PowerPC gaming on Mac OS


If you’re like me, then you prefer the games from the PowerPC era.  Not simply because they were coded for the architecture, but rather that this was the best era in Mac and PC gaming in my opinion.  The reason I feel this way is that the games from this era are more raw and simple, with a lot less fluff.  Many modern games focus mainly on graphic realism and lack the quality experience that older ones had.

Another great thing about older games is that you don’t need a video card that costs several hundred dollars to play them.  A 32MB card is often fine for most of them.  For greats like Oni from the late 90’s you can get high frame rates on 8 MB vid controllers.  The games in the later part of the PowerPC era (2003-2006) are the ones that tend to benefit from the 64MB and up cards.  These two examples cover the extreme ends of the video hardware needed for PowerPC gaming.

In my experiences, I would say that the CPU plays a more important role in Mac gaming compared to the wintel world.  I say that because in my direct experiences with many games it’s the CPU that makes the most difference. An example of this was some testing I did a couple years back.  I tested a Sawtooth with a G4 1.0 GHz 7455 and Radeon 9800 Pro 128 MB vs. another Sawtooth with a G4 1.8 GHz 7448 and a Radeon 7500 32MB.  The 1.8 GHz system beat the snot out of the 1.0 GHz in every single way.  Although the 9800 in the slower system is a far better GPU, the difference is negated by a CPU that is clocked 80% faster.  Obviously the 9800 is better suited for the 1.8 GHz, which is where it lives now, but those tests were to prove a point at the time.  This was all during a debate where others had claimed that the GPU was far more important for Mac gaming, but it's actually 2D where the GPU plays more of a role on a Mac vs. Wintel machines.  The GPU is still important in gaming, make no mistake; I'm just saying that the CPU is more of a factor in Mac gaming vs. Wintel. 

It makes sense to break up games by system requirements, so people can try the ones within the ability of the hardware they have.  Although these games are all harder to find these days, they are pretty much all still available if you look hard enough in the right places.  I will list all the options I can think of but will really only comment on the ones I have direct experience with.  I didn’t really start gaming on Macs until a good year or more into the G3 era around early 98.  Because of this, I cannot really comment on the earliest games for the 601-604 CPU’s.

Most of these games have reviews on Inside Mac Games dot com.  The ones that do will contain a link to the review in the title.  Inside Mac Games is the number one most trusted source for me and many Mac gamers.  The site is particularly good for older game info.




Group 1: Any G3 - G4 350-700MHz – Rage 128 or higher

The selection is limited on this low end of the scale, but the titles available are quality games. 


Quake I, II and III

I and II are a mixed bag of good and bad, but III is one of my favourite games ever on the Mac.  Quake I has the worst graphics, but many tend to prefer it to II.  Quake II looks much better than I, but the gaming experience is declined quite a bit.  The maps in it are quite redundant and it simply isn’t the greatest experience.

Quake III took everything up a few notches.  The graphics and game play are stellar compared to the previous two.  I started playing this in 1999 when I bought the Stormtrooper new.  The stock configuration was a G3 350 MHz with a Rage 128 16 MB, and it played III like a champ.  ID software did an amazing job optimizing it for the G3 systems and later the G4.  I play the G4 optimized OS X version on my 1.8 GHz with Radeon 9800.  I get well over 200 FPS at 1920 and over 300 FPS @ 1280.  Needless to say there is never even a hint of lag.  It also plays great on the modern revision of my Stormtrooper with a G4 500 and Radeon 7000 PCI.

The truly great thing about all 3 versions of this game is that they are all built for both classic OS and X.  III plays even better on X in my experiences.




This is one of the final pure Bungie games before Microsoft bought them.  The game play is outstanding, and can be quite challenging in later levels.  The official requirements are a G3 300 MHz and an 8 MB vid card.  I have seen it play fine on a beige minitower G3 233 MHz with Rage 128 16 MB.

When you consider that this game was released in 1999, and has such low requirements, the graphics are quite amazing.  I play it at 1920 with quality set to highest on my 1.8 GHz G4, and it looks fantastic for its age.

It’s a third person shooter much like Tomb Raider, but is a far better game IMO.  The hand-to-hand fighting is so fun in this game that I almost never use the gun.  I only shoot when facing one of the enemies which is only shooting, and not approaching to fight.  The gun selection leaves a lot to be desired, so that is certainly part of my hand-to-hand preference.  To be fair though, the gun selection is the only area the game lacks quality in my opinion.

Like Quake, there are Classic and X options for Oni.  The X option is very elegant in that all you have to do is attach the X app to the original Classic game content folder.  There is also a great editor available here, which allows you to make yourself invincible, and invisible to the enemies.  They can only see you when you punch them.  You can also give yourself virtually unlimited ammo.  The later levels are so hard to beat that you often do need these cheats; unless you're some superhuman gamer.



Abuse

This classic side scroller has been a favourite since 99.  I bought it along with the B&W Stormtrooper in Aug. 99, via the Bungie Classic pack which included 6 games.  I only remember that one of the others was Marathon because I only ever played Abuse on a regular basis.  I tried Marathon a couple times and gave it away along with all the others besides Abuse.

As far as I know, there was never an X version made, so this is Classic only.  I played it on 8.6 and all the 9 versions without issue.  There is a version for PowerPC Linux, which I installed a while ago, and will play more when I have a chance.




Shogo is another first person shooter like Quake.  The maps and weapon selection are superior in Shogo IMO.  Some of the maps are so big that it’s hard to imagine until you see it yourself.  I have not played this since about 2004 because my disc became damaged, and I never attempted getting another.

Just thinking of this game as I write this makes me want to get it again.  From 2003-2004 a few friends and I played this over LAN together at least once a week.  It’s a perfect game for LAN and online play, because the more that play on a level the more fun it is.

I have never heard of a OS X version, so if you can find a copy it would be for OS 8.5-9.
  



Although this game is clearly designed for a younger teen, it is still quite fun to play at times.  The graphics look decent if you have a good enough card.  It does list needing a 32MB vid card, but I have played it on a 16 MB Rage 128 with everything turned down.  The CPU requirement is a G3 700 MHz.  I have never played it on a G3, but have on G4’s as slow as 400 MHz with decent results. 

If you have an older child or teen, or just really like Spider-Man, then this game is worth looking into.



Other options for this hardware group:

Marathon (all versions)
Carmageddon
Deer Hunter
Sim City (I & II)
Tomb Raider (I, II and III)
Myth (I & II)



Group 2: G4 800MHz-1.0GHz – Dual G4 450-533MHz – Radeon 7500/Geforce 2 or higher

This is the smallest of the groups in terms of selection, because only Halo really fits into this.  Most other Mac games are either a good deal below or above Halo in system requirements.  Games like Battlefield 1942 and Command and Conquer generals technically fit within this hardware requirement, but they play like crap.

The good news is that all the games from group 1 will play even better on this hardware.




If you like first person shooters, and have never played this game, then you’re really missing out.  The requirements are a G4 800 MHz and a 32MB vid card.  It’s OS X only, and although it will play on Radeon 7500 and lower, I recommend an 8500 or higher.

Quality game and quality graphics, so you really can’t go wrong.  The game play can get rather intense at times, and the maps are quite good.  I tend to prefer the mostly outdoor maps, as the building based ones are a bit redundant. 


Other options for this hardware:





Group 3: G4 1.2GHz+ - Dual G4 800MHz+ - G5 - Radeon 8500/Geforce 5200 or higher

It’s easy to understand why this group is where Mac PowerPC gaming is the best, because of both selection and graphics.

One thing I need to mention about GPU’s is that the numbering systems that ATI and Nvidia used with some cards make no sense.  A layperson would assume a Radeon 9000 or 9200 was better than an 8500, but that is not the case at all.  Both the 9000 and 9200 are based on an underpowered 8500 chip.  The 9000 is also slightly above the 9200 in performance.  Also, the original Radeon (no number) is slightly more capable than the Radeon 7000. The rest of the Radeon are numbered in a way that represent the power delivered.

With the Nvidia cards found in Macs, there is some confusion with the Geforce 3 and 4.  A Geforce 3 will trump a standard 4 (aka MX), but a 4 Ti will beat a 3.  The Geforce 4 MX is only very slightly above the 2 in performance.


You can get by on most of the games below with a Radeon 7500 or 9000/9200, or a Geforce 2 or 4 MX, but would need to turn all the quality down and play at 800x600 if you want any semblance of performance. I have added a real world performance ranked list of both Nvidia and ATI cards to the bottom of this post.


These last few years I have played this game more than any other by far.  Before it I was never into RTS games, but this one made me addicted.  It was released in 2004, followed by the Zero Hour expansion pack in 2005.

Once you get bored of playing the built in levels, you can enjoy endless possibilities by playing skirmishes.  The online play is very good, but it has to be PowerPC vs. PowerPC or Intel vs. Intel.  Aspyr and EA wrote a 1.04 patch that added universal architectures, because before that it was PowerPC only.  Even with the universal patch you can’t play Intel users with your PowerPC.  On Gameranger people generally title the games by architecture for this reason.

The requirements say a G4 1.0 GHz, but it isn’t smooth until you get up to 1.2 GHz in my experience.  Even with a Radeon 9800.  I have had good results with it on the dual 867 MHz MDD I used to own with a Radeon 9600.  It played well enough on the dual 867, that it would also be fine on a dual 800.

I play it these days on the 1.8 GHz with 9800 @ 1024 on medium quality.  The reason it’s set a bit low is that it makes the larger maps much smoother and I prefer those.  Map speed is crucial on an RTS game.


I should also note that the Radeon 9000 has a known conflict with this games rendering; you can still play it, but everything turns either blue or black in terms of ground and sky.  Very hard on the eyes.  There has never been a Mac fix for this that I'm aware of, so 9000 owners (if thats all you have GPU-wise), stay away from this one.  Some of the MDD towers came with the 9000 stock, but it was never a big GPU on the Mac; more the similar 8500 and 9200.



This is easily my 2nd favourite game.  It offers about the best selection of expansion packs and mods of any game from this era.  The deluxe edition was released for Mac in 2004, after about two years as Windows only.

The requirements are listed as a G4 867 and 32 MB vid card, but this is unrealistic in my experiences.  You can get by fine with a Radeon 7500 but for true performance, without everything set the lowest, a 1.2GHz or higher will be better. 

I have the Road to Rome expansion, and the Desert Combat mod.  It's easy to waste hours in this game driving around the desert in an Abrams tank looking for things to kill.  The standard WWII levels are great, but the desert mod gives it much more modern and powerful weapons. 

The game has something to suit everyone.  You can drive a tank, APC, fly a plane/jet/helicopter, fire a missile truck, steer and shoot a battleship, use anti-aircraft guns, or just run around with a gun shooting people.  Whatever you prefer.


I am also an author on Rated Win, and wrote this post there about the Desert Combat mod, and the Spectre gunship specifically.



I need to note off the top that this needs a G4 1.6 GHz+, so it's above the 1.2GHz low end of the group.  My experience with it is minimal, but it did play well enough on my 1.8 with 9800.  I had all the quality turned down though, and ran it at 1024.  A dual or quad G5 would be better for this game.



This is kind of like Grand Theft Auto for good guys, because you play a cop rather than a thug.  I was given the store copy by a friend in 2006, and have only played it a few times.  It could certainly be a good one for those that like to drive and race cars in their games. 


Call of Duty I and II

I have the first one and hardly ever play it, but not because of a lack of interest.  Once I have more time for gaming I will play it more.  The first version requires an 867 MHz, but like others above it realistically needs more.  The 2nd needs a G5 1.8GHz or higher.  The first version at least has some expansions packs etc.



If you like games that will make you laugh and let you do silly crap, then this is the one for you. I have played it a few times and found it reasonably enjoyable. This one would appeal more to the 8-15 age bracket.


Others:

Let me know and I will list them.



Closing comments

As with everything I write, I tend to only base it on things I have experience with.  If you feel other games are worthy of mention then leave a comment and I will add it to the post to help spread the word.  Explain what you like about it and what specs/settings it plays well with.  My life is so insanley busy that my mind is always jumbling many things, so I am sure I have left out obvious ones like Unreal Tournament.  I have no experience with it, or what hardware it plays best on so if someone wants to chime in on that it would be great.  I'm looking for games I have not mentioned or added insight to those that I have.



Real world GPU ranking (least to most powerful) 

 ATI:

Rage 128 (mobility)
Rage 128 
Rage 128 Pro
Radeon 7000
Radeon (original Radeon with no number)
Radeon 7500
Radeon 9200
Radeon 9000
Radeon 8500
Radeon 9550 (mobility)
Radeon 9500
Radeon 9600's
Radeon 9700's
Radeon 9800's
Radeon x800

Nvidia:

Geforce 2's
Geforce 4 MX
Geforce 3's
Geforce 5200
Geforce 6200
Geforce 6600 LE
Geforce 4 Ti
Geforce 6600
Geforce 6800
Geforce 7300
Geforce 7800

30 comments:

  1. Nice article. I also love playing games on my PPC Macs. I do ~80% of my Mac gaming on a Power Mac G5 Dual 2.0GHz + ATI Radeon X850 XT. My current favourite game is The Sims 2. But the game is incredibly taxing.

    My favourite game on Mac OS 9 would be Deus Ex. That game just blew me away the first time I played it. It also runs like a charm on a old B&W Power Mac G3 400MHz.

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    1. I have heard of Seus Ex many times over the years but have never once played it. I will add it to the group one list.

      Thanks

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  2. As I said to you in mail, this is one the articles that made my "heart beat", for various reasons:
    1 - Because I love most of the games you choose
    2 - Because it gave me info on good entertainment for my PowerMac G4
    3- Because in the late 90's-2002 there were 3Dfx cards.Like I said to you, 3dfx cards with its gilde extensions made games like quake and others look much much better.You can see whatching this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUlCkH5v938
    The bad part is that they will only run in OS9.

    Another thing that I loved to read was that some cool Mac game had a version for powerpc linux, thanks a lot for this info!
    Another game that maybe will fit your writting is age of empires.I only played I (on Windows),but I guess the 3 runs on PowerPC Macs too: http://www.destineerstudios.com/macsoftgames/products/aoe3/aoe3.html

    I don't if it interests you but there is free Quake 3 clone called openarena that runs on ppc macs.
    Other opensource clone that may be of your interest (or other readers) is openTTD (transport tycoon deluxe).

    Well done Zef, keep on Posting =)

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    1. I played OpenArena a couple times when it did support PowerPC and the performance wasn't nearly as good as the G4 optimized OS X build from ID software that I mention in the post. It was released around 2001.

      I have never owned or even used a 3dfx card so I cannot comment on performance myself. all the first 3 Quake play fine on any Rage 128 or low end Radeon. I downloaded that video from MacTubes and will watch it when I get a chance. I had a 6400 myself in 1998-99 but with just the on board graphics. All I played then was Deer Hunter and chess.

      Delete
    2. I really wanted to share the "3dfx experience" with you because I guess it is a matter that you would like.
      As I said before, one day I will build an OS9 machine and put there my 2XVoodoo 2 12Mb in SLI.
      If for some reason you want to try the beauty of Glide games (buying a 3dfx card), grab all necessary drivers here http://falconfly.de/3dfx.htm

      Thnaks for the input about OpenArena performance, I didn't knew it.
      After watching the video maybe you will understand why I in the other coment I stopped reading on Quake I just to show you about 3Dfx cards =)

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    3. One of the best things that id Software have done was to open source all of their engines / games. You'll find that even Quake 1 is still being actively developed to this day (thanks to the numerous engine enhancement projects such as DarkPlaces) - most of this stuff is still being built for PPC too which is great!

      If you have time, I recommend that you check out the 'Epsilon Build' of Quake for a more pleasing graphic experience - although I enjoyed playing through with the original media for a nostalgia hit. http://www.xpfree.org/epsilon/

      On a similar note, I'd be interested to see what the performance of the updated Quake 3 engine 'ioQuake3' is like on PPC - I shall give it a spin and report back.

      Delete
  3. Great, great article. I'm looking forward to start playing some games now. :)

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  4. Simcity 3000 + 4 are good games too! I prefer 4 though myself.

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  5. Hi, first I'd just like to say: AWESOME post! :) I'd also like to recommend Wolf Quest 2. It runt very smootly on my G4, and it's a very fun game. It requiers 1.33 ghZ, if i remember it right.

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    1. I looked around but was only able to find very limited info on it. Do you have any good reviews bookmarked?

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    2. Here it is. http://www.wolfquest.org/

      Delete
  6. Alas, there is no Shogo for OS X, and Shogo won't run under Classic. It also has some glitchiness with ATI Radeon cards with the light maps that I don't see on my Rage 128, even with the Radeon update that was released. Still, great game.

    ioquake3 runs very well on OS X. I use it with Q3A and Team Arena.

    LithTech games in general perform nicely too. NOLF and NOLF2 perform well, though NOLF2 had some bugs in it and NOLF is IMHO the better game. Tron 2.0 is beautiful.

    The original Unreal and Unreal Tournament are also nice. While neither came out officially for OS X, Westlake did do a beta port of UT which works "okay" on OS X, but has no music. It's not hard to find. UT2003 (or 4? I forget)'s installer won't work with 10.4, so I just play the original.

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    1. When I say Classic in this article I mean classic OS as in 9 and older. I don't mean the classic option in OS X up to 10.4.

      I actually ended up finding a backup I made of my Shogo disk years ago. Took an old HD and installed 9 on it and was sure to update all the ATI drivers to the last 9 version. It's on my B&W G3 with a G4 500 MHz and a Radeon 7000 PCI.

      Shogo looks and plays perfectly on that hardware combo with all the settings maxed. I also put that OS 9 drive in a 400 MHz Sawtooth with Radeon 7500 AGP and the graphics were messed up a bit.

      In my experiences both now and in the OS9 days the Rage 128, Original Radeon and Radeon 7000 play the nicest with 9. The 128, 7000 and 8500 are the only ones with specific drivers.

      Delete
    2. The 7500AGP probably needs the Shogo Radeon update. I don't know where you can find it now though. I might still have it around here somewhere.

      The R9000 Pro is a nice card in my mirrored drive door G4, but you have to use the custom 9.2.2 it came with, of course. But I agree, I like the Rage 128 cards better too for overall compatibility.

      Delete
  7. Don't forget about World of Warcraft. The live game may not support PPC anymore but some private versions do. My own personal build has no issues at all running on three G5 towers.

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  8. I had (or have somewhere) a copy of Starcraft. Ran it on a PowerBook G3 Lombard 333mhz 8mb vid card no problem! I think it ran in OS9 and OSX with a patch.

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  9. I got diablo 2,and world of warcraft 3 Reign of Chaos,running great on an ibook g3 900mhz 640mb Radeon 7500 32mb,Osx 10.4.11,running great even at high settings,also my kids love The Shrek game.

    If you have a G4 you can try the monkeyball clone free open source neverball and neverputt games.(hear there is an g3 older version but haven't found that).

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  10. There is unreal 1 ( work on mac os 9.2 or for osx under classic )
    Unreal gold for osx
    Unreal tournament work on osx
    unreal tournament 2004 for osx too

    i play also with " prey " that is a good game

    My computer , a Powermac G5 2 Ghz bi processor with mac osx + ati radeon 9600 pro 128Mo and 2 Go of ram

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  11. There is also the very good Fable the lost chapters !!

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  12. Great post, probably the best review for Mac PPC games I've read.

    Thanks a lot!

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  13. Don't forget the classic Elite Force 1 ! Runs great on just about any ppc G3 or faster along with holomatch! PS I still run an iSight G5 imac Dual Core G5 and MDD G4 as my daily machines along with my 1.33Ghz ibook and I must say I these were some of the best and final machines Apple ever built! I have an intel imac I dont even use

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  14. I enjoy playing BZflag.org now on version 2.4.2 but PPC is 2.4.0, and Armagetron, black shades( low spec os9/osx) and a couple of others, I will compile a list!

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  15. Very good read, I have multiple PowerPC systems, and one of the best games I would like you to add to the list would be Star Trek Elite Force 2, it will run on OS 9.2, and any OSX 10.1 and newer, and plays wonderfully on my G4 tower, and amazing on my G5 tower.

    For anyone into Sci Fi its a great pick.

    Even a lowly eMac ( with a 32mb chip ) can run the game fairly well.

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  16. The original Unreal and Unreal Tournament are also nice. While neither came out officially for OS X, Westlake did do a beta port of UT which works "okay" on OS X, but has no music. It's not hard to find. UT2003 (or 4? I forget)'s installer won't work with 10.4, so I just play the original.Thanks for sharing this valuable post.

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  17. Fallout and Fallout 2 would be great additions to group 1 as they only need a G3 w/ 233 MHz, 128 MB RAM and Mac OS X 10.1.4+

    As the original Fallout was released for System 7.1.2 in 1997 Fallout and Fallout 2 have been ported to OS X in the early 2000s as well. For me these two games alone are a reason for keeping my old PPC Mac alive. Needless to say how great they are... :)

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  18. I'd like to add more titles to this. I actually own / played the following PPC games:

    Clive Barker's Undying for Mac (woks on OS 9.2 all the way up to 10.6 and don't recall it ever crashing), I've played it several times over the years. A bit slow the first half of game and gets crazy later on. It's very good, up there with Deus Ex, System Shock and Thief (the last 2 titles on PC).

    More PPC titles:
    Soldier of Fortune Double Helix
    No One Lives Forever 2
    Rune
    SiN Gold (OS9)
    Star Wars Elite force 1 & 2
    Vampire the Masquerade
    Civilization 4
    Doom 3

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  19. Whatever you have provided for us in these posts really appreciative.John

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  20. I love the mission statement of this group. I still have several Powermac G4s, Quicksilver and Digital Audio, and a G5 and I have almost all of those games. I used to know the guy who sold stuff on eBay, the MacGenius's guy who died of cancer. Anyway, I got to test most of the Graphics cards mentioned here in various PPC Macs if anyone needs any advice. I have a current Mac Pro, but surprisingly, a lot of these games, the ones that were PPC/Intel, really don't play that much better on a current Mac. I guess a lot of the legacy graphics drivers in MacOS have been dropped by Apple. So you really do still need to hold onto an old PowerPC Mac for some of these games. And finally, Stubbs the Zombie is NOT just for 15 year olds. I love that game! HAHA!

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  21. that looks to be splendid however i am still not too certain that I long gone it. At any price will see a long way extra into it and find individually! Clash Of Lights Mod Apk

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