Low End Mac Gaming

The Best Sounding Mac Games

Brian Rumsey - July 3, 2000

Several weeks ago I mentioned that I was considering writing an article about games which have particularly good soundtracks and/or sound effects. Due to a less than overpowering response to the mention I gave in an earlier article, I did not feel any great rush to complete the article. On the contrary, I waited a while, since waiting would give me more time to discover games with great soundtracks. While a good soundtrack will not make a game by itself, these games are all good enough with the speakers off that their good audio effects are added bonuses, not the only bright spots in otherwise dismal games.

My personal favorite when it comes to sound effects and music is WarCraft II. From the first time I played it, on a friend's 486 (before it came out for Mac), I was highly impressed by its music. It is similar to many games set in medieval lands in its general sound, but much better than most I have come across. One game set in a similar time which I also seem to recall having good music was Castles: Siege and Conquest, but I cannot say for sure, because it has been a while since I played that game, and I do not own it to go back and see.

The music does a very good job of building the right atmosphere for this game. As an added bonus, Blizzard figured out something to do with the large portion of the CD, which at that time was rarely filled by the game - they made WarCraft II's music actual CD tracks which are also playable from almost any CD player.

The WarCraft II expansion pack which appeared a while later introduced a few more good tracks. And, while not as strong as the music, the sound effects of WarCraft II are also above average.

Running a close second to WarCraft II is Wolfenstein 3D. Although this game is now several years old, I cannot think of any similar game whose music tops the music of Wolfenstein 3D. I had originally played this game on some Intel machine, probably a 386. When one of my friends got a shiny new Performa 6116CD and let me play Wolfenstein on it, I was highly impressed. Not only did the graphics look nicer, but the game had a captivating soundtrack. Somehow, as with WarCraft II, the hard, fast-paced music of Wolfenstein did a very good job of completing the atmosphere.

One more modern game of the same genre which also has pretty good sound and music is Unreal Tournament. While I do not put the audio effects on the same level as the music of Wolfenstein (especially for their respective eras), its music is pretty impressive, especially when playing through powerful speakers. Another aspect of Unreal Tournament that I like is the taunts generated by the computer players. While they were annoying at first, the random cries of "My house!" "Boom!" and "You be dead" have grown on me to the point where I consider them an indispensable part of the game.

Another game which I first saw on that Performa 6116CD was the original Descent. Descent is another of those games from a couple years ago which includes a CD filled with several tracks of quality music. My personal favorite is track 2. Some of the 13 tracks which form the Descent soundtrack have a sound reminiscent of popular bands such as Limp Bizkit and Metallica, minus the lyrics. Others are more techno sounding. This CD is one of the few game CDs which I have known people to listen to in their audio CD players. If you do not have Descent, it can often be found as a part of a bundle or on clearance at a good price, due to its age.

Over the past two years, the Heroes of Might and Magic series has been one of my favorites. My introduction to the series was with Heroes II, which has good (but not great) music and sound effects. Only recently was I able to find a copy of Heroes I. Like Heroes II, it has some good tracks. Both Heroes I and II use CD audio for nearly all of their sound effects, meaning that while you can play them in an audio CD player, you will have to search through up to 50 tracks, most of them sound effects only a few seconds long.

When it came out, I was one of the first to buy Heroes III for the Mac. Heroes III has some of my favorite music of any computer game. In Heroes III, there are eight types of towns, each associated with a different type of hero. Each town has its own soundtrack. While almost all of them are fitting, two of my favorites are the soundtracks for the Necropolis and Inferno town types. Unfortunately, Heroes III does not continue the tradition of using CD audio.

One company that can not be forgotten is Sierra. While they are currently not very strong in the Mac market, they have released many titles over the years. Their fantasy adventure games have had some of the most memorable soundtracks. Some members of the Kings Quest series will run on quite old Macs. I will admit that the oldest one in the series that I have played is King's Quest V, but I expect that some of the older ones might also have high quality soundtracks. Newer Sierra adventure games such as Quest for Glory V also have good sound effects and music. I believe that Sierra even sold a separate soundtrack for Quest for Glory V, much as is done with movies, although I have never seen a copy of it.

Last, but not least, I will mention the game Classic Tennis. This is a game that I played way back on the Mac Plus. I think it filled a whopping 735 K. The reason that I still remember it is because it was the first game I ever played that talked - it used recorded voices to announce the score.

What a long way games have come since then. They will certainly continue to improve. Maybe in 20 years someone will be writing about games that have especially good taste effects. Who knows?

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