A brief history of Mac games

Sections: 2D, 3D, Action, Adventure, Arcade, Casual, Developers, Distributors, Features, Flash, Game-Companies, Gear, Gear-Other, Genres, Mac, MMO, Nostalgia, Online, Originals, Party, PCs, Publishers, Role-Playing, Shooter, Sim, Strategy

submit to reddit

Macintosh games were simple puzzles at firstThe Macintosh computer system has come along way in making a name for itself next to the more popular Windows-based PCs today.

Here’s a “quick” look back at Apple’s history focusing on Mac-based games.

“Byte into an Apple”

The first Apple computer was created by Steven Wozniak on April 1, 1976. Wozniak, a former Hewlett-Packard employee, and his high school friend Steven Jobs, who worked in the games engineering department as a basic circuit designer at Atari Inc. Although Wozniak was great at creating electronic gadgets Jobs was better at marketing ideas. The two would take Wozniak’s design and create the computer in Jobs’ bedroom, then later demonstrate it at The Homebrew Computer Club in Palo Alto where he would introduce his design for the Apple I. But no one would take him seriously, mostly because the Apple I was based on the MOStek 6502 chip and most computers at that time were built using the Intel 8080 chip.

Wozniak wrote in an article (publication unknown) that can be found in the Atari Archives:

“The 6502 microprocessor, for instance, was chosen for one reason only. It was the first one to sell over the counter for $20. The 8080 cost $370 at the time, and you couldn’t get it at any surplus stores. You had to go down to a distributor, and they made you feel like you had to be a company with an account. It wasn’t set up for hobbyists or experimenters.”

Initially created as a hobby and demonstrated at the computer club, Wozniak and Jobs would make their final adjustments, create the company Apple Computers and prepare the Apple I for retail. The computer was essentially a circuit board that lacked a monitor, computer case and a keyboard. Users had to literally build their own casing for the computer, so it was sold as a kit computer for $666.66 in a few small stores. Even so, the Apple computer set the standards for low-cost personal computers.

Let the games begin!

Wozniak would later be discovered by Atari as the designer of the Breakout chipset.The Apple computer would soon take off in 1977 with the Apple II, which showed more promise. When Jobs was offered $750 to take Nolan K. Bushnell and Steve Bristow’s game concept of Breakout and challenged to create the game for the Atari system with a bonuse of $100 for each chipset he could eliminate from the micro-processor design. Jobs would call upon Wozniak to help him with the project, or rather Jobs allowed Wozniak to do his work for him for a mere $750. But while designing the game chipsets for Breakout, Wozniak got an idea of how to make his computers more user friendly. In truth, he wanted to write Breakout in integer BASIC so that users can play the game on the Apple II. But to do that he had to find a way to improve the graphics card and create speakers for the system.

The end result would be the Apple II microcomputer, the first computer with built-in BASIC language users could use to create their own programs using a cheap cassette recorder they could plug into the built-in cassette port. Users could save their data and load programs using inexpensive tape cassettes. This included the games that were available for the Apple II which were available to users, some were games that were also available for the Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64 and the ZX Spectrum also.

The popular games released for the Apple II and III series computers included:

  • 1978 to 1980 Adventureland, Dunjonquest series, Global War, Lemonade Stand, Asteroids in Space, Flight Simulator and Dog Fight.
  • 1981 Raster Blaster, Castle Wolfenstien, Apple Panic, Ultima, Pool 1.5, Robot Wars, Zork, Zork II and Computer Baseball.
  • 1982 Choplifter, Cannonball Blitz, Snack Attack, Ultima II, Frogger, Zork II, Zork III, Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves, Beer Run and Computer Golf.
  • 1983 Lode Runner, Zaxxon, Ultima III, Chivalry, Spitfire Simulator, Chess 7.0, Germany 1985 and Wavy Navy.

Troubled Times for the Apple.

Most of the games created for the Apple II were still finding its way to the system even as an improved version of the Apple II called the Apple IIe was released with a few enhancements. At the same time the Lisa and Lisa 2 along with the first Mac system, the MacXL would be released. The name LISA stood for Local Integreted Software Archetecture but was also the name of Jobs daughter. I wasn’t able to find too much information about the games released for the LISA as it was mainly developed to be an office computer. It seemed the only thing on the system was a drawing pad users could doodle on.

Marathon is a first person shooter developed for the macintosh system

From Apples to Macs

In 1984, the LISA computer was upgraded and renamed the Macintosh XL. Because the LISA models were designed to be office computers the marketing department of Apple felt a game would lessen the systems quality. But eventually a game was added in the form of a desktop accessory called Puzzle. Using only 600 bytes of memory the game was similar to a classic wooden (or plastic) sliding puzzle you would slide pieces up, down, left or right to solve. The game was added to the system’s accessory list – which included the notepad, calculator and keycap finders – where it would remain for the next 10 years.

More games would slowly appear over the years for the Mac systems but 1984 would prove to be a trying time because they were in competition with IBM in providing fun entertainment. Some of the existing games including Ultima and Soko-ban would be ported to IBM PC computers or remain on the Apple II series system. Some of these games would eventually be released for the newer Macintosh models.

  • 1984 Arcade Boot Camp, Battlezone, Defender, Dig Dug, Joust, Donkey Kong, Galaxian, Iago, Karateka, Beyond Castle Wolfenstien and Robotron 2084. (*Note: Many of the games at this time were either ported or cloned versions of the arcade game.)
  • 1985 Gato, A Mind Forever Voyaging, Bard’s Tale, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? and I.O. Silver.
  • 1986 Might and Magic: Book One, Elite, Alternate Reality: The City, Marble Madness and Space Quest I.
  • 1987 Beyond Zork, Bard’s Tale II, Seduction, Wasteland, Saracen and Pyramids of Egypt.
  • 1988 Mancala, Bard’s Tale III, Wizardry series, The Last Ninja, Defender of the Crown, Zork Zero and Times of Lore.

There were a few games in 1988 originally written and played on the Apple II series later released for the Macinotsh computers:

  • 1988 Araknoid (a cloned version of Breakout), Glider and This Ain’t Othello.
  • 1989 Columns for Macintosh (a cloned version of Tetris), Dragon Wars and Magic Candle.

Halo was originally designed for the Macintosh but was bought up by Microsoft. It would later return to the macintosh as a cross-platform game.In 1989, a ported version of SimCity would be made available to mac users, it was a monochrome game that allowed players to control the fate of a simulated city and all its occupants. Also in 1989, Sierra Interactive and Berkeley Systems would release interactive screen savers for the Macintosh platform systems called After Dark Games which included Mowin’ Maniac, Roof Rats, Zapper, Solitaire, Toaster Run, Hula Girls, Fish Shtix and several more were developed as time went on in later versions of After Dark Games.

  • 1990 Darwin’s Delima, Ishido: The Way of the Stones (a game similar to Mahjongg), Spaceship Warlock and Otello.
  • 1991 Ataxx (a variation of othello), Loom, Rise of the Dragon and Moonbase.

Also in 1991, the Macintosh system would receive an upgrade to the graphical user interface and operating system the OS-7. The original slider game Puzzle will be replaced with a jigsaw puzzle game called Jigsaw.

  • 1992 Oxyd, S.C. Out (a remake of 1987 Apple II game Saracen), SimCity, Mac Soko-ban and Railroad Tycoon.
  • 1993 Battle Chess, Caeser, Lemmings, Gabriel Knight, Myst and SimCity 2000.

A new game for the Macintosh

In 1994, with first-person shooter games including DOOM gaining popularity, game company Bungie Software released Marathon for the Macintosh PowerMac system. The game introduce sophisticated concepts that are being used today in many of the mainstream video games. Concepts such as characters ability to wield double weapons and real-time voice chat. Games for personal computers such as the early Macintosh computers to the PowerMacs and the IBM PC systems will become cross-platform games available to both computers.

  • Macintosh games in 1994 Glider Pro, AmeobArena, Bolo (another version of Breakout), Same Game, Stones, SimTower and SimTown.
  • PowerMac games in 1994 Marathon and Wolfenstein 3D.
  • Macintosh games in 1995 Alone in the Dark, Phantasmagoria, Short Circuit and MacPipes. Also in 1995, Marathon 2: Durandal, a sequel to Marathon was released featuring brighter and more vivid world for players to explore. The sequel also included new multi-player modes that extended the deathmatch and cooperative modes of the previous game.
  • PowerMac games in 1995 Descent and System Shock.
  • Macintosh games in 1996 Another World, JSoko-ban, Super Othello and Zork Nemisis.
  • PowerMac games in 1996 Afterlife, The Beast Within, Command and Conquer, Hexen, Warcraft and Warcraft II.
  • Macintosh games in 1997 Simon, Connect 4, Stones II , Axium Adventures and the Myth series.
  • PowerMac games in 1997 Diablo, Duke Nukem 3D, Quake, Bubbles, Ceasar II, Galapagos and Postal.

Macintosh and PC computers will continue to compete with each other in years to come.The older Macintosh systems would begin to fade out as the PowerMac became the primary gaming computer until the next generation of Macs become available and more games are published cross-platform for the PowerMac, Mac OSX and the newer iMac. Speaking of which, there was one game that would have been a Mac-only game had it not been for Microsoft.

Macs vs PCs

In 1999, during a Macworld Conference and Expo in New York, Bungie introduce Halo to be released for the Mac systems in 2000. Unfortunately for Macintosh, Microsoft purchased Bungie and then released Halo exclusively for the Xbox in 2001. The Macintosh would eventually get the game in 2003 as a cross-platform release.

Today, the Macintosh computer system is more widely used for its productivity software and, while the competition between Macintosh and IBM clones still wages on, it’s safe to say games will find its way to the Macintosh in the coming years as the Macs continue to upgrade and expand just as quickly as any PC computers.

Read [The Apple Museum] Also Read [Atari Archives] Also Read [] Also Read [] Also Read [Theodor Lauppert’s Apple game history] Also Read [Steve Wozniak’s Blog]

Print Friendly
  • Robert Weiss

    Does anyone remember the game "Make Millions" I use to play it all the time as a kid. I've lost my copy and am looking for anyone with the manual or any knowledge of it so that I can answer a few questions.

    Please feel free to contact me. Thank you.

  • Lucy Newman

    Are you talking about the 1980 Make Millions simulator game? I don't think I've ever played that game but I did search some resources and Mac fan groups and found you're not the only one looking for that game. Was it a simulation, arcade, trade or card game? The only thing I can find at the moment are from the Tycoon series.

  • Jim

    Excellent resource, I am going to add it to my bookmarks. your list is better (more complete) than this one – I wish I could get Oregon Trail somewhere, loved that game.

  • Scott Sims

    Does anyone know the actual name & developer of the “honey bee” game that I believe came pre-loaded on a mac I used to own?
    (The bee’s stinger was fired to stop ants & other intruders in the honeycomb.)

  • Diego S.

    Holy moly, yes! I’ve been looking for that very same game for years! Was there ragtime music at the beginning and a level where you fly around collecting flowers? I think there was, because if so, and we’re thinking of the same game, then I can confirm that the title is:

    Bumbler Beeluxe. I found it on a Windows computer, though, way back in 1999s.

    As for the developer, it says Dadgum Games.