Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is the sequel to the timeless Atari, Inc. shooter, Star Wars, and it was first released into arcades in 1985. It is, of course, based on the classic 1980 film of the same name.
Developed by United Game Artists and released simultaneously for the Sega Dreamcast and Sony PlayStation 2 in 2001, Rez is a trippy, mind-bendingly-original and visually-stunning ‘Rail Shooter’ (meaning: the path you follow is ‘on rails’, like a rollercoaster), with hacking and music influences.
Tempest, by Dave Theurer, is one of the first ever ‘tube shooters’. It was released by Atari in 1981.
You control a spider-like yellow craft that walks along the edge of a 3D playfield, often taking the form of a cylindrical tube. You shoot bullets down the tube at enemies that are rising upwards to get you. Thus the name ‘tube shooter’.
Atari‘s 1980 hit Battle Zone was one of the first ever video games to use 3D polygonal vector graphics to represent the playfield.
It’s a tank game, and you’re basically hunting down tanks, flying saucers, and other baddies. Shooting them before they can shoot you.
Released in November 1979, Atari‘s Asteroids was an instant hit with gamers.
It featured a vector graphic-based, black and white display, with a player-controlled triangular ship, moving in space and firing at moving rocks.
Atari‘s classic Star Wars arcade game took the gaming world by storm back in 1983.
It gave games-players a chance to pilot an X-Wing for the first time and wowed audiences with its superfast vector graphics and amazing digitised sound.
Star Wars really was a breakthrough arcade game, and it made space combat THE hot gaming genre in the mid Eighties, just as the film Star Wars had made sci-fi the hot genre in the movie biz some years earlier.
Still great to play now, if you can find it. I have seen playable sit-down cabinets recently, and recommend putting some money into Star Wars if you see one up and running.
More: Star Wars on Wikipedia
David Braben‘s long-awaited 1993 follow-up to the classic space trading game Elite unfortunately doesn’t involve Ian Bell.
Still, it DOES involve the use of procedural mathematics to generate solar systems, planets and the finer details of the galaxy you exist in. In short: it’s an iconic space exploration game.
The scope of Frontier: Elite II is incredible – like the size of the universe. Only this is one trillionth the size… I’m laughing because I’m exaggerating, but the size of this game is phenomenal.
You can fly around quite happily, from system to system, landing on planets, trading, co-existing, and generally trying to stay on the right side of the law. Or you can go full pirate and try to shoot and rob everyone you can. You have to build up your firepower, though, in order to do that. Only thing that caught me out were fines for unauthorised take-offs. You have to watch out for those!
The numbers are mind-boggling. The colours are brilliant. The blasting is fun. And the life of a space rogue is an intriguing one in Frontier.
And it all fits onto just one floppy disk. Genius programming!
Dark Star, released in 1984 by Design Design, is a very underrated game, in my opinion. Back in 1984, when I first played it, I couldn’t really be bothered to work out what to do, and just flew around blasting things randomly. When I eventually learned how to play the game properly I realised that this beautifully presented (and simple) 3D shoot ’em up was something special. The key was in knowing how to orient yourself in the landscape (by using the maps), and knowing what to blast and what not to blast. And, having played the game quite a bit recently, I have to say that Dark Star has stood the test of time extremely well. Considering the Spectrum’s limitations, this game is something of a technical miracle. Especially when you see how fast everything moves (and I admit: the game doesn’t look like much in stills). Well worth a play now, and (in my opinion) one of the best ZX Spectrum games of all time.