Available from 1982 to 1992, the ZX Spectrum personal computer was the host of well over 1,000 8-bit games. While not always included in modern conversations of historical video games, there’s no denying the platform’s importance place in their lineage. To celebrate its impact on gaming, it’s a distinct pleasure to provide a look back at some of the most popular ZX Spectrum games.
1 – Deathchase
Once named the best ZX Spectrum game ever by Your Sinclair magazine, Deathchase offers programmer Mervyn Estcourt’s best approximation of a 3D, 1st person view in the midst of a motorcycle chase. It’s a scene not uncommon in modern games, and here it is laid out in perfectly riveting 8-bit form. For a 1983 release, this 2-wheeled racing gem will always have a rightful place atop any list of this kind.
2 – Fairlight
Released in 1985, Edge Games’ Fairlight is an isometric adventure title wherein the protagonist Isvar hunts down the Book of Light throughout various castle settings. Though often displayed in monochromatic colour, the environments were immensely detailed. There’s also an impressive display of early game physics here given the realistic way that various objects interact with one another.
As with Deathchase, Fairlight displays many elements that would wow gamers much later on, not the least of which is access to secret areas that reward exploration.
3 – Head Over Heels
Head Over Heels is another classic isometric adventure. Released in 1987 by Ocean Software, this title features another early example of a game mechanic that still seemed amazing many years early; you actually control more than one character.
Each of your characters (which are amusingly named after the title itself) has different abilities, leaving you to delegate tasks between them in order to advance. The game has been considered a classic ever since its original release.
4 – Knight Lore
The conversation about which ZX Spectrum games were the best is never complete with Knight Lore, and it’s actually one of the earlier releases.
In November of 1984, Tim and Chris Stamper from Ultimate Play The Game unveiled the title, and it immediately took off from there. The riveting gameplay thrusts the player into a dire situation where you must come up with a cure for a werewolf curse within 40 in-game days.
The puzzle solving and overall tone went on to influence many games in the future, particularly those in the role-playing genre.
5 – Manic Miner
1983 saw the release of Bug Byte’s Manic Miner. This is an early platformer with memorable music and visuals.
Despite its age, it was already pushing what could be done on the ZX Spectrum from a technical standpoint. Its design work is especially impressive, and it retains something of a retro charm even today.
The colourful graphics are truly a standout, especially given the frequency in which other games on the platform utilised more monochromatic pallets. Though this game is often ignored these days, Manic Miner is a classic through and through.