Ultima is a game universe created by Richard Garriott, and later through his company Origin Systems. The first Ultima game was published in 1981. The series spanned dozens of games, soundtracks, comic books, and more.
My first experience with the series was from the NES game Ultima: Exodus, which I really loved, despite its many flaws. A middle school friend later showed me Ultima VII: The Black Gate and I was utterly blown away. I own every major Ultima game and have played nearly all of the non-canon games as well.
- Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress
- Ultima III: Exodus
- Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar
- Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny
- Ultima VI: The False Prophet
- Ultima VII: The Black Gate
- Ultima VII, Part 2: Serpent Isle
- Ultima VIII: Pagan
- Ultima IX: Ascension
- Akalabeth: World of Doom
- Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss
- Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds
- Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire
- Ultima: Worlds of Adventure 2 - Martian Dreams
- Ultima: Runes of Virtue
- Ultima: Runes of Virtue II
- Ultima Online
- Ultima: Exodus
- Ultima: Quest of the Avatar
- Ultima: Escape From Mt. Drash
Advertisement for Ultima I and II by Sierra On-Line.
The Ultima logo was designed for the very first Ultima game in 1981. It uses the typeface Victorian with the "m" stylized so the third leg has a swash curving below the baseline and terminating in a point. This same logo was used in 1982 on cover of Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress, but with a chrome finish.
Strangely, the two Worlds of Ultima games used the original Ultima logo, only with tighter kerning, even though the Ultima logo had been redesigned several years prior. The logo on Martian Dreams had a slightly shorter swash on the "m."
In the 1983, the Atari 8-bit port of Ultima I and Ultima: Escape From Mt. Drash feature a different logo with more jagged serifing and a tan-colored mirror finish.
Also in 1983, the back of the box of Ultima III: Exodus has a solid yellow logo with a smaller swash on the "m" and sloppy serifing. It looks almost as though someone took the original logo and tried to re-create it freehand, maybe even as a cutout of the original. This is the first title released by Origin Systems, so perhaps they didn't have access to the original logo?
In 1985, the Ultima logo was given a professional makeover for Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. The logo was stretched in height, and the dips on all the ascenders are flattened out (tops of the "U," "l," etc.), the tittle on the "i" was made larger, the shoulders on the "m" were made asymmetrical and its swash doesn't dip down below the baseline quite so much, and the foot of the "a" was more pointed. The whole thing was topped off with a chrome finish like Ultima II. This is the most popular Ultima logo. Although later games would change the coloration, the structure of this logo was used on the core games from 4, 5, 6, 7, 7-2, both Underworld games, and served as the base for the logo seen on most of the Japanese remakes.
The 1986 remake of Ultima I features a different logo that is effectively a hybrid between the original logo and the new logo. The logo is tall like the Ultima IV logo, but the dips in the ascenders are back. The "i" has the larger tittle, and the "m" has the shrunken swash, but the "a" has the original foot. I wonder if the designers purposely changed the updated logo to look more like the original of if this was an early version of the 1985 updated logo that they picked up from the cutting room floor?
In 1987, with the release of Ultima: Exodus on the Famicom, Pony Canyon's designers took the 1985 updated logo and added an extruded 3D look and a golden metallic finish. This was used on the Japanese-made console ports for games 3-7, the console versions of the MSX ports, and the Runes of Virtue games.
In 1988, Pony Canyon started releasing remakes for Japanese home computers, and they slightly altered their console logo. It's a bit more reddish in color, but otherwise the same. This was used on the PC-8801, PC-9801, MSX (PC versions), Sharp X1, and FM-Towns remakes for games 1-6.
In 1994, noticeable changes were seen in the logo used for Ultima VIII: Pagan. All of the serifs are blunter, the thick portion of the "U" reaches slightly higher up the right ascender and stops at a more acute angle, the "m" is more like the original logo with a lower-dipping swash and rounder shoulders, and the foot of the "a" doesn't extend as far.
Ultima Online's 1997 release features a completely new logo unrelated to any of the previous Ultima titles. This logo was used for the UO titles from 1997-2002.
In 1999, Ultima IX: Ascension featured a totally new jagged Ultima logo. The Ultima Online series adopted this logo in 2002 with the release of Lord Blackthorn's Revenge and used it for all subsequent titles.