10. Pinball Dreams
Digital Illusions’ first pinball-themed project also happened to be the highest-placed in this top 40. By definition, it was the one that made the most impact; there had been pinball-based videogames before, but this one with its arcade-like tables (you wouldn’t have been surprised if somebody said they existed in real life), smooth scrolling and polished feel really caused everybody to sit up and take notice. Again, it’s a ‘proper’ Amiga fame that plays to the machine’s strengths, and even though it’s naturally inferior in some respects to its sequels (the slightly lightweight ball physics and the unnecessarily hard-to-read LED display) this remains a cracking play even to this day.
At the time often wrongly assumed to be the sequel to Another World, Flashback nonetheless blatantly takes its cues from the earlier game with the beautifully-rotoscoped characters (that animation is stunning) and massively cinematic (don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t…) atmosphere (too late). The intro sequence is sensational for its time and it sets the scene for what follows – a truly epic flip-screen arcade adventure that takes the basic concept of Another World, but well and truly runs with it to create a game that’s far more substantial while retaining that sinister and unsettling sense of mystery. A genuine classic of the 16-bit era and one that still bears repeated playing.
8. The Settlers
This beautiful strategy game seems to be best-known for its stunning cartoon-like intro (you know, the one with the knight) but it spawned a massively successful series of games. Calling it a mere strategy game is obviously doing it a massive disservice, but again (and this is awkward) it’s not one I’ve really played myself. Having received critical acclaim at the time, and maintaining a dedicated fanbase to this day, it’s the sort of game I ought to have let somebody else wax lyrical about. You really would have been as well asking me to describe the colour orange via the medium of interpretative dance.
7. The Chaos Engine
Now, this is what the Bitmaps were capable of – a superb two-player Gauntlet-like shooter with convincing AI and tons of secrets, to the point where you can complete the game but only see about half of it in total. It also has that trademark Bitmap Brothers metallic look and a superb soundtrack to back up the action. Don’t be fooled by the screenshot though – there’s more to it than brainless blasting and plenty of thought is required both in how you progress through each level, and how you distribute cash to upgrade your character. The Chaos Engine is a clever blaster with plenty of hidden depths to explore, and will keep you entertained for hours, no matter if you’re playing on your own or with somebody else.
6. Frontier: Elite II
Cripes, here’s another one I’ve been dreading. This long-awaited follow-up to the classic Elite was one that divided opinion, but those who love it really love it, hence its eyebrow-raisingly high final placing. Incomprehensibly massive, complex and ambitious, it contains plenty of bugs and needs a beefy Amiga to run it respectably. The sheer scope and involvement of the game is quite incredible for something that comes on a single disk, and while there are many who prefer the original, Frontier still captivates its audience even nearly 27 years on.
5. Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe
Yep, it’s those pesky Bitmap Brothers again, and they’re back with the game that Amiga Power magazine described as “a subtle blend of extreme violence and really extreme violence”, summing up this state of affairs quite nicely. If you’re on a computer, you may as well dream up a gloriously OTT future sport you can never play in real life (those health and safety bods would have a heart attack), and Speedball 2 does this in glorious fashion. The concept and execution are practically flawless, and though it’s fantastic as a single-player game, it really comes into its own with a friend. The short, frantic matches are perfect for endless replaying and anyone who’s stumbled on a NAG event will know this game is a permanent fixture amongst many of our members. And with good reason – it’s 30 years old but it could easily have come out yesterday, it’s that fresh and exciting.
4. Sensible World Of Soccer
Often cited as the best Amiga game of all time and one of the best football games on any format, it’s a slight surprise not to see this place even higher. After all, it takes the original Sensi not only improves the core gameplay with better aftertouch, more varied skill levels between players and teams, injuries during play and improved goalkeepers, it adds virtually every league in the world, an impossibly deep career mode, a brilliant tactics editor and an incredible amount of options for setting up your own custom tournaments and leagues to play with friends. It has as much or as little depth as you want, and it’s as effortlessly playable and absorbing as it ever was. And, of course, it has such a hardcore fanbase that they’re still making their own updates and releasing them even now to keep the teams as current as possible.
3. The Secret Of Monkey Island
Coming in at some 17 places higher than its follow-up, the original Monkey Island also remains an incredibly enjoyable and amusing adventure that hasn’t aged a day. As you’d expect, all the elements that make the second instalment so good are first-class here too. Genuinely funny games are still rare, and they also don’t get old – with its imaginative and witty scenes such as the insult sword-fighting, it’ll never lose its ability to make you laugh all the way through yet another replaying.
Very few games can genuinely be described as groundbreaking, and despite my throwing around words such as ‘influential’ and ‘iconic’ like confetti, Lemmings truly deserves this accolade. It’s such a simple and natural concept it’s amazing nobody thought of it before, and it captured the imagination of millions. Despite subsequently appearing on every format from the ZX Spectrum to the PlayStation 2, Lemmings will always be associated with the Amiga, and the huge numbers of A500s it must have helped to shift in 1991 is proof of that. We also had this running on our table at the Norwich Games Festival last year, and young children were turning up and instinctively grasping the concept – surely the biggest tribute to its intuitive design and execution you can get in this day and age.
1. Cannon Fodder
This was something of a surprise. Not because of the game’s quality, but because it ended up coming out on top by a huge margin, despite only receiving one first-place vote. It had a strong showing in every other position and such consistency ensured it took the crown as NAG’s favourite Amiga game of all time.
As befits as Sensible Software game, it’s a genuinely timeless classic. Even today, it plays like a dream, with its smooth and responsive mouse controls, clever (but tough) level design, amazing attention to detail, the gallows humour, and that title song. War Has Never Been So Much Fun, indeed.
But more than anything else, Cannon Fodder is, even now, one the few games to treat the subject of war with the appropriate amount of sensitivity and maturity. Despite the disgust shown by the Royal British Legion and the gutter press on its release, the title is inescapably ironic – every soldier has a name, and when they die their name appears on a roll of honour. Even more than this, they get their gravestone on the Boot Hill screen, where dozens of other unsuspecting fools get ready to senselessly sacrifice their lives. You become really attached to Jools and Jops at the start, guiding them to many promotions and through many missions. But like everyone in the game, it only takes one bullet to kill them. And when (not if) they die, it’s never the same. Suddenly, every death you suffer, every soldier you shoot to put out of their misery when they are writhing in agony, is nothing more than a statistic. Who cares? There’s hundreds more mugs where they came from, after all.
Cannon Fodder is enormous fun, packed with variety (you can drive tanks, for crying out loud – what more do you need?), and drips with atmosphere. But more than that, it’s a stark reminder of how brutal and wasteful war actually is. Don’t try this at home, folks. (Talk about ending on a cheery note, eh?)
And that’s the end of that chapter…
Well, for now anyway. Agree with the list? Are you suitably outraged? Surprised at certain omissions? (I was too, if that’s any consolation.) Why not drop us a comment below to let us know how you feel? And given how rapidly our group is expanding, we may well re-run this poll again at some stage to see how the collective tastes of our membership has changed. Not, however, before I’ve had a pretty lengthy lie down…