There certainly has been a lot of good post-apocalyptic gaming recently. Between a man-made virus unleashing the zombie Apocalypse in the Left 4 Dead series and the aftermath of a nuclear war in Fallout 3, the end of the world never looked so good. Yet as good as these games are, the concepts they are based on are not all that original. Retro gamers know a little something about the joys of playing amidst the ruins of civilization because, after all, we’ve done it before. Between flesh-eating zombies, aliens or robots (or both) wiping out the humanity, diseases run rampant, a nuclear irradiation of the planet – even the advent of an Ice Age, retro gamers know the score, played the game…even bought the shirt.
I thought it might be fun to list as many games as I could recall that dealt with the end of Humanity and gaming in the aftermath. That means the world as we knew it has to have ended, not just a single city, like Los Angeles in Duke Nukem 3D. To keep the list manageable, I’ve only included PC games, and only those that were released in 2000 or earlier. That means no Half-Life 2, Hellgate: London, Left 4 Dead 2, or Fallout 3. Also, only fully released games are on the list: no shareware, vaporware, and – Sid Meier protect us – no “interactive” novels (not to be confused with text adventures).
If you know a game that belongs in this group, leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list. (Or not, if I think you’re completely off your rocker.) So, without further to do, here is the list.
2400 A.D. (1987, Origin Systems, Inc.)
A RPG set in a future wherein Mankind has been enslaved by the alien Tzorg race and are ruled by robots. (Aliens AND robots – it’s the best of both worlds!) Welcome to the Resistance!
Bad Blood (1990, Origin Systems, Inc.)
This Chris Roberts game is set in a post-nuclear holocaust world where the mutated survivors must prevent their extermination by the pure-blooded humans. Guess which side you’re on.
Burntime (1993, Max Design GesMBH)
In this RPG, deserts have swallowed up almost the entire planet, and you and your party spend the game on the hunt for precious water and food. Forget about gold, you’ll be happy when your party is fed.
Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess (1989, Infogrames)
This RPG is also known as Kult: The Temple of Flying Saucers. I’d love to explain to you the plot revolving around how a psionic-powered Raven has to face the Ordeals of Deilos to save Sci-Fi from the evil Protozorqs, but I think I lost some brain cells just by typing this much.
Dark Earth (1997, MicroProse Software)
Somehow the Earth has been overwhelmed by literal darkness, with only a few locations capable of receiving natural light. The darkness is somehow like a contagion, and, as luck would have it, your character gets infected and spends the rest of the game searching for the cure.
Fallout (1997, Interplay Productions)
Civilization has been wiped out by the cleansing rain of atomic fire in this classic RPG, and Vault 13, the enormous protected shelter that keeps you and your fellow citizens safe, has begun to fail. It’s up to you to find a replacement water purification replacement chip to save your people from the horrors of a post-atomic war world.
Fallout 2 (1998, Interplay Productions)
It’s Déjà Vu, as 80 years after the events of Fallout, some poor sucker – excuse me, your character – the “Chosen One” – is sent on a mission to save his tribe from destruction by locating the Garden of Eden Creation Kit.
Fountain of Dreams (1990, Electronic Arts)
A deadly mutation virus threatens to wipe out the survivors of a nuclear conflict so deadly that Florida was turned into an island. Too bad some Killer Clowns took out the only guy who knew the cure, and it’s up to the player to find the cure to save us all. (And, yes, I said Killer Clowns.)
Hoosier City (1992, MVP Software)
This is a side-scroller set in another post-atomic war world with mutants that need a butt-kicking. Too bad you start out with only a sword. Better find a gun, stat!
KKND (Krush, Kill ‘n’ Destroy) (1997, Beam Software, Pty., Ltd)
A strategy game based in a world where nuclear war has devastated the planet, and those remaining, the Survivors (who were safe underground during and after the attack) and the Evolved (who were topside and faced changes brought on by the resulting radiation), battle each other for control of the world’s remaining oil supply.
KKND2: Krossfire (1998, Beam Software, Pty., Ltd)
It turns out that nothing much got solved in the last war between the Evolved and the Survivors over the world’s oil supply, so they start fighting again. Except this time a third factor consisting of free-willed robots decide that both sides need an overdose of chlorine in their gene pool. It’s wild three-way post-apocalyptic action!
Last Armageddon (1990, BrainGrey)
In this RPG set in the future, Humanity has vanished and has been replaced by Demons. No one knows what happened, but no one has time to find out as now aliens are threatening the planet. It’s up to the player’s Demon characters to stop them!
Martian Memorandum (1991, Access Software)
The second Tex Murphy game finds Tex on Mars, down on his luck and needing a break. Along comes the case of his life, as long as he can survive it, that is.
Mean Streets (1989, Access Software)
This adventure is the first Tex Murphy game. Someone has been killing scientists, and it’s up to Tex to find out why…for a fee, of course.
Mindfighter (1988, Activision)
11-year old Robin is transported to a post-Apocalyptic future in this interactive fiction adventure game. Order is disintegrating in the conflict between mutants and guards, and the police state is becoming more and more brutal as a result. It’s up to young Robin to save the world!
Primal Rage (1995, Time Warner Interactive)
After a giant meteor smacks into the Earth and wipes out most of Humanity. The good news is that it also wakes up seven long-forgotten gods from a form of suspended animation. The bad news is that they think the best way to take control is to set dinosaurs and giant apes against each other in one-on-one combat. I think I know why they were forgotten.
Redline (1999, Accolade, Inc.)
In this driving/action game hybrid, the Moon has shifted its orbit closer to the Earth, bringing widespread devastation and turning the sky red. Now the survivors are divided into Insiders and Outsiders, and the player’s character (an Outsider, of course) is tasked with undertaking missions for his gang.
Roadwar 2000 (1987, Strategic Simulations, Inc.)
It’s the year 2000, and a deadly virus has decimated the planet. The player’s character has been assigned to locate and safely deliver eight scientists who together can concoct the cure and save civilization.
Tex Murphy: Overseer (1997, Access Software)
The final Tex Murphy adventure game brings the series back to the future gumshoe’s past, with Tex relating the details of his first case to his girlfriend. It’s an updated version of Mean Streets, with more detail (and much better graphics).
The Pandora Directive (1996, Access Software)
The fourth instalment of the Tex Murphy post-apocalyptic detective series finds our hero investigating a scientist’s disappearance, and uncovering the conspiracy behind it.
The Terminator 2029 (1992, Bethesda Softworks)
Another first-person action game set in SkyNet’s dark future. The player’s character is assigned by John Conner to infiltrate and destroy SkyNet itself, battling terminators and other machines along the way.
The Terminator: Future Shock (1995, Bethesda Softworks)
SkyNet has triggered nuclear Armageddon and all that’s left are pockets of Humanity and the seemingly endless array of Terminators sent to find and eliminate them. The player’s character is part of the resistance and undertakes a variety of missions to keep the hope for Humanity’s ultimate victory alive.
Transarctica (1993, Silmarils)
It’s the future, and the world has not ended in fire, but in ice, as a new Ice Age has covered most of the globe. Railways are the most important transportation mode, and the player’s character is a train captain who must overthrow the Viking Union, those who control the railways, and find out who stole the Sun.
Twilight 2000 (1991, Paragon Software)
A small border conflict between the U.S.S.R. and China escalates into a full global thermonuclear and biological war, leaving civilization in ruins. Your player characters are soldiers left behind in post-war Poland, tasked with the removal of a vicious despot of the city-state of Krakow.
Under a Killing Moon (1994, Access Software)
Tex Murphy is back in the sequel to The Martian Memorandum. This time the oldschool detective cursed to live in the post-Apocalyptic future is on the hunt for a mysterious statue that is said to be able to prevent the return of an ancient evil.
Warzone 2100 (1999, Eidos Interactive)
In this strategy game it turns out that the satellite defence shield designed to protect us was designed on the failboat, as instead it launches enough nuclear missiles to nearly wipe out all of humanity. The player’s character’s mission is to seek out technological artifacts to be used to improve the survivor’s tech levels, and thereby improve the chances for humanity’s rebound. But there’s still the issue of why those satellites malfunctioned…
Wasteland (1988, Electronic Arts)
In this spiritual father of the Fallout series, World War III has come and gone and the survivors try to keep life going in the radioactive aftermath. The player’s character is part of the Desert Rangers, a group dedicated to restoring some semblance of order to the Wasteland, and who slowly uncovers and must prevent a terrible plot to destroy what’s left of Mankind.