If we’re going to to talk about retro gaming, then we have to talk about the best Commodore 64 games of all time – it’s the law.
Many consider it to be the first of its kind, the first home PC gaming console that hit the scenes dropping way back in 1982. It sold close to 17-million units and even made the history pages of the Guinness World Records. It’s still listed as one of the best-selling computer units of all time, and we’re excited to delve into its illustrious past.
A Quick-fire Tour Of The Commodore 64
That’s right; we rhyme now.
What is the Commodore 64?
A lot of people think that the Commodore 64 has connections with Nintendo, what with the 64 part of the name. The C64 (as we will now call it to save much needed time and finger ache) was made to rival the NES and the best Master System games. It was invented and produced by Commodore International, and although it’s a legendary bit of kit, the competition eventually blew it out of the water.
Still, the fact remains that it was one of the most sought after computing consoles of its time, especially here in the UK.
What Makes It Tick?
The best Commodore 64 games are brought to life by the machine’s 8-bit brain. It seem’s crazy to be talking about an 8-bit home computer when the PS5 is now running on 256-bit. That’s progress for you!
The C64 had 64kb of RAM and a custom-created chip for waveform generation. The colour sprites (which aren’t magical graphics pixies) produced visuals that were way ahead of the consoles time. It came with a keyboard for commands and could be used with a joystick for arcade action.
And most importantly of all, it had some cracking games.
How Have We Picked The Best Commodore 64 Games?
Close to 10,000 titles were released for the C64 including office tools and development programs. But we’re only interested in the games.
In a Retro Dodo first, we opened out the choice of which titles should make our list of the best Commodore 64 games to you, our readers. You gave us your favourite games, the titles that made this iconic console such a hit and played a part in shaping you as gamers.
Thank you for sharing your favourite games (and making my job a lot easier).
We’re kicking off our list of the Best Commodore 64 Games with one of the most well-known ghost movies of all time. Are you afraid, cos I ‘ain’t!
Apart from having the most famous theme tune of all time, Ghostbusters is a household name, and the C64 title was a great game to play. Rather than ridding the city of ghosts like in the movies, the aim of the game was to make a profit by getting rid of pesky poltergeists who don’t know when to call it a day.
It doesn’t even matter if you don’t successfully rid the city of ghouls. As long as you have $10K in your bank account, then you can go on to the final level. Of course, if you are a good buster and want to make keep your town safe, then you’ll get an extra $5K for your troubles.
The player takes charge of a Ghostbuster chief, and money is used to buy different weapons and faster cars. You follow disturbances on a map, speed to the house where the ghost is causing trouble, and catch that sucker.
Each successful solve gets you more money, though I’d want way more cash then 10K to rid the world of ghosts!
The final levels see you battling Marshmallow Man and Zuul from the movies, giving fans that extra bit of retro nerdiness to complete the package. It’s an addictive game and definitely worth a look.
9. Spy Vs Spy
This 2-player multiplayer game is based on the famous Mad Magazine comic strip of the same name. Just like the comic, it features two spies who are constantly trying to kill each other using over-the-top and ever-elaborate schemes and weapons.
Spy Vs Spy is an against the clock strategy game. Your timer goes down by thirty seconds each time you die, which can happen very regularly in this weird and wonderful game.
But what is the aim of the game? Each player has to gather a series of items together before leaving the building (the play area) and heading to the airport. You lay traps to stop your opponent from getting ahead. But be careful; those same traps can backfire on you!
You can only use a certain number of traps, hence where the strategy element comes in. Booby trap doors, place bombs in places where you opponent might search, or delve into hand-to-hand combat when you’re in the same room. Spy Vs Spy is all about playing dirty; do you have the guts to take on the challenge?
8. International Karate +
Forget Street Fighter; the next title on our list of the best Commodore 64 games is for the true tough nuts!
You might know it as ‘Chop N’ Drop’ in the U.S, but it’s International Karate + or ‘IK+’ throughout the rest of the world. If you’re looking for a fighting game that’s all about busting the best kick-ass moves and no special abilities, then IK+ should be high up your list.
To say that the C64 was only an 8-bit machine, that beach scene in front of Sydney Opera House looks pretty sweet!
Ik+ sees three fighters, two of which can be controlled by human players, battling it out on various beaches. Why beaches? I don’t know – maybe sand hurts less to fall on. You have to rack-up six points to be victorious, and there’s a ball-bouncing game at the end of every level for the winner.
While there aren’t any cheats or special powers, players could input certain commands to change the backgrounds, send Pac-Man on for a cameo, or humiliate the fighters by making their pants fall down. It’s a cracking game without all that though and super fun to play with a friend.
7. The Last Ninja
One of our Instagram followers mentioned that this is one of the hardest games that they have ever played, and we have to agree. The Last Ninja is a tricky old title, but it’s one that everyone should try to tackle!
The Last Ninja is one of the most successful games for the C64 selling around 4-million copies throughout the world. It went on to spawn two sequels and was praised for its superb graphics. Looks like those Colour Sprites were really earning their money!
The Last Ninja has everything that I look for in a computer game; combat, the need to explore, and some sweet-ass puzzle solving. What more do you need!
You, the player, must learn the ways of the Ninja while collecting sacred scrolls and getting pumped up to assassinate an evil Shogun dude who’s done some terrible stuff. The worlds that you travel through look amazing, but you can only explore them via predetermined walkways and paths. There’s no BOTW free-roaming here, guys.
Throw smoke bombs and shuriken, battle with staffs and swords, and swing nunchuks like a boss. Ninjas rule!
6. The Great Giana Sisters
I’m not sure if the game artists needed to go into so much detail with certain parts of this Giana Sister’s cover design, but that’s another discussion for another time.
Where do we begin with The Great Giana Sisters? It’s a great title and truly deserves to be on our list of the best Commodore 64 games. Still, there’s no escaping the fact that this is just a Mario game in disguise.
Check out the pic below. The enemies look like Goombas, those yellow object look very much like pipes, there’s a mushroom, and the brick walkways look exactly the same too. Me thinks Mario and the Giana Sisters might have a thing going on behind Peach’s back!
The similarities are so obvious that the developers got an ass kicking from Nintendo’s legal team.
And the strangeness doesn’t stop there.
The main character is called ‘Gianna’ with two ‘n’s. The game artists, putting more time into Gianna’s figure than concentrating on the title of the game itself, made a spelling error but decided just to go with it.
Putting all of the mistakes and copying aside, this game really is a good one to play. A cross between Super Mario and 40 Winks, the player must lead Gianna through 32 levels of a nightmare as she searches for her sister.
Collecting Dream Crystals gives you extra lives, and Gianna can use special abilities by picking up power-ups along the way.
If you like Mario, then you’ll love Gianna. It’s as simple as that!
5. Bubble Bobble
Fans of games like Mr Driller, Pac-Man, and Candy Crush will love Bubble Bobble. It’s one of the first two-player arcade games and was a huge success for games company Taito. Everyone loves a ‘screen clear’ title, and Bubble Bobble is still considered to be one of the best puzzle games of all time.
I apologise for how many similar sounding words I am about to write….
The game stars two dinosaurs; Bub, and Bob. Bub and Bob, formally Bubby and Bobby, have been transformed into Bubble Dragons by Baron von Blubba, who has stolen Bubby and Bobby’s girlfriends.
I have a headache after that.
The aim of the game is simple and yet so incredibly addictive. Blow bubbles to defeat and trap enemies on a single-screen stage. Clear all the bad guys, and move onto the next level.
Bub and Bob can move between different areas of the stage by jumping up onto and off platforms, but you lose a life if you come into contact with an enemy or their projectiles.
There are 100 levels in total, and the game really is designed to play with a friend of loved one. So much so that if you defeat the final boss in one-player mode, the game tells you to come back with a mate to do it again!
4. Operation Wolf
Operation Wolf is another game from the makers of Bubble Bobble, but it couldn’t be different from the bubble-blowing double-trouble cutesie-dragon action.
This next entry on our list of the best Commodore 64 games see you taking charge of Roy Adams, a Special Forces Operative whose mission is to kill bad guys and save hostages. It’s one of the first shooting games to have a storyline and features thrilling arcade action from start to finish.
There are six stages to play through each with various sub-missions and tasks that need to be completed. You have to defeat a certain number of enemies as well as completing the necessary requirements on each stage to advance.
Think of this game as a mega-early form of Call of Duty. You’ve got to withstand knife attacks, bazooka fire, grenades, helicopter guns, and much more. Roy Adams is one bad son of a…you get the idea.
3. Shadow Of The Beast
Finally, the first properly nerdy magic title in our list. Shadow of the Beast was a bit of a hot topic back in the day for its amazing graphics. The C64 port wasn’t as richly textured as some of the other console titles, but it still managed to capture the amazing essence of the game.
Let me try to boil the plot down for you into a couple of sentences. Child gets kidnapped and warped by dark magic, becoming a monster servant for a beast lord. Monster servant regains human memories when some bad dealings go down. He then proceeds, as an adult, to battle everything in sight in a bid to break free from his curse and kill the beasty boss.
It’s a lot more in-depth than that with way cooler names, but you get the general gist.
The main protagonist and the various monsters are displayed nicely. Still, the backgrounds have a tendency to make your eyes go square. The gameplay is incredible, and it’s a classic example of a perfect side-scrolling game.
I like the fact that some of the enemies run away from you; even they’re scared of how evil and weird looking you are. Maybe they should learn not to judge a book by it’s dark-magic-infused scary cover.
2. Maniac Mansion
It might surprise a few of you to know that Lucasfilm made more games than the ones relating to the Star Wars series.
The plot is so bizarre that you cant help but get sucked into the narrative, and Maniac Mansion is a game that will have you coming back time and time again.
A mad scientist has fallen afoul of a sentient meteor which has enslaved his mind.
Yes, you read that right.
The game follows a guy called Dave Miller and his mission to save his girlfriend, Sandy Pantz. That has to win the worst names character on the C64 so far!
Maniac Mansion has different outcomes depending on the players choices. It’s a non-linear game where you point and click on certain areas and give different commands to the characters.
You can take Dave and two other characters (from a choice of six-friends) through the mansion in a bid to rescue Sandy. Watch out for hidden traps and solve puzzles as you work your way through Lucas Film’s first-ever self-published game!
1. Impossible Mission
The Number 1 spot on our list of the best Commodore 64 games goes to Impossible Mission, a name that would later be reworked by Tom Cruise for a series of films…maybe that’s where he got the idea?
Like Tom in the Mission Impossible films, Impossible Mission sees you play as a secret agent who has to break into a series of hi-security areas. This game has received high praise on a number of platforms and is considered by many to be one of the best games of the time.
Your mission (should you choose to accept it – more copyright infringement I’m sure) is to stop the evil Professor Elvin Atombender (awesome name). Avoid Dr Who style robots, search for password clues, and solve Atombender’s puzzles to save the day.
Impossible Mission takes a lot of brainpower; it’s basically a brain exercise in disguise. You have six hours to collect thirty-six pieces of puzzle. Like Spy Vs Spy, dying incurs a time penalty. This game also has one of the first examples of digitised speech in a computer game. It’s practically a piece of retro gaming history!