Your favourite Sinclair ZX Spectrum games

The humble Spectrum is 30 years old. Here is a completely biased, unscientific celebration of 10 outstanding games from the glory days

For many of us it was a formative part of growing up, as essential in the home as Star Wars figures.

The colourful successor to the black and white ZX81 was launched on 23 April 1982, making it 30 years old today. Released with just 16k, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum evolved between 1982 and 1992 to include 48k and 128k variants. In total, Spectrum models sold over five million units.

For ten years the humble Sinclair ZX Spectrum was plugged into TVs up and down the land and, despite the original aspirations of its creator Sir Clive Sinclair, it was the games that had us hooked.

So to celebrate this anniversary we asked our readers and our team to hit us with their favourite Spectrum game memories. From among the posts on our forum, Facebook, Twitter and emails to the office, we mined these 10 gems. Click through to read what people have to say about them…

1. Ant Attack
2. Starion
3. 3D Deathchase
4. Kentilla
5. The Horace series of games
6. Lords Of Midnight
7. Tir Na Nog
8. Knight Lore
9. Manic Miner
10. Jet Set Willy

We’re well aware that, with hundreds of games to choose from, this list doesn’t even come close. We know a thousand people will wonder where Atic Atac , Jetpac , the Wally Week games, Quazatron or
Elite are. But it’s not meant to be definitive – this is a simple nostalgia blast and we welcome your suggestions in the comment thread below or over on our forum .

Let the happy memories begin !

1: Ant Attack
Sandy White/Quicksilva (1983)

Enormously innovative isometric game pitting you against a city plagued by giant ants. You can play it right now over at Sandy White’s website – go go go! Here’s what other folk said:

DarthHoob ( SFX forum)
“A clumsy control system still never put you off playing this amazing game . One of the first 3D games. The idea was you entered a city overun by giant ants and rescue damsels (or guys, it wasn’t sexist!) in distress and then lead them to safety. Rescuing people got progressively harder as they would be in harder to reach areas. Not to mention the perils of plunging to your death sometimes.”

Richard Brompton ( SFX Facebook page)
“I could never work out Ant Attack !”

2: Starion
David M Webb/Melbourne House (1985)

3D space adventure published by the company which brought you Barbarian , Marble Madness and The Hobbit . Here’s its page on World Of Spectrum and here come the testimonials:

Steve Jarratt (erstwhile editor of Crash magazine, erstwhile group senior editor of SFX )
“The game I played most was Starion , which I played with my mate because it had an alternate two-player mode. A mixture of shooting and puzzles. In space! It was wireframe 3D like Elite but really slick and, to an extent, more immediately enjoyable.”

Sensei Ping ( SFX forum)
Starion was a good combination of shooter and adventure game. You flew a wireframe vector graphic starship, zapped the vector graphic aliens, collected letters to form words to complete a grid puzzle to get the next level.”

3: 3D Deathchase
Mervyn Estcourt/Micromega (1983)

Race through a forest on a motorcycle in pursuit of two rogues. Curiously like a certain Endor sequence and despite its simple effects, consistently rated as one of the most popular games of the time. Your thoughts?

RationalRed ( SFX forum)
Deathchase was another good one: 3D as well, you’re on a motorbike going through a forest chasing two other bikes – successfully shoot them and go on to the next level with a slightly more dense forest.”

cuilean ( SFX forum)
“I had a huge soft spot for 3D Deathchase and, I think it was, 3D Starstrike because of their similarity to certain sequences in the Star Wars trilogy…”

4: Kentilla
Derek Brewster/Mastertronic (1984)

Celebrated text adventure by Derek Brewster (who also used to write the adventure column for Crash ). Surely there was no bias there… but Crash did give it 10 out of 10 and a “Crash Smash” award. We said:

Rob Power (editorial assistant on SFX )
Kentilla remains absolutely one of the best text games I ever played. They used to sell the tapes at the newsagent up the road for about a quid. Happy days.”

5: Hungry Horace (And Sequels)
William Tang/Beam Software (1982-1983)

Sort-of Pac-Man clone Hungry Horace paved the way for partial Frogger clone Horace Goes Skiing and kinda Pitfall clone Horace And The Spiders . Who wants to give them a round of applause?

RationalRed ( SFX forum)
Hungry Horace was awesome. As was Horace Goes Skiing : run across the road, get your skis, run back across the road, ski down a mountain (going through flags), run across another road, ski down another mountain…”

Ed the Head ( SFX forum)
“I also loved Horace Goes Skiing . And Barbarian and Army Moves .”

Andy Mitch Meldrew Mitchell (SFX Facebook page)
Way Of The Exploding Fist , Hungry Horace , Jet Set Willy – compilation c90 cassettes with loads of copied games on them with cards detailing at what point the counter on your tape deck would start the next game. Not that I ever took part in ‘piracy’…”

6: Lords Of Midnight
Mike Singleton/Beyond Software (1984)

Epic turn-based wargame – Midnight and its sequel Doomdark’s Revenge are still wonderful fantasy games to this day. At the time they were positively mind-blowing. He thinks again…

Rob Stradling ( SFX Facebook page)
Lords Of Midnight , Ant Attack , Starion and, of course, Elite . Do I want that misspent youth back? No, not really.”

Pinky and Perky are SciFi ( SFX forum)
Lords Of Midnight if I recall was blummin hard and took adventure games to new graphical levels.”

Stumpy ( SFX forum)
Doomdark’s Revenge was a follow up to Lords Of Midnight . Personally I liked it more than the original game. Hey ho.”

7: Tir Na Nog
Greg Follis, Roy Carter/Gargoyle Games (1984)

From the company that brought you other adventures with big sprites and parallax background (sequel Dun Darach , space-set Marsport ) came this huge game world . You play Celtic hero Cuchulainn as he explores the afterlife. 9/10 in Sinclair User . You agree?

Sensei Ping ( SFX forum)
“Gargoyle Games did a load of visually ravishing (for the time) and quite cerebral adventure games like Tir Na Nog and Marsport .”

Stumpy ( SFX forum)
Tir Na Nog ? Too many good memories for words from the old Speccy. Used to love that machine and its games. They were astonishingly accomplished for such a limited amount of resources. Many of today’s modern games could learn a great deal from those old pioneers. Gameplay is all guys.”

8: Knight Lore
Tim and Chris Stamper/Ultimate Play The Game (1984)

The third in the Sabreman series used the unique Filmation graphics engine to create a distinctive isometric 3D environment. 40 days and nights were yours to find the wizard who can cure your lycanthrope. Iconic . Thoughts?

Dave Bradley (editor-in-chief of SFX )
“My first glimpse of Knight Lore was in a branch of Boots when they used to flog Spectrums on the upper floor – I couldn’t believe they could actually squeeze colourful 3D like that into 48k. People were standing around agog, hypnotised by the little Sabreman chap turning into a ‘werewulf’ and hopping between gothic blocks. I couldn’t imagine there’d ever be a more beautiful game. When I finally got my own copy at Christmas it turned out to be a decent (if slightly fiendish and repetitive) puzzler into the bargain.”

Ashley Beeching ( SFX Facebook page)
“It’s a toss up between Knight Lore , Fairlight , Tir Na Nog and 3D Starstrike ! Okay, Knight Lore then.”

9: Manic Miner
Matthew Smith/Bug-Byte Software/Software Projects (1983)

The first of the Miner Willy series – its sequel is number 10 in our list – saw you hopping your way through 20 insane levels. Many, many people wanted to give a shout out to this classic platform game . Here are a few highlights:

Matt Bielby (editor of Comic Heroes , erstwhile editor of Your Sinclair , erstwhile editor of SFX )
“Back in the day I might have said a slick arcade conversion like R-Type or Rainbow Islands was my favourite, but the world’s moved on (and then some) and the idea that these might be considered in any way polished now seems laughable. Instead I’ll plump for a slice of ‘pure’ Spectrum gaming: the early platform game Manic Miner , home-made, ground-breaking, genre-delineating, technically remarkable, entirely lovable.”

Richard Edwards (deputy editor of SFX )
“The pixels were nearly as big as Miner Willy’s head, yet Manic Miner remains one of my all-time best platform games. It’s got all the elements a good platformer needs: a simple premise, easy-to-understand goals, and incentives to keep you from hanging around (limited lives and an ever-decreasing air supply). In those pre-‘save’ days, every game was a one-take deal, every run through spent learning the tricks that would help you dodge one of those iconic man-eating toilets. Just thinking about it now is enough to get Grieg’s ‘In The Hall Of The Mountain King’ embedded as an earworm…”

Lucas Borkowski ( SFX Facebook page)
Manic Miner , Jet Set Willy , The Hobbit and Dan Dare … it’s the prehistory!”

Veela Magnet ( SFX forum)
“I agree with Mr Bielby. And while everyone seemed to fondly remember the expansive, more epic sequel Jet Set Willy , I’ll always have a place in my heart for the episodic original which started it all.”

Alex Fairley ( SFX Facebook page)
“I owned two models: one 48k Spectrum and one 128k Spectrum. Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy spring to mind. I had all the extras too… Microdrives and that horrible printer. Ahhh the memories!”

10: Jet Set Willy
Matthew Smith/Software Projects (1984)

Having made it rich through mining, class traitor Willy buys a mansion and spends his weekend tidying up after a huge party. This surreal jump-and-dodge classic is one of the first non-linear platform games and is famous for being unfinishable due to bugs. Here’s what the crowds sing:

Adrian Hill (ad manager of SFX )
“I remember saving up £99 to buy my first ever computer, a shiny new Spectrum with eight free games! Wow! My favourite at the time was Jet Set Willy . How I remember loading the tape, going for tea and returning to ‘Error 49!'”

Guy Haley ( author , editor of SFX Special 57: Anime , erstwhile deputy editor of SFX )
“My enduring memory is of playing Jet Set Willy in my dad’s friend’s son’s room. He was about six years older than me and into toy soldiers, comics and loads of stuff that made him look way cool to me (he’s a geneticist now). He even had a fishtank. I remember thinking at the time, ‘how come there’s no cool games like this for my computer?’ That changed, but the Spectrum and Jet Set Willy was where it was at in the beginning.”

Aeyjay ( SFX forum)
Jet Set Willy was a frustrating platformer!”

wolfe_masque ( SFX forum)
“I’d have to say Jet Set Willy – still love the memories of it, even today!”

Stumpy ( SFX forum)
Jet Set Willy – though preferably without that damned annoying bug that used to kill you after you’d entered certain rooms!”

Darren Betts-Graves ( SFX Facebook page)
“For all Jet Set Willy fans with an Xbox360, pick up Fez from the Xbox Live Arcade.”

Right, your turn! Feel free to tell us your thoughts on these or other fond Spectrum memories, either in the comment thread below or over on the forum where people are talking about this topic right now .

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