6 of the Best Games: Commodore 64
Games in my opinion that define gaming on the Commodore 64 Computer system
I’ll start with a short story about how, as tragic as it may sound to some, 8-bit computers changed my life.
I first discovered 8-bit computer systems during 1982 at my primary (elementary) school — and I have had a “soft spot” for them ever since. I can remember rushing home from school to use the Apple IIc system my father bought in early 1985. We spent hours coding and playing the BASIC and Text Adventure games that we typed in ourselves from Magazines at the time. We also got our first taste of Machine Language Programs using the Compute! MLX Program.
Later on, we discovered Usborne Books. My personal favorite is the 1983 book titled Write Your Own Adventure Games which features source code for a grid-based text adventure game Haunted House. If you were also using computers at this time, you might remember these books and that they contained some BASIC source code with all the changes specific to each of the supported systems versions of BASIC . Those modifications were marked with symbols on the line numbers to indicate a change at that position was necessary for certain systems. I am sure that all of these books and magazine listings gave me the enthusiasm for development that I (mostly) still carry with me today.
A few days after New Years Day 1986, I was invited over to a school friends house to play this new computer system his family had recently purchased. I remember it well because it was January holidays after my first year was completed at high school. This computer was a beige “breadbox” looking machine with dark brown keys, a cream tape drive and a joystick with a single red fire button on the top (the version after the Atari injunction).
It was a new Commodore 64 computer with a few cartridges — Avenger (a Space Invade clone) was one I remember and International Soccer was another. There may have been more cartridges like Magic Desk or Solar System but I don’t recall exactly because we never used them.
Another one of our friends families also had a Commodore 64 and he wanted to bring over this game to show us that he thought was great (and his joystick to play two player International Soccer). The game he bought over was the brilliant Lode Runner by Br0derbund. Never had I played a game on a home system like this before — sheer play-ability and fun. The lesser known tape version of Lode Runner consists of a small extract of the 150 levels available on the disk version (it’s 32 levels in total if I recall) and there is no level editor. The tape version also had a slightly different title screen to the disk version.
So it was basically Lode Runner and those magazine/book source codes that began my lifetime appreciation for 8-bit (and 16 bit) systems.
I’d discover many more classic games on the Commodore 64, especially after getting my own C64 with a 1541 disk drive later in 1986. I really had to use all my savings to get that system too — but I count myself lucky as my family had access to the Apple IIc computer (and a Vectrex) as well.
With the Commodore 64 having one of the largest software libraries available — the task to narrow it down to just 6 games from a list that could easily end up being 60 is going to be a challenge, but here we go.
1. Lode Runner
My sister will also agree with me on this one as this was her favorite game too. The concept was simple, challenging and fun. You just run around the levels, climbing ladders and moving across poles with the aim of collecting all the gold. You can dig holes in the ground to make a quick escape or to trap the guards as they attempt to stop you from completing the level, but don’t let them get to close or they will hinder your attempts and you will lose a life. This is 8-bit gaming at it’s best. Thank you Douglas E. Smith for making this masterpiece.
Dark vs. Light — A chess-like game where you must destroy the opposing side or take control of the five ‘power squares’ on the board. When two pieces ‘meet’ on the same square, a fight is initiated in which only one piece comes out alive. Each piece has their own traits, some much stronger than others, making for a variety of combinations in fights. A classic.
3. Impossible Mission
You are Agent 4125, sent to crack the secret code of Elvin Atombender who is planning on destroying the world. You guide Agent 4125 down elevator shafts into rooms, exploring them for clues and lastly combining these clues to form a code word. Amazingly smooth gameplay and one of the first 8-bit games to offer decent digitized speech.
4. Boulder Dash
Guide ‘Rockford’ through a maze-like Cave, digging dirt, pushing and dodging boulders, and avoiding different enemies — all while collecting the required amount of diamonds to open the next level door before the timer runs out. Another classic.
5. Into The Eagles Nest
Before First-Person Shooting games like Doom and Wolfenstein, we had Into The Eagles Nest. Played from a top-down perspective (like in Gauntlet), your mission is to rescue three hostages captured in WWII who are being held somewhere in Eagle’s Nest, a German fortress. You must destroy the fortress up once you have rescued all the captives. It is a fast, and sometimes frustrating game, and remember to use your keys wisely.
Zark has deprived The World of all color so Wizard Wiz and his cat Nifta set out to restore color to the world. The World, made up from layers that you move between via tubes and craters, has enemies trying to stop your efforts. To restore color, drops must be shot by the wizard and collected by the cat — drops may even need to be mixed to make the correct color. Trouble is you start out controlling a Wizball that can only spin and bounce — and there is no cat to collect the colors. Enemies once shot can leave powerups behind, allowing you to upgrade and eventually use the cat. Challenging and unique!
Expanding the List to 10
The task to narrow down to just six Commodore 64 Games was just too difficult — so I want to mention a few more games that have special meaning to me personally, expanding the list of games to 10.
7. Curse of the Azure Bonds
The second game in the AD&D Forgotten Realms series, and it is one of the best 8-bit RPGs I have played. You construct a party of up to 6 players, using different ‘races’ and skills eg. Human Cleric, Elf Mage, Dwarf Fighter etc. and you guide them through the Forgotten Realms in search of the magical bonds. If you have played it, you no doubt would remember the Drow in the Castle, the Black Dragons and the Bits O’ Moander. An addictive and inspiring RPG.
8. World Class Leaderboard
One of the first double disk games I ever bought! I enjoyed the original Leaderboard, even though it only was comprised of fairways, greens and water hazards — so when this came out with the additions of trees, bunkers, and rough, plus the ability to play a few real-life golf courses, I had to get this. Play-ability wise, many golf games are still based on these Leaderboard games to this day — and it remains an approachable and fun game to play.
9. Microprose Soccer
This was the forerunner to the great football game Sensible Soccer. This game changed the way football games were perceived and still stands up quite well today. It included features never before seen in football games at that time: it was the first game to use ‘aftertouch’, allowing you to swerve the ball after kicking it; the field view was the bird’s eye view, allowing you to plan passing moves and defend more effectively; and it was the first football game to include bad weather!
Easy to play and decent graphics made this fun for even people who didn’t really understand baseball. The game offers a behind the pitcher view which is similar to how you see it on TV. When pitching, you push in the direction indicated to select that type of pitch, push the fire button and then select the aim position of the pitch over the plate. The batter attempts to hit the pitch by pressing the fire button or by pushing right and pressing fire to bunt. Fielding is easy too, just move towards the ball and push in the direction of the base you want to throw to while pressing fire to throw to that base.
Extra Bonus — A list of all the great Commodore 64 Games I know
I am almost certain that my Six of the Best (well Ten of the Best really) list will still have a few titles missing that you love on this wonderful computer system. Below is a list of other great Commodore 64 Games (listed in Alphabetical Order) that I have discovered and recommend you play on this system:
10th Frame, 4th and Inches, 1942, 720°
Armalyte, Avengers, ACE: Air Combat Simulator, Auto Duel, Ace of Aces, Airborne Ranger, Arkanoid, Amazing Spiderman, Atomix, Arnie, Alley Cat
Bruce Lee, The Bards Tale, Bubble Bobble, Buggy Boy, Beach Head, Barbarian, Burnin Rubber, Below the Root, Black Magic, Boot Camp, Bad Street Brawler, Batman — Caped Crusader, Battle Chess, Blood Money
The Cycles, California Games, Choplifter, Commando, Crystal Castles, Cauldron II, Championship Sprint, Cybernoid, Clystron, Chuck Rock, Cyberdine Warrior, Castle of Terror, Creatures, Creatures 2: Torture Trouble
Delta, David’s Midnight Magic, Dig Dug, Decathlon, Dam Busters, Dracula, Druid, Denaris, Demon’s Winter, Dragon Wars, Dragon Ninja, Double Dragon II: The Revenge, Dizzy Spellbound
Elite, Express Raider, Emlyn Hughes International Soccer, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Enforcer: Mega Blaster, Eternal Dagger
Flight Simulator II, F-15 Strike Eagle, Fast Break, Face Off!, First Samurai, Fist II: The Legend Continues, Flimbo’s Quest, Forbidden Forest
Gauntlet, The Great Giana Sisters, Galaxians, Gateway to Apshai, Gyruss, Gremlins: The Adventure, Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Gradius, Green Beret, Gunship, Gauntlet II, Gryzor, Grand Prix Circuit, Great Courts, Ghostbusters
Henry’s House, Hard Hat Mack, Hyper Sports, Hacker II, Head Over Heels, Hammer Fist, Hot Rod, Hunchback
IK+, Infiltrator, IO, Ikari Warriors, Impossamole, Iron Man Super Off Road, Indy Heat, IPLAY: 3D Tennis
Jack the Nipper, Jack the Nipper II, Jinxter, Jumpman
Kikstart, Kikstart II, Karateka, Kung Fu Master, Krakout, Katakis
Last Ninja, Last Ninja 2, Law of the West, Leaderboard Golf, Leaderboard Executive, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, LED Storm
Myth: History in the Making, Maniac Mansion, Moon Patrol, Ms. Pacman, Montezuma’s Revenge, Midnight Resistance
Nine Princes in Amber, Nemesis, Nebulus, Netherworld, Ninja Spirit, Nick Faldo Championship Golf
On Court Tennis, One on One — Erving vs Bird, Operation Wolf, Outrun
Paradroid, Pirates!, Prince of Persia, Planetfall, Pitstop II, Parallax, Phantasie, Phantasie II, Phantasie III, Pacmania
Q-Bert, Questron, Questron II, Quedex
Raid Over Moscow, Racing Destruction Kit, Rambo First Blood Part II, Rings of Zilfin, Roadwar 2000, Rastan, Renegade, Rolling Thunder, Rygar, R-Type, Rick Dangerous 2, Riqocett
Stunt Car Racer, Slicks, Snokie, Spy Hunter, Sword of Fargoal, Star League Baseball, Sargon III, Sentinal, Spy vs Spy, Summer Games, Silent Service, Skyfox, Slap Shot, Summer Games II, Super Huey, Saboteur, S.W.A.T, Street Surfer, Super Cycle, Skate or Die, Super Sprint, Salamander, Speedball 2, Super Pipeline
Turrican, Turrican II, Track and Field, Tass Times in Tone Town, Terra Cresta, Trailblazer, Test Drive, Target Renegade, Times of Lore, Test Drive 2, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles
Uridium, Ultima IV, Ultima V, Ultima VI
Valkyrie 17, Vendetta, Vincent, Vigilante
World Games, Wavy Navy, Wizard of Wor, Way of the Exploding Fist, Winter Games, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, Wonderboy, Wasteland, Wings of Fury
X-Out, Xenomorph, Xiphoids
Yie Ar Kung Fu, Yogi Bear and Friends in the Greed Monster, Yogi’s Great Escape
Zork, Zorro, Zone Z, Zynaps, Zoylx, Zac McKraken and the Alien Mind Bender
That was a lot of games! I can’t recall too many other systems that can list a great game name list starting with each letter of the alphabet either — shows you how wonderful this system The Commodore 64 was.
If you feel it’s worthwhile, please leave any comments you have about this. Thanks very much for reading.