During the course of the ZX Spectrum’s lifespan the console received an extensive selection of games – with some more notable than others – but have you ever wanted to know what the best games of that console were?
Well today i will be trying to answer that question by listing the Top 25 Games released onto the ZX Spectrum; and all of which can be played on the ZX Spectrum Vega.
Created by Imagitec Design Ltd, and published by Gremlin Graphics Software in 1992, Space Crusade is a tactical combat game based off a physical board game of the same name whereby it saw players take control of various aliens and space hulks, such as Chaos, Orks, Genestealers, in turn-based-gameplay that remained faithful to the original game.
24 – Spy Vs Spy (1985):
What originally started off as a wordless comic-strip in Mad Magazine soon spiraled into its own video-game franchise and the first game released onto the ZX Spectrum in 1985 was released onto the Atari 8-Bit, Commodore 64 and Apple II Computer. Just like in the comic-strip Spy Vs Spy sees two spies in two different rooms trying to kill each other through unconventional and elaborate ways.
Quazatron is action adventure game developed by Graftgold Ltd and saw players take control of a droid, known as KLP-2, whoose task is to destory other robots in the area. In my eyes the game was far from easy; but it offered a more ‘technical’ experience than most games available on the market at the time.
22 – Chase H.Q (1989):
Originally released into arcades by Taito in 1988 this ZX Spectrum port once again puts players in control of Tony Gibson, Along with his partner Raymond Broad, as they chase down bad-guys before the timer runs out. The original arcade release may have offered the superior graphics and colours; but the ZX Spectrum port wasn’t a half bad attempt at replicate the experience at home.
Released under the “Ultimate Play The Game” publisher brand, which makes a number of appearances in this list, Underwulde is an arcade style adventure game that sees players once again take control of Sabreman as he must navigate through a large maze area filled with enemies and animals.
The objective of the game is for players to explore a dungeon-styled cave and survive long enough to find an exit and escape; something which proved to be more difficult than it sounds.
20 – Head over Heels (1987):
Published by Ocean Software Head over Heels is an action adventure game that sees players take control of two characters, known as Head and Heels, as they travel to a planet known as Blacktooth in order to liberate the enslaved planets of Penitentiary, Safari, Book World and Egypt.
Head over Heels, which was also known as Foot and Mouth, was unique game due to the way that it allowed two characters to be used at once; with each character offering a different set of abilities and powers.
Mercenary: Escape from Targ, otherwise known as simply Mercenary, is a tactical combat cursour styled game released by Novagen Software in 1987. Unlike previous titles on this list Mercenary offered a different type of gaming experience with its attempt at bringing 3D polygons to the ZX Spectrum; although nowadays it just looks like lines on a screen. As with most games on this list the objective was to survive and escape in the shortest time possible.
18 – Starquake (1985):
Published by Bubble Bus Software in 1985 Starquake is an action adventure styled platformer that saw players control BLOB (Bio-Logically Operated Being) whose task is to retrieve elements of a planet that appeared from black hole. Standing in BLOB’s way is a range of aliens that cause BLOB harm when touched and as such players must navigate the planet, locate items and avoid the aliens.
I actually played on the Nintendo GameBoy and despite the performance difference things were exactly the same. Developed by Paul Holmes, Andy Williams and Karen Trueman, and published by Elite Systems the game saw players attempt to collect all of the bombs on screen while avoiding the enemies.
The idea of Bomb Jack is to collect all of the bombs on screen in order to progress to the next level; and while the game does feature an ending the overall goal is to get the highest score. Bomb Jack also featured local 2-player and as such two players would compete for the highest score.
16 – Alien (1983):
Inspired by Atari’s Space Invaders, as well as Namco’s Galaxian, Aliens is a fixed arcade-styled shoot-em-up which sees lines upon lines of alien invaders scrolling down the screen waiting to cause you an embrassing death. By using the oddly shapped space-ship at the bottem of the screen players are to destory all enemies which, in turn, enables a new line of enemies to appear – thus a vicious cycle of death appears.
It’s only recently that i managed to sample Knight Lore; and despite being twenty-two years-old it has instantly become one of my favourite games on the ZX Spectrum. Developed by Tim and Chris Stamper, as well as published by Ultimate Play The Game, Knight Lore is an action-adventure game that uses isometric graphics and sees players control Sabreman as he attempts to collect items scattered through a mysterious building in order to rid a curse inflicted upon him.
The twist of this game is it features day and night time cycles, something which – at the time – was considered relatively new, and it saw Sabreman transform into a werewolf as a result of the curse that he was under. Knight Lore also featured a time-limit and as such players only had forty days to find all of the items – something which actually prooved difficult due to the games challenging approach.
14 -Super Hang On (1987):
This ZX Spectrum port of the arcade game of the same name is everything you would come to expect from a good port of an arcade game. Sure enough Super Hang On on ZX Spectrum offered imited pallete of colours but it still offered that fast-paced racing experience that, at the time, could only be experienced at the arcade.
As with any arcade racer at the time the objective was to overtake other bikes and finish the game; the only restriction was the limited amount of time being given and as such players had to quickly get to each checkpoint in order to continue progressing forward. To this day Super Hang On is still one of my favourite racers and the arcade game has been ported to numerous different platform; including a cameo appearence in the SEGA Dreamcast game Shenmue.
Inspired by the original RoboCop film, which was released by Orion Pictures in 1987, this ZX Spectrum game sees our favourite cyborg in a side-scrolling-platform adventure as he takes on the criminals of the city. Unlike most movie adaptations RoboCop proved to be a superb platforming experience as not only did it offer a selection of levels but it also featured end of level boss battles and mini-games that saw players use RoboCops unique abilities. In hindsight it was the perfect RoboCop experience laid out as a video game; and even though it featured limited colours it gave you the impression that you were actually RoboCop – which is all you can really ask for in a game.
12 – Myth: History in the Making (1989):
Created by Concept Animations and published by System 3 Software Myth: History in the Making is another side-scrolling-platform but unlike similar titles on this list it offered fast-paced gameplay, a variety of enemies to defeat and varied game worlds that actually made you want to play the game even more. The unique aspect of Myth was that each map, or mission if you prefer, was based on a certain location within the world, such as Greece and Egypt, and the objective of each location is to collect the orb and progress forward to the new environment – all the while defeating enemies and solving the puzzles that stand in your way.
Originally released as an Arcade game in 1989, and then later ported to the SEGA Genesis in the same year, this ZX Spectrum port of Golden Axe, which was published by Virgin Interactive, remains faithful to the original vision by allowing players to choose from three different characters, namely Gilius, Ax Battler and Tyris and venture in a quest to save the land from evil. Just like the original arcade versions players can progress through numerous levels while defeating enemies along the way; with boss battles taking place at the end of each level.
Despite offering the same gameplay mechanics as the original arcade game, such as the ability to ride small dragons and take on large groups of enemies at once, this ZX Spectrum version can be critised for its rather bland and stuttering gameplay experience. The impressive colours and artwork seen in the arcade and Genesis versions of the game are nowhere to be seen in this ZX Spectrum variation and character interaction can be slower than one might expect; however all of this should be ignored as generally this game is an impressive feat for the ZX Spectrum as it remains faithful to the source material; unlike some other games we’ve experienced.
10 – R Type (1988):
What originally started as an arcade game in 1987 soon became a home console senstation in 1988 with it’s multi-format release and despite this our focus is on the ZX Spectrum variation. During this single year R-Type was ported to seven different platforms and while the TurboGraphix and PC Engine variations of the game offered a ‘like-for-like’ experience to the arcade game they were critised for offering a slower than desired frame-rate. The ZX Spectrum version on the other hand offered the speeds many would expect to receive, and the same gameplay seen in the arcade game, but with a more ‘limited’ colour-range.
Jet Set Willy was created by Matthew Smith and published by Software Works Ltd within the UK in 1984 and acts as a sequel to Maniac Miner, which was previously released onto the ZX Spectrum in 1983. In the game players take control of Willy as he navigates through a mansion collecting objects and unlike the Maniac Miner players are able to freely navigate around the game world as opposed to being restricted to a singular level.
As mentioned the objective of the game is to collect various objects that are scattered throughout the mansion, which is seperated into sixty-one different sections (or screens), and stopping Willy from completing this task is a variety of obstacbles and enemies. To avoid these Willy must carefully navigate around them either by climbing nearby ladders or using ropes to swing over them. As with most games of this timeframe players are given a set number of lives and a life is lost when being touch by an enemy or falling from a high-place; to which the player will respawn at entrance of that particular location.
8 – Operation Wolf (1988):
Released as a port to the 1987 Arcade game Operation Wolf is an online-rails-shooter that sees players the role of Special Forces Operative Roy Adamsas they attempt to rescue five hostages within the concentration camp and spans across six different levels; each of which focus on a different aspect of the camp itself. Unlike other shooters Operation Wolf had a story behind it and as such each level, as well as elements before and after them, would see events leading up to the next stage; similar to how more modern arcade shooters, such as Time Crisis and The House of Dead, express their story.
The seventh title on our list is Midnight Resistance; a side-scrolling platform shooter that was released onto the ZX Spectrum in 1990 by Ocean Software and is a port of the original arcade game. In this game, which supports up to two players, players take control of two nameless brothers (which was later renamed to Johnny Ford in the SEGA Mega Drive port) as he attempts to rescue his family from King Crimson.
As one would expect players would progress through multiple locations taking down numerous enemies while collecting power-ups to aid them along the way. Its a fast-paced, fun run and gun shooter and one that proves itself to be popular on both the arcade and on the ZX Spectrum.
6 – Spellbound Dizzy (1991):
Developed by Big Red Software, and published by Codemasters, Spellbound Dizzy is adventure game and the fifth in the Dizzy videogame franchise. In this variation of the franchise players control Dizzy in an explorative styled adventure game that takes place over 100 game-screens and offers multiple pathways. Despite being a popular franchise at its time Spellbound Dizzy was considered rather difficult with players constantly loosing health when falling from ledges; a feature which was later removed from newer revisions of the game.
A&F Software’s release of Chuckie Egg may seem like a simplistic game but it offered countless hours of entertainment and as a result the game was ported to numerous different platforms including the Commodore Amiga and Commodore 64.
In the game players take control of a yellow character as they attempt to collect the eggs scattered around the level in order to rescue the golden chicken that has been captured. In order to achieve this players must navigate levels, each of which change upon being completed, by climbing ladders, jumping and avoiding enemies and offered a similar gameplay experience to Donkey Kong; albeit with a slightly different twist.
4 – Manic Miner (1983):
Published by Bug-Byte Software in 1983 Manic Miner is the platform styled adventure game created by Matthew Smith and is inspired by the Atari 800 game Miner 2049er. At the time of its release Manic Miner was praised for its use of sound effects and in-game music, something which was difficult for the ZX Spectrum games to provide, as well as its high replay value. Manic Miner saw players take control of Willy through twenty different environments with players having to locate items and avoid enemies on each map before their oxygen ran out; to which if it did Willy would die.
Released under the Ultimate Play The Game brand in 1983 this game saw players take control of a character who is looking for the Golden Key of ACG in a castle. The objective here is obtained the aforementioned key; the catch however is that players must carefully guide the character through a labyrinth styled maze while avoiding enemies that spawn in random areas of each room.
Atic Attac reminds me of Dark Souls; a fun game to play but potentially difficult to complete with its, seemingly never ending, rooms and puzzles but even today it still proves to be a popular game and as such was even included as part of the recent Rare Replay colleciton ont he Xbox One.
2 – Rainbow Island (1990):
Rainbow Island was originally released in 1987 by Taito as a Japanese arcade game however it wasn’t until 1989/1990 until a multi-format console variation was released. Unlike past games on this list Rainbow Island offers a very colourful pallete and typical platforming styled gameplay that we have all become familiar with over the past two-three decades. This ZX Spectrum version, which was published by Ocean Software and developed by Graftgold Ltd, sees players take control of the main character (Bubble) in a platforming adventure that spans numerous worlds and locations each of which filled to the brim with enemies, that can be defeated with rainbow styled attacks, as well as gems that can be collected to earn points. Since it’s inital release into arcades the franchise has received several ports and sequels onto various different platforms.
The final game in this list is non other than Lunar Jetman; a simplstic arcade game created by Tim and Chris Stamper and released under the Ultimate Play the Game label. Lunar Jetman sees players once again take control of the astronaut Jetman as he navigates around a purple moon. Unlike JetPac players have limited fuel and are able to take control of a moon-rover in a bid to find alien towers and destroy them with more towers appearing as the game progresses. Unlike JetPac Lunar Jetman offered both simplistic arcade fun with a bit of a tactical side and in recent times has been bundled with the Xbox One Rare Replay collection.
The ZX Spectrum was home to a large selection of titles; more than i wish to write-down, and even if your favourite title isn’t included in this list it is included in our heart. So which ZX Spectrum game was your favourite?