My Top 10 ZX Spectrum Games
Having just finished the epic Top 100 ZX Spectrum games by Kim Justice (see below), I realised that a couple of my firm favourites were missing so with that in mind, I am writing about my top 10 games.
Common games such as Jet Set Willy, Jetpac, Operation Wolf and SkoolDaze will not be included as I feel these were enjoyed by pretty much everyone and therefore would always top peoples lists.
The only other rule I set was that I must have owned and played the games when I had my original 48k hardware. Funnily, a lot of the games I mention are considered ‘terrible’ today and I wouldn’t disagree! It doesn’t stop them being my favourites from back in the day and even now, I still have some very nostalgic feelings towards them.
Honorable Mention (Position 11 if it were to exist)
Postman Pat might well be a terrible game but I spent many hours playing it with my cousin. Yes, it’s frustrating as hell when Mrs Hubbard writes your van off by cycling over you but the frustration would often lead to hysterical laughter as we reduced our lives to zero in the matter of seconds.
The world was quite impressive by Spectrum standards and of course, this is what GTA would have looked like running on a 48k.
The horrendous digitized speech was all the was required to pull my brothers and I into playing this terrible, terrible game. The aim of the game was to ensure a) as little damage as possible is caused to the city by the Marshmallow man, b) you catch ghosts when possible, c) you do some incredibly boring driving and d) you avoid getting crushed by said Marshmallow man when you approach the final doors.
Things we never new about:
When you press ‘B’ you can use the Ghost Bait we always purchased. This stopped the Marshmallow man appearing and mashing the city.
If you didn’t have enough money when Goza appears then you can’t win.
There were many times we played this game, I don’t think we EVER got our bank account code to work on future plays. It was a terrible game but we still loved every second – kids can be dumb.
I’ve recently revisited Movie and found it to be considerably more than I ever knew as a kid. The games premise is simple – recover a recording from the mobs and return to safety whilst avoiding angry mobsters, broads and various traps set for you. An isometric game that used the high resolution of the Spectrum, I spent hours wandering the rooms until death inevitably found me.
Often a game loaded and played by all three of us, we all would chip in ideas on how to progress in the game.
No.8 The Hobbit
Me: Kill Gandalf
Computer: You attack Gandalf but he is too strong. With one thrust Gandalf cleaves your skull. You have completed 0.00000000009% of the game.
The above is pretty much my complete memories of The Hobbit whenever I got to the barrels and trapdoor section. Having only a fleeting memory of the story, meant I never really progressed far in the game but there was plenty of fun to be had in typing terrible things.
Things we always used to do:
Try to eat Elrond
Give Elronds Body to Thorin
In recent years I discovered that you COULD kill Thorin. This was an amazing day that I have never managed to perform again. That’ll teach the git for singing about Gold.
No.7 Cauldron 2, The Pumpkin Strikes Back
A game we had on totally legit, high quality TDK cassette..
Playing as an angry pumpkin out for revenge, you bounce around (often uncontrollably) trying to collect magic and avoiding death on every screen. You’re aim is to reclaim the power that the Witch stole in the first game, something we never owned or played!
There isn’t much to say about this game other than it was incredibly hard but something about it kept pulling us back.
Not just loaded for the awesome music on the intro screen (Popcorn on our version yet the YouTube video’s I’ve seen have been something completely different) but rather the incredibly hard nature of the game. Possibly the most difficult of games on this list today, Pyjamarama not only baffled us as kids but left us wondering – is there really a way to complete this? We’d already had the experience of Jet Set Willy and it’s room crash bug so it wouldn’t have surprised us if this wasn’t flawed too..
In recent years I have revisited this game along with a notepad file containing the walk through and boy, there was no way 6 – 10 year old me would have solved this. The aim of the game is to get all the objects in the correct rooms before Wally misses work. Why his subconscious is able to wind a clock in the real world is a complete mystery but hey, this is a Spectrum game.
A cracking little Space Invaders game can be found hidden in the Games Room which is a neat touch. Positioned in 6th purely because of it’s difficulty.
Another firm favourite was Rapscallion, a game that sees you trying to recover your castle from Rapscallion the rogue. The Wilderness, The Magic Labyrinth and The Castle featured multiple rooms, all with something to find. Each item required was randomly placed each play-through making the game slightly different each time. The goal, drum roll please, was to collect the key to the labyrinth, find the Pixie with a magic eye and eventually enter the castle to find the deed. Simple..
The game starts with you being locked in your own dungeon before a fairy gives you the ability to swap between being a bird or a fly. Each room requires you to be one or the other with some being considerably harder if you haven’t changed. An interesting game that had us addicted.
No.4 The Pyramid
I played this game a lot as a kid, it loaded quickly and provided short, sweet arcade style action. As good a game as the Pyramid is, to this day I haven’t found anyone else who played it.
Progressing through chambers in a non-linear fashion (this was based on which entrance you tried to open), each level presented you with weird and wonderful creatures out to kill you. Collect the diamonds that fall from the sky and drop them over the appropriately coloured door and your done. Once you got the hang of it, the game can be completed in about 30 minutes.
No.3 Steve Davis Snooker
One of the only two player games we owned on the Speccy, Steve Davis snooker was a firm favourite between my middle brother and I. Fond memories of my best friend pretending he was colour blind, hence his loss at the game each time, there were plenty of times this game was loaded.
Very basic ball physics left the game simple to play but with enough challenge to make it entertaining, especially when playing a second human player.
No.2 Kokotoni Wilf
I never managed to complete a game on the ZX Spectrum. I’m horrified to admit that BUT it is of my opinion that games were considerably harder back then compared to now.. Kokotoni Wilf is infuriatingly difficult with collision detection not always being favorable. It was however, the game that I got the furthest on out of all our collection.
Attempting to collect all the parts of an amulet, your ultimate goal is to progress through 6 levels (different era’s in time) before attempting to keep the dragons a sleep. I never knew the back story until researching it today, I just assumed it was a collect-a-thon!
You have been ranked ‘Intergalactic Dustman’.
This was possibly the most common ranking I received as a child playing this game, it means you’ve done badly if you hadn’t guessed. For 5 – 10 year old me? It was hysterically funny and would be reason enough to start the game over again.
Glass see’s you attempting to decimate three alien cities using nukes equipped on your star fighter. Before you get to fire these off you must navigate through various game styles including scrolling shooters, 3D Deathchase style riding and target range shooting. There was plenty to do with randomly generated levels, enemies that were varied and a difficulty that didn’t feel overly unfair.