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The 20 Mac Games that Mattered Most
February 24, 2004 | IMG Staff

In celebration of the Macintosh reaching its twentieth birthday a few weeks ago, it seems only fitting IMG would do a tribute to the 20 games we feel have made the biggest impact on the Mac.

Beyond the machine's beautiful interfaces, revolutionary hardware, and leaps in software engineering, the thing that continues to excite people when they sit down at their computer is the ability to be immersed in a game. We at IMG would like to thank the game-makers who have provided 20 years of expanding imaginations and just plain fun.

Coming to a consensus on only 20 games is obviously a daunting task considering the sheer number of high-quality titles that have been released over the years for the Mac (despite what your PC-using cousin says). After some hefty discussions, we present here a selection of titles which we feel redefined genres and took the Mac to places it had never been before. We've also had a few industry friends chime in with their thoughts on some of the chosen titles.

1. Dark Castle (1986, Silicon Beach/Delta Tao)
Dark Castle was groundbreaking to the Mac gaming genre in so many ways. A black and white title, Dark Castle was a side-view run and jump game that pitted a rock-chucking lad by the name of Duncan against the Black Knight, who resided deep within the Dark Castle. One of the first games to use simultaneous mouse and keyboard control, it had fantastic graphics, animation, and a wealth of digitized sounds that made it one of the most enjoyable games of its generation. Iíll never forget the sounds of chains being pulled, the crack of a torturerís whip, and the mumbling of a wizard as he cast his fireball-enabling spell, which I assure you at the time was insanely cool. Dark Castle is true classic in every sense of the word. - Eddie Park

"The Mac had already developed a reputation for not being a 'gamer's machine' because it was black and white and had a small screen, but this game proved naysayers wrong by offering more detailed graphics and realistic sound than you could get on a PC, by far." - Peter Cohen, MacCentral

2. The Fool's Errand (1987, Miles Computing)
Although it didnít feature the smooth animation and shockingly real (for the time) sound effects of Dark Castle, the next entry in our top-20 list caught the eye of many gamers back in 1987 as an intriguing and visually-rich puzzle game that captured the hearts and challenged the minds of young and old, and every other generation in between. The Foolís Errand, the first in the Arcanum series of puzzle games (look it up), played as a multi-teared fantasy puzzle game in which players were required to beat an increasingly challenging series of visual puzzles, brain teasers, and word games. Intertwined within these puzzles lay the intricate story of the Fool, who, on a quest for wisdom, was tasked with having to rebuild the Sunís Map from pieces revealed after each completed puzzle.

The gameís popularity was three-fold. The individual puzzles required a keen eye and clear mind to complete, yet drew on such a variety of skills that the game didnít alienate any players. The game design was structured so that players were rewarded with a real sense of satisfaction as they completed each puzzle. Skills and techniques learned early on got put to the test in increasingly harder challenges, and the game even featured the first of what author Cliff Johnson calls a meta-puzzle Ė a large and complex puzzle that can only be solved once all of the smaller challenges are met. And finally, the gameís story, thick with mysticism, witchcraft, folklore, and hints on how to solve the gameís final meta-puzzle, was so original and compelling that players couldnít help but work their way through the puzzles in order to gain access to the next piece of text.

The Foolís Errand was so successful in its first run that the game was re-released in several different formats on various computing platforms. As you read this, author Cliff Johnson is currently deep in development on the gameís sequel, The Fool And His Money, which is expected to be released later this year. And to top it all off, if you didnít get the opportunity to play this game when it first came out seventeen years ago, youíre in luck Ė a Classic-friendly version of the game can be downloaded for free from the authorís website. - Jean-Luc Dinsdale

3. SimCity (1989, Maxis/Broderbund)
Here's a perfect example of a Mac-first game which took the world by storm. When Will Wright set out to create a standard helicopter shoot-em-up, he found that creating the land beneath was actually more fun! This led to the birth of SimCity, and soon thereafter an entire franchise of games (culminating in The Sims, which has become the #1 selling of all time). SimCity it's mark on the Mac, and will forever be an imagination-filled playground for kids of all ages. - Andy Largent

4. Kingís Quest Series (Sierra)
Although adventure games existed before Sierra, no company dominated and forwarded a story-telling adventure until the King's Quest series came along. Featuring a character named Graham, players were presented with the task of rescuing the Kingdom of Daventry by acquiring three key items. While the story may not have been the most original, Kingís Quest revolutionized the adventure genre by providing a fully controllable character, who could be directed to move in any direction and perform a variety of tasks via a parser interface. A variety of environments and the completing of tasks without necessarily resorting to violence made this one a favorite of many families. - Eddie Park

5. Prince of Persia (1990, Broderbund)
Who can forget those juicy spike traps, the falling concrete tiles, sword-wielding guards, and chomping metal blades! Jordan Mechner's masterpiece side-scrolling action game made its way was released for the Mac in 1990 and instantly began a gigantic hit thanks to its great animation, fun puzzles, and awesome action.

Prince of Persia's beginnings date back to 1984 when a game called Karateka stunned the gaming world with its intense graphics and gameplay. This 2D karate game practically invented the side-scrolling genre. It would take Mechner five years to come up with a successor worthy of the orginal Karateka. The result was Prince of Persia and it was full of...well...great gaming stuff that made people's jaw drop. Running, jumping, climbing, swording fight, gushing blood, potions, traps, and princess locked in her room high in the palace tower waiting for you to save her. I mean, what more could you want? - Tuncer Deniz

"This game was the first game to use rotoscoping successfully. Other games had used rotoscoping on a small scale, but Prince of Persia really made it look amazing and it spawned an a new genre of games." - Brian Greenstone, Pangea Software


Archives  Features  The 20 Mac Games that Mattered Most