#68: Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon

Format: Amiga Genre: Business simulation Released: 1990 Developer: MicroProse

Railroad Tycoon was one of the few games my Dad bought during his occasional dalliances with home computing. I remember him coming home with it and thinking, “Pffft, a game about building railways? Jeeeez, my Dad is SOOOOOOO sad!” (I was a sulky teenager at the time.) Then lo and behold, a few weeks later guess who was hooked on expanding his fledgling  railway network…

I damn well made sure my friends didn’t find out what I was doing though. I mean, just look at the front cover – this has to be one of the geekiest games ever created. But if you delve a little deeper you’ll find a solid and perfectly balanced strategy game – classic Sid Meier (he of Civilization fame). The graphics are pretty damn awful, even for the time, but once you get past the ugly exterior it’s easy to get hooked on manipulating your tiny trains.

The meat of the game centres around connecting towns and industries and micromanaging cargo. One town might produce iron and another might produce coal – take them both to a steel factory and you can produce steel, which in turn can be used to make canned goods or be exported… If it sounds complicated that’s because it is, and once you’ve connected five or six towns, micromanaging all of the various cargoes carried by each of the trains becomes a real headache. But somehow fun at the same time.

There are all sorts of strategic decisions to be made. Do I make my trains longer to maximise profit but at the same time reduce their speed? Is it worth the expense of new tracks and trains to connect to a nearby stockyard, or will the profits be too slim to make it worth it? Do I lay single track, which is cheaper, or double track, which allows my trains to move faster? It all adds up to an extremely complex but compelling game experience, even if (like me) you have absolutely no interest in trains whatsoever.

Both my Dad and I were totally hooked on this game at one point, but in the end it all got a bit too samey. The best bit is at the start, when you’re rapidly expanding your network, but once you get past a certain size, managing all of your trains becomes a bit of a nightmare, and you find yourself repeating the same actions again and again. Having said all that, the game impressed me enough to buy Railroad Tycoon II for the Dreamcast… although I kept that pretty quiet from my friends too.

(By the way, the little bell noise that signals when a train has arrived at a station used to drive me mad – have a listen in the video above to see what I mean. When your rail network got to a certain size the bell would sound almost constantly – it was almost like having tinnitus.)



Filed under 1990, Amiga, Business simulation, MicroProse

10 responses to “#68: Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon

  1. Old Gaulian

    I remember playing this game, but I don’t recall being quite so ‘hush’ about it all. Still even at the time it wasn’t enough to draw me away from my admittedly juvenile fascination of Civilization on the Amiga.

    I still do love the genre though – and I’ll raise your Tycoon II for Dreamcast by admitting I own A-Train HX for the 360.

  2. lewispackwood

    Writing this post really made me want to play the game again – I found out that Sid Meier made another one called ‘Railroads!’ a few years back, so I might have to make a purchase! I’ve never played A-Train though – I’m surprised they released it for the 360. I presume it’s on Live Arcade?

    • Old Gaulian

      Surprisingly no, it was a full retail release. There was a precedent for releasing the series at retail, some of the older games in the series made their way to the PS2 by way of budget publishers, but a japanese niche game on a western console is puzzling. More puzzling is that it was originally a japanese game on the Amiga and published by Maxis from memory.

      Pirates! is one of those games that you talk about and it just makes you want to go and play it too. The PSP iteration was particularly good for that. I guess that’s why Mr Meier is still allowed to put his name on the box.

  3. lewispackwood

    I enjoyed Pirates! on the Xbox, but a bit like Railroad Tycoon, it all got a bit samey after a while. Also, the dancing minigame was frankly rubbish, not to mention incredibly frustrating at higher levels. Still, good idea for a game – did they ever make a sequel?

    • Old Gaulian

      No unfortunately no sequel. Maybe a good thing because it was the kind of game that you could sink hours into. All it would need was a little bit more complexity in the trading system of the game, the removal of said dancing mini game and a more complicated Colonization/Advance Wars land battle mechanic and it’d be a a sure fire time waster.

      Speaking of Pirate related games, the XBOX version of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ was a fantastic pirate-centric RPG. Developed by Akella it actually was originally a sequel to Sea Dogs, but when the time came the publisher decided to whack on the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ license to capitalise on the release of the film. The game itself had pretty much nothing to do with its namesake. Unfortunately not backwards compatible with the 360, but well worth giving a go if you still have your XBOX hooked up.

  4. lewispackwood

    I’ll have to look out for that one – I remember it coming out, but the movie licence made me steer well clear.

    A movie licence that’s actually quite good? Surely those can be counted on one hand…

  5. Old Gaulian

    it could be worse, they could be films based on video game IP….

  6. Pingback: Podcast 22: Crazy Taxi (#100) | 101 Video Games That Made My Life Slightly Better

  7. Pingback: Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon | Game Glist

  8. I enjoyed this game a lot, too. I remember the same sort of reaction, of not immediately being attracted to it, but once I got a handle on how it worked, I really loved it. Good to see it on the list here. 🙂

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