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Top 5 ZX Spectrum Games

Well, to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the humble ZX Spectrum, I have decided to compile a list of my five favorite games. They will probably not be the ones most people would pick as I’m just weird. The games chosen are the ones I have poured the most hours into personally, so they may not be the usual ones people expect. I guarantee you, there will be no mention of Elite in any size, shape, or form beyond this statement. It may be other people’s favorite, but not mine.

Number 5 – Football Manager

I am not one for playing sports games as a habit, but Football Manager is more a management sim than a sports game. All games played are pretty much random, so it’s more luck that you progress. Kevin Toms made this an addictive game. It’s not much to look at, but it will pull you in. You know it’s good when you wake everyone up in the middle of the night because you have just won the FA Cup with a score of 6-1.

Number 4 – Manic Miner

Well okay, so one of the obvious choices had to get on the list. This masterpiece from Matthew Smith took a considerable amount of my life away. Mostly trying to get it to load as my tape was not that great. What can I say here that hasn’t been said a million times before? Manic Miner is still one of the greatest ZX Spectrum platformers. Frustrating at times, but once you master a level you feel accomplished.

Number 3 – Chronos: A Tapestry in Time

Considering this was released as a budget title, it is an amazing shoot ’em up by John P Tatlock and crew. Some gamers consider it a bit slow, but I absolutely adore it. Who can forget the amazing sampled music by Tim Follin? This could have been released at full price, and would have sold well, so the fact it was available for £1.99, it was an absolute steal.

Number 2 – Knight Tyme

The Magic Knight games started with Finders Keepers, then moved on to Spellbound, which took a considerable amount of my time, but I never completed it. However, I did complete this third installment.

Knight Tyme has the Magic Knight aboard the USS Pisces and he has to get himself home by getting a Tyme Machine (developers’ spelling, not mine) from the Tyme Guardians and return home after Gimbel sent him aboard this ship by mistake.

The game uses the Windimation system to control its interactions. The game makes you travel all over the place to get certain items. Land on planets of enemies and hide from them to get vital items in your quest.

I have completed this game in both 48k and 128k versions. Yes the 128k version is an extended edition with more locations and harder puzzles. It absorbed a lot of hours out of me, and it was the first game I completed without a walkthrough guide. I even helped beta test the PC remake of Knight Tyme, probably driving the developer mad as I kept finding bugs when trying to complete the game.

Number 1 – Tornado Low Level

Now this would probably be much lower on most people’s list. Although people will admit liking this classic game from Costa Panayi, very few would have put it on the top like I have.

Flying a Tornado around a pseudo 3D environment picking up little targets may not sound like the most exciting thing in the world. However, it takes skill to get all five targets and land. Each level placing them in harder places such as on water or next to points where you have little room to maneuver. Also doing this while having the wings swept back for better score is a challenge. It also drains fuel faster in this mode, so you have to be quick and precise.

Overall, this game has taken far too much of my life away, and I don’t believe I have ever got beyond the third set of five targets as they become harder to get.

So that was my list. Probably different from most. A few honorable mentions must also go to games such as…

Lords of Midnight
Doomdark’s Revenge
Skool Daze

That list could go on for quite a while. So what are your Top 5 Spectrum Games? Let me know in the comments.

So it amazes me how the Spectrum has survived this long and games are still been written for it. Long may this continue. Happy 35th Anniversary to the ZX Spectrum, and here’s to many more to come…

Main ZX Spectrum image by Bill BertramOwn work, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link


When not trying to run old machines to their limits, I occasionally write articles. As a man who has spent too long around retro machines, I have managed to play or try virtually every retro machine out there. Also quite a miserable sod who is known for strong opinions.

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