A Look Back at Mac Gaming

Posted: February 14, 2011 in Retro
Tags: , , , , ,

If you had a Mac in the ’90s, you probably recognize this.

Long before the Apple logo could be found in every other person’s pocket, long before the iPod, the Intel switch, or the hipster worship of everything Steve Jobs gives/dumps on them, Apple was a struggling computer manufacturer. Sure, they were huge in the early days of computing, but even after the introduction of the Macintosh, their top seller was the Apple ii line (which you might remember as THE school computer in the pre-internet age).

I had a 386 PC with Windows 3.1, but the first new computer my family got that I can remember was a Macintosh Performa. And when life gives you Apples, you play the games that run on them. So let’s take a look at some of the games that made the beige boxes from Cupertino a little less boring.

Bungie’s Library

You may know Bungie Software as the little company that made the Halo series. Well before that behemoth, they were just a small team of Chicago-based developers who worked exclusively with the Macintosh. Their first title was Minotaur, which was a multiplayer RPG configured to run on AppleTalk networks. A modest success, it paved the way for their next, much more ambitious title, Pathways Into Darkness. Pathways had a lot going for it – clean graphics, numerous levels (going both up and down in a Mayan pyramid), great sound effects, as well as RPG elements like inventory management, weapon proficiencies, and the ability to talk to other characters (although the other characters are all dead).

However, their biggest impact on the Macintosh, the game that made Bungie synonymous with Mac gaming, was 1994’s Marathon. Perhaps closer in style to its competitor System Shock than Doom, Marathon thrusts you into a bloody conflict aboard a colony ship as you try to stop marauding aliens from enslaving the civilians onboard while at the whims of a mad artificial intelligence. Also, it features things uncommon in shooters at the time – an in-depth story, multiple fire modes, dual-wielding, and the ability to use your mouse to look around. It was followed by two sequels, Durandal and Infinity, both of which sold very well on the Mac (and even had custom trapezoidal boxes). Soon, Bungie branched out to the PC with Myth, before their sale to Microsoft. And the rest is history.

Escape Velocity

Another name to know in Mac gaming is the (still operational) Ambrosia Software. While they had produced a wide variety of smaller, arcade style games such as Apeiron and Maelstrom, their biggest and most ambitious games were the Escape Velocity games. Putting you in control of a freighter captain, you flew around the galaxy much as you can in Mass Effect, trading commodities, ferrying passengers and cargo to new planets, and perhaps getting involved in an interstellar war. It’s an interesting game that’s hard to categorize, but it’s a very immersive and fun game that garnered a lot of fans – and two sequels.


Bolo was another game that utilized the AppleTalk network- a game where you controlled a tank and fought it out with other players while dodging fire from pillboxes. While it looks primitive by today’s standards, Bolo was one of the most popular multiplayer games in its day, and some of the maps were brilliantly designed. Having not had an opportunity to play it much myself, I can’t say a lot about it. But I remember hearing a lot about it.

F/A-18 Hornet

The Mac counterpart to Falcon 3.o, Hornet put you in the cockpit of the US Navy’s nimble twin-engine fighter as you fly missions in Kuwait and Korea. The flight model and attention to detail is pretty impressive, even for a flight sim. The game was polygon-heavy, too – we had to get a video upgrade with a floating point unit for optimal performance. I remember playing this one pretty extensively as I had an expensive joystick and there weren’t a whole lot of other flight sims on the Mac (off the top of my head I can only remember X-Wing, A-10 Cuba, and Comanche). And this one was, as real aircraft sims go, the best.


Wot, more work?

Even when nobody else was, Blizzard was kind to the Macintosh crowd. Each of their releases since 1994’s Warcraft: Orcs & Humans have seen simultaneous PC/Mac releases. The fact that they managed to always polish their games to a fine sheen ( I hated WarCraft 3, but it WAS polished) while managing to keep the versions functionally and aesthetically the same made them a much loved and very successful developer on both the PC and Mac fronts. Which is news to nobody.


The Mac was home to a number of ports from the PC – the top sellers like Doom and SimCity (and its fantastic sequel SimCity 2000) made it over, and LucasArts ported most of their games over for a number of years (Rebel Assault and the SCUMM-based adventure games were extremely popular on all systems at the time). Interplay had an entire division, MacPlay, dedicated to porting over their most popular titles (and a few that weren’t theirs) – among them Star Trek: 25th Anniversary, Alone in the Dark, and eventually Fallout.

So there’s your look back at what it was like to have the less popular system back in the ’90s. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a HyperCard deck to flip through.

  1. zmfrederick says:

    I wrote a similar (although yours is much longer and more thorough) about the top classic mac games. You definitely mentioned some games I’d forgetten (although you take a similar liberty by including BIizzard when they weren’t really exclusively Mac games)

    check it out if you’re interested: http://bit.ly/ejVEnv

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s