The best selling model, the Amiga 500, offered groundbreaking graphics and audio for it’s time. While it might not have taken off worldwide, it was the leading home computer of the late 80’s and early 90’s in much of Europe.
While the console wars have traditionally grabbed all the headlines, there was one platform that sat in the background of the 80’s and 90’s that offered budding gamers a mix of console thrills, arcade ports and PC style gaming. This platform was the Commodore Amiga. The Amiga (meaning female friend in Spanish) was indeed the friend of kids whose parents wanted to offer their family an educational window into the relatively new world of home computing, while also offering them one of the most powerful gaming platforms of its time.
The Amiga offered so many groundbreaking games that it is difficult to decide on an ultimate ‘Top 10’ list, quite simply because there would be few players that have played the thousands of games available. What follows however, is our Top 10 most memorable Amiga games. They might not necessarily be the best, or the most highly praised in the gaming media but the following Amiga games will tug at the nostalgic heart strings of even the most hardened gaming veterans.
10. Carrier Command
Who hasn’t dreamed of being the captain of an aircraft carrier, sitting back in your captain’s armchair humming sea shanties while sending out jet fighters and gunboats to do your bidding. That’s exactly the experience that Carrier Command offered. In a cross between a flight-sim and real time strategy game, the game pitted you against a rival, but more advanced carrier in a race to colonize a number of islands and ultimately destroy each other.
The game was groundbreaking in 1988 for its fluid 3d graphics which for many gamers would have been one of their first 3D experiences on a home PC. The game also incorporated a sophisticated damage system, where when a specific component such as the engine was damaged this would have an effect on the speed. For offering an early, immersive 3D gaming experience, Carrier Command is truly worthy of a spot in our most memorable Amiga games list.
9. Rainbow Islands
Following the success of Bubble Bobble, Taito’s sequel Rainbow Islands had it all, gorgeous graphics, memorable music and unique and challenging gameplay. Rainbow Islands continues the story of the ‘bubble dragons’ in the first game, however this time in their human forms as Bubblun and Bobblun. The defining aspect of the game was the use of the player’s projectile rainbows which acted as both weapons and platforms for the players to use to ascend the level as the tide rises below them. These rainbows could also be powered up to be released faster and in greater numbers.
Rainbow Islands became one of the most successful Amiga games and was the first game to be crowned number 1 on Amiga Power’s Top 100 games of all time list. Its character and level design still make it an enjoyable game to play today and no Amiga top 10 list should be considered complete without it.
8. Rick Dangerous
Long before the genius that is Spelunky there was its spiritual predecessor Rick Dangerous. This difficult platformer was heavily based on the Indiana Jones movies, yet managed to grow into its own with a distinct visual style that is still endearing today. The story follows British agent Rick who’s plane crashes while searching for the elusive and hostile Goolu tribe. Stuck in the jungle, Rick must use his limited arsenal of a pistol and dynamite to evade the Goolu and eventually stop a Nazi plot to bomb London.
While the premise for the game is pretty unoriginal, the level design and puzzle solving made this game hugely satisfying. Each level was littered with traps that could be used against your enemies and there were always multiple ways to pass a level. The game is certainly tough (for instance you start the game running from a rolling boulder) and many of the game’s traps don’t provide any visual clues as to their whereabouts, however this was a welcome departure from many of the relatively easy platformers of the time. Despite the learning curve, Rick Dangerous will remain as one of the most visually distinct and rewarding platformers of the Amiga and for this reason it makes its way into our top 10.
7. Scorched Tanks
For those of you that haven’t played Scorched Tanks, please don’t be put off by the crude graphics in the screen shot above. This game was one of the best party games for the Amiga, allowing four people to battle it out in a barren, rocky wasteland slowly adjusting the power and angle of their shots in a bid to wipe out their enemies tanks. Many a friendship was ruined in four player games as one player inevitably became the target of all the other tanks attacks in a temporary but inevitably short lived alliance.
While it may have been a clone of Scorched Earth for the PC, Scorched Tanks added a massive range of 70 weapons to choose from and set the ground work for the more graphically advanced (and ultimately more successful) Worms. Each game started with players spending a set budget on many and varied weapons and shields which added an extra depth of strategy. Players could either spend all their budget on a couple of expensive but powerful weapons or spread their money across an arsenal of weak artillery to slowly whittle down their enemy. This dynamic created a variety of different strategies for players to use which left the game highly replayable.
Scorched Tanks sits proudly in our top 10 most memorable Amiga games due to its simple but polished game design and it’s rewarding multiplayer best enjoyed with three friends.
It’s easy to get the impression that ultra violent games such as Manhunt are a relatively new phenomenon, however in 1991 Mindscape released Moonstone which shocked with some of the most brutal and blood spurtingest scenes of its day. Seeing your noble knight have his back broken before being picked up like a rag doll and having his head bitten off by a large monster was something few players would have forgotten.
Moonstone is not just memorable for its gore, but for its superb graphics and steep learning curve. In fact the learning curve puts it in the same realms as other notably hard games such as the Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls franchise. New players could find themselves easily overwhelmed by the smallest of enemies and each boss had to be carefully studied with patterns and weak points memorized before they were engaged. A tough but rewarding game, Moonstone shall remain one of the defining titles on the Amiga and one which is interestingly still demanding a considerable price on eBay for a fully boxed version.
5. International Karate +
International Karate + demonstrated that you didn’t need a huge roster of characters or locations to make a great fighting game. The game restricted your choices to one location and the choice of three identical fighters (white, blue or red), however the genius of the game rested in its simplicity. Each move had to be carefully considered and having to fight two opponents meant that you were always on your toes. The game’s mechanics rewarded the patient, strategic player and punished the button masher through a points per hit based system (rather than the more common health bar approach).
The game also managed to pack in some hilarious easter eggs such as Pac-Man running across the background and players trousers falling down if they stood still for too long. Between fights there was also a number of bonus rounds where the player would need to dodge or deflect bouncing balls or kick away ticking bombs before they exploded. For a deceptively simple but rewarding game, International Karate + punches well above it’s weight and easily fights it’s way into our top 10.
4. Blood Money
Blood Money was one of the most controversial Amiga games to be released. Controversial in that you either loved it or hated it. As a traditional scrolling shooter the game didn’t add much in the way of new ground, however there was something addictive about collecting money to upgrade your weapons to take on enemies that ranged from the unusual to the bizarre. Floating brains, giant crab claws and fire breathing serpents were just some of the 80’s-esque villains out to make a meal out of you.
The game was also quite tough to beat. Sure you could cheat with a cheat code with unlimited lives, however played as the developers intended, many will remember this as one of the toughest games on the Amiga. While not a particularly great game, it was nevertheless one that became an enduring challenge and one that was best played with a friend and it is for this reason that it makes our top 10.
Ahh Warlords. A game that managed to push past its crude visuals to offer a surprisingly deep and complex gaming experience and is still held by many as the godfather of fantasy themed turn-based strategy games. Set in the land of Illuria, players were able to take control of one of eight factions, the noble Sirian Knights, the treacherous Storm Giants, the tree hugging Elvalie, the wild Horse Lords, the stoic Grey Dwarves, the sea faring Sentinels, or the Evil Lord Bane and his allies the Orcs of Kor.
Through straight forward and simple controls, the game allowed the player to concentrate less on the interface and more on macro strategy. The game’s map (there was only one) remains as one of the best balanced maps ever designed, which encouraged players too look at the long game. It was all too easy to focus on your neighboring enemies, slowing ignoring the impending threat of the outlying factions who were slowly building their forces in lands far away. The hot seat nature of the game meant that many wars were played out in weeks and months as friends met to continue the game, which remains part of its charm.
Another strength of the game was its hero system. These valiant warriors would periodically become available for hire and were able to travel across Illuria searching the many ruins and dungeons scattered around for treasure and allies. One of the most tense moments in the game was the slight pause after you pressed the Z key to search a ruin before you discovered the fate of your noble leader.
While not an Amiga exclusive, Warlords won praise in its day and still remains one of the most memorable gaming experiences on the Amiga and one of the best turn-based strategy games of all time.
2. The Chaos Engine
Long before the old world stylings of the Bioshock series, there was a game that took players to an alternate version of Victorian England. However, this was no land of tea and scones. Instead this was a land ravaged by the careless exploits of a time traveler who had left the British Isles covered in all manner of beasts, forcing it to become quarantined from the rest of the world. This it seemed was the perfect hunting ground for mercenaries from around the globe and the perfect premise for this top down run and gun game.
Players in The Chaos Engine were able to chose two mercenaries out of six (two player or one AI controlled), all with different strengths, weaknesses and weapons. The game introduced a slight role-playing bent on the run and gun genre that made the player feel more connected to his character as it developed. The Chaos Engine was memorable not only for its difficult yet rewarding gameplay, but for its stunning visuals and rich art direction.
1. Lotus Turbo Challenge 2
For anyone that has played Lotus Turbo Challenge 2, just looking at a screen shot alone should have them humming Barry Leitch’s iconic audio track that accompanied the loading screen (which reportedly contains hidden sampled voice saying “you will not copy this game”). This game was one of the most polished arcade racers of its time, combining fantastic driving mechanics, lush and varied locations and was able to convey a sense of speed that many current-gen racers fail to emulate. It was in fact this sense of speed that made Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 so great. There was no greater feeling than approaching the crest of a giant hill, only to gaze downwards at a massive downhill slope like some giant asphalt roller coaster.
The game also offered splitscreen two player racing which was relatively novel in its day, and many tense desktop battles ensued as players dodged fellow Lotus Esprit’s and Elan’s to reach the next checkpoint. It was these battles and polished mechanics that made Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 so memorable, and for this reason it is our number one most memorable Amiga game of all time.
The Secret of Monkey Island, Menace, Zack McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, Cannon Fodder, Lemmings, Wings, Speedball 2, Syndicate, Pirates, Alien Breed, Stunt Car Racer, Super Cars 2.