The next time some hater tells you that “Mac gamer” is a contradiction, fire back with these best-ever Apple-platform titles. Sure, Apple’s systems have had their gaming downs; the short-lived Pippin had few worth playing, and the most fun we had on a Newton was “Find Elvis.” But the Apple II and Mac have had a vibrant ecosystem of games that stood out among all titles.
We had a hard time settling on 10. In no order, SimCity, Oni, Glider, Bolo, Crystal Quest, Out of This World, Deus Ex, Diablo, Civilization, The Secret of Monkey Island, Starcraft, Lemmings, Spaceward Ho!, Ultima, Myst, and World of Warcraft, were all significant but didn’t quite make the cut.
You’ll have a hard time finding copies of most of our top games. Some are available online , while eBay and local computer stores might carry old copies of others. But if you do have the floppies or CDs, the game isn’t likely to run in OS X. Try an emulator like Basilisk II to trick the old software into thinking it’s running on an old Mac or Apple II.
10. Future Cop
This excellent, pulp shooter earns our nod partly because its 1998 release echoes the scrappy days of the Mac platform. Players control a walking vehicle from an angled, overhead perspective, able to jump obstacles and shoot at villains. But the walker can transform into a nimble hovercraft, which moves quicker, although more recklessly. A small development team within EA used Macs to create the Playstation version of Future Cop, wanted to make a Mac version, and twisted a few arms to release a hybrid Mac/PC disc. But even without the Mac-fan backstory, the game excels for its well-crafted controls, fun multiplayer, and L.A.-wasteland setting.
9. Unreal Tournament
The choice between Unreal Tournament and Quake III is the choice between Coke and Pepsi; when you like one, the other just doesn’t taste right. In late 1999 and early 2000, these two first-person-shooters unabashedly emphasized multiplayer teamwork over single-player story, leading the trend for most followers. Both include a set of explosive weapons that are copied in most other action-shooters. And both come from nerd-turned-rockstar developers who like the little guy—Macs and Linux—almost as much as the PC. Why’d we choose UT over Quake III? Because we have taste. Look for MacSoft to publish last year’s PC game, Unreal Tournament 3 sometime soon.
While RoboSport carried the basic mechanic to a multiplayer level in 1991, ChipWits gave us cute, programmable robots in 1984. Using a graphical language, gamers place tiles with simple commands that mean “move forward,” “turn right,” or “if there’s a cup of coffee, drink it.” Then the programmed robots totter through semi-random mazes full of traps and bonuses. The most efficient robots earn the highest scores. At its release, ChipWits was a standout game on the nascent Macintosh. ChipWits lives again in its recently developed—and still in beta—sequel. The $20 shareware game closely follows the original’s design.
7. Battle Girl
Combine beautiful vector artwork and a two-joystick-style control scheme where you move and shoot independently. Add a perpetually repayable electronic soundtrack. Mix in low system requirements. Several games include all of these elements, but no Mac game nails the pacing and control just like Battle Girl. In this arcade homage shooter, you fly a spaceship through centralized levels, upgrading weapons, and blasting powerful baddies. Battle Girl came out for Macs before PCs—always a winning point with Mac gamers—back in 1997. While it’s not compatible with OS X, Classic gamers might be able to buy a copy from Feral Interactive if they ask nicely.
6. Marathon series
Yes, the Marathon games make an obligatory appearance in any Apple fan’s list, but they’re here for a reason. In 1994, about the same time PC players were fixated on Doom, we Mac gamers took to the good ship, Marathon. This proto-first-person-shooter has no jump, but the ability to aim up and down rocked the FPS genre. Marathon: Durandal and Marathon: Infinity include extensive networking modes, from straight-up deathmatches to team-driven conditions. Many office-, school-, and improvised-home-networks were touched by Marathon’s magic, and a fan-base still plays. Or console gamers can re-live it on the Xbox 360.
5. Dark Castle and Beyond Dark Castle
Mac-first Dark Castle, set an unmatched benchmark for gorgeous black-and-white graphics. Gamers in 1986 compared the shaded characters and chiseled backgrounds to chunky splotches of color on competing computers. There was no contest. But Dark Castle’s difficult, but responsive gameplay carries the series. Controls seem simple enough, running and leaping through side-view mazes while tossing rocks at enemies. But numerous hidden traps nab medieval adventurers, or worse, send them to the dungeons of Trouble. Just-released Return to Dark Castle, replays levels in the original games, while adding dozens more. It’s as frustrating and fun as we remember.
4. The Oregon Trail
This edutainment staple originated on DOS, but many gamers remember its ubiquitous 1985 Apple II version, often found in schools. We remember the hunting. This prospecting simulation recreates the one-way trip West, full of river crossings, toil, and disease. Your job is to see your virtual wagoneers safely across the continent; there’s always a semi-random danger waiting over the next hill. Save money on expensive food rations, and just load up on ammunition. That’s living off the land. Oregon Trail has been updated every few years, staying fairly current for today’s kids. There’s even a fan-made Facebook multiplayer version and a Flash clone.
3. Prince of Persia
The acrobatic prince rolls, leaps, parries, and thrusts through this side-view classic. Released first for the Apple II in 1989, Prince of Persia and its 2D sequel found a Mac audience, too. Great graphics and fluid animation are topped only by devious dungeons. Traps and guards block your progress, introducing a then-new puzzle-solving element to the action game. Long before 24, the original Prince of Persia gives only a real-time hour win, adding tension to the quest. The series has expanded to 3D parkour stunts with its console versions, but we’ll always love the game’s 2D Apple roots.
2. Lode Runner
The Apple II was one of the original launch platforms for 1983’s Lode Runner. Players navigate simple, side-view mazes, avoiding enemies by drilling holes into soft, brick floors. Moments after an attacker—or the player—falls into a hole, the space seals, crushing its victim. Lode Runner’s complicated levels require planning and careful excavation; this great game takes a simple idea and twists it into a mind-teasing puzzler. Lode Runner has found gold with several Mac releases, including the underappreciated Lode Runner 2, which ads a 3D angle to the puzzles.
1. Myth: The Fallen Lords
One of the original battle-strategy games, Myth doesn’t force players to keep track of resources and painstakingly outfit armies. Instead, players just get a bunch of warriors and issue them real-time commands to attack targets. Bungie’s wry humor informs the game, with careless dwarfs apologizing when their moltov cocktail misfires hit friendly troops. But the tactics involved set the standard for all followers; a few archers spread across several hills provide offense, while armored knights stand in defensive formations to give protection. If you still have old Myth discs, Project Magma offers a free OS X update to keep playing. This 1997 release looks dated now, but the action is timeless.
Not happy with our results? Vote for your choice of top video game.