Populous is a computer game developed by Bullfrog in 1989 and is regarded by many as being the seminal god game. In 1991, Populous won the Origins Award for Best Military or Strategy Computer Game of 1990 as well as 1990 Computer Game of the Year in American video game magazine Video Games & Computer Entertainment. It was the first game in the Populous series, preceding Populous II and Populous: The Beginning.


In this game, first developed for the Amiga, Atari ST and PC, the player adopts the role of a deity and assumes the responsibility to shepherd people by direction, manipulation, and divine intervention. The player has the ability to shape the landscape and grow their civilization with the overall aim of having it conquer an enemy force, which is led by an opposing deity.

As the game progresses, the player rules over a variety of different civilizations, including Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval.


Populous was extremely successful and spawned a number of sequels of increasing complexity. It was also released on the PC Engine (as both a HuCard and a CD-ROM), SNES, Nintendo Game Boy, the Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis, the Sega Master System, Sharp's X68000 computer and the Acorn Archimedes. An expansion pack called Populous: The Promised Lands was made available, which added five new types of landscape. In addition, another expansion disk called Populous: The Final Frontier added a single new landscape-type and was released as a cover disk for The One.


Peter Molyneux led development and mentioned in an interview that the reason the player could manipulate terrain was that he was too lazy to design the many pre-defined maps that would have otherwise been required. The 2001 game Black & White, also led by Molyneux (but this time at his company Lionhead Studios), has been called the "spiritual descendant of Populous."

Peter Molyneux actually got motion sickness from the isometric view. At the time, he decided the isometric was necessary, but he could not play his own game. Bullfrog created a special cartridge for him to play top down only.


Bullfrog offered Powermonger, a combat-oriented game, based upon the Populous engine. The game Spore, produced by Electronic Arts, also shares elements with Populous.

A new version of the game for the Nintendo DS has a release date of October 14, 2008. The game allows the user to shape the in-game landscape using the DS's stylus. It also features a multiplayer mode allowing 4 players to play over a wireless connection.


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