3D Realms Anthology – Steam Edition
Developer: 3D Realms (Apogee Software) | Publisher: 3D Realms (Apogee Software) | Release Date: 2015 | Genre: Retro / Anthology | Website: Official Website | Format: Digital Download
Ask anyone who grew up with PC games during the 90s to name some of their favorite titles and you can be sure that the list will include a good chunk of 3D Realms/Apogee titles. Simply put they released some of the finest games available at the time and ensured that PC gamers actually had something to show off to their friends who preferred consoles. Over the years many of their titles were released as freeware, but now for the first time the whole anthology is available on Steam. Containing a whopping 32 titles, the anthology is a serious slice of gaming history and unsurprisingly most of the titles are still a load of fun to play.
Alien Carnage / Halloween Harry
Released in 1994, Alien Carnage, or Halloween Harry as it was initially known, this side scrolling platform title bears a lot of similarities to its stable mate, Duke Nukem. Aliens are intent on taking over earth and turning humanity into zombies, so Harry is called in to save the day. The game features 256 color VGA graphics and is set across four action packed episodes. Instead of jumping like a traditional platform hero, Harry is instead equipped with a jetpack which uses the same fuel as his primary weapon which is a flamethrower. The game is still a lot of fun despite the fact that the controls feels a little stiff when using an Xbox controller. This is one of the titles in the anthology that is free from the 3D Realms website.
Don’t let the CGA visuals scare you away Arctic Adventure is still a great little platform game. The game is the sequel to Pharaoh’s Tomb, which is also part of this anthology and was released back in 1991. Once again playing as Nevada Smith your task is to search for a Viking treasure that is hidden in the Arctic. With 80 levels spread across four episodes Arctic Adventure is still pretty entertaining despite the dated visuals. It is another one of the titles that can be obtained for free from the 3D Realms website.
Balls of Steel
Pinball fans will appreciate Balls of Steel which came out towards the end of 1997 and packs five different tables. Duke Nukem makes his first pinball appearance, but the four other tables also features some unique themes. Darkside sees players fending off aliens on a space station, Barbarian is fantasy themed, Firestorm has a mad bomber causing havoc and Mutation is set in an out of control science lab. Balls of Steel is one of the only games in this anthology that gave us some trouble with some visual anomalies and speed issues, but these should be easy enough to sort out.
If there is one genre that 3D Realms/Apogee excelled at it was platform titles and Bio Mence is a great example. The game was released in 1993 and features EGA visuals, but still holds up really well. In this 2D platformer players take control of CIA operative Snake Logan in order to battle the mutant menace that have taken over the city. The game runs on the same engine as Commander Keen, which means the scrolling is smooth and the controls spot on. We are also happy to report that the game works great with an Xbox 360 controller. Players not tempted by this anthology can also grab Bio Menace for free from the 3D Realms website.
Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold
Play as agent Blake Stone in this first person shooter from 1993. The game runs on an enhanced version of the Wolfenstein 3D engine and requires players to hunt down the nefarious Dr. Pyrus Goldfire. The game improved on Wolfenstein 3D with some added floor and ceiling textures, but still looks very dated by today’s standards. The gameplay is still intact though and shooting enemies while keeping an eye out for informants is still a lot of fun. Blake has access to five weapons and there are more than 60 levels to blast through.
Blake Stone: Planet Strike
Aliens of Gold got a sequel in 1994 and it is also included in this anthology. Players once again face off against Dr. Goldfire who is up to his old tricks and creating an army of evil mutants. Planet Strike features 20 new levels included some new aliens and four new bosses. Visually the game looks about the same except for better lighting and a new auto mapping system. Although visually dated the game is still very playable.
Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure
Next up is another side scrolling platformer, released in 1992. Starring the alien Cosmo, players must overcome the hostile inhabitants of an uncharted planet in order to save his parents. With suction cups for hands and the ability to climb up walls Cosmo had free rein to explore the massive levels. The game features 16 color EGA graphics, but is still a blast to play.
Crystal Caves is one of those games that sucked up hours of our life back when it was released in 1991 and this platform title still entertains. Starring treasure hunter supreme, Mylo Steamwitz, players must kill enemies and collect crystals to complete levels. The game features plenty of alien blasting, but also a bit of problem solving as you complete the three episodes on offer. Playing Crystal Caves again is a very nostalgic experience, but even newcomers should have fun with this title.
Dark Ages is yet another side scrolling platform game from 1991 and while interesting from a historical point it hasn’t aged that well. Featuring three episodes, players take control of a princes who must liberate a once great kingdom from an evil wizard. Players must find items to unlock the doors to the next level while fighting off monsters using boomerangs and spells. Dark Ages features three episodes and was released as freeware in 2009. It is also one of the few titles in this anthology that required us to mess around with the speed settings to make it more playable.
Not to be confused with the 2012 remake, this is the 2009 freeware Windows of the game which is based on the original 1996 Dos release. Viewed from a top-down perspective, Death Rally pits you against other racers in a no holds barred to the finish line. The game features 19 different tracks filled with power-ups to collect and spectators to run over. You can also upgrade your car between races and even take part in sabotaging your competition. If you can handle the chunky visuals Death Rally is still a fun way to waste some time.
Long before he was wisecracking and running out of gum in 3D the Duke was kicking ass in this 2D platformer. You are required to go up against the madman Dr Proton in three levels of sidescrolling action that is as fun today as it was all those years ago. The game was released in 1991 and is one of the titles in this anthology that was already available on Steam. The visuals look a little rough compared to the sequels, but the gameplay is still action packed.
Duke Nukem II
Two years after the original game Duke Nukem II was released sporting improved VGA visuals and 32 brand new levels of sidescrolling platform shooting action. Evil aliens show up and make the mistake of kidnapping Duke Nukem in the middle of him promoting his brand new book. Of Course, he breaks out and proceeds to show the aliens why it is a good idea to mess with Earth. Like the first game, this is also a title that was already on Steam before the release of this anthology.
Duke Nukem 3D
Although it was released back in 1996, Duke Nukem 3D is still one of our all-time favorite first person shooters. Despite completing the game multiple times and exploring every nook and cranny it has to offer it was easy to get sucked right back in when checking it out as part of this anthology. Even the aging visuals can’t hide the fact that this is still one entertaining title. This version is the original non-altered version of the game, so it will appear as a separate entry in your Steam library to distinguish it from the Megaton Edition that was published by Devolver Digital.
Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project
Released in 2002, Manhattan Project returned Duke Nukem to his platforming roots, but retained the 3D visuals. The result is an entertaining title which sees you battling Morphix and his mutant army. With 8 chapters and plenty of weapons Manhattan Project was a lot of fun back in the day and definitely worth another playthrough. This game was also already available on Steam.
Hocus Pocus is another addition to the roster of bright, colorful, sidescrolling platformers in this anthology. Released in 1994, this title features VGA visuals, 16 realms and 36 levels of action. Playing as Hocus you get to test your skills against more than 30 creatures standing between you and your mission to become a full-fledged Wizard.
This vertical scrolling shooter caused a stir back in 1993 thanks to its “triple-parallax scrolling” which used the EGA visuals to draw three backgrounds. The game features three episodes and requires you to pilot a space ship while blasting everything in your path. The EGA visuals are definitely showing their age and it is a pity that the game offers a single player experience only, but it is still a great addition to the anthology. Major Stryker was released as freeware in 2006 and can be downloaded without charge from the 3D Realms website.
This is one of the games in the anthology that most players will probably only check out for nostalgic reasons. It was released in 1992 as an educational platform game and featured players squaring off against number stealing aliens using addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Like its predecessor Word Rescue, which is also included in this anthology, the dated visuals will probably limit the appeal of this title.
Step in to the shoes of Johnny Dash and rescue some pets, including your dog Tex, from the evil Count Chuck. This game dates back to 1993 and features some pretty impressive animations for a side scrolling platformer. Of course, by today’s standards the EGA visuals look a little garish, but completing the 28 levels spread across three episodes is still a challenge.
Monuments of Mars
Monuments of Mars is another title that is included in this anthology for completion sake and for people who want all their games on Steam as it is also available for free from the 3D Realms website. The game itself is a puzzle platformer from 1991 with CGA visuals and more than 20 levels of enemies as well as obstacles to overcome. It runs on the same engine as Arctic Adventure and Pharaoh’s Tomb, so players who enjoyed those titles will know what to expect.
Mystic Towers is an interesting addition to the anthology as it doesn’t fit into quite the same mold as the other titles. It was released in 1994 and stars an old wizard named Baron Baldric who is on a quest to clear out some monster infested towers. Despite his age Baron Baldric can still jump and climb ladders, but unlike the other platformers in this bundle the action is viewed from an isometric overhead perspective. You can also cast spells to defeat your enemies as you clear out more than 500 monster filled rooms.
Puzzle fans will appreciate the tile-based Paganitzu which was first released in 1991. The visuals are a little harsh on the eyes, but the gameplay remains intact and is still quite addictive. The three part adventure takes you through some ancient Aztec ruins as explorer extraordinaire, Alabama Smith. If you can overlook the basic visuals you’ll find a puzzle game that is still addictive despite its age.
This game was released back in 1990, so the CGA visuals are not going to win any awards, but exploring an Egyptian pyramid as archaeologist Nevada Smith is still a blast. Once again it is probably the nostalgia speaking, but the simple gameplay where you overcome enemies and obstacles while finding keys is quite addictive. Like many other 3D Realms titles this one is available for free from their website.
Raptor: Call of the Shadows
Raptor came out in 1994 and was one of those games that could actually give you that addictive arcade experience on computer. The VGA visuals were top notch and the thumping soundtrack complemented the action perfectly. In fact, about the only thing missing from this 2D vertical-scrolling shooter was a two-player mode as it was a single player only affair. Still, it has aged well and the action remains as relentless today as it was back then. With 27 different levels, tons of bosses and plenty of ship upgrades Raptor is definitely one of our favorite entries in this anthology.
Realms of Chaos
Realms of Chaos is another platform title from 1995 which showcased that not only consoles could pull of this genre. The game features a male warrior and female mage, with the ability to switch between them on the fly while tackling the 26 different levels. The VGA visuals were detailed for their time although on modern monitors can look a little messy.
Rise of the Triad: Dark War
Before the 2013 remake, there was this the original first person shooter from 1995. Running on a heavily modified version of the Wolfenstein 3D engine, Rise of the Triad gives you access to five different characters and thirteen weapons with which to take down the forces of evil. The game was known for its sense of humor and over the top pixelated gore when killing enemies. The large, trap filled levels and sheer speed of the game ensures that it is still a lot of fun to play despite the dated visuals.
Secret Agent is a side scrolling platform game that delivers 16 levels, 15 of which can be completed in any order. The game runs on the same engine as Crystal Caves and stars Agent 006½ on a quest to infiltrate the high security island outpost of some evil villains. The game features the same type of action packed platforming as Duke Nukem and Commander Keep which makes it worth a try despite the dated visuals.
Like Rise of the Triad, Shadow Warrior is another original Dos era first person shooter that saw a reboot in 2013. Like Duke Nukem 3D, the game doesn’t take its characters or setting very seriously and stars Lo Wang on a quest to thwart the villainous plans of his former employer, Zilla Enterprises. The game is still a classic and very fun to play, but bear in mind that it is already available for free on the Steam store.
Also available for free, this time from the 3D Realms website, is the 1996 scrolling shooter, Stargunner. The game features 34 levels and with 75 enemies as well as 33 bosses you’ll want to keep your finger on the trigger at all times. Destroying enemies rewards you with credits which can then be used to upgrade your ship. What made Stargunner stand out at the time was its use of pre-rendered 3D graphics and it is still a unique looking title despite its age.
Just about anyone who owned a PC in the 90s will have played at least the Shareware version of Terminal Velocity and it was quite highly regarded at the time. The game featured state of the art visuals back in 1995 and plenty of action without the need to study the phonebook size manuals that most flight sims shipped with back then. Terminal Velocity features nine large levels, spread across three episodes and while the visuals as well as draw distance are less than stellar compared to modern fare it is still a fun game.
Wacky Wheels was released in 1994 and finally allowed PC owners to indulge in some Mario Kart style racing. The game featured a large amount of tracks, different characters as well as a nifty split-screen multi-player mode. Players could also collect power-ups on the track with which to annoy opponents. It takes a while to adjust to the visuals of this game, but it still looks surprisingly good for its age and more importantly is still lots of fun to play.
The second, and last, educational title in this anthology is actually the prequel to Math Rescue and requires players to hunt for missing words in a variety of locations. The game features three episodes and more than 300 words to rescue, but like Math Rescue the dated visuals will probably limit the appeal to players who fondly remember playing it back in 1992.
Xenophage: Alien Bloodsport
Last up is Xenophage, which surprisingly enough is a fighting game. The PC wasn’t exactly known for this genre back in the 90s, so this game is worth checking out for novelty sake alone. It features a cast of very strange looking characters and you can even adjust the level of gore. Unfortunately, the controls are rather stiff and unwieldy which means the game isn’t that fun to play. In addition, the game was released as freeware back in 2006, so you don’t have to pick up this anthology if it is the only title you are interested in.
Despite the fact that eight of the titles included here can be snapped up for free from the 3D Realms website this anthology is still an excellence slice of gaming history. Most of these games were some of the best you could get in their time and while they have been surpassed visually most of them are still very fun to play. Players who grew up with these titles will probably enjoy going through them again the most, but even new players should check the games out to see why they were so highly regarded back in the day. The 9 track 3D Realms Anthology Re-Rockestrated Soundtrack which is included definitely sweetens the deal as well.