DMA Design was founded in 1988 in Dundee, Scotland. The name DMA was taken from the Amiga programming manuals, where it stood for Direct Memory Access, and the initials were later 'retrofitted' so that they briefly stood for Direct Mind Access. The in-house joke was that the initials stood for "Doesn't Mean Anything".
DMA's major breakthrough came with 1990's Lemmings, a puzzle game that sold over 20 million copies on 21 different systems. It debuted on the Amiga and it was available on other major platforms like the NES and Macintosh, and obscure formats as the FM Towns and the CD-i. Much of DMA's time over the next few years was devoted to Lemmings follow-ups Oh No! More Lemmings, Lemmings 2: The Tribes, All New World of Lemmings, and two Christmas-themed Holiday Lemmings special editions. They also released two original titles: 1993's Walker, a side-scrolling mech shooter, and 1994's Hired Guns, a first-person tactical shooter game with a four-way split screen.
In 1994 Uniracers, a 2D platform racer featuring riderless unicycles, was the company's first game to debut on a console - the Super Nintendo. Published by Nintendo, it also marked DMA's first game without Psygnosis, which was bought out by Sony in 1993.
After spending some time experimenting with various next-generation consoles, DMA was asked by Nintendo to join their "Dream Team" of developers for the upcoming Ultra 64 system, alongside such other developers as Rare, Paradigm, Acclaim, Midway Games, and LucasArts.
Under this arrangement, DMA would produce an N64-exclusive title that Nintendo would publish - the result of this collaboration was Body Harvest. The game underwent numerous delays, and Nintendo finally decided to drop their publishing plans. Midway picked up the rights and finally released it in 1998, almost three years after the game was first shown. Reaction was mostly favourable, in particular for the game's innovation and free-roaming gameplay, although a few gamers criticized the graphics.
In the interim, the company released Grand Theft Auto for the PC and PlayStation, which applied the Body Harvest play mechanism of allowing control of any vehicle in the environment to a top-down 2D game of cops-and-robbers. GTA attracted controversy for its violence, with the Daily Mail calling for an outright ban. The uproar no doubt contributed in some part to making GTA a success.
In 1997, DMA was bought by British publisher Gremlin Interactive, who published two DMA titles – the UK release of Body Harvest and the PC version of Wild Metal Country, a tank combat game with a complex control scheme and realistic physics.