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The following list of text-based games is not to be considered an authoritative, comprehensive listing of all such games; rather, it is intended to represent a wide range of game styles and genres presented using the text mode display and their evolution across a long period.
Years listed are those in which early mainframe games and others are believed to have originally appeared. Often these games were continually modified and played as a succession of versions for years after their initial posting. (For purposes of this list, minicomputers are considered mainframes, in contrast to microcomputers, which are not.)
|BBC||1961||John Burgeson||Baseball simulator|
|The Sumerian Game||1964||Mabel Addis, William McKay||The first edutainment game.|
|Unnamed American football game ||1968 or before||Unknown||For the Dartmouth Time Sharing System. One of "many games" in library of 500 programs.|
|The Sumer Game||1968||Doug Dyment||AKA Hamurabi|
|Oregon Trail||1971||Don Rawitsch|
|Star Trek (strategy game)||1971||Mike Mayfield|
|Hunt the Wumpus||1972||Gregory Yob|
|Star Trek (script game)||1972||Don Daglow|
|TREK73||1973||William K. Char, Perry Lee, and Dan Gee|
|Cornell U. Hockey||1973||Charles Buttrey|
|dnd||1975||Gary Whisenhunt and Ray Wood|
|Colossal Cave Adventure||1976||Will Crowther||The original adventure game|
|Mystery Mansion||1977||Bill Wolpert|
|Zork||1977||Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels and Dave Lebling|
|Acheton||1978||Jon Thackray, David Seal and Jonathan Partington||Adventure game originally hosted on Cambridge University's Phoenix mainframe|
|Decwar||1978||Hysick, Bob and Potter, Jeff|
|MUD||1978||Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle||The first multi-user dungeon. See List of MUDs for later examples.|
|Brand X||1979||Peter Killworth and Jonathan Mestel||AKA Philosopher's Quest|
|Martian Adventure||1979||Brad Templeton and Kieran Carroll|
|New Adventure||1979||Mark Niemiec|
|FisK||1980||John Sobotik and Richard Beigel||Text based adventure game|
|Hezarin||1980||Steve Tinney, Alex Shipp and Jon Thackray|
|Kingdom of Hamil||1980||Jonathan Partington||Adventure game originally hosted on Cambridge University's Phoenix mainframe|
|Monsters of Murdac||1980||Jonathan Partington||Adventure game originally hosted on Cambridge University's Phoenix mainframe|
|Quondam||1980||Rod Underwood||Adventure game originally hosted on Cambridge University's Phoenix mainframe|
|Rogue||1980||Michael Toy, Glenn Wichman, and Ken Arnold|
|LORD||1981||Olli J. Paavola||Based on The Lord of the Rings|
|Avon||1983||Jonathan Partington||Shakespearean adventure game originally hosted on Cambridge University's Phoenix mainframe|
|Fyleet||1986||Jonathan Partington||Adventure game originally hosted on Cambridge University's Phoenix mainframe|
|Crobe||1987||Jonathan Partington||Adventure game originally hosted on Cambridge University's Phoenix mainframe|
|Quest of the Sangraal||1987||Jonathan Partington||Adventure game originally hosted on Cambridge University's Phoenix mainframe|
|Spycatcher||1989||Jonathan Partington and Jon Thackray||Adventure game originally hosted on Cambridge University's Phoenix mainframe; released commercially by Topologika Software as Spy Snatcher|
These are commercial interactive fiction games played offline.
|Adventureland||1978||Scott Adams of Adventure International||series|
|Zork I: The Great Underground Empire||1980||Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels and Dave Lebling||series|
|C.I.A Adventure||1980||Hugh Lampert of CLOAD|
|Softporn Adventure||1981||On-Line Systems|
|Madness and the Minotaur||1981||for Spectral Associates|
|The Hobbit||1982||Philip Mitchell and Veronika Megler of Beam Software|
|Time and Magik||1983||Level 9|
|Forbidden Quest||1983||Pryority Software|
|Valley of the Minotaur||1983||Nicolas van Dyk of Softalk|
|The Wizard of Akyrz||1983||Brian Howarth of Mysterious Adventures and Cliff J. Ogden for Adventure International|
|The Biz||1984||Chris Sievey of Virgin Games||Music band simulator for the ZX Spectrum|
|The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy||1984||Douglas Adams and Steve Meretzky of Infocom|
|Mindwheel||1984||Robert Pinsky for Synapse Software|
|Zyll||1984||Marshal W. Linder and Scott B. Edwards for IBM|
|The Pawn||1985||Magnetic Scrolls|
|A Mind Forever Voyaging||1985||Steve Meretzky of Infocom|
|Brimstone||1985||James Paul for Synapse|
|Essex||1985||Bill Darrah for Synapse|
|Hampstead||1985||Peter Jones and Trevor Lever for Melbourne House|
|Bored of the Rings||1985||Delta 4|
|Mind Wheel||1985||Brøderbund Software|
|Heavy on the Magick||1986||Gargoyle Games|
|Breakers||1986||Rodney R. Smith for Synapse|
|Terrormolinos||1986||Peter Jones and Trevor Lever for Melbourne House|
|Amnesia||1987||Thomas M. Disch||The only entirely non-graphical text adventure ever published by Electronic Arts|
|Dodgy Geezers||1987||Peter Jones and Trevor Lever for Melbourne House|
|Enchanted Castle||1987||Michael R. Wilk |
|Gnome Ranger||1987||Level 9|
|Jacaranda Jim||1987||Graham Cluley|
|Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It||1987||Jeff O'Neill for Infocom|
|Sherlock: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels||1987||Bob Bates for Infocom|
|Shadows of Mordor||1987||Melbourne House|
|Knight Orc||1987||Level 9|
|The Guild of Thieves||1987||Magnetic Scrolls|
|Ingrid's Back||1988||Level 9|
|Dr. Dumont's Wild P.A.R.T.I.||1988||Michael and Muffy Berlyn|
|Avalon||1989||Yehuda Simmons ||A MUD, notable for its pioneering introduction of various innovations such as plotted quests, real estate, banking and distinct skills  |
|The Hound of Shadow||1989||for Eldritch Games|
|Islands of Danger||1990||Carr Software|
|Danger! Adventurer at Work!||1991||Simon Avery|
|Spy Snatcher||1992||Jonathan Partington and Jonathan Thackray for Topologika|
|The Yawhg||2013||Emily Carroll |
|Wizard's Castle||1978||Joseph R. Power|
|Aliens||1982||Yahoo Software||Space Invaders clone for Kaypro.|
|CatChum||1982||Yahoo Software||Pac-Man clone for Kaypro.|
|Ladder||1982||Yahoo Software||Donkey Kong clone for Kaypro.|
|Text Train||1982||Bert Kersey, Beagle Bros Software|
|Sleuth||1983||Eric N. Miller|
|Beast||1984||Dan Baker, Alan Brown, Mark Hamilton and Derrick Shadel|
|Kingdom of Kroz||1987||Scott Miller of Apogee Software|
|Mtrek||1987||Chuck Peterson of UCSC|
|ZZT||1991||Tim Sweeney of Epic MegaGames|
|MegaZeux||1994||Alexis Janson of Software Visions||Supports editing the character set to allow for more advanced graphical capabilities than most text mode games.|
|Chibot Ultra Battle||1999|
|PAEE||1999||Enrique D. Bosch|
|For a Change||1999||Dan Schmidt|
These are play-by-email games played online.
|Lords of the Earth||1983|
These are BBS door games played online.
|TradeWars 2002||1987||Gary Martin for Martech Software|
|Legend of the Red Dragon||1989||Seth Able Robinson|
These games are played in a web browser and involve multiplayer components: based mainly around text but may have limited graphical user interfaces.
|Torn City||2003||Joe Chedburn (Torn LTD)|
A MUD is a multiplayer real-time virtual world, usually text-based or storyboarded. MUDs combine elements of role-playing games, hack and slash, player versus player, interactive fiction, and online chat. Players can read or view descriptions of rooms, objects, other players, and non-player characters, and perform actions in the virtual world that are typically also described. Players typically interact with each other and the world by typing commands that resemble a natural language, as well as using a character typically called an avatar.
In computing, time-sharing is the sharing of a computing resource among many users at the same time by means of multiprogramming and multi-tasking.
Zork is a text-based adventure game first released in 1977 by developers Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling for the PDP-10 mainframe computer. The original developers and others, as the company Infocom, expanded and split the game into three titles—Zork I: The Great Underground Empire, Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz, and Zork III: The Dungeon Master—which were released commercially for a range of personal computers beginning in 1980. In Zork, the player explores the abandoned Great Underground Empire in search of treasure. The player moves between the game's hundreds of locations and interacts with objects by typing commands in natural language that the game interprets. The program acts as a narrator, describing the player's location and the results of the player's commands. It has been described as the most famous piece of interactive fiction.
Roguelike is a subgenre of role-playing computer games traditionally characterized by a dungeon crawl through procedurally generated levels, turn-based gameplay, grid-based movement, and permanent death of the player character. Most roguelikes are based on a high fantasy narrative, reflecting their influence from tabletop role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons.
Avalon Hill Games Inc. is a game company that publishes wargames and strategic board games. It has also published miniature wargaming rules, role-playing games and sports simulations. It is a subsidiary of Hasbro, and operates under the company's "Hasbro Gaming" division.
Colossal Cave Adventure is a text-based adventure game, released in 1976 by developer Will Crowther for the PDP-10 mainframe computer. It was expanded upon in 1977 by Don Woods. In the game, the player explores a cave system rumored to be filled with treasure and gold. The game is composed of dozens of locations, and the player moves between these locations and interacts with objects in them by typing one- or two-word commands which are interpreted by the game's natural language input system. The program acts as a narrator, describing the player's location and the results of the player's attempted actions. It is the first well-known example of interactive fiction, as well as the first well-known adventure game, for which it was also the namesake.
Lunar Lander is a genre of video games loosely based on the 1969 landing of the Apollo Lunar Module on the Moon. In Lunar Lander games, players generally control a spacecraft as it falls toward the surface of the Moon or other astronomical body, using thrusters to slow the ship's descent and control its horizontal motion to reach a safe landing area. Crashing into obstacles, hitting the surface at too high a velocity, or running out of fuel all result in failure. In some games in the genre, the ship's orientation must be adjusted as well as its horizontal and vertical velocities.
A city-building game, or town-building game, is a genre of simulation video game where players act as the overall planner and leader of a city or town, looking down on it from above, and being responsible for its growth and management strategy. Players choose building placement and city management features such as salaries and work priorities, and the city develops accordingly.
Star Trek is a text-based strategy video game based on the Star Trek television series (1966–69) and originally released in 1971. In the game, the player commands the USS Enterprise on a mission to hunt down and destroy an invading fleet of Klingon warships. The player travels through the 64 quadrants of the galaxy to attack enemy ships with phasers and photon torpedoes in turn-based battles and refuel at starbases. The goal is to eliminate all enemies within a random time limit.
A text game or text-based game is an electronic game that uses a text-based user interface, that is, the user interface employs a set of encodable characters, such as ASCII, instead of bitmap or vector graphics.
Civilization is a series of turn-based strategy video games, first released in 1991. Sid Meier developed the first game in the series and has had creative input for most of the rest, and his name is usually included in the formal title of these games, such as Sid Meier's Civilization VI. There are six main games in the series, a number of expansion packs and spin-off games, as well as board games inspired by the video game series. The series is considered a formative example of the 4X genre, in which players achieve victory through four routes: "eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate".
Telengard is a 1982 role-playing dungeon crawler video game developed by Daniel Lawrence and published by Avalon Hill. The player explores a dungeon, fights monsters with magic, and avoids traps in real-time without any set mission other than surviving. Lawrence first wrote the game as DND, a 1976 version of Dungeons & Dragons for the DECsystem-10 mainframe computer. He continued to develop DND at Purdue University as a hobby, rewrote the game for the Commodore PET 2001 after 1978, and ported it to Apple II+, TRS-80, and Atari 800 platforms before Avalon Hill found the game at a convention and licensed it for distribution. Its Commodore 64 release was the most popular. Reviewers noted Telengard's similarity to Dungeons and Dragons. RPG historian Shannon Appelcline noted the game as one of the first professionally produced computer role-playing games, and Gamasutra's Barton considered Telengard consequential in what he deemed "The Silver Age" of computer role-playing games preceding the golden age of the late 1980s. Some of the game's dungeon features, such as altars, fountains, teleportation cubes, and thrones, were adopted by later games such as Tunnels of Doom (1982).
The history of massively multiplayer online games spans over thirty years and hundreds of massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) titles. The origin and influence on MMO games stems from MUDs, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) and earlier social games.
A board wargame is a wargame with a set playing surface or board, as opposed to being played on a computer or in a more free-form playing area as in miniatures games. The modern, commercial wargaming hobby developed in 1954 following the publication and commercial success of Tactics. The board wargaming hobby continues to enjoy a sizeable following, with a number of game publishers and gaming conventions dedicated to the hobby both in the English-speaking world and further afield.
Diplomacy is a strategic board game created by Allan B. Calhamer in 1954 and released commercially in the United States in 1959. Its main distinctions from most board wargames are its negotiation phases and the absence of dice and other game elements that produce random effects. Set in Europe in the years leading to the Great War, Diplomacy is played by two to seven players, each controlling the armed forces of a major European power. Each player aims to move their few starting units and defeat those of others to win possession of a majority of strategic cities and provinces marked as "supply centers" on the map; these supply centers allow players who control them to produce more units. Following each round of player negotiations, each player can issue attack and support orders, which are then executed during the movement phase. A player takes control of a province when the number of provinces that are given orders to support the attacking province exceeds the number of provinces given orders to support the defending province.
DND is a role-playing video games developed by Purdue University student Daniel Lawrence in 1977 for the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) PDP-10 mainframe computer. The name DND is derived from the abbreviation "D&D" from the original tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. It was later ported to several other computer systems and languages. After Lawrence re-used code from the game in the 1982 role-playing game Telengard, DEC ordered DND be removed from their computers to avoid litigation by Telengard's publisher. DND was one of the earliest role-playing video games, as part of a set of games developed in the 1970s based on the 1974 Dungeons & Dragons.
Mainframe computers are computers used primarily by businesses and academic institutions for large-scale processes. Before personal computers, first termed microcomputers, became widely available to the general public in the 1970s, the computing industry was composed of mainframe computers and the relatively smaller and cheaper minicomputer variant. During the mid to late 1960s, many early video games were programmed on these computers. Developed prior to the rise of the commercial video game industry in the early 1970s, these early mainframe games were generally written by students or employees at large corporations in a machine or assembly language that could only be understood by the specific machine or computer type they were developed on. While many of these games were lost as older computers were discontinued, some of them were ported to high-level computer languages like BASIC, had expanded versions later released for personal computers, or were recreated for bulletin board systems years later, thus influencing future games and developers.
Marienbad was a 1962 Polish puzzle mainframe game created by Elwro engineer Witold Podgórski in Wrocław, Poland for its Odra 1003. It was an adaption of the logic game nim. Inspired by the discussion in the magazine Przekrój of a variant of nim in the 1961 film Last Year at Marienbad, named "Marienbad" by the magazine, Podgórski programmed the game for the in-development 1003 mainframe, released in 1963. The game had players opposing the computer in alternating rounds of removing matches from a set, with the last player to take a match the loser. As the computer always played the optimal moves, it was essentially unbeatable.
Wander is text adventure written by Peter Langston in 1974. It is one of the earliest text adventure video games in existence, predating Colossal Cave Adventure. The game was originally coded in BASIC on a mainframe computer with multiple databases to create the worlds that formed the game. It was distributed in Langston's PSL Games collection for Unix.