Great Old Gaming Gems – Transport Tycoon

This week we’re going to be looking at a huge favourite of mine: Transport Tycoon. This is easily my vote for the most addictive game of all time and it’s a game that I have been playing regularly pretty much since 1995.

Where to even begin on a game that is so close to my heart?

Well I’ll start with the basics. Back in 1994 Chris Sawyer released his dream into the world. That dream was Transport Tycoon. At its core Transport Tycoon is a business simulator. You have to build and operate a transport company dealing with everything from livestock to passengers. From coal to valuables to oil. You name it you have to transport it! And why? To make money of course! Money money money!

You start the game with a small bank loan, enough to set up a few services, then it’s all about making some profit. The more you earn the more money you have to invest into your network making new routes and services thus making even more money!

Sounds a simple premise? It is. However where this game excels is in its complexity. Say you have a factory. What does that factory do? Nothing. First you have to supply it with whatever it needs such as steel sheets. But to get the steel sheets you have to take iron ore from an iron ore mine to a steel mill for it to be processed into steel to take to the factory where it is turned into goods that need to be transported into town. So supply chains are the name of the game here. Tricky to master but a nice simple coal mine feeding a power station could be quite the profitable venture.

Passengers are always a handy commodity to invest in. Towns that have active rail and bus networks would grow and grow thus increasing profits and demand on your network. Those little towns that you don’t build a service too? They’ll shrink. The same happened to businesses. If a factory is not supplied with what it needs it’ll sooner, rather than later, close down.

Think of this as a finance lesson of supply and demand in game form.

But what of the graphics? Well I have to say, and I admit to being biased, I loved them then and I still love them now. The game world is presented from an isometric 3D view and all of the planes, trains, etc are all sprites animated by hand by the very very talented Simon Foster. The game’s very cute almost cartoony graphics are just as addictive as the epic gameplay. These are graphics that still impress in 2016, never mind 1994 on it’s original release, and are still used and loved by millions today. But we’ll get to that in a minute

The other thing that truly shone about Transport Tycoon is the music. The game had a very very awesome jazz-blues soundtrack by John Broomhall. In terms of get in your head hum along addictiveness only the original Tetris soundtrack game comes close.

The original release of Transport Tycoon was a DOS exclusive and featured 4 varied worlds. You had Temperate, Arctic, Tropical and the Martian landscape. Each world types had different and unique industries and vehicles. So if a certain train was developed for Arctic climates you’ll find it only in the Arctic worlds. Interesting this initial release also used real world names for all of its vehicles.

In 1995 Transport Tycoon Deluxe was released. This was essentially the same game as Transport Tycoon, and this is the version I fell in love with, but with a few key differences. For starters the Martian landscape was out to be replaced with Toy Land. The real world names for vehicles were also dropped in favour of fictionalised ones which was said to be for legal reasons. That music and those graphics however? They thankfully remained!

This version also added Windows 95 support. Which means that it still works today under Windows compatibility mode. Although after XP it functions a little bit… glitchy to say the least.

A Sony Playstation port was created and was one of the very few games to support the PS1 mouse controller. That version of Transport Tycoon also included some fully 3D polygon graphics. This version of the game however wasn’t a patch on the original although does remain an interesting curio in the history of the game. A SEGA Saturn version was also released but copies of this game are exceedingly rare.

Should you want to play this freaking awesome epic game that I am still playing religiously today there is another version out there and that version is OpenTTD. OpenTTD is an open source freeware clone of Transport Tycoon Deluxe that manges to capture the magic of the original and run with it turning one of the best games ever into something even more awesome. If you have the original game OpenTTD lets you use the original graphics, sounds and music. However if you don’t it does provide freeware alternatives.

This version of the game captures the magic of the original, turns it up to 11, and runs with it. The scope is truly huge as there is a massive online community out there providing regular updates from new vehicles to new industries and graphic packs. The maximum map size is increased from 256×256 to 2048×2048 making areas in the game truly huge. It also adds the one thing missing from the original game and that is multiplayer support. Now you can play your friends over the internet or on a local network for endless hours of addictive fun.

I really can not stress how awesome this game is!

Not only that OpenTTD has been ported to Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS (jailbroken only), Android, PSP, Nintendo DS, and pretty much anything else you can imagine with a screen and user input. OpenTTD is universal and, of course, is bloody brilliant.

It is a testament to the addictiveness that in the 21 years I’ve been playing I still feel like I have only just scratched the surface of how deep this game goes.

So head over to and download OpenTTD right now!

Go on! You know you want to!

There is now also an official Android version of Transport Tycoon. It’s a good game, with updated graphics, but to me as I’m sure you can gather OpenTTD is the way to go to play this game in the 21st Century. I did think it was best to mention it however!

Oh and how on earth have I written an article on Transport Tycoon without mentioned what Chris Sawyer did next?! That game is a game for another day. But for those curious? He went on to create the Rollercoaster Tycoon series of games!