With the Antstream Arcade search facility capable of narrowing its range by year, there’s a great way to discover the games from a time you remember especially fondly. In the latest of this series, we take a look back at one such year and the noteworthy games that make it a fantastic time worth travelling back to on Antstream Arcade. This month, we pop into our retro gaming time machine and zip back to the year 1991. 8-bit home computers such as the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 are still desperately holding on in the face of the Commodore Amiga and consoles such as the shiny and powerful Sega Mega Drive.
If you’re a fan of the Alien series of films then our little trip back to 1991 will begin with a familiar-
looking foe. In Alien Breed, vicious aliens have taken over a gargantuan space station and it’s up to
your lone soldier to work their way through the futuristic base, picking up key cards, weapons and
more while dodging those deadly xenomorphs. A brilliant, non-stop action game that’s quite rightly regarded as a classic over 30 years later.
What They Said: “Outstanding graphics and sound, lots to do, familiar Gauntlet-gameplay given a
number of new twists, and bags of atmosphere. In fact, this could just be one of the most
atmospheric games ever.” – Amiga Power, Dec 1991
Time for some sci-fi of a different breed now with this NES game from 1991. Based on the fairly well-known movie from 1977, Star Wars stars Luke Skywalker, battling the denizens of Tatooine before jetting off to take on the evil Empire. While no game for neophyte platform players – Star Wars is an incessantly tough experience, right from the very beginning – this is a gorgeous and authentic 8-bit experience for anyone looking to delve back in time on Antstream Arcade.
What They Said: “The game is huge: you can play for an hour and still only complete five or six
percent of the whole thing! Definitely the best film tie-in on the NES and one of the best Nintendo
carts for ages!” – C&VG, Feb 1992
Let’s stick to the home consoles for our next game, but graduate up to the 16-bit Mega Drive. The
Sega console became established in 1991, and this magnificent isometric fantasy game from
developer Will Harvey is another atmospheric experience for Antstream Arcade users. Battle a series of goblins and trolls to discover just what’s going on in this dark and grimy dungeon.
What They Said: “We've seen some pretty awful Megadrive RPGs in our time, but the Immortal
ranks as the best yet.” – Mean Machines, Nov 1991
It’s time to grab your bomber jacket and head on down to the arcades. While the heyday of the
Eighties is past us, there are still plenty of exciting and noisy coin-op games to keep arcade goers
occupied. One such machine is Burning Fight, a violent urban brawler along the lines of Double
Dragon and Final Fight. Let’s help Duke and Billy smash the dangerous crime syndicate!
What They Said: “Burning Fight is a lot better than I first gave it credit for. If you enjoy Streets Of
Rage or Final Fight, this is quite a treat.” The Video Game Critic, May 2015
Desert Assault / Thunderzone
We stick to the glowing neon and manic beeping of the arcades now with this fast-paced and chaotic run ‘n’ gunner from Data East. Scrolling in multiple directions, up to four players take on a horde of terrorists, picking up power-ups, cans of coke (for health!) and more while dodging the relentless enemy fire. Arcade games don’t come much more unremitting or exciting than Desert Assault!
What They Said: “Shoot! Kill! Let’s try button C – Kaboooom! It’s a hyper-bomb! Kill! Kill! Aarghh I’m dead. Hmm… that was quite good!” – Zero, Aug 1991
50p pieces exhausted, it’s time to return home and nestle in front of the Commodore 64. Yes, even in 1991, the trusty old 8-bit machine is still going, and there’s something of a resurgence going on in the puzzle game genre. This brainy maze game from developer Colin Jones has the player manipulating a series of triangular blocks to guide the sphere-bound human through the gap and further into the maze. Tricky and testing, this is a late-era C64 game that’s well worth checking out.
What They Said: “Graphically Zoomerang is adequate: nicely drawn backgrounds, basic fairly flicker- free sprites. The gameplay’s blinkin’ hard but addictiveness just keeps you coming back.” – Zzap!64, Apr 1992
Dizzy, Prince Of The Yolk Folk
We’re going to stay with the 8-bits now but scramble across to the C64’s great rival, the ZX
Spectrum. Originally released in 1991 as part of the compilation Dizzy’s Excellent Adventures, in
Prince Of The Yolk Folk, Dizzy and Daisy are out searching the woods for their naughty fluffle, Pogie, when they fall fowl of Rockwart The Troll. Having poached Daisy, the troll has locked up our hero, so it’s up to you to crack the many puzzles before Dizzy to beat this evil villain and rescue Daisy.
What They Said: “As usual, the presentation of this game is magnificent. Graphics are funny and
colourful and recognising then picking up and using objects is easy.” – Sinclair User, Nov 1992
It’s the early Nineties so we couldn’t wrap up our trip back in time without plugging away at a couple more 16-bit games. The Bitmap Brothers game Gods is very well represented on Antstream Arcade: you can play either the Mega Drive, Super Nintendo or Commodore Amiga version of this mythical deity-based platformer. Whichever you choose, there is a stack of enemies to despatch and platforms to climb before you can finally become a God yourself!
What They Said: “Gods is without a doubt the best platform game I’ve ever played and probably the best thing the Bitmaps have done.” Amiga Action, Jun 1991
Not happy with our picks? Here are some more 1991 games on Antstream Arcade: CJ The Elephant has plenty of both 8 and 16-bit-shaped antics in 1991; there’s more puzzle and strategy gaming in the form of Chip’s Challenge and Castles respectively; plus plenty more arcade action with those teenage cavemen Joe & Mac and the rock-hard shoot-‘em-up Ghost Pilots. Finally, for 16-bit fans the treats just keep on rolling: check out the Amiga games Switchblade II, Last Ninja 3, Prehistorik, Magic Pockets and more, while there’s plenty of Mega Drive mania with Arcus Odyssey, Beast Wrestler and the cute dinosaur pinball game, Dino Land. A trip back to 1991 in the Antstream Arcade time machine is never boring!
As the wiggly lines return, that’s it for another Antstream Arcade year as we are dragged back to the present day. Stay tuned for another Antstream Arcade Year soon!