Havok and I were talking recently about our favorite games on the Commodore 64. We decided to publish our individual all time Top 10 Favorite games for the C64. This is based on games we’ve played and replayed over the years.
10. PSI-5 Trading Company
PSI-5 Trading Company was developed by Mike Lorenzen and published by Accolade in 1985. In PSI 5 Trading Company the player takes over the role of a captain of a space transporter with the task to bring urgently needed goods under time pressure to the target planet through a sector full of pirates. For this you are in constant contact with the crew members from the different departments of the spaceship. You give them orders which they try to execute to the best of their abilities. Feedback from the crew keeps you updated and – theoretically – enables you the react appropriately in situations of crisis that constantly arise in the game.
The first thing you need to do is to select one of the three missions (difficulty levels) and then it’s on to choosing your crew. There are 5 positions you need to fill with crew. They are WEAPONS, SCANNERS, NAVIGATION, ENGINEERING and REPAIR. For each position you will be given 6 possible candidates and they are diverse to say the least. So make your selections wisely and set out on your mission to deliver the needed goods while dodging pirates. As you take command of your space freighter on its perilous voyage, your challenge will be to command the mission by successfully managing your resources and allocating task assignments to your crew. This game is a busy game with events and crises arising constantly. The game ends as soon as you have reached the target planet or lost all the goods. The goods can be stolen by looters, damage to the freight hold or destroyed outright by weapons fire from enemies. On longer missions there is also the peril that the goods degrade over time and are rendered useless. When you arrive at the destination you are evaluated of the incurred costs and hopefully the amount of profit the adventure netted. Bounties are awarded for enemies terminated. Add to that a considerable bonus if you have delivered the goods on time or even better, earlier. I played this game a lot. When I got it right (picking a good run and a good crew) and some plain old good luck it was a good time, busy but good. When I deviated from any of those things it was Oh woe is me!!! Great game.
An interesting note is that the game was originally designed and developed by Binary Systems for the IBM computer. Only later was it ported to the Amiga, the Atari ST, the Macintosh and the C64. It was ported to the Genesis in 1991. You start off as the captain of a starship in the year 4620. You are setting off to explore the galaxy. The game’s galaxy is comprised of 270 star systems each of which can have between 0 and 8 planets for a total 800 planets. The game is open ended allowing the player to freely switch from mining to ship to ship combat to alien diplomacy as you move through the galaxy. All systems can be entered and all planets can be landed on. If by chance you land on one with a gravity of 8.0 or higher then you are dead. Once on a planet a Terrain Vehicle can be deployed to drive across the terrain, which is periodically scanned for new information, in search of minerals, lifeforms, and alien ruins. There are continuum fluxes (think wormhole) in space that can take you from one point to another instantaneously burning no fuel. There are aliens that you will interact with and that won’t always end well. I have always enjoyed this game. I had it on the C64, the IBM and my son has it (still) for the SEGA GENESIS. You can kind of lose yourself in this game.
8. Impossible Mission
The original version of Impossible Mission for the Commodore 64 was programmed by Dennis Caswell and published by Epyx in 1984.
The game featured a variety of gameplay mechanics from other platforms and adventure games and boasted novel features for the time, such as digitized speech. Another visitor! Stay Awhile – stay FOREVER!!! And with that the adventure begins. You (the player) take on the role of a secret agent hell-bent on stopping an evil genius, Professor Elvin Atombender, who is believed to be tampering with national security computers. You have six hours of game time to collect 36 puzzle pieces and each time the player dies, 10 minutes are deducted from the total time. I died a lot!!! Once all of the pieces are collected, you reassemble and decrypt the password to Atombender’s control room and once you enter it, you have won. The game is over. This is a game that keeps you busy and on the move.
7. Europe Ablaze
Europe Ablaze was published in 1985 by SSG (Strategic Studies Group). It was designed and published by the owners Roger Keating, Ian Trout and Eric Baker. The game was programmed by Roger Keating. I cannot call this a game as much as a masterwork. This was a massive undertaking to recreate the Air War over Europe in World War 2. It even includes the Battle of Brittan scenario. The game had so much going on that it had its own customized Disk Operating System written by Rodger Keating and his computer services company to handle the massive amounts of data and number crunching. This game used everything in the C64 but the results were awesome! I don’t think I can give it the description it deserves so I am going to include the description from the folks at Moby games…it’s that much going on.
(FROM MOBY GAMES)
“Europe Ablaze puts hundreds of planes at your command to send out over the deadly skies of Britain, France, and Germany during World War II. Take the place of Reich marshal Goering or Air Chief Marshal Portal to plot campaign-wide priorities and set the tactical doctrines your fleet commanders must follow. Then sit back and helplessly watch the events of the day take their course: the successes, the devastation, and lost planes tallied for you tersely at the end of each day, like a report card on which the fate of your nation depends. If that’s too much responsibility and not enough action, the role of fleet commander is available, too. To warm this seat, you need some real knowledge of air strategy. Plan night and day missions, approach vectors, and rendezvous. Balance wear and tear on your squadrons with the demands of your commander-in-chief. Select targets that maximize each squadron’s skills and planes, but keep abreast of enemy flight paths — your opponent has plans of his own.
Up to twelve hot-seat players can split up the air command roles available in Europe Ablaze, or one player can take on all the roles or even leave everything to the computer to learn some strategy. Detailed hex maps included with the game lay out the targets in each scenario and provide a platform for planning the next day’s strategy. The computer screen alternates between short menus leading to command and report screens, and a campaign-wide map on which the events of the day play out. Though the planning is turn-based, fleet commanders have access to “run-time” commands by halting the spinning clock which marks the progress of the day. Enemy strike plots can be examined, intercepts sent out, and patrols strengthened every five minutes if you like.
Behind the scenes, accidents happen, crews gain experience, repairs are made, and the results are rolled into each day’s report. Weather varies regionally and changes with the season and the hour. Ultimately, victory rests on destruction delivered; each air fleet commander is scored separately, and their contributions determine the commander-in-chiefs’ scores, which decide the outcome of the scenario. A map editor adds complete design of new campaigns and a sample Mediterranean scenario.
Thank you to Moby games for the great description!
Europe Ablaze is a wonderful simulation that is masterfully crafted and delivered. Even if you don’t wish to play out the entire simulation, load it up and set both sides to computer player and watch the chaos. High praise
6. Gettysburg: The Turning Point
Gettysburg: The Turning Point is a tactical simulation of the most famous, well known and most decisive battle of the Civil War fought in the little town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania from July 1 to July 3, 1863. The game is played in 42 turns each representing 1 hour of real time over a 3 day period. Now THIS game brings back some memories! Thank you SSI (Strategic Simulations Inc.) for a great game. It was released in 1986 and ported to various platforms. A lot of my time and money went to them. In return I got hours of enjoyment AND frustration from their simulations. I could have picked any number of SSI’s inventory for inclusion including Battle of Antietam or Rebel Charge at Chickamauga. All of these are famous Civil War battles. SSI was a master of statistical information. The game had adequate graphics and SSI provided you with the historical scenario and you tried to win the battle replacing your tactics with that of the general of that battle.. This is no easy task. I remember trying to play it 3 turns ahead. Evidently, I did not fare well. They made you think …hard and alot. I still have an original copy in the box with all of the contents. The game is one of my favorites!
The actual title is Archon: The Light and The Dark. This game was developed by Free Fall Associates and like the previously mentioned M.U.L.E. was one of the first five games published by EA (Electronic Arts). The goal of the game is either to take control of five power points located on the board, to eliminate all the opposing pieces, or to eliminate all but one remaining imprisoned piece of the opponent’s. It’s similar to chess in that there are pieces on a chess board, but there the similarity ends. The coolest thing about this game for me is that unlike chess where you just move the piece and claim the space in ARCHON the pieces actually do battle to the death. All of this is done in 38 kilobytes of memory.
4. Beach Head
Beach Head was developed by Bruce Carver and Chris Jones and published by their company ACCESS Software. I remember when this came out. I read a review of it one of the Commodore magazines of the time, probably Compute Gazette, who gave it high marks. The game was set in the Pacific theater of World War 2. You had to fight you way through various scenarios bringing your ships through a cove firing torpedoes everywhere, fighting air attacks with antiaircraft guns and sinking the enemy navy. The last stage had you maneuvering your tanks through a maze of sorts and finally confronting the big gun emplacement. I was a lot of work. Beach Head was one of the first arcade style wargames to offer realistic graphics according to Kevin Jones of ACCESS Software. This is another one of those games that is fun to play with just a hint of frustration.
3. Star League Baseball
Star League Baseball was designed by Dan Urgin, Scott Orr and Bruce Mitchell of Gamestar and published by Activision in 1983.
Ahhh, take me out to the ball game! In my humble opinion it is the best baseball game for the C64. I know there are others that have better graphics etc. but for ease of play and replay ability, this is it! It’s got the National Anthem, balls, strikes, base stealing, home runs and if that is not enough it has the 7th inning stretch for when your pitchers get tired and get worse over time. Thumbs up from me!
2. Mars Saga
Mars Saga is an RPG developed by Westwood Associates and published by Electronic Arts for the Commodore 64 in 1988.
This is my earliest (but certainly not my last ☺ ) interaction with Westwood Associates. This is a great game with 3-D movement reminiscent of what you would see in Wolfenstein later on. Your character, Tom Jetland, assembles a team of associates. While searching for jobs to make enough money to get back off the planet, you discover a conspiracy hiding contact with what seems to be alien life. You and your team work to unravel the conspiracy. The game map that the player ventures over includes the four Martian cities of Primus, Progeny, Parallax, and Proscenium, as well as traversing the Martian surface and visiting abandoned mines. The combat system provides a look down of the battlefield and includes features like auto-mapping which allowed the player to save without switching disks, and allowed the computer to control the player’s characters during combat. It is a fun game and something I might still break out on a rainy day.
This is my all-time favorite. M.U.L.E. designed by Ozark Softscape and is one of the original 5 flagship games released by the fledgling Electronic Arts in 1983. It is easy to learn. It plays well even today. There are land auctions, buying and selling of goods, random events that can help OR hurt you and of course hunting the WUMPUS with what remaining time you have before your turn ends. If I am showing off my C64 to someone I usually will load this up. Heck, the intro itself is iconic. We all know the game takes place on the planet IRATA. Unless you live under a rock you know that IRATA is ATARI backwards. The reason they used IRATA is that M.U.L.E. was originally written on and for ATARI and was then ported to the C64.
That’s the end of my list for now. What are you favorite games for the Commodore 64? We’d love to hear what you were playing back in the day, and may be playing currently in the comments below.