One of my earliest memories of PC gaming is sitting up past my bed time playing the original Duke Nukem side-scrolling shooter on a knackered old PC that my dad had salvaged from work before it went into the skip. It was awesome. But it was also 1992, long before games started to nudge their way towards photo-realism, advanced physics engines and the expectation of 3D surroundings. Looking back at fond gaming memories is rarely the same as experiencing them again – anyone who’s ever fired up a Spectrum emulator will probably agree with that – but sometimes you come across something which has stood the test of time and remains as great as it was over 20 years ago.
What the 3D Realms Anthology does though is prove just how rarely that happens. With a collection of 32 games from the Apogee and 3D Realms eras, the collection carries a £30 price tag, which sounds like a fair chunk of cash until you do the maths and realise that’s under £1 per game, not bad if there are enough games worth playing. And in that sense the collection is a mixed bag – some games are still every bit as fun to play as you might remember, but more of them have dated horribly and should’ve been left in the 90s. Having played through them all for this review, we did manage to pick out some highlights though.
Duke Nukem 3D
Obviously. You never get tired of smashing urinals for no reason whatsoever. Nukem 3D has lasted reasonably well, and while pretty much everything about it in terms of ideas, gameplay and any other quality you can think of has been well surpassed by more modern games (as you’d expect) there’s a childish charm to this which still brings out that childish smirk which most of us have sitting dormant. It’s tougher than I remember too, but that might just be my inherant rubbishness at FPS games.
Duke Nukem & Duke Nukem 2
Ok so I’m being quite predictable mentioning these games before any others, but I suspect most people will be drawn by these. The same games which sparked my interest in “proper” gaming were no in front of me again, and while the first game feels very basic the sequel shows just how much thought and effort went into improving the first game. Well worth playing to see where the whole Nukem saga started off, and not terrible games either – quite different to most platformers you’ll play nowadays.
Rise of the Triad: Dark Water
Another FPS, and one which has a very familiar feel if you played the original Doom game. At the time this was a big deal, with far more blood and gore than most other games had dared to include. But it’s still a fun shooter, and while you won’t spend weeks on it you might enjoy it just for that shot of FPS nostalgia which reminds you of what came before the likes of Call of Duty.
A big surprise this one, it’s a follow up to Duke Nukem which I hadn’t actually heard of before. Instead of big guns you’re swinging a samurai sword and flinging shurikens against your enemies, all while controlling a far-Eastern bodyguard who turns against one of his clients. It’s very slick for the time, and probably worth playing before many of the others on offer here.
If you thought dungeon crawling and survival games were a modern thing, think again. The mid-90s was host to Mystic Towers, an isometric game where you’re wondering round trying to rid Lazarine Towers of all the monsters which have turned up. There’s elements of an RPG here too, with spells which you can upgrade as well as a range of power-ups to help you keep going.
Elsewhere in the pack we have some strange games (looking at you, Math Rescue), some clear rip-off games (anyone who doesn’t see the link between Mario Kart and Wacky Wheels could use a small gaming history lesson) and some outright terrible games (Xenophage… really?). Yes, there’s a lot of gaming to be had here but once the initial nostalgia wears off and you realise that many of these games have either aged extremely badly or were just terrible to start with. Not only that, but a lot of these games have been available free online for quite son time, so it’s definitely worth checking individual games first if you only want to try a handful of them out.
If the 3D Realms Anthology serves one purpose, it’s to demonstrate that while some games can still be enjoyed 20-odd years later, we’re actually in a pretty decent age of games right now. While we’ve got some incredible looking, and great to play games on current systems, it’s difficult to recommend you spend £30 on all this when you could put that towards a modern classic which lives up to modern standards. If you want that nostalgia hit then you could do reasonably well here, but keep a pair of rose tinted glasses nearby, you might need them.
Reviewed on PC