The First Computer Games: Top 5

February 17, 2021

The first computer games were very far from the way we perceive them nowadays. The constant development of technologies made it possible to create realistic worlds in virtual reality. Still, what did the first PC game look like? Frankly speaking, modern gamers would be very disappointed while playing these games as they were trivial and even boring compared with the latest masterpieces.

Nevertheless, at the end of the 20th century, this “old and too simple” stuff was the real technological breakthrough in the industry. The generation of that time appreciated the novelties and enjoyed them.

Here, we will talk about the history of computer games. Let’s start with the crucial inventions that made it possible to release them and finish with the top 5 of the earliest PC games.

Important Inventions that Preceded the First PC Game Release

Several significant innovations provided the basis for the technological advancement in the industry — some of the websites, including Insider.Games, present the history of PC games. Here you can find a short review of some of the software considered as early computer games.

Bertie the Brain

Bertie the Brain was released by Josef Kates in 1950. It was the first game with the AI opponent specifically designed to play Tic-Tac-Toe. A large display lit by light bulbs represented the board, and the players had to use an illuminated control pad to input the moves. Also, the game had several levels depending on the difficulty.


NIMROD, or NIM, designed by Bennett and Stuart-Williams in 1951, was a custom-made computer. It was remarkable for the light bulbs able to represent the game’s action. As the device had several limitations, including the lack of screen or projected images, it was quite hard to call it the first computer game.


Draughts for the Pilot Automatic Computing Engine, known as one of the first computer programs, was developed by Christopher Strachey in 1952. The first attempts of the mentioned scientist were unsuccessful because the software required a lot of empty memory. After some improvements and the usage of a more powerful machine, the Draughts program made it possible to play a complete game at a reasonable speed.


OXO is the next software designed by Alexander Douglas in 1952. It was considered remarkable for being the earliest video gaming experience. Thanks to this program, the game was displayed on a 35×16-dot matrix CRT screen. Also, the players could input the moves with the help of a rotary telephone dial, and then the computer reflected these actions on the display.


Pool, the game designed by William Brown and Ted Lewis in 1954, was demonstrated on a 13-inch fluorescent screen. Its main significance was seen in the ability to feature graphics, which were moving and constantly updating in real time.

The Michigan Digital Special Automatic Computer had been programmed particularly to simulate the Pool. Although Pool is considered one of the first video-games, the innovations used for its design had made a huge influence on the further development of PC games.

Top 5 First Computer Games

The release of “Spacewar”, in a way, marks the beginning of the era of computer games. In the following list, you can look through the most popular computer games of the previous century and find out about their main and special features.


Spacewar is regarded as the first digital computer game. It was programmed in 1962 by Russell at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This vector graphic, one-on-one space shooter, had quite a simple gameplay. Despite this simplicity, the players found it very engaging.

The main aim was to shoot and destroy the opposing ship. Later, the devs added a hyperspace feature and a gravity-exuding sun that affected the trajectory of ships. It is interesting to mention that this computer game has become an inspiration for the further releases of Computer Space, Star Control, and Galaxy Game.

The Sumer Game

The Sumer was the first text-only resource management strategy game released in 1968. Its designing became possible after the invention of the FOCAL programming language. Thus, the players were in the ancient Babylonian king’s role to make important decisions concerning how much of the resources had to be spent for different purposes.

Later, several interpretations and variants of this game appeared, including Santa Paravia and Dukedom. So, the Sumer has become the background for creating games in the economic and resource management genre.


Spasism was released in 1974. It had been designed specifically for the PLATO system. It was a game in the genre of the space flight simulator. At first, the developers intended the game to be used for fighting only. However, later they decided to add some strategy to the game.

The players aim to reach a faraway planet by choosing one of the planetary systems and a ship from the Star Trek universe. Also, an involved individual can choose to cooperate with other players or attack them.

Star Trek

Star Trek, released in 1971, became well-known thanks to the popularity of the TV series’ with the same name. Notably, Star Trek was written in the BASIC programming language. The game is in the genre of text-based strategy, and the players have to control the Enterprise to destroy all the Klingon warships.

After achieving this goal, it will be finished. Also, there is a time limitation, so the players should act very quickly to avoid running out of the given options and losing the game.

Hunt the Wumpus

Hunt the Wumpus was developed the same way as Star Trek, in BASIC. It was created by Gregory Yob in 1973. It was also a text-based game with the goal to hunt the monster hidden inside a cave.

The turn-based gameplay means that you should shoot an arrow that can change directions or move to the cave after each turn. The player will win after shooting Wumpus. Otherwise, beware of falling down a pit or getting hit with your own arrow, as it changes the directions at will.


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