Have You Played… Tyrian 2000?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

You probably have. For years, Tyrian 2000 was as close as the PC got to a truly great vertical shooter, in a field of… well, basically three. Tyrian was great. Apogee’s Major Styker pretty much sucked. Raptor: Call Of The Shadows was initially pretty, but a bit of a bore. Was Tyrian great compared to the greatest shooters on other platformers? No. But compared to the competition in the 90s, it was an arcade revelation.

It’s not just the shooting, across a zillion planets and with about as many updates. It’s that Tyrian was a box of toys that never seemed to run out. Just when you thought you’d seen everything, it would casually give you a code for a ship that looked like a carrot. Every new upgrade was exciting, and married to a surprisingly complex story of main character Trent versus the evil Microsol corporation, evil ales and weirder. My favourite part though was the DESTRUCT code, which unlocked a real-time, two-player spin on the old Scorched Earth that I remember thinking had the potential to be turned into a full game. With somewhat better graphics, of course.

Tyrian, in short, had everything. It was shareware at its most exciting and generous, offering something that the big commercial companies had no real interest in bringing to the PC, and providing yet more proof that the PC could go toe to toe with the consoles. The absolute best in vertical shooters? No. But chances are that if you were playing one on the PC at all back then, it was good enough, and it’s still pretty fun. Best of all? The whole thing is available on GOG.COM for free.


  1. JFS says:

    Oh my God yes. I loved this game. Managed to find out about a dozen extra spacecraft as well. One was a flying carrot. Good times.

  2. Premium User Badge

    johannsebastianbach says:

    Awesome video review of Tyrian for everyone interested: link to youtu.be

  3. JackoBongo says:

    Thanks for making feel old :'(

  4. Doubler says:

    I can’t say I’ve ever played a better shmup personally. I can’t stand bullet hell titles, and besides that there’s not an awful lot of choice. Raptor, Major Stryker, Stargunner, Xenon 2, Silpheed… none that top Tyrian come to mind.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      I DO love bullet hell, and console/arcade shmups in general, and I still object to the insinuation that Tyrian isn’t up there near the top even now. Fact is, as you just pointed out, the majority of the genre is bullet-hell, which Tyrian was never trying to be. In the field of longer games with saves between levels and complex upgrade options, I’m honestly not sure Tyrian has EVER been beaten. If anything has done it then it’s probably Jets’n’Guns, but honestly while I played and hugely enjoyed that one, it doesn’t quite manage Tyrian’s charm for me.

      In short, yes, I have. I still do. If I don’t play it at any other point in the year I still always boot it up in December.

      Christmas has been detected. Activate Christmas? Y/N

    • syllopsium says:

      I presume you’re limiting yourself to PC shmups there, as the choice of non bullet hell shmups is hardly limited on other platforms.

      In any case, go and check out Jets ‘n Guns Gold, you’ll definitely thank me for it!

      • Doubler says:

        Yeah, never owned any consoles or portables. I did play Jets ‘n Guns and enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t rank it above Tyrian either honestly.

        • DelrueOfDetroit says:

          If you ever see an arcade machine with 1942 written on it then you must play it.

      • Pravin Lal's Nuclear Arsenal says:

        Yay Jets’n Guns! *claps and jumps on the spot*

        A-hem. Sorry about that. I have a condition, you see, every time someone mentions Jets’n Guns I…oh dear. *claps and jumps on the spot*

      • Evil Timmy says:

        Came here for this, was not disappointed. Other than a few unbalanced weapons in each, Tyrian and JnG were really great, and I loved switching weapons between levels to take on each new challenge. Rather than the dodge-heavy insta-kill bullet hell games, I felt the shield/weapon power dynamic meant more strategic gameplay, ie do I take on this wave knowing I’ll give up shields and be weakened and miss one or two, or let it pass and give up some coin but be ready to unleash a full volley direct into the next wave and obliterate them?

  5. Retzinsky says:

    Oh yes indeed I did. This game absolutely slayed. Undoubtedly one of my favourite gaming experiences.

  6. DarkwaterV2 says:

    Yes, I have. Wonder, wonderful game. Like many, I had the shareware version as a kid.

    On some occasions, I picked up this enormous golden laser in the last stage of the arcade mode. Never been able to find out more on this weapon, but it was absolutely magical. Destroyed almost everything in its path.

  7. Sin Vega says:

    Ross Scott did a great video on this for his Game Dungeon. I’ve not played it, but he made me want to, as he has a habit of doing. link to youtube.com

  8. wraithgr says:

    Those data cubes… Nothing has triggered my game completionist drive as much as those data cubes… And apparently Stefan winning OMF 2097 is the canon ending to that game, according to one of the early ones.

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    bsplines says:

    i never played it outside of the GOG version, some 12 years after its release and I wholeheartedly agree with the author.

    Well, except the part where Raptor is described as ‘bore’.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      One thing Raptor definitely had over Tyrian was dat intro.

    • Dreforian says:

      I played the original shareware version (only episode 1) off a demo/shareware CD-rom I permanently borrowed from a friend. The “full” version has something like 3-4 episodes iirc. Tyrian2000 added some things like christmas mode, another episode, and I believe even an extra difficulty.
      This version is the one that’s survived as freeware because of the composer. The “GOG version” is literally just the original Tyrian2000 bundled with a tailored distribution of DOSBox to make the game run optimally. I remember fiddling with the DOSBox settings to do basically the same thing before GOG got it. Made a neat present for my dadoo.

  10. caerphoto says:

    Maybe it’s a shooter set 670 years into the future of Guild Wars 2!

  11. MrDowntempo says:

    I really enjoyed Ross’s Game Dungeon’s retrospective on Tyrian A great primer to those who hadn’t heard of or played it before.

  12. Don Reba says:

    Played it and loved it!

  13. nmarebfly says:

    Can we talk about how there are some real jams on the soundtrack?

    Tyrian, the level
    Tunneling Trolls
    Gryphons of the West

    This game was pretty remarkable for just how generous the shareware version was. There were a TON of extra modes and secret codes that were everything a wee gaming baby needed. Not only DESTRUCT — there were a bunch of codes that gave you specific ship setups and special weapons and secret fighting-game like combos that could refill shields or give different weapons. The setup program even had a jukebox / lightsynth mode!

    Oh, and ‘Data Acquired’ was my text message tone for a long while.

    • khamul says:

      Yeah. The music was just The Best.

      Though how you have forgotten to mention Asteroid Dance is beyond me…

      …it is playing in my head, right now.

  14. vorador says:

    Getting all the data cubes was one of my earliest completionist obsessions. Since there was no tally of them, never knew if i got everything or not.

    Man this game was so much fun.

  15. Monggerel says:

    Great music too! Main Menu theme gives me nostalgia shivers.
    Man, those may or may not have been *the* days, but Tyrian sure was special.

  16. Nick says:

    Had the shareware, ordered the full game, loved every minute. Never played a top down shooter that I enjoyed as much, at the time or since.

    Was good fun in coop as well.

  17. Inu says:

    A beautiful period of my childhood.

  18. Risingson says:

    As someone that has spent most of his childhood money in shoot em ups, mastering Aero Fighters and other absurd ones as Ajax/Typhoon or Tokyo, Tyrian2k was for a long time my favourite of the genre in pc. Among with Project X and Tubular Worlds.

    Raptor is horrendous. Boring as hell, repetitive as hell, uninspired as hell.

  19. Platina32 says:

    Not even a mention of the AMAZING soundtrack that this game has? Composed largely by Alexander Brandon.

    • Risingson says:

      There are like ten people mentioning that fact above you.

    • Dreforian says:

      Something that has gone unmentioned (though maybe the linked articles/videos mention it) is that the composer is the reason the game is available as freeware.
      Long before GOG took it in and bundled it up, Tyrian/2000 Was released as freeware by Brandon who’d kept a copy of the game long after the dev/publisher companies were gone.
      I dunno if it is now but full Tyrian2000 used to be available for download from his website.

  20. Spacewalk says:

    Even though I have a dislike of euroshmups I still thought it as alright.

  21. DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Hey, does anybody know if Ross did a video review of this game?

  22. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Yes, yes I have. And it’s awesome! The music is great, too.

  23. frogulox says:


    Man i had this game when i had few other, and i distinctly remember whiling better parts of entire weekends to a scrolling masterpiece.

    I dont know if it’s perfect, but for me, it is the engraved benchmark by which all newcomers are measured.

    The music, the action, variety of ships, weapons, and challenges..

    Ugh. Tyrian. Yes.

  24. Danc says:

    So happy folks are still enjoying Tyrian! I drew that carrot ship. :-) Strange to think I’m still making shmups after all these years.

    • tciecka says:

      Oh hi! Thanks muchly for the Carrot Ship! How did you end up getting involved with the game?

  25. Minsc_N_Boo says:

    I loved Tyrion – I was never a big Shooter fan, but this one was a lot of fun.

    I found recently there is an open source version “Opentyrion” that works on a Raspberry Pi, Android, and all sorts of other non-PC devices.

  26. BoZo says:

    There’s an android version of Tyrian that works perfectly. I played through the whole game a few years ago without problems at all.

    link to play.google.com