Before digital downloads, finding the best Mac games wasn’t always easy.
They were out there, but the Mac section of the computer game stores (they used to have those) seemed to stock nothing but “Mario Teaches Typing,” and the games that included Mac and Windows versions would inevitably be scattered around the “PC” sections of the store.
As such, compiling a list of the best classic Mac games is pretty tough.
That didn’t stop us from doing it. And because we want you to actually play these games, we made sure you can still buy them all in either their original form or as enhanced editions (not remakes). It also means some of our favorite old Mac games—such as Myth, Red Baron, and Fallout—didn’t make the list.
By the way, if you want to stay on top of all the latest Mac games updates, retro or modern, make sure you check out Pure Mac.
The 10 Best old games for Mac: Revisiting the classics
Avernum is an underground prison, and of course, your adventure begins when you’re exiled there from the surface world, known as the Empire. But Avernum isn’t simply a prison; an entire culture exists in this subterranean world, presenting you with myriad options on what to do next. With numerous quests, spells, and party members to customize and control, Avernum unfolds with the freedom of pencil and paper adventures.
Avernum: The Complete Saga gives you a ridiculous amount of content and a cohesive story arc that’s tremendously satisfying. The graphics are rudimentary, but Avernum is very satisfying if you can overlook that.
Perhaps their most fondly remembered title is EV Nova, the third game in the Escape Velocity series. A space exploration and combat game, EV Nova is set amongst warring factions scattered throughout the Milky Way. Consider it Divergent amongst the stars, as you will select your faction then find your role in it.
Gameplay involves jumping between star systems to accept and execute missions, upgrade your ship, and wreck havoc. There are six major storylines and plenty of branching missions, and how you get involved is up to you. That leads to plenty of replay options.
It’s still easy to get overwhelmed by EV Nova despite its age, but Ambrosia offers plenty of resources at the company’s website.
Wrong. System Shock 2 doesn’t give you a lot of weapons or health packs. Rather, it gives you an RPG-like system of upgrades that forces you to use strategy, stealth, and the environment to survive.
What really separates System Shock 2 from its peers is the ship itself. It’s creepy and oppressive, and you’ll be more afraid of what could be around the corner than what actually is. Story elements are revealed through logs left by the crew, limiting your knowledge of what’s going on in a manner that reinforces how alone you are.
When you hear the term “cyborg” you just know there are going to be plenty of customization options via augmentations. You will use these to create a team that moves through futuristic locations to achieve your employer’s objectives.
Although there’s plenty to address between missions, it’s the execution of those missions that is most fun. The citizens and their belongings (cars, for example) are there to suit your purposes, should you need them. Your radar tells you where you need to go, but the direct route isn’t always best. If you need some extra help you can “persuade” the people around to help get the job done.
Best of all, the music and sound effects were incredibly effective for the time. The music that suddenly kicks in when you’re spotted will follow me for the rest of my life.
This is because of the excellent story that drives the mission-based flight-sim combat, because of the smooth graphics, and because it was the first time I got to serve the Empire. The missions are what you’d expect from any competent flight sim, asking you to engage in dogfights, take down freighters, protect your own vessels, etc. But because you’re now facing off against the whiney Rebellion, there’s a certain evil glee that goes along with it.
I’m also impressed by TIE Fighter’s staying-power. The gameplay is every bit as intense (and difficult) as it was in the mid-90s, and the space combat graphics are still very cool to view. Just make sure you play it with a joystick. Trust me on this.
But then Microsoft bought them to claim Halo, and that shining light was snuffed out forever.
Mac gamers can still see what made Bungie so special by playing the Marathon Trilogy. This revolutionary series of sci-fi themed first-person shooters introduced features such as real-time voice chat and the ability to wield two weapons at once. The multiplayer options may not do you much good today, but the action and the story are every bit as entertaining as they were in the ’90s.
Honestly, Marathon would be higher on this list were it not for the steps required to grab it. The games are free, but you’ll need to install Aleph One (the free, open source continuation of Bungie’s Marathon 2 FPS game engine) to run them.
The turn-based strategy elements all remained. You choose from seven factions, then research an unexplored planet, build new technologies and customize your units, and conquer anything hostile (or friendly, if that suits you) to claim victory.
The fun thing about Alpha Centauri is that none of the factions are bad guys. No matter which you select, you feel like you’re doing the right thing when you conquer the others.
Still, why bother playing this when there are many modern alternatives available on the Mac? Because the only thing missing in Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri are the flashy graphics. The writing, voice-acting, and depth of gameplay options are still among the best the genre has ever seen.
In Populous, you’re given an isometric view of your world and tasked with manipulating this world to help your “followers” wipe out the enemy. More followers lead to more mana, more mana leads to more powers, and more powers mean earthquakes, volcanos, and all kinds of fun ways to punish the non-believers.
There are many similar games available now, most of which are much more involved and rewarding. So, why bother going back to 1989 for the original Populous? Because it’s still fun. It also contains a whopping 500 levels, and the rudimentary graphics create an odd connection with your followers. It’s more like developer and programs than God and subjects.
No matter which version you’ll play, you are the Nameless One. A name like that means life isn’t good, and the horrors of lives you can’t remember are coming back to haunt you. Worse, a floating skull named Morte is leading your adventure that will take you to the very depths of Hell.
The characters you can recruit in Planescape: Torment are highly non-traditional, including a crossbow-wielding cube and a haunted suit of armor. You’re free to change your class and alignment throughout the 50+ hour adventure, so you’re not stuck with one way of thinking as with most RPGs of this time.
Why? To start, the remastered graphics lovingly reflect the look of the original, serving mainly to make them look sharp on today’s much larger monitors. The enhanced edition also adds four new characters you can simply ignore if you want to remain faithful to the original, and it builds Shadows of Amn and Throne of Baal right into the package. There’s now a multiplayer option, too.
The reason Baldur’s Gate II is so fondly remembered is because of the excellent story and well-balanced combat. As you’d expect from a Forgotten Realms-based game, you can play through as the good guy, the bad guy, or someone in between. Your actions affect how NPCs and members of your own party see you and will open and close quests and other options.
Good RPGs create worlds you don’t just want to play through, but live in. And in that regard, Baldur’s Gate II is one of the most successful of all time.
In the meantime, can someone remind me why the Mac versions of Fallout and Fallout 2 disappeared again?
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Please understand that I only mention games because I believe they’re interesting, good, and/or fun. Never because I received a free copy or to earn a small commission.