Founded by the enigmatic and inscrutable Chris and "Tim" Stamper, Ultimate discharged one classic after another, from Jetpac through Atic Atac, to Underwurlde, to Knight Lore. Like a crop-happy jockey that's hepped-up on "bennies", it's common knowledge that the company rode the ZX Spectrum faster and harder than anyone else.
Now get a load of this: everything you believe is wrong.
There's another side to the Ultimate story, a darker side - a side which doesn't entirely feature classic after classic. Indeed, there's an Ultimate which released a whole load of rubbish.
You see, for every great Ultimate game there was a really awful one - whether excreted onto the Commodore 64 (for which the Stampers outsourced all the work to two men in a loft), or on the Spectrum after the brand had been pimped-off to legendary shovelware facilitators US Gold.
Here, then, are the ten Ultimate games which The Official Version of Events would rather you forgot...
As the first Ultimate game released without the input of the Stamper Brothers, The Staff of Karnath lacked the cartoonish quality of its Spectrum stablemates, adopting a grotesque, side-scrolling, 2.5D style which did little make it stand out. Worse still, there was no relying on Sir Arthur to bring personality to the game - he had as much charisma as the inside of a mitten.
Unaware that the Stampers weren't involved, most Commodore 64 owners had expected Ultimate to make full use of their system's alleged extra power, and produce a game that boasted the sort of high productuion values Spectrum owners had become accustomed to. Not so. The Staff of Karnath was ugly, unremarkable, and unimpressive. U-u-u-u-u-u-uuuuu!
Despite it being greeted with bafflement, there was a reasonable amount of depth, as you explored the castle in search of its titular magic staff; there were hidden rooms, assorted spells and items to use. Nevertheless, the thing for which Ultimate was best known - its boundary-pushing visuals - were desperately lacking.
You could say... YOU JUST CAN'T (COULDN'T) GET THE STAFF THESE (THOSE) DAYS!!?!!!
Still, perhaps helped by some typically iconic Ultimate packaging and the company's reputation, it sold well enough that Rare rushed out a follow-up...
It's just rubbish.
Though once again dressed inexplicably as a b-boy - in attire more suitable for spinning around on your back outside a Wimpy than scrabbling around in tombs - this time Sir Arthur had gone full Indiana Jones and was armed with a whip. Well, you know bluebloods and their fetishes...
Though a slight step up from its predecessor - benefitting from an entirely re-programmed game engine - it was nevertheless a far cry from the highs of Ultimate's Spectrum games. In certain circles, people were beginning to question whether the company even cared about Commodore 64 owners.
Those of us with a Spectrum were, of course, highly amused by this turn of events.
Essentially an Ancient Egypt-themed shoot 'em up, the player took to the skies on the back of an eagle, and shot what appeared to be eggs at enemies. Not as revolting as it might sound, these eggs emerged from your eagle's beak. Just like in real life!
The leaden controls were bad enough, but the worst crime this game committed was once again failing utterly to live up to the high bar set by the rest of the company's output. Uninspired at best, an outright travesty at worst, Commodore 64 owners could only look on with envy and confusion at the games their Spectrum-owning rivals were playing.
Ultimate were seemingly putting all of their efforts into the packaging - which sported the exact same attention to detail as the company's Spectrum games. This had a similar effect to presenting your significant other with an expensive-looking ring box which actually contained nothing but rat excrement.
Notably, it was the only Ultimate game for the C64 not to be developed by attic coders Dave and Bob Thomas, and was instead the work of fruity Spaniard Manual Caballero.
Once again trapped in a cursed location - this time a haunted pirate ship - Sir Arthur had left his body- popping days behind him, and was now armed with a sword. This came in useful; in addition to being assaulted by winged demons, he would also be attacked, intermittently, by flying octopi. Swords, as we all know, are the natural enemy of (flying) octopi.
Making full use of the Commodore 64's extensive palette of browns, one of the biggest complaints laid at Blackwyche's door was how all of the locations aboard this big brown ship looked the same.
Whereas Gunfright squeezed the Spectrum to breaking point with its scrolling isometric visuals - using Ultimate's Filmation II engine - Outlaws seemed content to tread water. Or moonshine. Or whatever it is that cowboys drink/swim in.
Little wonder: reportedly, the game was thrown together in just six weeks, so that Ultimate would have something to release on the C64 in time for "Brown Christmas".
It offered less of a focus on combat than the previous games in the series, and was more content to let Sir Arthur explore the island, and instead manoeuvre his way through environmental traps and obstacles. Suffice to say, it wasn't any better than the previous three games, though Sir Arthur was now accessorising his cape with a green bodysuit.
As with all of Pendragon's adventures, Dragon Skulle was eviscerated in the gaming press, getting a shameful 49% in Zzap! 64. The only positive thing reviewer Julian "Jazzhands" Rignall had to say was that it was the last instalment in the series.
Though still better than any of the company's shameful Commodore 64 titles, by now Ultimate was starting to feel like a one-trick pony.
Though it bears the hallmarks of earlier games, this was likely the first of Ultimate's ZX Spectrum game not to be overseen by the Stamper Brothers. They had by this point, sold Ultimate to US Gold, a company perhaps best known for publishing any old shit.
US Gold? More like ANUS Gold, right?!?!?!
Refreshing as it almost was not to have yet another Ultimate isometric title, Cyberun felt not so much a throwback as altogether dated, a bad cover version of what Ultimate once did so well.
It as if your favourite band - at their commercial and creative peak - replaced their frontman and lead songwriter with a 17 year-old fan who had only learned to play the guitar the previous year.
Oddly, the US Gold-run Ultimate label chose to bundle the game with a free cassette head cleaner - perhaps in an effort to make up for the dreadful cover artwork, which finally did away with Ultimate's iconic packaging. It was akin to, say, Bono leaving U2, being replaced with a Bono impersonator, and the band releasing a new album which came with a free hairbrush and a bag of boiled sweets.
Martianoids might've had a similar isometric viewpoint, and a cute robot protagonist - a la Alien 8 - but it squashed everything into an ugly blue frame.
Indeed, to further stretch the comparison above, it was like somebody trying to play Where The Streets Have No Name on a kazoo... except that prior to taking to the stage they'd dropped the kazoo in a communal latrine, and so they spent the whole gig spitting and barely touching the instrument to their lips.
Unfortunately, it was too slow, too imprecise, and just too bad that US Gold had squandered possibly the strongest gaming brand of the 1980s.
On the plus side, the Stampers - now running Rare - would go on to reacquire their back catalogue, and stride towards great commercial success by releasing games for consoles.
It was a rocky road to that success, however; their first non-Ultimate game, Slalom for the NES, was pummelled by reviewers. We'll take a look at that next week...