The mass entry of computers into homes began in the early Eighties with the era of 8-bit machines – Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and above all others. Soccer games were also introduced with computers. Although there were some previous attempts at this category (by companies Atari and Intellivision), the real breakthrough in soccer games’ quality was when computers became available to “common” people outside of large corporations. The home computers of the time were powerful enough to handle complex tasks with acceptable sound and graphics capabilities. They were also affordable, so programming wasn’t reserved for big companies. A few of these new, talented developers quickly began to write a new chapter in the history computer games.
Andrew Spencer, a programmer, created International Soccer in 1983. This game was a success because it had excellent graphics, a better ball flight model than his predecessors from the 70s, and nine levels of computer opponents (in those days, there were only two players). There are many opinions that this game is the greatest football game on 8-bit computers.
Perhaps that was nostalgia-colored, or maybe it was the result of low competition. There were many football games created during the 8-bit era, but very few could be considered good. The title Match Day, which was released in 1985, is worth mentioning. It’s sequel was released in 1988. Gary Lineker’s Superstar Soccer, Gremlin Graphics, and 5 A Sides by Anirog (later renamed Anco for the name that has yet to be cherished in the history football games).
The market was flooded with junk titles, and it wasn’t clear how their publishing houses managed to expose them to the general public.
Two titles on C64 saved it when all the evidence indicated that 8-bit computers couldn’t produce a quality football game. Audiogenic released Emlyn Hughes International Soccer in 1988. These two games were both brilliant and approached football in different ways. Microprose Soccer redefined the top-down view, although it was graphically similar to the arcade game Tehkan world Cup. It featured fast-paced action, bright graphics, and clever options such as replays and weather changes. Emlyn Hughes International Soccer had almost identical graphics livescore to the old International Soccer but offered a wide range of movements and ways to pass the ball and kick it. Each player had their own characteristics.
These two games were the foundations of 8-bit soccer games, but they didn’t last very long. The eighties were ending and the age of simple games was gone. 16-bit machines were on the horizon, and titles such as Kick Off or Sensible Soccer came with them. These will be the subject of another article.