As someone born in 1985, much of my pre-teen years were spent playing various games designed for DOS or Windows 95. With little pocket money, most games acquired came in the form of someone else purchasing a used PC and using several floppy disks to copy them, or demonstration versions enclosed with a magazine. Normally it wouldn’t be until Christmas or my birthday that I could go out and purchase a new game, though in hindsight really should have spent the money upgrading the hardware.
Here’s my ten games that I enjoyed and spent a large amount of time playing during the decade in no particular order.
DOOM (id Software, 1993)
If you had a 386 or 486 PC and played games, there was a good chance this game was on the hard drive. While little in the way of a story line, finding your way around inside futuristic facilities and dungeons shooting everything that moves, was a basic formula that worked well. It was visually a major step-up from previous DOS games.
Jill of the Jungle (Epic MegaGames, 1992)
Prior to owning a Pentium, this platform game was one I played regularly on a 286. While there was three games with Jill, the original Jill of the Jungle was the only one I had at the time. The other two being Jill Goes Underground, and Jill Saves the Prince. The game vaguely reminded me of Tarzan, but unlike Tarzan a couple of levels allowed you to turn into either a fish or a frog.
Duke Nukem 3D (3D Realms, 1996)
Following from a series of three 2D platform games during the early 1990s that I’d also played, Duke Nukem 3D merged sexy girls, pop culture, and amusing voice overs. Set predominantly in Los Angeles, Duke’s mission was to save the planet from an alien invasion. It was a major gaming hit in 1996, and I think one of the last to run on DOS. The game was credited for its interactive environments, such as flicking light switches, or just the ability to break things. Adult-themed elements such as having strippers proved controversial at the time, until the original Grand Theft Auto took the spotlight. Later there was the Atomic Edition, offering additional levels. “Hail to the king, baby!”
Microsoft Golf 2.0 (Microsoft, 1995)
As was common with buying new PCs when it was all about multimedia and CD-ROMs, Golf was frequently accompanied with other Microsoft titles such as Works and Dangerous Creatures. Only coming with two courses, Firestone and Torrey Pines, options were limited unless you managed to get your hands on the additional courses that were selling separately. I never managed to get a hole-in-one, though my best shot had been to get it in from 72 yards away.
Quake (id Software, 1996)
After DOOM, Quake was the next big hit in first person shooters for id Software. Musical MIDI soundtracks were replaced with sound effects to give off a certain ambience of being inside dungeons. The graphics engine was a major improvement offering true 3D. Games such as DOOM and Heretic released prior offered an element of 3D when moving through the levels, however Quake was different in that the objects such as weapons, and enemies were rendered in 3D also. As was common with the genre at the time, Quake was split into four episodes, each containing a series of levels. The demonstration version was generous enough to offer the first episode in full. As it took a while for me to get the full version, the demo version was seeing its fair share of game play.
Transport Tycoon (Microprose, 1994)
I can still recall buying this game from the then-local computer store for $40 AUD. In Transport Tycoon you’re managing your own transport company, starting small and eventually if all goes well into an empire. As the decades roll on, the various modes of transport become faster and more efficient, and the town’s architecture changes. Although I thoroughly enjoyed playing this, there was one thing that irritated me. Both the town’s local authority and computer controlled transport companies generally would make a mess with the road and railway layout. There’s an open source variation of this game known as OpenTTD, originally based on the deluxe edition of the original.
Monopoly (Westwood Studios, 1995)
It wasn’t the first time the classic board game was transformed into electronic format, though this release came on its 60th year anniversary. From rolling the dice, moving around the board, and the properties even had their own animations. The novelty wears off after a while especially for longer games, but at least these can be switched off with ease. The screen shot above was the USA board, though originally I had the UK version sold in Australia. Designed for Windows 3.1 it was one of only a handful of games that used WinG, an API to improve graphics performance before DirectX took over.
Interstate ’76 (Activision, 1997)
In 1973, the United States among several other developed nations faced an oil crisis. This game is set three years later based on fictional history that the crisis was never resolved. Set in the deserts of south-western United States, you’d be driving a muscle car firing missiles and bullets, and dropping land mines against your enemies in an oil stricken land. At the time I liked the openness of driving – you weren’t restricted to the roads hitting invisible walls as was common with other car-orientated games. There’s a slight resemblance comparing to the more recent game of Mad Max from 2015 for its deserts and vigilante style elements, though this is with sideburns and 1970s funk music.
Lotus: The Ultimate Challenge (Magnetic Fields (Software Design) Ltd, 1993)
Before the time of Need for Speed, I played this DOS based car game fitting on a single floppy disk. It was a simple arcade style game with no concept of car damage or reversing, and cornering meant turning at a 45 degree angle at best. Originally released in 1992 for platforms such as the Amiga and Atari, it wasn’t until the following year to be ported over to DOS.
SimCity 2000 Special Edition (Maxis, 1995)
Being a city mayor on an empty block of land, one was to develop a successful small town, or more usually a thriving metropolis while minimising crime, keeping the lights on, and maintaining finances. Although the cars on the roads looked like ants, the isometric view in the game was an improvement from the original. Playing this I was enticed to play SimCity 3000 and later SimCity 4 (which I still believe is the best one in the series after all these years). Getting the tax rates right between city growth, and being able to pay for maintaining essential services, was a bit challenging. Originally released for DOS back in 1993, this Special Edition contained extra content and included a Windows version which is the one I played.