25 years of Rollercoaster Tycoon

A photo of The Big One, a rollercoaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Last week, the game Rollercoaster Tycoon turned 25 years old. There’s a good retrospective from The Guardian, including interviews with two people who played the game in their youth and who now design rollercoasters, and the game’s designer, Chris Sawyer. Whilst its graphics felt dated even in 1999, it was well-received at the time and was a game that allowed plenty of flexibility with each scenario.

I have fond memories of playing Rollercoaster Tycoon – indeed, I spent much of the summer of 1999 playing through the various scenarios. And of course, I ended up buying both expansions, which added additional scenarios and new rides.

Rollercoaster Tycoon was the second of Chris Sawyer’s games that I played extensively. I also spent many hours playing Transport Tycoon, which was released in 1994 and came on floppy disks. It’s notable that Sawyer wrote most of the code for his games in Assembly, which meant that the games were light on system resources but also hard to port to other platforms.

More recently, I’ve played the open source clone, OpenTTD, which works on modern computers. And there’s OpenRCT2, which is an open source re-implementation of Rollercoaster Tycoon 2, although it uses the original data files.

Of course, realising that Rollercoaster Tycoon is now 25 years old is another sign that I’m getting old.