Stay awhile, STAY FOREVAR: Top 12 Games For The New Commodore 64


GateHouse — You kids, you can have your Wii and your DS and that Microsoft thing where you hop around your living room like a lunatic; my heart will always belong to the Commodore 64, the mauve, 95-pound cheese block that, along with “Raising Hell” and an enormous pair of brown plastic Harry Caray glasses, basically defined the mid-1980s for me and set me on a rewarding lifelong path of being able to type really fast (95 words per minute, Mavis Beacon WHUT).

The imbeciles in charge of the “budget negotiations” can have the important TV space this week; for a particular crowd of inveterate nerds, and by that I mean all the people I spent messaging things like “DO YOU THINK I CAN GET ‘STREET SPORTS BASEBALL’ ON MY PHONE?” the news of the week was that the C64 is being re-released for the modern age. The new Commodore will feature modern wonders like a fancypants new processor and Blu-ray player, but keeping the exterior, in the words of the company’s Web site, “as close to the original in design as humanly possible.”

In preparation for what will likely be several weeks of uncontrollable joyful sobbing, here are My Unbearably Scientific Top 12 Games For The Commodore 64, which I know because I played them instead of doing things like learning sports or marketable career skills. If you did not have a C64, you have no idea how much you want to stop reading right now. If you did, welcome, Another Visitor.


Impossible Mission: To usher in the modern era of video games, Epyx thought it’d be fun to star with an INCOMPREHENSIBLY DIFFICULT PUZZLE that no human could remotely hope to accomplish, and then added passwords, hidden doors, some NORAD-level computer code and sheet music to it. “Impossible” was also one of the first games to use digitized speech, which sounded like Darth Vader speaking through an inverted traffic cone from 30 yards away, but still made people literally drool in glassy-eyed amazement.


Break Street: Actually I never had the game for this; only an early, unplayable demo that made it so all I could do was watch a virtual dancer perform feats such as the Uprock while other dancers tapped their feet like “Yeah.” The amount of time I spent watching a computer break-dancing demo in 1984 is not to be messed with.


One On One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird: Blocky basketball contest in which your entire menu of offensive options were “shoot” or “spin around,” and still about a billion times more fun than the NBA. Pretty sure it also contained the video game world’s first-ever virtual janitor.


Summer Games/Winter Games: An Olympic simulation in which every sport was performed by furiously jiggling the joystick back and forth as homicidally as possible; basically if you’re 33-39 and have carpal-tunnel, this is probably why. Also, to maximize authenticity, the German judge was unpredictably insane.


Law of the West: A graphical adventure in which you play an old west sheriff, and your interactions with the townspeople depend on what you say to them, assuming you kept interest during the 4 1/2-hour load time between scenes.


Zak McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders: Graphical ankh-based adventure involving a trip to Mars that can theoretically end with you standing in front of an alien monolith with no air in your breathing helmet UNABLE TO DO ANYTHING EXCEPT START THE GAME COMPLETELY OVER, not that this sort of thing sticks with you.


Any Text-Based Adventure Game: Puzzles, mysteries, codes and adventures, many of which had “Zork” in the title and exactly all of which would degenerate instantly into you typing a reasonably basic command like “Look at map,” only to have the computer tell you “You can’t look at the map” even though it just told you there was a map there and you’d type “Pick up map” and it would say “You can’t pick up the map” and you would type “Get map” and it would say “You can’t get the map” and you would furiously throw a chair through a stained-glass window and scream out loud why in the holy hell would you put a map in this room if I CAN’T DO ANYTHING WITH THE EFFING MAP. God, I hated these games.


Friday the 13th: Came with surprise, jarring cut scenes of as much hideous bloody knife-through-the-head violence as was possible on a very old computer. (Ran into one of those scenes in 1986, NEVER PLAYED IT AGAIN.)


Rocky Horror Picture Show: What the hell was this? A game where creepy sex-monsters can steal your clothes and make you play in your underwear? Why did my parents let me illegally copy this from my cousin and then play it when they weren’t paying attention?


Micro League Wrestling: Fierce wrestling action, featuring video content with Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and the electrifying King Harley Race. Whatever. YES THAT IS ANNOUNCER HOWARD FINKEL. (Actual video “Loading” time between moves: 37 minutes)


Sid Meier’s Pirates!: Note that this game comes with an exclamation point, because pirates DEMAND EXCLAMATION POINTS, because if they don’t get exclamation point they will RUN A CUTLASS THROUGH YOUR GULLET, which are two words that I would have never known existed were it not for “Pirates!” (Cutlass and gullet = coincidentally, the worst thing on the menu at Long John Silver’s.)


Paperboy: Now official: In 2011, the Commodore 64 is more popular than newspapers.


(I am sure I forgot at least 150 excellent games; please furnish yours in the comments.)

About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, Billboard, Time, Modern Bride, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, The South Magazine and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

10 responses to “Stay awhile, STAY FOREVAR: Top 12 Games For The New Commodore 64

  • Kevin Vrabel

    Castle Wolfenstein, Two on Two basketball (played in your bedroom on Las Olas Dr.)


  • Bradshaw

    I had a lot of these games… on my Apple IIe. Because I had an Apple when it wasn’t cool to own an Apple… and before Apple became everything we hated about Microsoft.

    But I digress…

    Other titles I’d like to add:
    The aforementioned Street Sports series was outstanding.
    Wasteland forever changed my life. It’s the precursor for today’s Fallout series.
    Pools of Radiance appeased those of us who admit to havng played D&D.
    Conan: Hall of Volta
    Oregon Trail
    Spy vs. Spy
    King’s Quests I-IV
    And of course Dung Beetles


  • Jason Crane | The Jazz Session

    I spent an insane number of hours playing Impossible Mission and Bard’s Tale on my C64.


  • Xavier Jefferson

    OMG, top *twelve*? Seriously?

    I just can’t narrow it down that easily. I mean, c’mon now. Even the Lemonade Stand game had its virtues… for a New York second.

    I can’t leave behind the host of classic arcade games that I used to play on my ’64. For me, the idea of buying a console arcade system was just *dumb*, ’cause I could get hot arcade-style games and much, much more to play. So here’s a few I remember fondly.

    **Must-haves. One can’t say ‘I was a C64 enthusiast’ and miss these!**

    Archon/Archon II (man, you can’t leave out the EA titles!)
    Bruce Lee
    Ultima series
    Marble Madness
    Raid Over Moscow
    Impossible Mission (you betcha)

    **And, for honorable mention***

    Attack of the Mutant Camels
    The Great Giana Sisters


    • Jeff Vrabel

      oh my God I completely left out Lemonade. I basically learned business off of that damn thing. Which, as anyone who knows me can attest, has been a miserable failure. This is a great list. What’s Mutant Camels?


      • Jessica Pederson

        Thank you for coming to the defense of Lemonade Stand. It was the AWESOMEST. I remember lovingly placing the cassette tape into my cousin’s C64 and waiting anxiously to find out the temperature of the day. I still get chills thinking about it.

        I don’t know who this Xavier Jefferson person is, but we may have to have some words.


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