This is a topic that never ceases to fascinate me. I’ve given a few examples here and here. Here’s a list of the games that, in the five years or so that I’ve been offering downloads, have surprised me the most.
Same Game for Windows was the biggest surprise of all. When I added it, I already had a page about SameGame in general, which didn’t get that many hits. I had a few Sokoban implementations up, which weren’t exceedingly popular either. But Same Game quickly rose to the top and stayed there. It has always remained the most downloaded game, sometimes by an incredible margin.
Back on the old site, Color linez was usually the second most downloaded 32-bit Windows game after XTET, and somewhere in the top ten in general. On Download Central, it has been the overall number two right from the beginning.
The popularity not only of Tank Wars, but of the artillery genre in general surprised me. I had considered it half forgotten. It turned out that while little was written about, little known about its history, while the Wikipedia articles contained glaring mistake and there was a constant confusion about Cory Snider’s Tank Wars and Kenneth Morse’s Tank Wars, it nevertheless was and is a very popular genre. The popularity of the specific games is rather surprising as well. Tank Wars is usually the most downloaded DOS game and far more popular than Scorched Earth and Howitzer, which both support better resolutions. Bang! Bang! is rather popular too, while Fractal Fighters, the only artillery game for 32-bit Windows on Download Central, gets very little interest.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s no doubt that Wolfenstein 3D was a milestone of computer gaming history, and it’s not in the least surprising that it’s popular. What is surprising is the extent. It is usually the second most downloaded DOS game, and downloaded four times as often as Doom, and ten times as often as any other first-person shooter.
Update 2013-01-07: Some time in the first half of 2012, Wolfenstein 3D dropped from the top twelve. In December, it was downloaded only half as often as Doom. I don’t know what caused this drop any more than what caused its original popularity.
I’ve written about GobMan before. It’s so far the only new game (i.e. the only game I uploaded to Download Central first) that has managed to get a permanent place among the top twelve. What surprises me is that I never heard of it before. If it’s such a popular Pac-Man clone you’d expect it to be mentioned more often.
Again: Why this one? Xonix32 is downloaded five times as often as its DOS equivalent, ten times as often as the very similar CutOut. This month it has even been downloaded more often than SeXoniX, but I think this is part of a trend that would warrant a seperate blog entry.
[Update 2011-06-20] This is the latest surprise: Bow and Arrow. I added this game on April 16, and two months later it is one of the ten most downloaded Windows 3.1 games. It’s been rising only recently. At the moment it’s #6 of the new downloads. This isn’t a game I’ve ever read anything about either, but it seems mighty popular.