Ah the Amiga. One of the most popular games machines of all time, this little beauty found its way into the homes of families everywhere, helping to launch the careers of bedroom coders and software giants that are still going strong today.
Whilst other machines of the day may have been able to offer a technically more accomplished experience, the sheer breadth of titles and genres available on Commodore’s machine ensured its enduring appeal.
But this variety and consistency of output makes it difficult to boil down a top 10 of ‘best’ games. Any list will invariably leave off someone’s favourite flight sim or obscure platformer. Many of the perceived classics (such as Populous 2 or Another World) I never played whilst others (such as Lemmings or F1GP) left me cold.
So this is not so much a ‘best of’, rather a selection of some personal favourites, one each from a particular genre, that between them represent what the machine was all about. Plus we’ll chuck in a few honourable mentions for great games that didn’t quite make the list.
Somewhat ironically I have omitted the one game that I spent most of my time playing on the Amiga; Championship Manager. But with good reason, as I shall revisit this series in a separate feature.
Released into the arcade in 1989, this Capcom classic was converted to the home formats by Ocean, hitting the Amiga in 1990.
Effectively a variant on Asteroids, this shooter / puzzle game saw you (and a friend) jet setting round the globe, clearing the screen of bubbles. Each time a bubble is shot, it separates into two smaller bubbles, repeating the trick until eventually dispersing. Your task is accomplished with the aid of a trusty harpoon, which can be upgraded via pick-ups, including a multiple shot, a grappling shot and a rapid fire machine gun style shot, each of which necessitates an adjustment of tactics for best results. Plus you can grab extra power ups that grant you temporary shields, slow down time, blow all the bubbles to smithereens or freeze them in place to make life easier.
It looks great, it sounds great, it’s challenging and above all it’s great fun. This is a near flawless conversion of a timeless arcade classic.
Also worth playing – R-Type 2, Final Fight
It’s difficult to figure out exactly how to describe a game like this.
Published in 1993 by Bullfrog, Syndicate saw you take control of a global corporation, seeking world domination. To achieve your aims, you dispatch a team of cyborgs, dispensing company values by means of shotguns, mini-guns and various other instruments of death. Or unleash your trusty Persuadertron and convert weak minds to your cause, all played out in an isometric, forced perspective.
Graphically it evokes the cyberpunk worlds of Blade Runner or Neuromancer. Style wise it combines elements of Lemmings or Cannon Fodder as you guide your death squad around the map, your cyborgs coerced by the injection of mind altering drugs, killing and kidnapping to ensure your corporate aims are met.
But the missions are just part of the fun. In between, RPG and strategy elements are introduced as you conduct R&D on new and more deadly weapons, upgrade your shields and armour and set taxes against your newly won territory, being careful not to overtax or you might face a revolt.
It’s tough, violent and gleefully amoral.
Also worth playing – Mega-lo-mania, The Settlers
The Amiga played host to a slew of high quality driving games with Gremlin responsible for publishing many of them but this is the pick of the bunch.
Ditching the track based format of the original, Lotus 2 opted for the Outrun based approach of checkpoints as you race across a variety of different landscapes. It also introduced a number of new elements such as weather effects and night racing, features that would become staples of the genre and added an extra dimension to the experience.
As with the previous game, driving is fast and smooth, your car handling well, collisions with other cars or roadside objects slowing you enough to be an inconvenience but not so devastating as to be frustrating. Graphically it looks pretty and you have a real sensation of speed, an essential element of any good racer.
Also worth playing – Supercars 2, Lambourghini American Challenge
What is there left to say about the mighty SWOS?
Quick, fluid, easy to learn, hard to master. Amazing as a single player experience, incredible when you invite a mate or two.
And that’s before you even get to the multi-year, fully functioning management sim, virtually a game within a game.
Possibly the greatest football game to be released on any format ever. Arguably the greatest game to ever grace the Amiga. Undoubtedly one of the most important videogames of all time.
Graphic snobs might have turned their noses up, preferring the sizzle and pizzazz of FIFA. But to the players, this remains the ultimate football experience.
Look out for a full review on the site soon.
Also worth playing – none. This is the only football game you ever need.
You know the Bitmap Brothers have a hit on their hands when you play it and find yourself thinking, ‘I wish this was a real sport.’
Combining elements of American Football with Rollerball and lots and lots of violence, Speedball 2 is the quintessential multiplayer game. Two teams of heavily armed combatants line up against each other with the aim to get the metallic ball in the opposition net. But that is just half the fun, with extra points on offer by way of score multipliers, various pick-ups and boosts and injured players being carried off on a stretcher as a vendor from the stands calls, ‘Ice creams, ice creams.’
It’s fast moving and brutal, looks great and sounds even better.
Also worth playing – Worms, IK+
Take control of a team of up to six soldiers, blasting your way through 72 adrenaline fuelled missions. Fend off the enemy with your trusty machine gun, leap a gaping chasm in a jeep, squash all in your path in a tank or bring death from the skies in a helicopter with heat-seeking missiles.
My favourite game of all time, read the full review here.
Also worth playing – Civilization, Dune 2
Whilst the Amiga was the home of myriad genres, the success of other platforms inevitably led to the influx of gaming styles synonymous with other platforms. Cue a succession of turgid arcade ports, hapless beat ‘em ups and largely insipid Doom-but-on-the-Amiga clones.
The acclaim of Sonic and Mario on Megadrive and SNES respectively saw a clamour to exclaim a platforming mascot for the Amiga. Whilst most were poor or average at best, a couple stood out, including this tricky trickster from Graftgold.
Taking the role of Cool Coyote, players must guide the cute little fur ball across a variety of treacherous terrains, from the snowy wastes to the scorching deserts, lobbing projectiles at bad guys and collecting parts of a key to unlock the exit to each level.
Great level design, an appealing character and tough but fair gameplay helped this to stand out from a sea of mediocrity as one of the best examples of the genre on the Amiga.
Also worth playing – Blues Brothers, Titus The Fox
Veteran players will remember Silkworm, the side-scrolling shooter with the unique gimmick of allowing the player to take control of either a plane or jeep, or double up with a friend to use both.
This follow up (of sorts) published by Storm took the concept and flipped it to a vertical scroller and in so doing created one of the great shoot ‘em ups of the day.
Playing out across one huge, ever expanding level, this is a beautiful looking, intense gaming experience. Things explode in a satisfying cacophony, weapon upgrades make you feel like a boss whilst all the time swarms of enemies attack by land and air.
A beast of a challenge and no mistake and still a great game to fire up to this day.
Also worth playing – St Dragon, Project-X
One of the more consistent (in terms of volume) publishers on the machine, Team 17 went back to one of their previous titles to add some polish, the result this special edition released in 1992.
Effectively an Aliens game without the license, players must guide their soldier Gauntlet style, blasting definitely-not-Aliens aliens, picking up keys to unlock new areas and grabbing vital ammo packs and credits, computer terminals dotted around the level allowing you to see a map or upgrade your weapons.
There is no great variety but great looks, a great atmosphere and a tough challenge make this a must-play title.
Also worth playing – Chaos Engine, D-Generation
A bit of a cheat as I am lumping two games under one but as an experience these games are inseparable.
Other adventures had come before, setting the template of the SCUMM engine, but the Monkey Island games were undoubtedly the pinnacle of the genre. Great looking, fantastic music, easy to play and with puzzles that were tough without being unnecessarily obtuse.
But what sets them apart is that they were genuinely laugh out loud funny. Every player will have a favourite moment or character; from Herman Toothrot to the Voodoo Lady, insult sword fighting to the spitting contest.
The first game set a new benchmark in point-and-click adventures, the sequel somehow surpassed it. And who can forget THAT ending.
Further games in the series would emerge on PC, adding a voice cast and improved graphics. But nothing can quite recapture the thrill of these initial adventures.
Also worth playing – Beneath A Steel Sky, Curse of Enchantia