Commodore 64 Games - Six of the Best

Written by Graham W Wöbcke

As tragic as it may sound to some, "8-bits" has changed my life. I discovered 8-bit home computer systems towards the end of 1982 at primary school - and I have had a soft-spot for them ever since. I can remember rushing home from school to use my fathers Apple IIc system in 1985 to play text adventure games that we typed in from those Computer Magazines at the time.

Later on, we discovered those popular Usborne Books like 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 that these books contained some BASIC source code and then listed all the changes specific to each of the supported systems - with the modifications usually marked with symbols on the line numbers to indicate a change at that position was necessary. I am sure that these books and those magazine listings gave me the enthusiasm for development that I 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 school holidays and after my first year 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 brand new Commodore 64 with 3 cartridges - Avenger (a Space Invade clone), International Soccer (which was even more fun with a second joystick as we later discovered) and an application I think was Magic Desk but I don't recall exactly.

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, with 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 had to use a lot of my savings to get it too - but I count myself lucky as my family had 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 be 60 is going to be too difficult a challenge, but here we go.


My Top Six Commodore 64 Games

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. 8-bit gaming at it's best.

2 Archon

Dark vs. Light - A chess-like game were 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. Guide 4125 down elevator shafts into rooms, exploring for clues and combining these clues to form a code word. Amazing gameplay, and one of the first games to offer decent digitized speech. Download the scanned Impossible Mission manual.

4 Boulder Dash

Guide 'Rockford' through a maze-like Cave, digging dirt, pushing and dodging boulders, while collecting the required amount of diamonds to open the next level door. A gameplay 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.

6 Wizball

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 and these allow you to upgrade and eventually use the cat. Challenging and very unique!


Bonus - Even More Commodore 64 Games

With the Commodore 64 having one of the largest software libraries available, the task to narrow down to just six Commodore 64 Games is just too difficult and I know how many great titles would miss out on a mention... so here are some more of the Best Commodore 64 Games.

7 The Last Ninja

Puzzle solving, arcade adventure game with ninja fighting. It has some of the best graphics and sounds ever produced on the C64 and most people who owned this game have rated it in their top 10. Brilliant.

8 Curse of the Azure Bonds

The second game in the AD&D Forgotten Realms series, it is one of the best RPGs I have ever 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 bonds. If you have played it, you no doubt would remember the Drow in the castle, the Black Dragons and the Bits O' Moander. Addictive RPG.

9 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 and greens and water hazards, so when this came out with the additions of trees, bunkers, and rough, plus the ability to play real-life golf courses, I could not resist it. Playability wise, many golf games are still based on the Leaderboard games to this day.

10 IK+

A karate game with some of the best music, animation and background graphics seen in 8-bits. You start as a white belt and work your way through to yellow, green, purple and finally black. Points are awarded to a fighter who knocks down an opponent with a successful kick or punch - one point for a good hit and two for an exceptional one. Try to score five points before the others, or to score the highest within the 30 second time limit and you progress to the next round. The lowest scorer is eliminated. The exceptional gameplay keeps you coming back.

11 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!

12 Hardball!

Easy gameplay and excellent 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 list and this Bonus 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:

0-9

  • 10th Frame
  • 4th and Inches
  • 1942
  • 720°

A

  • Armalyte
  • Avengers
  • ACE: Air Combat Simulator
  • Auto Duel
  • Ace of Aces
  • Airborne Ranger
  • Arkanoid
  • Amazing Spiderman
  • Atomix
  • Arnie

B

  • Bruce Lee
  • The Bards Tale
  • Bubble Bobble
  • Buggy Boy
  • Beach Head
  • Burnin Rubber
  • Below the Root
  • Barbarian
  • Black Magic
  • Boot Camp
  • Bad Street Brawler
  • Batman; Caped Cruisader
  • Battle Chess
  • Blood Money

C

  • The Cycles
  • California Games
  • Choplifter
  • Commando
  • Crystal Castles
  • Cauldron II
  • Championship Sprint
  • Cybernoid
  • Clystron
  • Chuck Rock
  • Crazy Cars 3
  • Cyberdine Warrior
  • Castle of Terror
  • Creatures
  • Creatures 2: Torture Trouble

D

  • 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

E

  • Elite
  • Express Raider
  • Emlyn Hughes International Soccer
  • Elvira: Mistress of the Dark
  • Enforcer: Mega Blaster
  • Eternal Dagger

F

  • Flight Simulator II
  • F-15 Strike Eagle
  • Fast Break
  • Face Off!
  • First Samurai
  • Fist II: The Legend Continues
  • Flimbo's Quest
  • Forbidden Forest

G

  • Gauntlet
  • The Great Giana Sisters
  • Galaxians
  • Gateway to Apshai
  • Gyruss
  • Gremlins: The Adventure
  • Ghosts 'n Goblins
  • Gradius
  • Green Beret
  • Gunship
  • Gauntlet 2
  • Gryzor
  • Grand Prix Circuit
  • Great Courts

H

  • Henry's House
  • Hard Hat Mack
  • Hyper Sports
  • Hacker II
  • Head Over Heels
  • Hammer Fist
  • Hot Rod

I

  • Infiltrator
  • IO
  • Ikari Warriors
  • Impossamole
  • Iron Man Super Off Road
  • Indy Heat
  • IPLAY: 3D Tennis

J

  • Jack the Nipper
  • Jack the Nipper II
  • Jinxter
  • Jumpman

K

  • Kikstart
  • Kikstart II
  • Karateka
  • Kung Fu Master
  • Krakout
  • Katakis

L

  • Last Ninja 2
  • Law of the West
  • Leaderboard Golf
  • Leaderboard Executive
  • Leather Goddesses of Phobos
  • LED Storm

M

  • Myth: History in the Making
  • Maniac Mansion
  • Moon Patrol
  • Ms. Pacman
  • Montezuma's Revenge
  • Midnight Resistance

N

  • Nine Princes in Amber
  • Nemesis
  • Nebulus
  • Netherworld
  • Ninja Spirit
  • Nick Faldo Championship Golf

O

  • On Court Tennis
  • One on One - Erving vs Bird
  • Operation Wolf
  • Outrun

P

  • Paradroid
  • Pirates!
  • Prince of Persia
  • Planetfall
  • Pitstop II
  • Parallax
  • Phantasie
  • Phantasie II
  • Phantasie III
  • Pacmania

Q

  • Q-Bert
  • Questron
  • Questron II
  • Quedex

R

  • 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

S

  • 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

T

  • 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

U

  • Uridium
  • Ultima I
  • Ultima II
  • Ultima III
  • Ultima IV
  • Ultima V

V

  • Valkyrie 17
  • Vendetta
  • Vincent
  • Vigilante

W

  • 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

  • X-Out
  • Xenomorph
  • Xiphoids

Y

  • Yie Ar Kung Fu
  • Yogi Bear and Friends in the Greed Monster
  • Yogi's Great Escape

Z

  • Zork
  • Zorro
  • Zone Z
  • Zynaps
  • Zac McKraken and the Alien Mind Bender

I also can't recall too many other systems that can list a great game name starting with each letter of the alphabet either - shows you how wonderful this system was.