It could have gone so badly - trying to create a licensed shooter game based on a cereal brand sounds like a recipe for disaster. Happily, Digital Cafe did the smart thing and licensed the Doom engine - a proven beast - and changed the mechanics as little as possible. The result is a reskinned Doom with simpler levels, easier combat and cutesy graphics; and yet, due to the skeleton it’s built on, is still fun to play. For a game that you got for free in a box of cereal, Chex Quest is pretty damn cool indeed.
Microsoft Flight Simulator v5.1 (Microsoft Corporation, 1995)
The last of the DOS MS Flight Simulator games, 5.1 is a testament to the attention to detail of simulation games in the 90s. Whether you want to take off from your local airport, fly near famous landmarks, search the night sky for constellations or attempt an aircraft carrier landing, this wonderful game has you covered. It may look clunky by today’s standards, but tonight I sat at my computer desk and gently steered my little plane towards the moon over Munich and watched as the morning sun turned the sky pink - and it was just as magical as ever.
Wizardry: Crusaders of the Dark Savant (Sir-tech Software, Inc., 1992)
The seventh in the Wizardry series of role playing games, Crusaders of the Dark Savant is also, for my money, the best looking of the Sir-tech developed entries in the group. A step up from its ancestors, this game features clean, stylish VGA art with a great sense of style and some great creature designs. It’s also a complex, satisfying and rewarding RPG experience, where even tasks like mapping dungeons, casting spells and disarming a trap have a range of variables to take into account. It’s unforgiving, and there’s a lot to learn, but it’s also addictive and definitely worth a look. Just be sure to stay away from the ugly gold release!
Simon the Sorcerer (Adventuresoft Ltd., 1993)
A colourful, quirky adventure, Simon the Sorcerer is a light hearted fantasy tale in a beautifully drawn world. Featuring some of the finest pixel art and animations in any game, this is a gorgeous, relaxed and tongue-in-cheek take on the point and click genre. There’s plenty of odd characters to meet and strange puzzles to solve, and you’re bound to find something to like here.
Star Wars: TIE Fighter (LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC, 1994)
The next logical step for LucasArts after the success of X-Wing, TIE Fighter gives you exactly what you expect; huge space battles, in a range of different ships you’re bound to recognize, and a decent set of variety in missions. It really captures the feeling of the political issues of the source material, with some beautiful cutscene art to illustrate it, and there are a ton of missions to play through. If you’re a fan of space combat, this one will keep you busy for a long time.
The Legend of Kyrandia: Hand of Fate (Westwood Studios, Inc., 1993)
A funnier, prettier, better designed and tighter game than the first Kyrandia, Hand of Fate is an absolute joy to play. Great animation, no end of creativity and some of the prettiest locations you’ll ever see in a low resolution game make exploring this world a sheer delight. Westwood knew their pixel art, and it’s rarely been more apparent than it is here. One of the genre’s finest.
Duke Nukem 3D (3D Realms Entertainment, 1996)
Explosive, bombastic, gratuitous, self-aware and extremely fun, Duke Nukem 3D is a yardstick which all other shooters can be measured by. Never before had FPS games been quite so vibrant or interactive, and the genuinely fun shooting mechanics and level designs put most other games to shame. Filled with pop culture references, cheeky schoolboy humour and a sense of epic movie set design to the levels, it’s crude but never feels like it’s in bad taste. It’s a classic; just as current today as it ever was. Play it.
Alien Breed (Team17 Software Limited, 1993)
This top down science fiction shooter sees you battling your way through hordes of Alien like beasts, finding keys and completing various tasks in order to clear the base of enemies. You’ll learn to conserve ammo, keys and health very quickly, as the levels demand careful strategy, but there’s a great action game to be found here, and it has a great retro style that’s bound to satisfy any lover of pixel art.
Wetlands (Hypnotix, Inc., 1995)
An on-rails shooter with gorgeous video backdrops, Wetlands is a pulpy science fiction adventure that will have you blasting away at ranks of troops, submarines, spaceships and even blasting down enemy torpedoes. Where it truly shines, though, is in the beautifully animated cutscenes, which do a great job of setting the story in motion. Be warned though, this is a tough game, and it will take plenty of skill with your joystick to make your way through it.
King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! (Sierra On-Line, Inc., 1990)
A marked change in style for Sierra adventures, King’s Quest V introduced stunning VGA graphics which create an excellent sense of atmosphere. Some frustrating puzzles do put a damper on the experience - at times the game is downright unfair or inane, particularly in the very last section - and yet it offers a great sense of exploration and discovery, and for this it’s at least worth playing once. It’s far from a perfect game, but you’ll find some parts in here to like - as long as you’re prepared to weather the weaker sections to find them.