History of Atari ST games

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During the age of the home computer, computer games were an important part of the software landscape. While its main competitor, the Commodore Amiga, had better hardware support for games, the Atari ST's aggressive pricing and a head start in the marketplace insured that the ST still had a large selection of games during its prime years. This page intends to show some of the most important games on the Atari ST.

The first games for the Atari ST were mostly ports from 8-bit platforms, like Hardball and SunDog, or from old arcade games like Crystal Castles. Atari also acted as a publisher in the early years, but as third party support became stronger they focused solely on hardware.

In 1987 the first games that were designed for 16-bit computers arrived. The first 3D realtime role playing computer game, the highly rated Dungeon Master, debuted on the ST. Other notable 16-bit games included graphic text adventures like The Guild of Thieves. Still, arcade conversions like Bubble Bobble were an important factor, and remained so until the end of the 16-bit era.

Another achievement on the Atari ST was the first multiplayer first-person shooter on a homecomputer: MIDI Maze. Using the ST's MIDI ports it allowed up to 15 simultaneous players in a simple 3D maze.

In 1988 more complex games, like Carrier Command and Falcon, became more common on the 16-bit home computers. But it also started a flood of TV and movie franchise games like Thundercats, which were often regarded as substandard games. Carrier Command and Starglider 2 were remarkable for being the first true 3D games using flat shading and in a complex universe. Thundercats shows a common problem of many Atari ST games: because the hardware does not support scrolling and the relatively slow CPU of the ST, games used large borders or frames around the actual playfield to reduce the amount of data that needs to be copied.

1989 was the peak of the ST's popularity. A large selection of games, including milestones such as Populous, appeared in that year.

In the 90s the Atari ST market became smaller, and so did the number of games. Many companies focused on the Amiga and released only their most popular games for the ST, such as Lemmings. But as with most systems, the most technically advanced games appeared in this period. Lethal Xcess impressed with smooth scrolling and a large number of sprites. No Second Prize was not the first 3D racing game, but had a higher framerate than all others and thus appeared much smoother to the spectator. Alpha Waves featured full-screen flat-shaded 3D, and a dual-player split-screen mode. Frontier: Elite 2 is regarded as the last major game for the Atari ST and was released (after many delays) in 1994.

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