Hey, Tanky Tanky! The Top 6 Tank Games Of All Time

Hey, Tanky Tanky! The Top 6 Tank Games Of All Time
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This week marks the official Australian launch of World Of Tanks Blitz on iOS devices (keep an eye out for a hands-on coming soon-ish). To commemorate the occasion, here are our six favourite tank games in chronological order; from Apple II’s ancient Artillery to Wargaming.net’s New World Order.

When Australian civil engineer Lancelot de Mole dreamed up the concept of the tank in 1911, little did he realise that it would go on to transform the world of video games. (Gaming didn’t actually exist back then, so we’ll let his stupid lack of foresight slide.)

There’s been a veritable battalion of great tank games over the years ranging from mindless blasters to absurdly complicated simulators. Here are six of our personal favourites from past to present. Tanks for the memories! [You’re fired — Ed.]

Artillery (Apple II, 1980)

Artillery is a turn-based strategy game that has been around for as long as computing itself. The most famous version was written in Applesoft BASIC all the way back in 1980. The aim of the game is to blow your competitor’s tank up by keying in data relating to shot velocity and turret angle while also accounting for wind speed.

It’s the same exact concept that Worms went on to popularise more than a decade later. Personally, we always thought those little squarish blobs were cannons, but the game’s documentation confirms otherwise. An honourable mention must also go to a shareware version called Scorched Earth, which refined the concept for DOS machines in the early 1990s.

Battlezone (Arcades, 1980)

It might not look like much today, but back in the 1980s, this was the pinnacle of immersive 3D gaming. Atari’s Battlezone took the vector graphics of Asteroids to a whole new level – gamers really felt like they were behind the wheel of a trundling death machine, with the periscope goggles fueling the sense of authenticity. The system was also adopted by the U.S. Army to train gunners; much to the chagrin of its hippy developers.

“I was vehemently opposed to Atari getting into this sort of business at all,” lead programmer Ed Rotburg later explained in an interview. “My contention was that many of us engineers had the option to go to work for companies doing military contracting, and we consciously chose to work at a company that was not so involved. This whole issue came to a head at our company’s next brainstorming session. At one meeting I actually got into a shouting match with the president of the division at that time.”

Make vectors, not war! In the end, Battlezone never took off as a genuine military simulator but it remains an excellent arcade blaster that helped pave the way for virtual reality in gaming, Somebody needs to make an Oculus Rift version, like, right now.

See also: World Of Wargames: The Real Victor Kislyi

Pacific Islands (Amiga, 1992)

Pacific Islands was a first-person war game that put you in control of an entire platoon of tanks. In a manner similar to Carrier Command and Team Yankee (to which this is a sequel), the game allowed you to switch freely between the various units under your command. This made things a lot more complicated than your standard FPS shooter, but also allowed for deeper strategy – you really felt like you were a tank battalion general; presumably with a cool name like Kilgore. It also featured impressive graphical touches like smoke screens and heat vision – not bad for a sprite-based game on 16-bit hardware.

On a side note, I was first exposed to this game after buying a cracked version in the mistaken belief that it was a sequel to the cutesy platformer Rainbow Islands. The disappointment was palpable — until I actually started playing it.

Metal Slug (Arcades/Neo Geo, 1996)

Okay, so this is actually a run-and-gun shooter, but we’d be remiss not to include it. After all, the titular Metal Slug — or SV-001 to give it its proper name — is arguably the most iconic tank in the history of video games.

Bristling with a mimi-arsenal of firepower, this deceptively cute tin can allows the player to deal death in all directions while simultaneously tossing grenades through the hatch. It can also fire shells, squash infantry and perform a Kamikaze charge into enemies (with the player leaping free at the last second, natch.) If we could petition Wargaming.net to include one fictional tank in its popular MMO, this would be it.

Tokyo Wars (Arcades, 1996)

1996 was arguably the year that the war for the arcades was lost. The sophisticated weaponry of the console armies had finally outgunned these old titans on the battlefield, leaving a graveyard of smouldering arcade parlours in its wake. Yet even as the incoming N64 prepared to deliver the killing blow, a secret weapon was unleashed by Namco: the aptly named Tokyo Wars.

Tokyo Wars offered gamers something that home console couldn’t: namely, it put them behind the controls of a fearsomely realistic tank; complete with gun recoil and military bucket seats. Up to eight players could join in the tank melee at once with a choice between Soviet T-72s or Japanese Type 90 Kyū-maru. The graphics remain impressive to this day and crushing cars beneath the treads of your tank remains one of gaming’s purest joys. Tokyo Wars spiritual sequel is also worth checking out: the excellently named Tank! Tank! Tank!

World Of Tanks (PC, 2010-present)

Galaxy Of Tanks, more like. At last count, the game boasted somewhere in the region of 500 armored vehicles — all of which can be controlled by the player. In other words, it’s basically porn for tank buffs (especially if you’re a WW2 nut.) For those who missed our previous coverage, World Of Tanks is a massive multiplayer online shooter that puts you in control of a single tank, SPG or tank destroyer. The game then tosses you into a pitched land battle with up to 30 other players.

In addition to thousands of randomly selected maps, the player can choose to fight using the geography and artillery from a handful of historical tank battles — including the iconic Battle of the Bulge (did we mention this game is like porn for tank buffs?) If you think you have what it takes to reverse the Sixth SS Panzer Army’s fortunes during Operation Spring Awakening, here is your chance to prove it. Although why you’d want to lend Hitler a hand is beyond us. Didn’t Wolfenstein teach you anything? Nazis are bad.


  • Spectre/Spectre VR were great, too. They were like more-arcade-y Battlezone games that were a ton of fun. Also – technically not a tank game, but still… all the old GTA games were so much fun with the tanks.

    • “An honourable mention must also go to a shareware version called Scorched Earth, which refined the concept for DOS machines in the early 1990s.” Honourable mentions count. 😛

      • My bad.
        I spent so many hours on that game with my family. Hot seat gaming seems a little quaint now.

        • My school had scorched earth, along with the incredible machine. On the only PC available for that grade, it would have been 1992-1994 I guess.

          Lunch hours were occasionally spent in that classroom having some battles with friends. Definitely a great memory.

    • Not going to lie, I CTRL-F’d ‘Scorched Earth’ and was about to complain too until I saw the shareware mention.

  • Lots of inaccuracy regarding World of Tanks in this article. It doesn’t feature 500 playable tanks, (It does feature a lot of tanks, 350 or so, but a lot of “paper”/conceptual tanks relative to the number of actually produced tanks.)
    It doesn’t feature “thousands” of randomly generated maps. It doesn’t have randomly generated maps. It has about 20-30 crafted maps.

    You should probably do your research if you gonna write an article like this.

      • Yeah, Wargaming is kinda like that. Bold slightly exaggerated claims. I’ve played WoT for a while before getting fed up with it’s heavy grind and very heavy pay to advance business model.
        Will give you an accurate breakdown of the number of tanks in the game, which at the moment, sits at about 350 or so, with Russia and Germany having the largest amount of tanks, but Japan and China having only a tiny handful.

        Edit: I should note, the last time I’ve play was v8.11 which, is 2 versions out of date. Since then, they have added 6 tanks. So my 350 number is still pretty accurate.

        • Fair enough. Of the above tank games, WoT is the one I’m least familiar with, but not including it would be akin to doing a Best MMORPG list with no World Of Warcraft.

      • Ditto. That era of simulations were easily playable without getting too bogged down in details and taking the fun out of it for non- nerds like most of today’s sims seem to be.

        Falcon, F/A-18 Interceptor, F-16 Combat Pilot, Combat Air Patrol, Flight Of the Intruder, 688 Attack Sub, Silent Service, Das Boot, Gunship (& 2000), Knights Of The Sky, the Lucasfilm sims, the Dynamix sims, the Microprose sims! Whew.. I’d like to see updated versions of some of those. I’d happily sacrifice some realism for gameplay!

        • Loved F/A-18 Interceptor, Silent Service and Knights Of The Sky! Man, now I want to drag my Amiga out of my parent’s closet (emulation just isn’t the same.)

  • Battle zone 2 is one of my favourites, although more honourable mentions should go to Arctic Fox by dynamix. Similar to battle zone in art style, but with more complex weapons, like guided missiles, which you control from a camera mounted to it. Way before its time.
    See here for more info http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcticfox

    • +1 to Arctixfox – one of the first sandbox games, but with snow. As I recall you could bury yourself in snow to hide from pursuit.

      Dynamix followed up much later with Stellar 7 and Nova 9 on PC (and ports elsewhere).

      The later Battlezone remake is also worth a mention for its action/tactical mix.

  • Some of my favorite multiplayer memories come from BattleTanx on the N64. Four player splitscreen + tanks = a whole lot of fun!

  • Armored Fist Series has got to be worth mentioning in this discussion! Spent many hours trying to complete a campaign in AF2.

  • The one i played more than any was the commodore 64 steel thunder, damn accolade used to make good games

  • what about NBA jam? My friends and I used to play the shit out of that secret tank game on the arcade machines.

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