The Commodore 64 is one of the most famous home computers of the eighties so it is of course home to many fun and classic video games. The computer has won the hearts of many gamers but it also holds a significant place in computer history by helping popularize the home computer for the general public.
Before I talk about Commodore 64’s game catalog, some history on Commodore International. The tech company was founded by Jack Tramell and Manfred Kapp after the two met in New York City in the fifties as employees at a typewriter repair company. Commodore started out as a typewriter porter and later a typewriter manufacturer in the sixties when they were able to afford their own factory, which would also make office furniture and other electronic equipment like calculators, which Commodore had a lot of success with in the seventies. The company later shifted focus from calculators to home computers which were seen as the next big thing on the market.
Beginning in 1977 with the introduction of the Commodore PET, Commodore became a computer company, and they did well on the market despite competition from the equally popular TRS-80 desktop microcomputer and Steve Wozniak’s Apple II, which were both introduced the same year. The PET was used primarily for business and education purposes, and it was followed by Commodore’s VIC-20 in 1980, a more economical and user-friendly home computer and the first computer to sell over a million units, but that was soon overshadowed by their 8-bit home computer the Commodore 64, which was introduced in 1982 and became the highest-selling computer model in history, at one point outselling the computers of IBM, Apple and Atari in America, and becoming second only to the ZX Spectrum in the UK.
The Commodore 64, which took its name from the number of kilobytes in the system’s RAM, introduced the middle class to home computers in a way that has been compared to the Ford Model T, the car that was seen as the first affordable automobile back when it came out in 1908. It helped that it was sold in actual retail stores and not just specialty electronics places.
Now let’s talk about the games! With almost 10,000 Commodore 64 games, there are far too many to list all the best ones, but I can highlight a few gems that are highly regarded among gamers and critics.
International Soccer (1983) was a 2-player sports game designed by Andrew Spencer that surprised people because of how lackluster Commodore’s software had been up to that point.
Impossible Mission (1984), a secret agent adventure developed by Epyx.
Summer Games (1984) was the first in Epyx’s series of Games which would include other popular entries like Winter Games (1985) and California Games (1987).
Activision’s Ghostbusters (1984) based on the movie which came out the same year was designed by David Crane, the creator of the hit Atari 2600 adventure game Pitfall!
Spy vs. Spy (1984) the 2-player game developed by First Star Software and based on the Mad Magazine comic strip.
Graftgold’s shoot-’em-up puzzle game Paradroid (1985).
Hewson’s shoot-’em-up side-scroller Uridium (1986).
The Super Mario Bros.-inspired platformer The Great Giana Sisters (1987) by German developer Time Warp Productions managed to stand out as a fun game in its own right despite being an obvious Nintendo copycat.
International Karate+ (1987) aka IK+ was a fighting game from British developer System 3 and known as Chop N’ Drop in the U.S.
System 3’s action-adventure game The Last Ninja (1987).
Maniac Mansion (1987) was a humor-filled point-and-click graphic adventure from Lucasfilm Games that became one of that company’s most popular non-Star Wars games.
Sensible Software’s Gradius-inspired scrolling shoot-’em-up Wizball (1987).
Armalyte (1988), a scrolling shooter developed by Cyberdine Systems.
Imagine Software’s scrolling beat-’em-up Target: Renegade (1988), a sequel to the 1986 arcade game Renegade developed by Technōs Japan, the company best known for Double Dragon.
Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders (1988), another humorous graphic adventure from Lucasfilm Games.
Project Firestart (1989) developed by Dynamix was a pioneer in the survival horror video game genre.
Turrican (1990), a Metroid-inspired run and gun developed by Rainbow Arts.
Mayhem in Monsterland (1993) a fun platformer developed by Apex Computer Productions about a speedy yellow triceratops named Mayhem who tries to restore color back to Monsterland after a magician’s apprentice named Theo Saurus accidentally zaps it away.
Like most game systems in the eighties, Commodore 64 also ported many popular games as well, including arcade games like Bubble Bobble, Centipede, Contra, Dig Dug, Donkey Kong, Double Dragon, Frogger, Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Operation Wolf, Pac-Man, Paperboy and Q*Bert, along with Atari console games like Boulder Dash, Dropzone, Gauntlet and Pitfall!, and Apple computer games like The Bard’s Tale, Ultima and Wasteland. Other Commodore 64 ports include the BBC Micro games Elite and The Sentinel, the ZX Spectrum game Laser Squad, the MSX2 game Metal Gear, the Amiga game Shadow of the Beast and Commodore’s own Sword of Fargoal which was first released on VIC-20.
The Commodore 64 outlasted many of its competitors on the home computer market and even stood toe-to-toe against heavyweight console kings Nintendo and Sega in the late eighties, but the computer was eventually discontinued in 1994, the same year that Commodore International went bankrupt due to the lack of popularity for follow-up systems like the Commodore 128 and the Amiga PC line, but it was especially the huge expenses of the disk drive market that did them in and made Commodore 64 nothing but a fond memory for the gaming community.