UPDATE: THIS POLL IS NOW CLOSED.
Welcome to the days of yore! Some of us have very fond memories of the early days of PC RPGs, whereas some of you may not even have been born. Either way, there may be one or two jewels below that you’re unaware of, but thanks to sites like GOG.com you can experience them for the first time – it’s never too late! Then again, maybe you know them all and will have a hard time choosing just five as your favourite RPGs of the 1980s!
Yes, that’s right, we’re running a poll to find the best RPGs, by decade, and based on YOUR votes we’ll be slapping an AWESOME video together. Don’t see a game that you think should be on the list? No problem. Just tell us in the comments below, and as long as it’s a 1980s-era PC RPG, we’ll add it to the list.
So, without further ado, here are the nominees for XP4T’s Best RPGs of the 1980s, with a brief description of each game, for your convenience.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF NOMINATED GAMES
Pool of Radiance: Pool of Radiance was developed and published by Strategic Simulations, Inc (SSI) in 1988. It was the first adaptation of TSR’s Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D or D&D) fantasy role-playing game for home computers, becoming the first episode in a four-part series of D&D computer adventure games. Pool of Radiance takes place in the Forgotten Realms fantasy setting, with the action centered in and around the port city of Phlan.
Dungeon Master: An early grid-based 3D real-time action role-playing video game. DM was developed and published by FTL Games for the Atari ST in 1987.It reportedly sold 40,000 copies in its year of release alone, and went on to become the ST’s best selling product of all time.
Might and Magic I: The Secret of the Inner Sanctum: The game centers on six adventurers who are trying to discover the secret of the Inner Sanctum: a kind of “holy grail” quest. While trying to discover the Inner Sanctum, the heroes discover information about a mysterious character named Corak and his hunt for the missing villain Sheltem. They end up unmasking Sheltem, who had been masquerading as the King, and defeating his evil machinations. The IBM version of the game was released in 1988.
Might and Magic II: Gates to Another World: As with Might and Magic 1, the player used up to six player-generated characters at a time, and a total of twenty-six characters could be created, who thereafter stayed at the various inns across CRON. To continue game continuity it was possible to “import” the characters developed from the first game. Additionally, Might and Magic 2 became the first game in the series to utilize “hirelings”, predefined characters which could extend the party to eight active characters. Hirelings were controlled like regular characters but required payment each day; pay increased with level.
Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness: Ultima, later known as Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness or simply Ultima I, is the first game in the Ultima series of role-playing video games created by Richard Garriott. Ultima revolves around a quest to find and destroy the Gem of Immortality, which is being used by the evil wizard Mondain to enslave the lands of Sosaria. With the gem in his possession, he cannot be killed, and his minions roam and terrorize the countryside.
Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress: released on August 24, 1982 , is the second role-playing video game in the Ultima series.
Ultima III: Exodus: Released in 1983, it was the first Ultima game published by Origin Systems. Originally developed for the Apple II, Exodus was eventually ported to 13 other platforms, including the NES/Famicom.
Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar: The fourth in the series of Ultima role-playing video games. It is the first in the “Age of Enlightenment” trilogy, shifting the series from the hack and slash, dungeon crawl gameplay of its “Age of Darkness” predecessors towards an ethically-nuanced, story-driven approach.
Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny: After having mastered the eight Virtues, attaining Avatarhood and retrieving the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom in the previous game, the Avatar is summoned back to Britannia by his old comrades Iolo and Shamino using a magic coin, which was included as a trinket in the game’s box. Upon arrival he is greeted by Shamino but they immediately come under attack from the three powerful beings known as the Shadowlords
Bard’s Tale (Tales of the Unknown: Volume I): Based loosely on traditional Dungeons and Dragons gameplay and inspired by the Wizardry computer games, The Bard’s Tale was noteworthy for its unprecedented 3D graphics and partly animated character portraits. The Bard was also an innovation: “The Bard was author Michael Cranford’s contribution to the genre, a character who casts spells by singing one of six tunes.”
Wasteland: Set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic America that was destroyed by nuclear holocaust generations before. The game mechanics were based directly on those used in the tabletop role-playing games Tunnels and Trolls and Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes created by Wasteland designers Ken St. Andre and Michael Stackpole.
BattleTech – The Crescent Hawks Inception: Released in 1988 by Westwood Studios and based on the BattleTech franchise. This was one of the first commercial ports of the licence, and featured some of the franchise’s worlds, institutions, political figures, and weapons, particularly the three-story tall Battlemechs.
Curse of the Azure Bonds: The second in a four-part series of Forgotten Realms Advanced Dungeons & DragonsGold Box adventure computer games, continuing the events after the first part, Pool of Radiance. Curse of the Azure Bonds follows along the same style as Pool of Radiance, with the main adventuring action using a first person perspective. The player uses the top left window to view the current location, with the status panel on the right and the commands along the bottom.
Magic Candle: In Magic Candle, players must assemble a group of six adventurers and journey across the kingdom of Deruvia to keep the demon Dreax imprisoned in the eponymous magic candle, which has begun to melt. The game’s world includes several towns and cities, two castles, and several dungeons and towers. Unlike many computer games, one wins not by defeating a final enemy, but by collecting the necessary items and learning the necessary chants in order to preserve the magic candle.
Star Command: Developed by Strategic Simulations, Inc. and released in 1988. The player creates a crew of eight characters. The crew completes missions from Star Command to earn credits and train personnel. The crew can explore planets to obtain valuable elements, and can board intact enemy ships to fight their foes man-to-man and commandeer the enemy ship.
Ancient Land of Ys: Ys was a precursor to RPGs that emphasize storytelling. The hero of Ys is an adventurous young swordsman named Adol Christin. As the story begins, he has just arrived at the Town of Minea, in the land of Esteria. He is called upon by Sara, a fortuneteller, who tells him of a great evil that is sweeping the land. The PC version was released in 1989.
Rogue: The Adventure Game: In Rogue, the player assumes the typical role of an adventurer of early fantasy role-playing games. The game starts at the uppermost level of an unmapped dungeon with myriad monsters and treasures. The goal is to fight one’s way to the bottom level, retrieve the Amulet of Yendor , then ascend to the surface. Until the Amulet is retrieved, the player cannot return to earlier levels. Monsters in the levels become progressively more difficult to defeat.
Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord: This was the first game in the Wizardry series of role-playing video games. The game was one of the first Dungeons & Dragons-style role-playing games to be written for computer play, and the first such game to offer color graphics. It was also the first true party-based role-playing video game.
Wizardry II: The Knight of Diamonds: The Wizardry sequel begins with the city of Llylgamyn under siege. Llylgamyn’s rulers have been killed, and the city’s only hope is for the recovery of the staff of Gnilda, only obtainable from trading the mystic “Knight of Diamonds” armor from the legendary Knight of Diamonds to fend off the invaders.
Wizardry III: Legacy of Llylgamyn: The City of Llylgamyn is threatened by the violent forces of nature. Earthquakes and volcanic rumblings endanger everyone. Only by seeking the dragon L’Kbreth can the city be saved. Legacy of Llylgamyn is another six level dungeon crawl, although the dungeon is a volcano so the party journeys upwards rather than downwards. The gameplay and the spells are identical to the first two scenarios. Parties of up to six characters could adventure at one time.
Wizardry IV: The Return of Werdna: Wizardry IV drastically different from the trilogy that precedes it. Rather than continuing the adventures of the player’s party from the previous three games, The Return of Werdna’s protagonist is Werdna, the evil wizard that was defeated in the end of Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord and imprisoned at the bottom of his dungeon forever.
Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom: Following from the events of Wizardry III: Legacy of Llylgamyn, Heart of the Maelstrom begins after a period of peace brought about through the use of L’Kbreth’s Orb is shattered when the powers of chaos literally begin to emerge into the world. These unnatural energies are especially focused in a series of tunnels beneath the Temple of Sages in Llylgamyn, fittingly called the Maelstrom. Adventurers, namely the player party, are recruited to journey into these caverns and track down a means of summoning a being known as the Gatekeeper who can seal these chaotic energies once more
The Bard’s Tale II: The Destiny Knight: created by Interplay Productions in 1986, it is the first sequel to The Bard’s Tale, and the last game of the series that was designed and programmed by Michael Cranford. The Bard’s Tale II takes place on a larger scale with an explorable wilderness, six cities, and multiple dungeons which give this game its dungeon crawl character. The game has new features such as casinos and banks, and introduces a new magic user called an archmage, among other changes from the first game in the series.
The Bard’s Tale III: Thief of Fate: This dungeon crawl game featured several improvements over its predecessors, including a graphical auto-mapping system for the 84 dungeon levels in the game, an enhanced save game feature, and two new spellcaster character classes (geomancer and chronomancer)
Phantasie III: The Wrath of Nikademus: Maintaining the style of the original two, with a clear improvement upon the graphics on all platforms except the DOS version. The combat engine also saw a few upgrades, adding specific wound locations, with characters now able to have their head, torso, or a limb specifically injured, broken, or removed. It was also now possible to have a more tactical battle line-up, with the ability to move characters to the front, middle, or rear of the party. The game also improved upon the spell list and added a larger variety of weapons and equipment. The game also had two possible endings depending on whether the characters chose to fight Nikademus or join him.
Hack: The object of Hack is to delve into a dungeon to retrieve the Amulet of Yendor, and perish with as much game points as possible. The player can start out with a different ability set, such as Wizard or Cave(wo)man. The player confronts various monsters: hobgoblins, leprechauns, acid blobs, bats, centaurs, chameleons, dragons, ghosts, imps, trolls, and has weapons, armor, potions, wands, rings and special items to aid in this. E.g. related to fire there is a scroll, a ring, a monster and a wand, and their interplay is to be discovered.
Once all the votes are in, we’ll review the lucky games, and put a video together based on your opinions, so stay tuned!