I was looking back at some of the games that I thought really shined on the Commodore 64. There are so many great games for the C64. Then I thought, what games would I consider to be “launch titles” if the C64 was a new gaming machine that was about to hit the market tomorrow?
Here's my list of top ten games that I would consider to be of launch day quality. Not to say that there's only ten games that I think are worthy of launch status; there's many. But, I have to draw the line somewhere. I've also tried to pick games that I would appeal to a wide range of gamers, or was specifically designed to showcase the capabilities of the C64 (or a combination of both).
I've separated the list into two parts: (1) games that were made specifically for the C64 and (2) games ported to the C64.
Sega has Sonic, Nintendo has Mario, and the C64 has Mayhem (the “coolest” of the bunch) in his premiere video game, “Mayhem in Monsterland”. This was probably the last of those milestone games for the C64, but it was also one of the best platform games developed for the system. It really showed what this little 8-bit computer could do (game-wise).
Granted, there were some other really good platform games besides Mayhem (like Creatures, CJ, and Dizzy), but Mayhem really “upped the ante” for C64 developers. Mayhem is colourful, the action is fast (Sonic fast), and the controls are tight and responsive.
This game proved that the C64 really could compete with the other consoles. It was quite unfortunate that Mayhem in Monsterland was released so close to the end of the system's production.
Talk about going out on a high note.
You thought Samus was “bad-ass”? Well, let me introduce you to Turrican - a mutant warrior with a weapons arsenal that rivals anything you'll see in Metroid.
Turrican is a non-linear platform shooter game, designed for the C64 and later ported to other home PCs and game consoles. It is another milestone game, developed late in the life of the C64, that pushed the system's capabilities and raised the bar for game developers.
The non-linear game play brought a level of replay-ability not seen in other shooters. There are many secret areas to explore and discover, with hidden 1-ups, weapons, and the player isn't forced to complete tasks in any specific order. On top of all of this, there are some really excellent boss battles to face off against, too.
Turrican is a really nice looking game, producing graphics and colours that were thought of as impossible to earlier game developers. The controls are responsive and the sound effects and music are excellent.
This game is a triumph for both the Commodore 64 and the video gaming market, in general. Project Firestart was the first game of it's kind - the horror survival game - as well as a masterpiece in video game story telling.
In this game, you take on the heroic role of Jon Hawking, who must find out what happened to the ill-fated space vessel, “Prometheus”. Soon after your arrival, you find yourself trapped on the ship, with limited weapons and time, pitted against an infestation of horrific lifeforms that are “bred for the mines… with an appetite for flesh” (as the game packaging describes).
You must venture from room to room, piecing together the plot by reading logs left by the former crew. The scene is dark and the sounds are subdued - which builds the tension and makes the game all that more thrilling. Throw in a few unexpected cut scenes of mutant monsters and disemboweled crew, and you've got yourself a really good horror game.
You got a hankering for some raw shoot-em up action, but never thought the action could get fast enough for you on an 8-bit system? You obviously haven't played Armalyte. Not only are the graphics stunning, but the action is fast and furious in this side scrolling shooter. This game has got to have some of the fastest game animations I've ever seen on the C64.
As the ferocity of the enemy space craft builds, so does the power-ups for your weapons. You also have three “power” weapons to choose from, along with the drone that accompanies you, to help thwart the enemy armada. And each level run ends in a spectacular boss battle.
There are quite a few scrolling shooter games like this for the C64, but either they're ports of games available for other systems, or they just don't quite live up to the action - nor match it's visual appeal of Armalyte.
It can be a frustrating game to play at times (due to the number of enemy ships you have to battle), but it really is a game that has a lot of production value.
It was difficult to decide whether or not to include Impossible Mission in this list. By today's standards, the game could be considered to be kind of dull. However, for a game that forces a player to push their eye hand co-ordination and puzzle solving skills to their limit, this game delivers.
It takes quite a bit of skill to get through all of the challenging scenarios presented to you in each of the rooms; trying not to get electrocuted by the robots or fall to your death. If you're fortunate enough to do that and collect all of the puzzle pieces, the next challenge is to put them all together to get the password to apprehend the game's villain.
But those aren't the only reasons I ultimately decided to add this game to the list. I guess the main reason was because of the history this game has with the Commodore 64, itself. I'm confident to say that, when most people think of the Commodore 64 (at least those who have owned one at one time), they also think of this game. Impossible Mission and the C64 are iconic, in their own right.
There would be something definitely wrong with the universe if Impossible Mission wasn't available on the launch day of the Commodore 64.
So, let's all say it together: “Another visitor! Stay a while. Stay forever!”
Here's a short list of games that almost made this portion of my top ten list (in no particular order):
On to Part Two...