As we look forward to the future of Windows, it’s important to remember what a big deal Windows 95 was when it came out.
Microsoft used games a lot to help sell the operating system, so they were an important part of the platform. So, as we get ready to switch from Windows 10 to Windows 11, let’s take a look back at some of the most important games from Windows 95.
Most people know Fury 3 as Terminal Velocity, which is what it was called on DOS. Terminal Velocity was a classic action game from the 1990s. It was made by the lead programmer for Microsoft Flight Simulator, and you can still play it on phones and most systems through GOG. Big polygons. Lots of weapons from space. There were huge levels where you could just walk around and fight. And the big boss fights against enemies from the future.
Back in the day, it was a big hit, and the fact that it used a 3D engine made it a perfect target for Microsoft. So Microsoft asked the studio to re-release Terminal Velocity for Windows, since it was only available for DOS when it came out in 1995.
The game was updated for Windows and re-released as Fury3. In 1996, a sequel came out. It wasn’t flashy or a huge improvement over Terminal Velocity by any stretch of the imagination. But Microsoft was able to market the higher resolution and sharper textures well, as long as you had a PC that could handle it all.
Monster Truck Madness
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Microsoft had a pretty good track record when it came to making video games. Monster Truck Madness was one of them. It was a game that brought to life a strange subculture in a way that was fun and interesting.
I said that marketing was a big part of why Windows 95 stuck around, and no bigger game than Doom 95 helped with that. Bill Gates famously made a video for a developer conference in which he walked into DOOM’s E1M2 and talked about Windows 95’s DirectX API and some of the problems users and developers had with DOS.
“On DOS, it was impossible to install a game. It was hard for developers and hard for users. There were tech support problems, and the graphics were nowhere near as good as they are today,” Gates said before shooting a demon.
At the time, DOOM was such a big draw that Microsoft knew they had to get it to work on Windows 95. At that time, DOOM was more well-known than Windows 3.1. Companies had even started making rules so that employees couldn’t play too much DOOM at work.
DOOM didn’t work well with Windows, though. Gabe Newell, a game developer, was the one who ended up bringing DOOM to Windows 3.11. As shown in the video below, Newell even called John Carmack of id software to tell him that Microsoft would port DOOM and DOOM 2 to Windows 95 for free. This started a long relationship between the two industry giants.
Diablo was never supposed to be the game that defined the dungeon crawler genre. In an interview with Ars Technica, Diablo lead coder David Brevik talked about how the original idea for Diablo was a turn-based game. This was a nod to the RPGs and tabletop games that Brevik played as a kid.
“For me, it was more about the loot and getting the awesome Vorpal swords… “I wanted a game where killing monsters and getting cool stuff was more important than a long story and a lot of ways to change your character,” Brevik said.
At the time, one of the biggest problems the team had was that many of the publishing executives didn’t come from a gaming background, but from a business background. This meant that their worldview was mostly based on numbers. RPGs had lost their appeal, but Brevik was able to pitch Diablo to Blizzard, which understood the industry and where the developers were coming from.
Diablo went from being a turn-based strategy game to an action-adventure game after a company-wide meeting. Brevik was against the change. Brevik had to go back to Blizzard to ask for more funding for milestones, even though they had told Blizzard that they wouldn’t have anything to show them for a month because they had to retool the game.
A playable version of the new Diablo as a real-time action-adventure game was finished in a day. This game would become a franchise and a key part of Blizzard’s identity as a publisher.
“When people came in Monday morning, it was working, it was done, it was clear this was the way to go, and we never looked back,” Brevik said.
One of the landmark titles that defined a generation of games, and a genre of its own. The game had earned $US21.1 million in its first year of release. By April 1998 it had sold more than 1.2 million copies worldwide, with estimated worldwide sales of 3 million by 2001.
Civilization 2 was that rare breed of game. It was a “killer app”, the kind of title you upgrade computers — or operating systems — for. Also, how could you not love a game that gave you an Elvis impersonator in a toga as your attitude adviser?
Barbie Fashion Designer
Barbie Fashion Designer was a huge commercial success at the time, but most of the gaming press didn’t pay much attention to it. When it came out in November 1996, it sold more copies than both DOOM and Quake. In just two months, it sold over 500,000 copies. As we explained in our report on Barbie as Rapunzel, the success of Barbie Fashion Designer changed the way the industry thought about “girls’ games.”
It was the sixth best-selling PC game of 1996. It was notable because it was sold in the toy aisles instead of the software section of stores like Toys ‘R’ Us. This was a new way for the video game industry to market and sell games.
Many people think that Hover! was one of the first first-person video games to look like it was in 3D, and retro gamers still play it today. The game was made to show off the multimedia features of the Windows 95 operating system before it came out, but it ended up being a surprise hit.
Hover! is a game that mixes carnival bumper cars with capture the flag. You control a fast bumper car and drive it around increasingly strange terrain to grab flags that keep getting away.