In 1993/94, there was a big change in the world of Windows. Previously, it had been mostly an office thing. Now, Multimedia was the catchphrase. This strongly influenced the type of game that was developed for Windows.
|The Most Popular 256-Color Windows Games|
Most of these games run in 640×480, 256 colors. If they support or even require more, I have mentioned it in the rightmost column. Some run in full screen mode, so its basically irrelevant whether you run them under Windows 3.1 or Windows 95.
The only Windows games running in 256 colors before 1993 that I have as yet found are Battle Chess from 1991 (still in Windows 3.0 times!) and its Enhanced CD-ROM version from 1992. The former had very good 16-color graphics too, I have not yet tested the latter under this condition.
The first 256-color Windows games came out in 1993. It was an abrupt and vehement start. DOS SVGA games were still rare in that year, on the other hand, there had been earlier experiments. On Windows, it seems, everybody started programming in 256 colors at the same time. The reason for that is simply support. Windows 3.1 did not originally ship with SVGA drivers, though they were released seperately soon afterwards.
Except for Myst, all these games were Windows originals. Both freeware and shareware (which at the time can be seen as commercial) enterprises were represented. Most of them run in a 640×480 Window, taking up the whole screen.
|Earth Invasion||Arcade||full screen, supports hi-color|
While the games from 1993 were nearly all Windows originals and Windows only, 1994 saw a deluge of ports from the Mac. Many of these were sold on CD and utilized Apple's Quicktime technology. And many of them did not run in a Window at all, but filled the screen the way a DOS game would. If the screen resolution was higher than 640×480, the surplus space would be filled with a solid color or left black.
|Bricklayer||Tetris||Port of Tetris Max|
|Poker Party||Strip Poker||hi-color, full screen|
|SimCity 2000||sim||supports 800×600|
|SimTower||sim||runs at any resolution|
|Spaceship Warlock||Adventure||full screen|
|The Cosmology of Kyoto||Adventure||full screen|
|Tic Tac Death||board||Chris Zinn|
This year saw the height of the Live Actor/Full Motion Video craze. Most of these games were released for DOS, Windows, and Macintosh at the same time, sometimes on the same CD(s). Windows has become one platform among others. Of course there were still a lot of freeware and shareware productions which were Windows only.
|Blue Ice||Adventure||full screen|
|Caesar II||strat||full screen|
|Command & Conquer||RTS|
|Gabriel Knight II||Adventure||full screen|
|Space Quest 6||Adventure||full screen|
|Whale's Voyage 2||RPG|
|Blue Angel '69 Remake||MaxIt|
|Kalaha 1.0||Mancala||no sound|
|Killer Bees||Shoot-'em-up||Ron Paludan|
|Reproduction Man||Puzzle||David Kilmer|
As of 1996, 16-bit Windows was obsolete. Some programmers, like Philippe Basciano, were busy porting their games to the new 32-bit platform. Others were still writing 16-bit programs because they still had Visual Basic 3, or because they were using a 16-bit version of Macromedia Director, or something like Klik & Play. There is something unintentional about these latter games, you will often find them listed under Windows 95, sometimes they are wrapped in 32-bit installers, and not even their creators seem to have been aware of their true nature. But occasionally commercial products, too, still value compatibility with the older platform.
|Flowers Ishido||Ishido||96||Luciano Vernaschi|
|Wari 2.0||Mancala||no sound|
|Axium Adventures||Puzzle||97||full screen|
|Enemy Nations||RTS||up to 1600×1200, up to tru-color|
|Tetris Jr. PC||Tetris|
|New Beetle Tracks & Gaps||Puzzle||Mario Knezovic|
|Sokoban 97||Soko-ban||Gerald Holler|
|Kyodai||Mah Jongg||runs at 800×600 by default|
|RusCell Malachite||Card||800×600 hi-color|
By 1998 16-bit Windows programs felt like fossiles. One thing that all these games have in common is that they display correctly only on a hi-color desktop, even if they use as few as 32 colors.
|Pastel Fantasy||Puzzle||98||K. Shimizu|
|Rory's Reversi||Othello||99||Rory Johnston|
|Ultimate Othello||Othello||Florent Boudet|
While you can play most 16-color games on anything that moves, err, has Windows 3.1 installed, a little more care should be invested in the hardware that is supposed to run these games. It is still easier than setting up a computer for DOS games.
A CD-ROM drive is indispensable. This is not a great problem, all the Pentium and many 486 boards have a BIOS that supports ATAPI drives.
A sound card is essential. I would recommend getting a good sound card, one with wavetable synthesis that is, but since this is Windows, it need mot be compliant with any standard, neither Soundblaster nor MPU-401. As of 2005/6, ISA sound cards, even very good ones, have become rather cheap on eBay, since fewer and fewer people have ISA slots in their computers, so you can go over the top here.
The graphics card will hardly be an issue. None of these games require or even support any kind of acceleration. 1MB video RAM gives you 640×480 at hi-color or 1024×768 at 256 colors and therefore should be sufficient.
Hard drive space will be an issue. The early Windows games were small, several of them fitting on a floppy. These games have higher requirements. Entombed, in its smallest instance, takes up 2.5MB, Breakthru! twice as much. Some are intended to be played directly from the CD, but if you don't want to do this for some reason, they will take up even hugher amounts of disk space. Spaceship Warlock, for example, has about 180MB.