top of page

The History of Video Games #8: ‘Spectrum Native’ Games

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

The Lords of Midnight
The Lords of Midnight

Welcome back, everyone! In the last article, we looked at the film tie-ins, arcade conversions, home computer and console port games on the Spectrum. In this, we investigate the 'Spectrum native' games that were developed from the ground up for the speccy and the other home computers of the day.

Better by Design

Spectrum native games suffered few, if any, of the problems faced by multi-platform games and ports. They were designed with a one-button control scheme in mind, they tended to feature clean, uncluttered backgrounds to aid visibility and to prevent attribute clash, and most were designed so that they did not require multi-loads.

Non-Scrolling Action-Adventure Games

Two very popular styles of games were the non-scrolling top-down and side-view 2D action games. These featured static screens with colourful sprites and scenery. Crucially, they had plain black backgrounds which ensured everything was always clearly visible.

Saber Wulf, Exelon - both seen in previous articles - were excellent examples of this, as were Atic Atac, Manic Miner and Jet Pac. Their simplistic gameplay made them highly accessible to both adults and younger players. Their simplistic design also made them popular with bedroom programmers. Similar games to these could be created relatively easily by first-time programmers with little assistance.

Atic Atac Spectrum

Manic Miner Spectrum

Video by RZX Archive

Jet Pac Spectrum

Text Adventures and Graphic Adventures

Another set of genres which were unique to the home computers were text adventures and their picturesque cousins, graphic adventures. Many of these games required typing in commands which would have been impossible on the first and second generation of consoles. What’s more, some could take a considerable amount of time to play through - six hours or more - which was impractical for an arcade setting. Two famous examples of these are Zork and Lords of Midnight.

Lords of Midnight Spectrum

Video by RZX Archive

Turn-Based Strategy Games

The home computers also had several turn-based strategy games, reminiscent of the board and card games of the era. Rebelstar 2, Chaos: The Battle Wizards and its sequel - Lords of Chaos - all received critical acclaim.

Lords of Chaos

The lead dev behind the Rebelstar and Chaos series went on to create X-Com

Video by SerzhSoft


That wraps up our look at the ZX spectrum and its impact on the home gaming, amateur programming, modding and demo scenes. Although the Speccy was by far the most popular 8-Bit home computer of the era - at least in the UK - it was by no means the only one. Several other 8-Bit home computers competed against it, some of which were more successful outside of the UK. One such computer - The Commodore C64 - will be the topic of the next article. See you all there.

Do you remember playing any of these games, or others like them, on the Speccy? If so, what were your experiences? Which did you like/dislike the most and why? Have you played any text or graphic adventures? If so, what did you think of them?

And what are your thoughts on turn-based strategy games? Feel free to share your views and experiences in the comments section below.

Iain is a 40+ author and gamer from England, who started his gaming journey on the Atari 2600 36 years ago. His specialities include obscure cult classics, retro games, mods and fan remakes. He hates all sports games and is allergic to online multiplayer. Since he is British, his body is about 60% tea. He can be reached via Twitter at, and contacted via email at

Nomad’s Reviews now has a Forum. Check it out here.

Remember to follow the site on Facebook, Twitter and become a member so you never miss an article. If trying to find the site via Google, search for ‘nomads technology reviews’ to skip a page worth of backpacking sites.

Obligatory e-beg

The site is not funded via ads; therefore, it is reliant on community funding to keep running. Therefore, if you like what you see, please consider supporting my work via Buy Me a Coffee, Patreon, PayPal or SubscribeStar. This would help to support the site’s ongoing work to preserve video game history, promote excellence in video game design, and champion accessibility features so that games can be enjoyed by all. Many thanks in advance.

Need Work Done?

I am available for hire! If you like what you see on this website and would like content created for your own, or if you have content you need to be proofed and edited, please get in touch via e-mail at You can view my LinkedIn profile here:

87 views0 comments


bottom of page