This year marked the 35th anniversary of the Commodore 64.
Games were available on floppy disk, cassette, and cartridge.
Prior to the rise of DOS/Windows PC gaming, I think the C64 was probably the most significant computer for gaming in the '80s from a world perspective.
It was successful in both NTSC and PAL regions. Stuff like the Spectrum, Amstrad, BBC Micro, MSX, etc. had near zero presence in North America. Atari had done okay with their 8-bit line on both sides of the pond but they didn’t set the world on fire. Apple computers were priced at the high end while C64s had the advantage of being closer to console prices by the mid '80s (assuming you hooked it up to a TV instead of buying the official monitor). IBM computers were still more for office work back then.
Because of its multi-region success, it became the biggest format for cross-cultural exchange between Western countries. Gamers in North America got to experience European and Australian games and vice versa. This may not seem notable today because of increased homogenization but back then there often major design differences. You can often tell by looking at and listening to most games what side of the Atlantic they came from. Sometimes the C64 had more than one port of arcade games depending on the region (Mario Bros., Congo Bongo, After Burner).
Computer games were usually multi-format back then. I think the C64 was in a better position than other 8-bit computer formats as far as ports went. The C64 received plenty of ports of Atari games but the reverse didn’t happen as much, especially in the late '80s. Spectrum games ported to C64 weren’t perfectly translated but they were usually close enough to resemble the originals. C64 games ported to Spectrum were graphically butchered abominations. The Sinclair hardware just didn’t have the colour palette. It was better suited for games built from the ground up.
By the end of the '80s, the C64 hardware was certainly showing its age compared to 16-bit computers and the re-invigorated console market.
20 classic C64 games:
Archon: The Light and the Dark
Turned based strategy meets real time action.
Fist: The Legend Continues
The sequel to Way of the Exploding Fist. This time it expanded beyond just being a fighting game. Its adventure mode has non-linear exploration and character upgrades. I hate the term “Metroidvania” but this was a significant early one that still doesn’t get much attention. I love that echo effect in the caves. I didn’t beat this game until over 20 years after I got it.
The Last Ninja
This seems to be a “love it or hate it” series. I love the first two games. Excellent soundtracks but some cruel trial-and-error gameplay.
The Wario Ware of 1984 with various minigames taken from gaming history before it.
Better than the Montezuma’s Revenge I had in Mexico last year.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
This was the first Infocom text adventure I owned. It was a big step up from the Aardvark Software ones I was playing previously.
Games like this in 1984 paved the way for the type of platformers Nintendo and Sega systems would be known for. It offered way more screens than the usual Donkey Kong/Space Panic-style games on the market and had an epic end boss.
Raid Over Moscow
Multi-perspective action with realistic thrust physics made this feel meatier than arcade shooters of the time.
The Train: Escape to Normandy
An evolution of the Lunar Lander genre.
“Stay a while. Stay Forevah!”
Arguably the first survival horror game as we know them.
International Karate/World Karate Championship
Barbarian: the Ultimate Warrior/Death Sword
Brutal and methodical Euro-style run 'n gun. Unfortunately it doesn’t work in NTSC.
Anyone want some microwaved hamster?
I just realized looking at those 20 games how many people involved have died: Richard Joseph, Bruce Carver, Douglas Adams, Silas Warner, Jukka Tapanimäki. Man, time is cruel.