- Mayhem in Monsterland has since been praised for its similarity to Sonic the Hedgehog, and for bringing console gameplay to the Commodore 64.
- Before there was Fallout, there was Electronic Art’s Wasteland released in 1988. An RPG in a postapocalyptic setting, its variety of locations and characters earned it rave reviews and a spot in the hearts of fans around the globe.
- Impossible Mission (1984), reminiscent of a similarly named blockbuster, this game sees you playing the role of a spy who must scupper the plans of an evil mastermind.
Video game consoles today look nothing like the video game setups of yesteryear. With that being said, at the heart of the best consoles both old and new, one thing remains the same: Serious computing power. Of course, serious computing power also needs a great selection of games that can put that power to good use. That’s exactly the case with the Commodore 64 and the amazing range of Commodore 64 games.
But which Commodore 64 games are the best of the bunch? Given the success of the C64 throughout the 1980s and into the early ’90s, this is a question that brings with it a lot of hotly contested debates. Nevertheless, there are a number of great games that C64 players of all types can agree on. No matter your favorite, there’s no denying the following ten titles are some of the best Commodore 64 games ever.
The History of the Commodore 64
While 1982’s Commodore 64 would eventually become the most successful single computer model of all time, manufacturer Commodore Business Machines (or CBM) had been a part of the personal computer industry since 1977. The Commodore PET was the first iteration of the PC technology that would eventually lead to the C64. It combined a microprocessor, BASIC memory, a keyboard, a monitor, and a cassette deck into one convenient machine. While its design is the standard today, it was truly groundbreaking at the time.
The PET gave way to the Commodore VIC-20 and the Commodore MAX Machine, both of which made improvements to the PET’s original design. However, there was still room for further improvements — something no one knew better than CBM. You see, these machines were revolutionary at the time, but they were mainly limited to business functions. CBM knew it could broaden its appeal with the inclusion of gaming technology. As such, they put their all into the next product in line: the Commodore 64.
Their hard work paid off in a major way in the form of the C64. It came equipped with improved DRAM memory, better graphics cards, a smarter programming language, and superior audiovisuals. The C64 blew the minds of the executives and developers at Apple, IBM, and Atari alike. Its price of under $600 — while equivalent to more than $1,600 today — effectively sealed the deal. The C64 was a smash hit, and it had an impressive game library to back it up.
Commodore 64 Specs
|Product Type||Home computer|
|Manufacturer||Commodore Business Machines (CBM)|
|Release Date||August 1982|
|Units Sold||12.5-17 million|
10. Boulder Dash (1984)
|Publisher||First Star Software|
|Platforms||Apple II, Atari, BBC Micro, IBM, Commodore 64, PMD 85, ZX Spectrum, et al.|
If there’s one thing generations upon generations of video games have proved, it’s that there’s nothing like a good puzzle game. Boulder Dash is one of the finest examples of the puzzle genre to ever hit the Commodore 64. The game took place inside a series of increasingly difficult and treacherous “caves” (which were really just stacks of rectangular blocks). Players had to maneuver the game’s main character Rockford through each cave and collect enough diamonds to move onto the next level without getting hit by obstacles. Its challenging yet fun premise makes it an iconic and memorable C64 title.
9. Dropzone (1984)
|Publisher||U.S. Gold, Mindscape, Acclaim Entertainment|
|Platforms||Atari, Commodore 64|
While originally designed for the Atari in 1984 and later ported to the Commodore 64 the following year, Dropzone deserves a spot in this ranking just as much as the next game. Bearing many striking similarities to a popular arcade game at the time titled Defender, Dropzone probably owes at least a little of its success to this copycatting. Whether it was done intentionally or not remains to be seen, but it very clearly borrowed many design and gameplay features. Still, the game’s scrolling mechanics add a unique spin on the shooter genre, making it one of the best of its kind for the C64.
8. Mayhem in Monsterland (1993)
|Publisher||Apex Computer Productions|
One of the last great games to be released for the Commodore 64, Mayhem in Monsterland was a C64 exclusive that took full advantage of the console’s mechanical capabilities combined with the technological advancements of 1990s game design. In other words, it’s a truly special game that brought Nintendo or Sega-level gameplay to a much older console. Mayhem in Monsterland has been compared to the Sonic the Hedgehog games, and this isn’t far off base. The main character Theo Saurus is known for his speed, and the game’s platform mechanics feel a lot like Sonic, too.
7. Bruce Lee (1984)
|Platforms||Atari, Apple II, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, IBM, ZX Spectrum, et al.|
Prior to the release of Bruce Lee for the Commodore 64, the closest fans of the martial arts legend could get to actually becoming Bruce Lee was practicing his greatest moves in front of the mirror. Originally made for the Atari and later ported to the C64 and various other consoles, the game is no less great despite not being a C64 exclusive. Bruce Lee puts players in the movie star’s shoes, following him from chamber to chamber as he faces off against ninjas and sumo wrestlers on his way to the final boss.
6. Bubble Bobble (1987)
|Platforms||Arcade, Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, et al.|
As one of the most successful arcade games of the 1980s, it only makes sense that Bubble Bobble‘s Commodore 64 edition would deserve a spot pretty high up on this list. Functioning like a combination of all the best parts of various other arcade platform games like Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros., Bubble Bobble tasks players with trapping enemies in bubbles and then popping them as they progress through 100 different levels. There’s a long line of sequels and offshoots that came after, but it’s the first Bubble Bobble that deserves the number six spot.
5. Wasteland (1988)
|Platforms||Apple II, Commodore 64, MS-DOS|
Serving as the groundwork for the ever-popular video game franchise Fallout, 1988’s Wasteland remains a true classic of the Commodore 64. Originally conceived for the Apple II and later ported to the C64 and other consoles, Wasteland is a very memorable post-apocalyptic sci-fi RPG from Electronic Arts. It made quite the impact at the time of its release, praised for its variety of different options to advance through the game and its expansive cast of unique characters and locations. While you can still find ports of this game today, nothing compared to playing it on the C64 in the late ’80s.
4. Impossible Mission (1984)
|Platforms||Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari, BBC Micro, ZX Spectrum, et al.|
Not to be confused with the similarly titled Mission: Impossible television show (or subsequent films), Impossible Mission is an action-packed platformer written specifically for the Commodore 64 in 1984. You play as a secret agent dead-set on putting a stop to the evil plans of a criminal mastermind who has hacked into the nation’s computers. Levels often have players racing against a clock, adding an exciting and pulse-pounding spin on the classic platform mechanics. There’s no doubt developers hoped to tap into the success of the Mission: Impossible show, but Impossible Mission also stands alone as a truly remarkable C64 game.
3. Turrican II (1991)
|Platforms||Atari, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, ZX Spectrum, et al.|
|Genre||Run and gun|
How can you even talk about the best Commodore 64 games without mentioning the Turrican series? You simply can’t. Released toward the tail end of the C64’s reign, Turrican II got in just under the wire to become one of the C64’s greatest titles. Often compared to Nintendo‘s Metroid series as well as 1987’s Psycho-Nics Oscar, Turrican II still stands alone despite bearing a few notable similarities in mechanics and aesthetic. Players traverse through countless levels throughout five distinct worlds, equipped with an arsenal of weapons to use against robot enemies. It was a blast in 1991, and it’s still a blast today.
2. IK+ (1987)
|Platforms||Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Atari, et al.|
IK+ — also known as International Karate Plus or Chop N’ Drop — bears a striking resemblance to other martial arts games of the ’80s and ’90s, but don’t be mistaken… IK+ is very much its own thing. A sequel to 1985’s International Karate, IK+ provides all the best aspects of fighting games in a sleek new package for the C64. Not only does it improve on its predecessor, but also its direct competitors like Mortal Kombat or Bruce Lee (still in the number seven spot on this list). Fans of IK+ enjoy the way the game throws surprises at players, often including mini-games in between heated rounds of martial arts. It’s innovative, it’s thrilling, it’s smooth, and it’s just about the best the C64 has to offer.
1. The Sentinel (1986)
|Platforms||BBC Micro, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Atari, et al.|
If you played The Sentinel on Commodore 64, you might’ve seen this one coming. Widely considered by numerous gaming authorities as one of the very best Commodore 64 games in history, The Sentinel is essentially the ultimate puzzle game. (Not to mention, it was one of the first home computer games to use solid-filled 3D graphics.) Players control a robot who has to move from the lowest to the highest spots in a series of bizarre settings, but here’s the catch: The robot can’t move. It can only transfer its consciousness from one bot to another. It’s a truly impressive game, even by today’s standards. It more than earns its spot at number one.
How To Play the Best Commodore 64 Games: Step by Step
If you’re interested in playing one of these ten best Commodore 64 games, you’re going to need to follow a few steps first. After all, it’s not all that different today. To game, you’re always going to need a console, a controller, and the game itself.
Get a Commodore 64 Console
Now, of course, the Commodore 64 has long been discontinued. It’s been decades since the console was decommissioned in 1994. However, you may still be able to find a C64 console on the internet or through a local resale shop. Do some research and see what you can find. This is unquestionably the most important of these steps.
Use the Correct C64 Controllers
A close second to actually having a C64 console is making sure you have the proper controller (and the right number of them, too). If you’re playing single-player, you’ll obviously only need one. Multi-player, you’ll need two. You can probably find these controllers from the same sellers where you found your console. Or, if you’re lucky, you still have your console and controllers from back in the day.
- Handmade, custom designed brand new circuit boards
- More comfortable than the original OEM controllers and comes with 10-foot cord
- Perfect for the retro video game player and collector
- Designed for 1 button action games that use push up to jump
Please Note: As of July 16, 2023, the Commodore 64 Joystick Controller Gamepad is currently unavailable on Amazon. If you cannot find the product elsewhere, please check back later.
Find Some C64 Games
What good is a console if you don’t have any games to play on it? Your C64 console and controllers are nothing but some fancy decorations without the right C64 games. Thankfully, many are looking to part with their old C64 gear — including games — all over the internet and brick-and-mortar resellers. Do some exploring both in-person and online. Once you’ve scored some great titles, you can let the games begin!
What To Know Before Buying Commodore 64 Games
Before you buy any of the best Commodore 64 games, you should know that this list is not the end-all, be-all. Your opinion may differ, and that’s what makes the C64 such an amazing console: There’s such a vast library of games available, meaning your top ten might look completely different. Still, these ten games have great sales and equally as great critical reception to back them up. Even if you have other favorites, there’s no doubt that these ten Commodore 64 games have more than earned their places in this ranking.
Using Commodore 64 Games: What It’s Like
For those of you used to playing the latest-gen consoles like the PS5, the Xbox Series X, or the Nintendo Switch, you should know that the Commodore 64 plays pretty differently than today’s consoles do. The graphics will be simpler, the gameplay will be less immersive, and the games themselves will be a lot shorter. However, that was merely the limitation of the technology at the time. It’s not a fault of the game, but rather the limited technological specs of video game consoles in the ’80s and ’90s. Still, whether you grew up with the C64 or are just now hearing about it for the first time, you should be able to find more than enough fun from any one of these games.
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