ZX Spectrum – Essential Collection

Long Live Sinclair.

The ZX Spectrum. An established name for the 80s, and for many of us as kids, taught us not only the wonders of playing games but also MAKING them as well. A window into how to code games, the Speccy was easily one of the greatest home computers ever created. (If not THE best!)

It was one of the first consoles to see the inclusion of colour displays, which while it might be primitive for some people now, back in the day it was mind blowing. The ZX Spectrum ignited the minds of people across the UK and many people today cite it as the reason they got into computers and gaming.

The rubber keys, the rainbow on the side, all of this equals a fantastic and retro computing marvel, the importance of the ZX Spectrum simply cannot be understated. So we here at FunstockRetro decided to do a list of some of the essential games you have to own if you are a ZX Spectrum fan! We know everyone has their own opinion on the best and must own titles for the system, so if your choice isn’t on this list, then drop a comment down below and let us know what YOU think the ‘Essential Collection’ of ZX Spectrum games is.

Let’s jump right into the list!

10. Horace Goes Skiing

No, we still don’t know what on EARTH Horace is. He’s… well, he’s something! He was close as we ever got to a mascot for the Spectrum, but it’d be a bit hard to put Horace on lunch boxes and T-shirts for sure. Imagine the playground battles. “SONIC RULES!” “NO MARIO DOES!” “NO, HORACE FOREVER!” All just sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? Regardless, Horace goes Skiing is exactly as it sounds, a pack in title for the Spectrum, you got to control Horace and go on a bit of a crazy Skiing adventure which saw you avoiding obstacle upon obstacle. A high octane Frogger like game, Horace and his Skiing escapades worked well, and while he never became a mascot, he’s gone to a lot of places for sure.

9. Jet Set Willy

Okay, let’s just forget the bug that made the game impossible to finish. Jet Set Willy improved on Manic Miner in spades, simple as. The gameplay was tweaked, it felt improved and dare say it for all the Miner purists, better! Matt Smith could have easily done far less work than he needed to and the game would have done well, but the open nature of the game was simply stunning back in the day. Exploring the Mansion was a joy, and while some of the elements were strange, like Maria for example. It all worked well. Jet Set Willy gets harped on too much for being Miner 2, and instead, should be appreciated for being a fantastic game!

8. Target Renegade

We wanted Double Dragon on the ZX Spectrum, and so like many games on the ZX Spectrum, when we could get an official version of a particular game, someone just made their own version. Target Renegade is the ZX Spectrum’s Double Dragon. The plot is non-existent and does not hold much together, but then again, did Double Dragon exactly have a stellar plot? Don’t think so. It was a fantastic beat ’em up that Spectrum fans could enjoy and that was all we ever wanted, thankfully Target Renegade with it’s violent gameplay and knees to the crotch, Imagine Software gave a great little game for us to enjoy!

7. Chuckie Egg

Chuckie Egg was surprising in with just how fast it was. During a time where platformers were more methodical and slow paced on home consoles and nothing like the speedy Arcade counterparts, it was a welcome change with just how quick Chuckie Egg was! Hen House Harry and his ladder climbing adventures felt like a proper arcade game, which was fitting since the game was first known as ‘Eggy Kong’. While the BBC Micro version may get a bit more love than the ZX Spectrum version, true Specheads know Chuckie Egg as a Spectrum classic through and through.

6. R-Type

A multi-load classic. It was an edgy fun side scrolling shooter that saw you fight stack and stack of alien menace away with a plethora of neat power ups, the visuals were truly impressive for the ZX Spectrum. The best part about R-Type was just how addicting the game was, each death meant you wanted to keep going. If R-Type was an Arcade game, then it would be the type that would leave you with no lunch money at the end of your play session.

5. Skool Daze

Step aside Rockstar, this is the real misbehaving kid simulator. The idea of having a game where your main goal was to be a brat at school and do all of the things you wanted to do is just fantastic. A true fantasy simulator for kids back in the 80s. Punching your fellow students, throwing stuff around the glass, and trying to get your report card so it never got into your mum and dads hands, it’s gameplay that most companies would scoff at, but renegade coders from the Spectrum days could make games like this a reality. Top stuff.

4. Dizzy

Humpty Dumpty got a bit of a makeover. Dizzy is a ZX Spectrum hallmark, and many people love the game the Oliver Twins created. A platformer that looked cute on the outside, but could be a bit difficult at the core, as it was realistic about the fact that the protagonist was a bloomin egg! Anything that touched Dizzy tended to bust the poor fella into millions of bits, and that made sense given the frail nature of an egg. While some people weren’t big fans of the inventory system and constant back and forward movement, plenty of people fondly remember Dizzy and consider it a true gem for the ZX Spectrum.

3. Football Manager

Trying to explain the appeal of Football Manager to kids today, or Americans is quite tough. A management simulator where you got to be, as the title implied, a Football Manager seemed like a foreign concept. But in practicality, the game is brilliant. Turning the sport of footy into spreadsheets and watching a match play out thanks to the hard work you put in bringing the team to where they are felt great! It’s no surprise people still enjoy the series today, we Retro Gamers know where the series got its start and on the ZX Spectrum, Football Manager was truly ahead of its time!

2. Elite

It’s still quite impressive to think that Elite is on the ZX Spectrum. While some don’t consider it a Spectrum library hallmark since it was on a few other systems, there is no changing that a lot of Spectrum fans experienced the game on the system first. An open ended galaxy with space pirates, combat, and all sorts with graphics that just can’t be done justice unless you could time travel back to the 80s. Elite ate up many hours of our lives and deserves nothing but praise for being a fantastic space adventure.

1. Manic Miner

The quintessential ZX Spectrum game. It’s commonly referenced by those who owned one and for good reason. The screens were some seriously creative, and often times, frustratingly fun levels to play through. It was a passage to say you’d completed Manic Miner, as like the name says, it can get a bit Manic. Some people prefer JSW due to the expansive nature of the sequel, but there is no doubting that nothing will ever trump the original. Even if it was a bit frustrating to load at times.


That was our essential collection list! Now we know just how much of a debate it can be when you mention the ZX Spectrum, everyone has their particular favourites. Boulder Dash, Lode Runner, Jetpac, all sorts of titles that people say are the ultimate games to have and far out class the likes of Miner and such.

We love all of those games, they are fantastic. But if there were a few games you simply HAD to own to start up a ZX Spectrum collection, then these are the perfect starting titles, as they are in our opinion, the must own games for the good ol’ speccy.

If you are a fan ZX Spectrum, you can play a bunch of them on the ZX Spectrum VEGA! An affortable option for playing some the best titles that the ZX Spectrum had to offer, just click here to get your own!

What are your personal must own ZX Spectrum games? Let us know in the comments below!

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