The 15 Greatest Sci-Fi/Horror Games for the Commodore 64

By Chris Cummins in Daily Lists, Video Games
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 8:01 am
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In the 1980s, the Commodore 64 ruled over the home computing market thanks to an affordable price point, helpful office applications and, of course, hundreds of games that offered an alternative to the era's arcade fare and cartridge-based consoles. The trusty C-64 gave consumers the opportunity to play ports of popular releases and original offerings alike just by throwing in a disc and typing "Load "*", 8,1." With that little bit of BASIC programming came a world of gaming possibilities. Since Topless Robot has previously featured an overview of The 20 Greatest Games on the Commodore 64, this Daily List will gear its focus toward the 15 greatest sci-fi and horror games released for the computer. As you'll soon see, these were two genres that were always well represented on the Commodore. Load "*", 8,1!

15) Space Taxi

If you ever dreamt of being an intergalactic cabbie whose fares all had tracheotomies, this was the game for you. The basic concept of Space Taxi -- avoid obstacles and get your passenger to their destination -- would be reworked for Crazy Taxi and The Simpsons' Road Rage. Although those games are clearly superior, they suffer a slight disadvantage by not including levels that are as nonsensical as Space Taxi's beach and candy-themed boards.

14) Robocop

Tough levels and some programming bugs led many to dub this game as "Robocrap." That's bull and shit. Despite the difficulty factor, there was a good deal of fun to be had here -- even if you just decided to shoot everyone in sight while enjoying the catchy theme tune. Speaking of music, there are apparently two cheat codes to this game that are both named after Morrissey songs ("Suedehead" and "Disappointed"). This is totally random and makes zero sense, but is endlessly awesome if you happen to be a fan of both Robocop and The Smiths.

13) Friday the 13th

At Crystal Lake, Jason has taken on the guise of a camper, and it's up to you to figure out which one and stop him before he kills again. Or you could just say fuck it and slay everyone in sight. Thus is the beauty of Friday the 13th, a game so schizo that it features the tranquil "Teddy Bear's Picnic" on the soundtrack one minute than throws this image at you the next:
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As if that weren't enough to get you to stain the couch, the game also features digitized screams each time Jason claims another victim. Totally creepy/wonderful stuff.

12) Gremlins: The Adventure

Utilizing a text interface with on-screen graphics, this adventure was a welcome contrast to Atari's crappy Gremlins arcade game. It's also pure wish fulfillment for anyone who ever wanted to walk in Belly Peltzer's shoes. While attempting to stop Stripe and company from taking over Kingston Falls, players are given the opportunity to blend, microwave and generally fuck with any Gremlin they encounter. At times, the game does fall victim to the obtuse sort of puzzles that plagued graphic adventures in the 1980s (good luck making it through the YWCA sequence without throwing something). But all is forgiven once you are greeted with the site of a computerized Gremlin flasher.

11) The Movie Monster Game
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A riff on the Rampage formula, The Movie Monster Game thrilled kaiju fans by letting them destroy cities as Godzilla. Yes, Epyx shelled out the rights for the notorious Tokyo stomper. Since the game's other monsters include no-frills (and blatantly unlicensed) versions of The Blob, Mothra and The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, it must have cost them a pretty penny to do so. Money well spent if you ask me.

10) Big Trouble in Little China

Just remember what ol' Jack Burton does when the Earth quakes, poison arrows fall from the sky and the pillars of heaven shake: He plays this shameless rip-off of Kung Fu Master. Players alternated between Jack, Wang and Egg Shen in an 8-bit battle to save Chinatown from Lo Pan (the ten foot tall version, not the little old basket case on wheels). As for achieving success at the game? Obviously it's all in the reflexes.

9) The Rocky Horror Show

The Rocky Horror Show was a strange choice for a C-64 game. Odder still is just how enjoyable it turned out to be. Fitting in with Rocky Horror's gender-bending ideology, players could choice whether they wanted to take on the role of Brad or Janet. They would then search the Frankenstein Place for pieces of the "De-Medusa" machine needed to free their lover from stone before time ran out and the house returned to the planet Transylvania. Obstacles appeared in the form of various characters who would either spout song lyrics at you or steal your clothes (as this and Ghosts 'n Goblins proved, 1980s game designers were obsessed with pixilated underpants).

This was popular enough to spawn a quasi-remake for the PC in 1999 that featured Christopher Lee as the narrator. As a bonus, here's a video of Lee breaking down the mysteries of the Time Warp in his own unique way above.
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