Back in the late 1980s, my late father’s brother Sixto gave me my first personal computer, an Apple IIe with a color monitor, a joystick, and an ImageWriter II dot-matrix printer. It was to be used for college-related work – I had been staying on campus till 6:30 PM every weekday so I could use similar computers at Miami-Dade Community College – South’s Apple Lab center – and that was its primary purpose.
Of course, home computers are good for gaming as well as for creative or productive endeavors, so since 1987 I have bought and played many games from various developers or game publishers, including Epyx, Broderbund, Mindscape, Electronic Arts, Spectrum Holobyte, Avalon Hill Microcomputer Games, SSI, Lucasfilm Games (later Lucas Arts), Matrix/Slytherin Games, and Killerfish Games.
But if I had to choose a favorite game developer/publisher of computer games, it would have to be the original incarnation of MicroProse Software, founded in 1982 by former Air Force pilot Bill (Wild Bill) Stealey and the now-legendary game designer/programmer Sid Meier.
MicroProse Software was, from 1982 to the early 2000s, one of the leaders in the entertainment software industry, first as an independent company with an in-house studio (MPS Labs), then as a subsidiary of other companies, including Spectrum Holobyte and Hasbro, Interactive. Known first for such simulations as Silent Service, F-15 Strike Eagle, and F-19 Stealth Fighter (and their sequels), MicroProse is also famous for being the original publisher of Sid Meier’s Civilization and Sid Meier’s Civilization II.
Sadly, the original company shut down in 2003 after a series of mergers and acquisitions; but out of its ashes, a new MicroProse emerged a few years ago and is back in the game design/game publishing business.
As I said earlier, I have owned and played many of MicroProse’s games, mostly from the 1980s-1990s part of the timeline. And, as you might deduce from my post’s headline, here are my Top 10 titles!
- Crusade in Europe (1985): I don’t know how many hours I played this, the first game in MicroProse’s Command Series trilogy of operational strategy games. Set during the first seven months of the Allied campaign in Northwest Europe, Crusade in Europe puts you in command of either the Allied or German armies from, as the blurb on the box said, “D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge!” All I know is that I played Crusade from 1987 till my Apple IIe’s monitor stopped working sometime in 1998. (I played other games on that computer, too, but Crusade in Europe was by far the favorite.)
- Sid Meier’s Civilization – Sid Meier’s Civilization II (1991-1996): Technically, these two games are separate and distinct, but these were the only two titles in the long-running Civilization series published by MicroProse. I loved the first one, even though its graphics were rudimentary compared to those of the sequel – which Meier only lent his “brand name” to but was designed by Jeffrey Briggs and others at MicroProse. – but I loved Civ II more. I still have the original CD-ROM to Civilization II in my CD carrying case.
- F-15 Strike Eagle III (1992): I played all three of MicroProse’s F-15 Strike Eagle games, and although I liked each game for what it brought to the table, my favorite one was the third and last game in the series. Sure, by 2020s standards the graphics were pokey, but in 1992 – when I bought my copy – F-15 Strike Eagle III was, in my view, la crème de la crème. The only complaints I had were that they – like the other titles in the series – depicted combat missions as one-plane jobs with no simulated wingmen in “Single Player” mode. (There was an early LAN-based mode where you could play with another person via modem, but I never got to do that) and that it required “bootup” disks to start the program.
- Red Storm Rising (1989): Based on the international best-seller by Tom Clancy and Larry Bond – or just the submarine warfare aspects of the novel – Red Storm Rising was my favorite submarine simulation of all time.
- Silent Service II (1990): Of the titles I’ve listed so far, this is one that I play in 2022 thanks to Tommo’s Retroism label, which has reissued some of “Classic” MicroProse’s popular games. It shares many features introduced in Red Storm Rising, such as the ability to command boats from different classes of U.S. Navy submarines and an “entire war” campaign mode, as well as ones that carried over from Sid Meier’s original 1985 Silent Service.
- M1 Tank Platoon (1989): I’ve written a lot lately about M1 Tank Platoon, so I’m just gonna say I play it now because it was reissued by Interactive Entertainment not that long ago.
- F-15 Strike Eagle II (1989): Apparently, 1989 was an extremely great year for MicroProse as far as publishing fine, critically acclaimed games and sims went. And although F-15 Strike Eagle has features I find slightly absurd – such as depicting the Strike Eagle as a carrier-borne aircraft in the Libya and Vietnam scenarios, for instance – I still liked the upgrade in graphics from the original F-15 Strike Eagle sim, as well as the change in air-to-ground ordnance from Mk-82 bombs to Maverick air-to-ground missiles. Sadly, I can’t find a legitimate reissue of this game.
- NATO Commander (1983): This was a precursor to the Sid Meier-Ed Bever Command Series of real-time strategy at the operational level. It introduced many of the concepts of game play in those WWII-themed games, including the use of NATO map symbols and simple keyboard action commands. The difference, of course, is that NATO Commander depicted World War III in the classic Warsaw Pact-invades-West Germany scenario, with various sub-scenarios set in the same theater of war but with different victory conditions and lengths of battles.
- F-117A Nighthawk: Stealth Fighter 2.0 (1991)A full on remake of F-19 Stealth Fighter, this game availed itself of 256-color VGA graphics technology and the declassification of the F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter (actually, a stealth tactical bomber). It could be “flown” in two modes – the realistic air-to-ground-only Lockheed model, or the fictional F-19-in-F-117A clothing MicroProse version, which gives the F-117 air-to-air weapons that the real plane does not use in combat. It still has some weird choices, such as deploying a carrier-borne F-117 in missions ported over from F-15 Strike Eagle, but at least it also adds new scenarios, such Desert Storm, Korea, and Cuba. This title is one of the few that I can still play in 2022 thanks to its having been made compatible with modern computers and reissued in recent years.
- B-17 Flying Fortress (1992): This was the last floppy-disc-based MicroProse game I purchased that I was able to install and play on my generic, built-from-parts MS-DOS/Windows PCs in the 1990s. It was a cool simulation of World War II-era bombers in the European Theater and was part flight simulation, part crew management game. It also was the first flight sim I owned where the player had AI-operated wingmen and the rest of the B-17s dropped their bombs on a German target when you did. Graphics were decent for the time, and it was fun – but often challenging – to play.