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The small country town Skara Brae was enjoying a peaceful life, until an evil wizard known as Mangar the Dark appeared. Monsters have invaded the town, terrorizing its inhabitants. Mangar cast the spell of Eternal Winter on the surroundings, isolating Skara Brae from any possible help. Guards that were entrusted with the task of protecting the town have disappeared within one night. Only a party of brave adventurers can save Skara Brae and defeat Mangar.

The Bard's Tale is a fantasy role-playing game similar to Wizardry games, with first-person exploration of pseudo-3D maze-like environments, and turn-based combat against randomly appearing enemies. Unlike early Wizardry installments, the town can be explored physically, and parts of the overworld are accessible as well. Several dungeons must be explored before the player can tackle the final quest.

Six character classes are available when the player is prompted to create a party of six adventurers in the beginning of the game: Bard, Hunter, Monk, Paladin, Rogue, Warrior, Magician, and Conjurer. The last two can be promoted when specific conditions are met during gameplay. The bard class plays a special role, possessing magical songs that improves the party's performance in combat and are required to solve some of the game's puzzles.


Tales of the Unknown: Volume I - The Bard's Tale NES Battle
Tales of the Unknown: Volume I - The Bard's Tale ZX Spectrum The game then runs the attack options for each player
Tales of the Unknown: Volume I - The Bard's Tale NES Starting the game in adventurer's guild
Tales of the Unknown: Volume I - The Bard's Tale Atari ST Main menu

Promo Images

Tales of the Unknown: Volume I - The Bard's Tale Other
Tales of the Unknown: Volume I - The Bard's Tale Other
Tales of the Unknown: Volume I - The Bard's Tale Other
Tales of the Unknown: Volume I - The Bard's Tale Other

Alternate Titles

  • "The Bard's Tale I" -- Media title
  • "The Bard's Tale" -- DOS media title
  • "Shadow Snare" -- Working title
  • "バーズテイル" -- Japanese spelling

Part of the Following Groups

User Reviews

Hey, Hey, Skara Brae, what a cool game you have to play! DOS Daniel Reed (29)
Set the standard for gaming in its day DOS thejayman (16)
Breakthrough RPG in the Home Computer era Apple II Frecklefoot (201)
A great early dungeon crawler DOS ex_navynuke! (48)
Great In It's Day DOS AstroNerdBoy (40)
1st Person RPG Classic DOS Yeah Right (57)
One of the Great Dungeon crawls DOS mclazyj (31)
One of the all-time classics. DOS Mirrorshades2k (282)
Fantasy Role Playing Excitement Apple II eqfan (2)
My first ever D&D RPG.... still has classic gameplay current games can learn from DOS XplOrOrOr (16)

Critic Reviews

ASM (Aktueller Software Markt) Apple II Sep, 1986 10 out of 10 100
Happy Computer Commodore 64 1986 93 out of 100 93
Retro Archives Macintosh Aug 15, 2018 18.5 out of 20 92
Retro Archives Apple II Aug 15, 2018 18 out of 20 90
Power Play Atari ST 1987 9 out of 10 90
Joker Verlag präsentiert: Sonderheft DOS 1992 73 out of 100 73
Amiga Joker Amiga Nov, 1992 72 out of 100 72
The Games Machine (UK) Amstrad CPC Sep, 1988 72 out of 100 72
Computer and Video Games (CVG) ZX Spectrum Sep, 1988 7 out of 10 70
Computer Gaming World (CGW) Apple II Nov, 1985 Unscored Unscored


Topic # Posts Last Post
Bard's Tale Song remakes 1 Pieces of 8-bit
Jul 30, 2015
What advntages does the Hunter class have? 2 Game Guesser (28)
Feb 17, 2013
Completed? 3 Indra was here (20862)
Dec 07, 2010


1001 Video Games

The Bard's Tale appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


While most of the buildings are empty and exist only to increase the size of the map, entering the building directly across from the guild shows the game credits.


Though any direct connection to the game series, setting and characters is slight at best, an officially-licensed Bard's Tale series of novels eight strong (!) were published by Baen Books over a six-year period in the '90s:
  1. Castle of Deception (1992), by Mercedes Lackey and Josepha Sherman;
  2. Fortress of Frost and Fire (1993), by Mercedes Lackey and Ru Emerson;
  3. The Chaos Gate (1994), by Josepha Sherman;
  4. Prison of Souls (1994), by Mercedes Lackey and Mark Shepherd;
  5. Thunder of the Captains (1996), by Holly Lisle and Aaron Allston;
  6. Wrath of the Princes (1997), by Holly Lisle and Aaron Allston;
  7. Escape from Roksamur (1997), by Mark Shepherd; and
  8. Curse of the Black Heron (1998), by Holly Lisle.


  • Michael Cranford, a devout Christian, put many Biblical references into the first two Bard's Tale games. Most notable are a reference to the crucifixion in the first game and the Holy Spirit in the second. In fact, Cranford ended his video game career with the second game in the series and now programs web sites for religious groups.
  • One of the more powerful shields in the game, the Ybarra shield, is in fact named after Joe Ybarra, a producer at Electronics Arts, who was directly involved with The Bard's Tale.

Skara Brae

The original Skara Brae is a well-preserved Neolithic village located in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. The four thousand year old settlement was buried by encroaching sand dunes and uncovered a century ago when a storm exposed parts of the structures. Today it is a well known tourist site and undoubtedly inspired Michael Cranford (Bard's Tale) and Richard Garriott (Ultima series).

NES version

In the NES version, the post-death screen was removed, the word "kill" was avoided and all alcoholic beverages were replaced with non-alcoholic ones.


  • Commodore Force
    • December 1993 (Issue 13) – #88 “Readers' Top 100”
  • Commodore Format
    • November 1994 (Issue 50) – #29 The All-Time Top 50 C64 Games
  • Computer Gaming World
    • March 1988 (Issue #45) – Introduced into the Hall of Fame
    • November 1996 (15th Anniversary issue) - #89 on the "150 Best Games of All Time" list
  • GameSpy
    • 2001 – #17 Top Game of All Time
  • Happy Computer
    • 1986 - Best Role Playing Game of the Year
    • Issue 04/1987 - #2 Best Game in 1986 (Readers' Vote)
  • Power Play
    • 1987 - Best Atari ST Game '87
Information also contributed by Adam Baratz, Chip Arnett, Peter Ferrie, PCGamer77, Pseudo_Intellectual, Ray Soderlund, Vance.

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Contributed to by JRK (11242), Droog (522), Kabushi (257508), Terok Nor (32100), Unicorn Lynx (181446) and Belboz (6576)
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