If you’re sitting there reminiscing about ‘the good old days’, then take a look at our list of the best 80s PC games and run straight down Nostalgia Boulevard.
That’s not a real place, so don’t go looking on Google Maps.
The 80s was an exciting time for computer games. With new technology came the chance to push boundaries and bring new concepts to life.
Many of the games you see below were groundbreaking back in the day and brought about features that we take for granted on our next-gen consoles.
I know they look simple, but these titles come from the Golden Age Of Gaming. They’re practically gaming royalty!
So, stick on some Def Leppard and settle back; it’s time to check out the best 90s PC games!
10. Lode Runner (1983)
I remember getting Lode Runner 3-D for the N64 back as a kid. Well, the original Lode Runner is just as tense and tough to crack, and it’s kickstarting our list of the best 80s PC games with a bang.
Robotic guards are after you as you try to reclaim a bunch of stolen gold.
If you’re good at Pac-Man, then you’ll be good at this game. It’s not enough to just move willy-nilly through the levels; you have to think and plan ahead in order to avoid the guards and survive.
Make holes for the guards to fall into, allowing you to hop over them and carry on collecting gold.
Once all the gold has been reclaimed from a screen, you can move onto the next. It’s the same premise through 150 screens, with the levels getting progressively harder as you advance.
And, when you’ve completed the game, there’s a level editor to mess around with too. Lode Runner boasts one of the earliest level editor modes out of any game too; imagine feeling what it’s like to be a game dev for the very first time!
9. M. U. L. E. (1983)
M. U. L. E. takes the 9th spot in our best 80s PC games. Four intrepid hopefuls looking to make their mark and a fortune in a new world.
How hard could it be?
This is a turn based game, and how much food and resources you have will determine how long your turn lasts. Pick a place to build, grow food, harness energy, and mine, and then get to it!
Let’s talk about why it’s called M.U.L.E. Multiple Use Labour Elements help players to build, mine, and reap crops on their new terrain.
If you’re playing at a hard difficulty, then they can also obtain Crystite too, the most valuable resource in the game.
Make sure to keep an eye on how much you have of each resource. As I said, too little food means your turn will be over in a jiffy, and too little Smithore means M.U.L.E.s will cost a small fortune.
As If it wasn’t tough enough, space pirates and asteroids drop into the mix from time to time to mess with you. Can’t an explorer catch a break!
8. Elite (1984)
Elite brings space trading to your PC. Come on; everyone fancies having a bash at how Han Solo makes his money, right?
Make money as you soar through galaxies, often running from the law and dealing in goods that aren’t exactly legal.
The wireframe graphics look a little sparse these days, but we’re talking about a game that came out in 1984 here. Commander Jameson flying through space while collecting credits and hunting bounties looked and felt just as amazing as watching Star Wars for the first time.
Every so often, your ship will come under attack. You can’t let that kind of action go unchecked; attack like your life depends on it (because it does) if you want to carry on trading.
In a GTA-style theme, you can just blow up any kind of craft, but the police won’t be far behind.
There might not be as many planets to explore as No Man’s Sky, but with a couple of hundred waiting for you to encounter, you’ll certainly have a wild time!
7. Populous (1989)
Populous is widely heralded as one of the best PC games of all time, not just of the 80s. If you’ve ever read any Terry Pratchett books and remember the gods playing games with each other, then Populous is very similar to that concept.
Game against other gods as you raise a civilisation and send them to war against the other people who believe in your opponent gods.
To start with, there’s only one human. Find land that’s perfect to build on, make a village, and watch as more followers come.
Once your city is ready, you must pick a hero that will go out into the world in the name of your god, a champion to destroy the non-believers.
Or the believers of someone else, at any rate.
As a god, you also have powers to mess with other towns and villages. Punish idiots who built on a flood plain by flooding them, build a volcano to rain lava down on their creations, and generally cause calamity wherever you go.
With 500 worlds to conquer, there’s plenty value for money too!
6. The Ancient Art of War (1984)
Next up in our list of the best 80s PC games is The Ancient Art of War, a title with one of the most intriguing games covers we’ve ever seen.
That could go up in a frame on the wall!
This is one for all the strategists out there. It’s like Risk crossed with Advance Wars crossed with Fire Emblem.
There are no guns to be found here either; draw blades and cock arrows as you take part in the ancient art of war.
I love it when I get to use the title in a sentence… it’s the simple things!
Send out spies, spend time surveying the lay of the land and finding places that give you an advantage.
Command troops, position them in key areas, and follow the battle in real time. It’s a thrilling game, even if it does look like something I tried to draw at 3am.
Weirdly, players go up against enemies such as Athena and Julias Caesar.
And yes, that is Athena the Goddess of War and Wisdom. How are you supposed to beat her?
5. Sid Meier’s Pirates (1987)
Sid Meier’s Pirates might be a bit of ‘text fest’, but the storyline is incredibly immersive and will have you hooked in seconds.
Well, minutes… it takes a lot of time to read through all the commands and story elements!
You’re about to dive into a world of swashbuckling pirates in different ages from history and across different types and style of ship too.
Most of the games we cover here at Retro Dodo don’t have the end goal of retiring with a tonne of money. Still, the aim of the game here is to acquire as much gold and silver, as much land, and as may titles as possible.
Oh, and a wife. Don’t forget about the wife.
Plunder, battle, and thrive on the ocean, attacking anyone that looks shifty. It’s a great game if you’ve always fancied the life of a pirate but have been put off by the whole possible death and illegal activity thing.
4. Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (1985)
Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar takes the 4th spot in this list of the best 80s PC games.
This game comes from a time back when you had to write the correct word or phrase to chat with an NPC.
It certainly made things trickier, but also more rewarding when you managed to get some info out of them.
The main difference between Quest of the Avatar and other RPGs of the time is that players aren’t trying to bulk up a warrior by maxing out a skill tree. The aim of this game is to become a great role model.
You don’t do good deeds for money or because it’s ‘supposed’ to be the right thing to do; it actually is the right thing to do and the only way to beat the game.
That might be a bit of a bummer for people who love being the bad guy, but that’s just how it is.
Create a character by answering questions to determine your virtue. Heck, you might learn a thing or two about yourself in the process!
3. Sim City (1989)
Sim City changed everything. Ok, So populous was a great ‘God-playing’ game, but this top-down city building game, complete with Godzilla disaster, was unreal!
Build a city; that’s the main gist of the game. How you build and run it, however, is completely down to you.
Will you create a clean area with sustainable energy, or will you pollute the air and tax your people to high heaven.
Players have to deal with natural disasters such as earthquakes too and the effects they have on the daily lives of the people in the city.
Start off by building a little village and watch it grow into the (hopefully) perfect city. Build homes, schools, shops, and everything you might need for a community to thrive.
Build power lines under water and even make an airport. Then, when you get bored and want a change, call on Godzilla to mess it all up.
2. Castle Wolfenstein (1981)
Castle Wolfenstein takes the silver medal in todays best PC 80s PC games. It’s a dangerous tale of a prisoner escaping from the clutches of the Nazi’s, stealing their war plans and leaving Castle Wolfenstein with their life intact.
Of course, you’ve got to use your imagination a little as the graphics are super simple. Still, back in the day, this courageous escape game was everything.
And, it’s one of the earliest examples of having to be stealthy in a computer game. Do you know how hard it is to be stealthy in levels that basically consist of a few red lines?
If you make a noise by moving too quickly, you’ll alert the Nazi guards moving around the castle. You can shoot them, but they don’t go down easily and are much more likely to kill you than the other way around.
Imagine a really… really basic version of Link moving around the Yiga Clan hideout in BotW, and you’ll get the idea of the game.
To say this game came out in the 80s, it’s actually pretty advanced. Alcohol will impair your accuracy and movement, and there are also guard uniforms that will trick some of the lower ranking guards as you move past them.
Never judge a book by its cover. Castle Wolfenstein looks simple, but it still makes for an exciting game.
And, maybe we wouldn’t have games like Thief without it!
1. Maniac Mansion (1987)
The results are in, Retro Dodo has spoken, and Maniac Mansion is officially the best 80s PC game of all time!
Back in the 80s and 90s, LucasFilms made a tonne of epic games. I know we tend to just think about Star Wars when ever we see George Lucas’ company, but they’ve had their hand in the gaming world for a long time too.
Players take a lad called Dave on a mission to find his girlfriend Sandy Pantz.
Just when you thought Keith Courage was the worst name for a computer character, along comes Sandy Pantz.
The mansion that Dave has to search through has been taken over by a mad scientist. Well, a scientist who has since turned mad because of all meteor that has addled his brain.
Point and click your way through puzzles and creepy traps as you encounter memorable characters. It’s a weird old game alright, but one that we still can’t get enough of 25 years later!
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Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 31 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.