our parents being worried about their 6 y.o. children.

    1. Andrew Halliwell

      Re: jumpers for goalposts

      Helps if you get the name right.

      It was the multiface 1 (or multiface 128 for the speccy 128, or multiface 3 for the speccy +2s/+3)

      The MANUFACTURER was Romantic Robot.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: jumpers for goalposts

        The multi face was excellent. I came to it very late on my Spectrum +3 and wished that I'd got one for my Amstrad as well. The ability to snapshot tape games to floppy disc was beyond doubt the single most useful innovation in gaming history. And I mean that.

        1. Wize

          Re: jumpers for goalposts

          Had the 128 version.

          Moved the button on to a home made grip (a dead tippex bottle) and a flying lead as it wasn't a great placement for a stiff button. Wobbling that expansion unit slightly can cause it to die as any ZX-81 user will tell you.

          Still got the old tape for it. Will have to hunt for it in the parent's loft and bung it all on ebay.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: jumpers for goalposts

      @ Halliwell, Hill, Wize

      Thank you!

  29. Andrew Halliwell

    A few more not mentioned that're noticably by their absense...

    How about Rex? Ranarama? Sophistry? The Hobbit? (that should beat hitchhikers on the grounds of being one of the first), STARGLIDER!? The 128 speccy version of that even had a crystal clear sexy womon telling you your energy was low and your missile was launched.

    Not to mention all the magic knight games, feud, zynaps and cybernoid the fighting machine.

    One of the games in the list I'd never even heard of... That 3D monster maze thing with phantoms instead of T-Rexes. Top 10s are pointless unless voted for by more than one person cos you'll always miss far more worthy candidates.

  30. Random Name Goes Here
    Thumb Up


    My day is now lost.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: H2G2

      To late for me as well.

      Frotz and hhgg.z3 downloaded. My home has already been demolished with me inside.

  31. Admiral Grace Hopper Silver badge

    Pimania and Jeff Minter

    I hope that their absence is due to a deeper article in the near future.

  32. Gordon 10 Silver badge


    Lifted above the other karate games by the 3 player option and the dozen or so easter eggs like dropping their trousers and the worm across the screen.

  33. DrXym Silver badge

    Play Hitchhikers here

    The BBC did an updated version with graphics and Flash - two versions in fact which you can see here:

    As an adventure I don't think it is a good game though. It is ridiculously difficult and obtuse and almost impossible to win without extreme trial and error. Read some of the walkthroughs for the game and you'll see what I mean.

  34. Eddie Edwards
    Thumb Up

    Full kudos

    Full kudos for including a Dragon 32-only game. Although, meh, I'd have perhaps chosen Shocktrooper.

    1. Jon Double Nice
      Thumb Up

      Re: Full kudos

      For me it would have to be "Juxtaposition - Barons of Ceti V". It was super awesome! 'The first Dragon adventure to incorporate PANORAMIC GRAPHICS.'

    2. stucs201

      Re: Shocktrooper

      Damn you, I'm going to have the music for that stuck in my head now.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    C64 memories

    Memories of the C64

    BC Grogs Revenge. Didn't realise it was a comic strip. Good fun nonetheless.

    Pitstop 2, and a Scalextric game where you could build your own track.

    Ace2 flight sim.

    Trivial Pursuit was a good way of getting party gaming going, years before the wii.

    Mind a TrapDoor game too. And a Viz game.

    Dizzy was our Mario.

    Fiendish Freddys big top of fun, which loaded straight off cartridge!

    Games in those days seemed so quaint, almost like a Pinewood B movie, compared to now where you feel you are buying into a hollywood blockbuster.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    8 Bit Coders in 2012

    I thought it would be nice to remind people that many of the coders of the 8 bit era are still out there producing games. For example the Pickford Brothers who wrote games such as Zub, 180, Feud, Glider Rider and a stack of others are still at it and released the iPhone hit Magnetic Billiards last year (play it, it's fantastic).

    Their website is excellent and has stacks of information about their entire catalogue. If you are a fan of 8 bit gaming you can read all about what it was like to work in an 8 Bit develioment studio back in the 80's and how they've charted their way from 16 year olds writing smash games through to their latest iPhone hit.

    Check out their site:

    David Darling is still at it as well with his new company Kwalee and you can see a familiar face from the days of Imagine in their company line-up as well{

    1. Jedit
      Thumb Up

      Re: 8 Bit Coders in 2012

      A lot of them are still working, mainly for phones as that's where it's still possible for simple, creative games to be made by one person. People who have an interest in the subject could do far worse than read Retro Gamer magazine, which often manages to interview the 8-bit creators and talks about what they're doing now. They even had 3D Monster Maze on the cover a couple of months ago.

  37. Rufus McDufus


    Anyone remember Star Raiders on Atari 400/800? That was an early classic (1979) & made Elite look a bit old hat (well certainly speed-wise).

    Also Atic Atac & Tir Na Nog were some of my favourites on Speccy.

  38. ColonelClaw
    Thumb Up


    As brilliant as Manic Miner was - and I lost many hours of my youth to it - I would have included Jet Set Willy, which for me was the first platformer of almost unfathomly massive scope, perfected gameplay, and the first game I played that made exploration a real adventure. With JSW there was no longer a single path to follow, which was pretty ground breaking.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: JSW

      Jet Set Willy had a sense of freedom and of "being there". Great game.

  39. Bigbadbod

    Anybody play Tau Ceti?

    Spent hours on that, loved it as I had just got the tape with no instuctions.

    The joy at activating stuff by accident!

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Yep - one of the above posts reminded me of it.

      Also spent a fair while on its follow-up, Academy. Some nice variation induced by being able to customise your skimmer there.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      Tau Ceti was indeed an excellent game. Spent hours on it and 'Academy'. Actually, pretty much all of Pete Cooke's games were classics (I even enjoyed the HGV simulator 'Juggernaut'). :)

  40. moonface

    Twin Kingdom Valley

    I can't remember Hitchhikers text adventure myself. But I do remember Twin Kingdom Valley was a hugely popular text (input) adventure game at my school and it was across mutiple platforms, so everyone could enjoy it.

  41. A_Flat_Minor

    Tranz AM

    I've not heard sight nor sound of Tranz AM for 30 years.

    Thought I was the only person to ever play it.

    Can't remember what happened when you collected all 5 (or 8 cups).

  42. Herby


    I believe that that is the name. There was a version running the Radio Shack (aka Tandy) Color Computer. I saw it demonstrated by the author that did the porting job from the arcade version. It was pretty cool, and according to him, he had to reproduce the "errors" of the arcade game.

    Yes, the Color Computer was pretty cool, producing a TV-out signal. I remember buying one and upgrading it form 4k bytes to 32k bytes before the first day was out. Then there was a nice multi-tasking OS (OS-9) that it also ran. All before the PC-AT came about (1984).

  43. ravenviz

    My list

    1. Elite

    2. Manic Miner

    3. Jet Pac

    4. Hungry Horace

    5. Ant Attack

    6. Tranz AM

    Never played:

    7. Chuckie Egg

    7. The Hitch-hikers' Guide to the Galaxy

    7. Knight Lore

    7. Phanton Slayer

    Didn't you forget nethack and Attic Attack?

  44. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Many great games

    But Boulderdash needs to be there.

    And Dropzone.

  45. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Bloody hell - how could I forget the brain-bleedingly brilliant 'Sentinel'?

    1. breakfast
      Thumb Up

      That game was so intense. Knowing the Sentinel was turning towards you and you had to get out somehow. Amazing stuff, given the technology they were using.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        As I've gotten older and have had a few anxiety attacks the simple thought of playing sentinel again is enough to induce palpitations.

        Amazing, Hitchcock would have been proud with the level of suspense and tension created by that bastard sentinel as you desperately tried to absorb trees and build boxes out of his line of sight..

  46. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Some random titles

    Jack the Nipper, Sabre Wulf, Chaos and Laser Squad by Julian Gallop (I think), Tornado TLL and a few other games by someone who I can't remember right now but who had a strange name, the Don Prestly (I think) games... must raid World of Spectrum and see if they're as good as I remember them...

  47. stucs201

    Chucky Egg

    Definately my favourite platform game ever. I have a suspicion I still subconciously know the routes around the first couple of levels to completely avoid the birds without stopping.

    I also remember spending in ages typing in pages of hex code to patch a level editor into the Dragon version.

  48. adam payne Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Good list there!

    Sadly missing Rocky Horror Show, Ghost Hunters, Pajamarama, Everyone's a Wally, Turbo Esprit. Sooo many great games on the speccy!

  49. 27escape
    Thumb Up

    Looking at those pics...

    It just goes to show that games have not really changed that much, just better graphics and sound!

    Lets not forget Lords of Midnight, Attic Attack, and of course all the others that I have forgotten :(

  50. AndrewInIreland

    What no Design Design???

    Hall of the things deserves to be there somewhere.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: What no Design Design???

      Don't forget their incredibly fast "Invasion of the Body Snatchas" (Defender clone) and "Dark Star".

    2. blapping
      Thumb Up

      Re: What no Design Design???

      dark star on the amstrad cpc with headphones as candy.

  51. Benchops

    Ultimate Play The Game?

    Any speccie geek (sinclair speccie, that is) knows that the company was called Ashby Computers and Graphics (A.C.G.). They just had a rather cool logo that said "Ultimate - Play the game"

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ultimate Play The Game?

      And Rare have done a rather spiffy port of Jetpac to the Xbox 360 with all new graphics, but also a exact copy of the Spectrum original.

      It's buried away in the Xbox game store. Well worth some of your Microsoft Dollars.

  52. SpaMster

    For once, an article on here I completely agree with, all these games were and still are AMAZING

    PS, you forgot head over heels….. ;)

  53. CurtisBoyle

    Phantom Slayer

    I was a huge fan of this game on the TRS-80 Color Computer (upon which the Dragon 32 was based). I have a game website that his a little write up (and some screen shots) of the game as well (

    I also have an interview with the author (Ken Kalish) about his development of all of his games, including some he did (at the time) exclusively for the Dragon systems. (

    From what I remember of other 3D games out in the 1981-1983 time frame, none of them had the feel (or as good of real-time play) as Phantom Slayer did, in comparison with later classics like Wolfenstein, etc.

  54. Thorfkin

    8 Bit?

    When you say 8 bit are you referring to the graphics or the CPU? Looking at the list of games, none of them appear to actually have 8-bit graphics so it must be a CPU reference.

    Ant Attack: 5 colors counting the black background

    Chuckie Egg: 4 colors

    Elite: 6 colors

    Hitchhiker's Guide: Seriously?

    Hungry Horace: 6 colors

    Jet Pac: 6 colors

    Knights Lore: Cool looking but still only 5 colors

    Manic Miner: 6 colors

    Phantom Slayer: Definitely 4 color CGA - 2 bit graphics.

    Tranz AM: 7 colors

    Actual 8-bit graphics had the ability to display up to 256 colors. Meaning each pixel was represented by 8 consecutive bits able to store a number from 0 to 255. For this you had to use the 300x240 VGA resolution "mode 13" if I recall correctly. Though it's been forever since I did any computer programming so I can't remember for sure =D. 4 color graphics were CGA and were essentially 2 bit. 16 color graphics were EGA and were 4 bits per pixel. There were also some VGA modes that could only do 16 color graphics but that was more to a memory limitation and the VESA spec than the actual bits involved in the graphics. With 16 bits per pixel you had a palette of up to 65535 colors otherwise known as High Color. This was most commonly found in your Super VGA graphics cards.

    It just struck me as odd that none of the games you showed here are actually using 8 bit graphics as the title seems to suggest.

    People refer to the NES and the Sega Master System as 8-bit but that's a reference to the CPU I suppose because the NES was never capable of more than 4-bit graphics output.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: 8 Bit?

      Must resist..... must resist........

      1. whitespacephil

        Re: 8 Bit?

        I can't resist. Looks like he missed the whole Spectrum thing being Stateside...

        There was a world before the PC, you know?

      2. Thorfkin

        Re: 8 Bit?

        Resistance is futile =D Please feel free to correct me if I missed something obvious and stupid =D

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 8 Bit?

          1) Eight bit graphics doesn't mean only 8 colours

          and yes

          the article refers to '8-bit' computers because the CPU could only process 8 bits at a time, you know, like 256 variations on 1's and 0's.

    2. GarethJones

      Re: 8 Bit?

      8bit is a reference to the CPU architecture not a modern day GPU.

      1. Thorfkin

        Re: 8 Bit?

        Okay I figured that had to be the case. None of those games displayed 8 bit graphics so I figured it must have been in reference to the CPU instead of the graphics.

        1. moonface

          Elite: 6 colors


          You are probably a lot younger than us oldies, who have seen the developments over time. If you are interested in this, then the BBC graphic modes illustrate the compromise between colour and resolution that they had back then.

          I had an Acorn Electron and it only had 2 colours for Elite. I just looked it up and was surprised to see the BBC actually used two Modes at the same time. I never knew, that this could be done until now.

          from Wiki

          The BBC version used a split screen to show four colours; the upper two thirds of the screen were displayed in Mode 4 while the lower part was in Mode 5. The Electron version ran entirely in Mode 4, and therefore displayed only black and white.

    3. A J Stiles

      Re: 8 Bit?

      Oh boy, we've got a live one here.

      Eight bits in this context was the size of the CPU's accumulator. The address bus was 16 bits wide, meaning the CPU could address a total of 65536 bytes. That includes RAM and ROM, but not I/O -- the Spectrum used the NEC D780, a clone of the Z-80, which has separate I/O and memory buses. (Machines based on the 6502 or 6809, with their single-bus architecture, had to cram I/O into the memory map as well.) The Spectrum ROM occupies 16384 bytes, with RAM running to 16384 or 49152 bytes.

      The Spectrum used effectively ONE-bit graphics, at a resolution of 256 by 192 pixels (requiring 6144 bytes); with an extension specifying the two colours available within each eight-by-eight character cell (an additional 768 bytes, making up 6912 in total). Hence, the phenomenon of "attribute clash" (player characters and the like had to be drawn within the main bitmap, rather than being automatically overlaid and collision-detected by fancy hardware. The Spectrum display generation is done within a Ferranti ULA). This would, however, leave you with a giddying 42240 bytes, less whatever the Spectrum OS itself needed to keep track of stuff, for your programs, variables and data.

      Oh, and just to make it a bit more phun, the bitmapped screen is stored slightly "out-of-order", so that the whole first 16KB of RAM gets refreshed by the display generation hardware.

  55. Adolf Littler
    Thumb Up

    Fair list

    .....considering that choosing 10 from a rose tinted past was always going to be a mammoth task.

    Just when I thought I'd played most of it, along came Phantom Slayer......Will be looking that one up later :)

    1. stucs201

      Re: Fair list

      If you didn't have a dragon/coco then you might find a few titles from it you've never heard of. It might have been missing a lot of titles from other platforms, but had its share of unique titles too.

      As for phantom slayer I was never that keen on it. The one video of it on youtube pretty much matches my experience of trying to play it: wander around maze, find phantom, die instantly.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Holy shit, I burned up so many ours playing Chuckie Egg. Marvellous.

  57. This post has been deleted by its author

  58. Paul Naylor
    Thumb Up


    Pretty much agree with the whole list, except Hungry Horace, which I never played: I was put off my Horace Goes Skiing.

    Elite was by far the best game of the 80s. I used to play it on a mate's BBC Model B with another chum, a Spectrum owner. Because of the frankly weird placement of the Break key on the Beeb, and because we had to wait half an hour for Elite to load from tape, we had the rule that if you accidentally pressed it during your allotted hour of play, you forfeited your go, no exceptions. Said friend then got a 5.25 floppy drive to load it from, unbelievably fast load times!

    And yes, nearly 30 years later I'm playing Oolite!

    Used to play Jet Set Willy a lot on the other friend's Spectrum. I had a Vic-20 and so was stuck with Perils of Willy. Had Jelly Monsters and a bunch of text adventures on cartridge, including Pirates' Cove, which was ace!

    Of course, there are many games not on the list. Others that stand out for me were Sentinel, Sabre Wulf, Imogen, Repton 3. Of the latter, I designed and tested a whole load of levels on graph paper before begging my mate to lend me his Beeb so that I could code them.

    Thanks for the great memories Reg and fellow posters!

  59. Will Godfrey Silver badge


    Freeway Frog

  60. Paul 181

    Some of my favourite games not mentioned yet :-



    Rebelstar raiders

    Out of the shadows


    Football manager

    Match point

  61. Lord Lien
    Thumb Up

    Head Over Heels? To be honest there are way to many games for the speccy that I still play. Saboteur still gets played quite often.

    1. adam payne Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Saboteur = great game!

  62. P. Lee Silver badge

    Wot no Zork?

    and no "Night Driver" (Apple][), Space War, Asteroids, Choplifter (hint, play it backwards, start with the farthest tent), "Lemonade Stand" (ok scratch that one).

    The Big Book of Apple Software (1984) had a full map of Zork. Quite handy for working out what was going on with those one-way twisty passages, all alike.

    Not complaining, just enjoying the reminiscing.

    For an "almost 8bit" experience, try "Frozen Synapse." Brilliant gameplay, with loderunner men.

  63. Ronny Cook

    8 classics, not the BEST 8 classics

    The author makes no claim that these are the 8 best 8 bit games, just that they're all classic 8 bit games - which is true.

    Personally I would add:

    - Lode Runner

    - Sentinel

    - Stunt Car Racer

    - Project: Space Station

    - Impossible Mission

  64. El Trisco Smythe

    One word....

    Monty on the Run!

    Oh wait, hang on.....

  65. Steven Roper
    Thumb Up

    And my top 5 old faves (C64) were

    1. Mercenary - Escape From Targ (I spent weeks playing that, wandering around the city looking for keys and unattended vehicles to steal, and it was the first game I ever actually completed without help or walkthroughs)

    2. SubLogic Flight Simulator II (After I bought it, I found it was disk-only, so I want straight out and laid-by a 1541 so I could play it. I actually kept a logbook and racked up more than 1000 hours flight time on the thing!)

    3. Raid Over Moscow (Along with Beach Head I and II, Bruce Carver's games had just that right level of precision-related frustration to keep me going on them for ages)

    4. Bugaboo The Flea (This had that infuriating control system whereby the longer you held the space bar the more power was built up allowing the flea to jump higher and further. It drove me mad trying to line up on the various platforms, but somehow the ambience and atmosphere of the game just caught me)

    5. Fight Night. (Unique among fighting games in that you could custom-create your own boxer by setting attack and defence strength to head and body and so on. My brother and I spent weeks experimenting until we created the perfect boxer, who we called "Killer" and defeated every other boxer we put against him - nor could we beat him ourselves!)

  66. James Cullingham

    Three for the BBC: Citadel (featuring speech synthesis, for the intro anyway), Repton and Revs

  67. Scoobydoobry
    Thumb Up

    Oh the joys of misspent youth!!

    How about BC's Quest for Tyres and Pittfall on the C64. School Daze, Ghostbusters and Airwolf on the Speccy. My favorite was Manic Miner....I can feel an emulator session coming on.

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BTW: You could play HHGTTG on the Spectrum +3 - if you used the PCW 3" disk version, and Locomotive's Spectrum CP/M :)

  69. YoBenH

    Hang on a mo..

    No Green Beret? Saboteur? No Starquake??!! You must be malfunnythinkin.

  70. AlexS
    Paris Hilton

    Come on Reg!

    Ant Attack and Phantom Slayer over 3D Monster Maze?

    So many more reasons why this game should have been featured above these two:

  71. alpine


    I opened the article expecting to find an array of 80s devices. But it's just about boring games for kiddies. I had hoped to see a mention of the NewBrain, the most ambitious of those devices. Unfortunately it used, as I recall it, standard TTL and use to overheat as a result.

  72. N2 Silver badge


    The classic 80's game for me.

  73. cnapan

    these games stand the test of time!

    Sure, when you fire them up in an emulator today, they can seem almost laughably simple, but they did their job of dropping you into an imagined world and taking you on an adventure, and that's no less at the heart of a good game today than it was back then.

    I still remember the first time I saw Jetpac on the speccy and thought 'ooh this is almost like a proper arcade game!'

    It's nice to think that an entire world can be constructed in the same amount of memory that today would be used to make Commander Shepard say 'We're all done here'.

  74. cnapan

    boring games for kiddies...?

    maybe so, but they spawned an industry which today is larger than the film industry.

    There was no such thing as the internet back then. Games is what drove the computer revoluton, and there's no need to be snotty about it.

    My career in the visual effects industry started when I tried programming games on the ZX81, and I suspect that a great percentage of the IT industry's engineers 'wasted' many an hour playing games when younger.

  75. Karl 14

    Atari 16 Bit

    I had an Atari 800XL... The Lucasfilm games were awesome, Ball Blazer, Rescue On Fractulus, et al fantastic machine

  76. kraz

    Jetpac Refuelled

    Forget Jetpac Refuelled, what about Solar Jetman on the NES? That was a proper sequel to Jetpac. Great gameplay and properly hard.

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