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Commodore 64 Collectors Guide for Retro Junkies

Why Collect for the Commodore 64?

Because in my mind, it was the best 8-bit computer created, bar none.

The C64 was released to an eager public in 1982. It was, for its time, a powerful bit of kit, with arguably better graphics and sound than any other system available. Commodore went on to sell an estimated 12.5 to 17 million units, which does kind of make you wonder why they ended up bankrupt.

Somewhere in the region of 10,000 commercially available pieces of commercial software were released during its life-cycle, and even today there are some die hard famatics still supporting the format.

The hardware side is a whole other ballgame, so where does the budding retro gamer start his collection?


Right Here!

Lets start with the Hardware your will need. Obviously a C64 is going to be top of the list. I have a preference to the old beige bread bin style to be honest, as it's what I grew up with, but the newer Amiga lookalike may be a better bet for those who like more modern aesthetics!

Disk Drives

First on your list for peripherals has to be a disc drive. Many great games were released in this format to avoid the long tape loading times (that's right kids, games also arrived on tapes back then). There are several options still available today,

  • The original 1541, heavy and bulky, not a great choice due to temperamental latching .
  • 1571 Best if going for a C128 due to extra features.
  • 1541-II is reliable and easy to open up for a quick de-dust.
  • Evesham Micro's Excelerator + Just as good as the factory items

Action Replay Cartidge

Loads of features, you can look around for cheat codes, copy files, use it as a fast loader, go for the latest version, number 6

Expert Cartridge

A more hardcore choice where you can actually delve into the machine code. Awesome ability to backup just about any game.

Datel Sound Sampler

No better way to cheaply muck around with the sound output of your C64, capture sound then manipulate it however you wanted, just no way to save the output unfortunately.

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The Games

Lets start with a shot list of easy to find games, that are also some of the most playable games ever divised.

  • IK+ Sequel to International Karate, this introduced a third combatant.Amazingly fluid animation and combat with no slowdown, this is a masterpiece of the genre.
  • Paradriod A ship filled with psychotic robots, and you, one little droid that cantemporarily take over other droids. Smooth scrolling, ad tense engaginggameplay make this a classic that deserves a remake!
  • Bubble Bobble Bub and Bob in this amazing arcade game conversion. Great music and fanatically playable. Two player mode is a must!
  • The Last Ninja Any of them! Play em all in order is my advice. Pseudo 3d isometric game play that was not all about the combat. Perhaps the 2nd had slightly better graphics and music, but they were all great.
  • Impossible Mission "Another visitor. Stay a while, stay forever!" Speech in a game show just how advanced the C64 was. Fiendish puzzles and pixel perfect platforming fun.
  • The Sentinel 10,000 levels! Kind of an early energy management game in 3d, and exceptionally hard to explain! Your character cannot actually move, but can absorb things in the levels to gain energy and gain access to places, then send an inert empty husk to a location, and transfer its consciousness to it.
  • Anything by Jeff Minter 'Nuff said!

Rare Gems

The best thing about collection anything is that warm feeling you get when you hit the mother lode, when you finally track down that elusive hard to find special that none of your mates have!

Ebay of course it great for this, so here are a few to look out for.

  • The Great Giana sisters. A great Super Mario Bros clone that got itself pulled from the shelves under legal threat, not that hard to find, but a great start to a collection and it plays great.
  • Double Dragon. The cartridge version was never sold in the shops, and to be honest does not have rave reviews by those who have it, it is however very collectible.
  • Gauntlet 3. Rave reviews, but never released, which is a shame.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg, there is so much to collect here, so what are you waiting for, get going !

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alanrammel from Whitby, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom on December 13, 2012:

I've still got mine and enjoyed many years of playing it. Had loads of games as well. I might have to do a special hub on some of the games I enjoyed!

RolyRetro from Brentwood, Essex, UK on May 08, 2012:

Great hub as usual Zac. I was always a Spectrum fan so would not admit to my school friends that I was jealous of the C64 and its "proper" keyboard! My kids don't get the concept that there used to be different kinds of home computers before the PC, all competing for our attention, a bit like today's consoles.

Michael Murchie (author) from Parts Unknown on February 01, 2012:

@Joberman, I would be a hypocrite if I said I didn't partially agree with some of what you have written here today. Some things have no doubt been lost, and you are right, it's a sad thing.

There is a UK magazine that has been going for some years called RETRO, and in the early days they gave away cover disks with legally obtained ROMS and emulators for many systems, including the C64.

I would also say that many of the companies that made the old classics just don't exist to control the copy write issues, so it's a grey area.

But I also have to re-iterate that the article I have written was a quick guide to collecting, not downloading. For me there was no better feeling that searching down a rare tape or disk on Ebay and securing the win. For me as someone who was a collector, the physical aspect of actually having the item, rather than just a collection of files on a hard drive was the attraction. To try to convey that feeling was the purpose of this article.

Thank you for taking the time to read and to comment, I understand your point fully and I hope that you see mine too

BTW, IK+ is available in the shrinkwrap from UK Ebay for £4.49, Flimbo, well you got me in that one to be honest!

Joberman on February 01, 2012:


Being anti-piracy is all well and good, but what I have found is a lot of the releases that came out for these retro machines are next to near impossible to find legitimate copys of today. In fact in a lot of cases were it not for piracy at the time there would be no copys today !!!

Show me where I can legitimately buy a copy of IK+ on cassette tape, or flimbos quest on cartridge today and prove me wrong. There are tons of games that are no longer available or can't be got anymore because the companys that hold the IP are not bothered with them because they don't deem them to have any marketability today. Copyright law is a load of BS as it's main purpose is controlling IP that has monetary value. I am worried that the creative and talented works that came out for these old machines will be lost in time and the only things that are saving them are pirated copies and/or flash ported versions that are floating around today, heck there are still some games for the commodore I can't find :-( makes me sad.

Michael Murchie (author) from Parts Unknown on January 12, 2012:

@ Cyberqat, sure, you don't need a C64, but this is an article about collecting C64s and games for them, so I guess I am justified in not mentioning it. Also, whilst some games are freeware, some are still copyright material, and if you have read some of my other articles, you would realise I am anti piracy.

@ the other commentators, thanks for taking the time to read and comment, glad you enjoyed it!

Cyberqat on January 11, 2012:

You should have mentioned that a C64 isn't actually necessary to play many great old C64 games. There are excellent & free C64 emulators available.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on January 06, 2012:

I'm old enough to have bought these when they first came up. You've brought back the memories. Voting this Up and Interesting.

The Moseph from FooLishville on January 06, 2012:

Still have mine. Well, technically it's not my original one. My original one died on me years ago. The power supply died and took the motherboard with it. I managed to find another at a thrift store once again enabling me to enjoy and share with my kids all the amazing games I grew up with on that thing. Back then you had the Vic-20, the TI-99, the TRS-80 (or "Trash 80" as we called it) and the amazing C-64. As soon as I saw the adds, I begged for one. My mom was kind enough to get it for me for Christmas along with the original 1541 floppy drive. It died too and I eventually ended up with a 1541-II which I still have today. Amazingly, they both still work great. Every once in a while I have to get it out, hook it up and check out all those old games again. Fun!

Ah, yes!! Impossible Mission! And it was, too!!

Then there's Beach-Head, Castles of Dr. Creep, Seven Cities of Gold, Wishbringer, Sorcerer, The Last V-8, Lords of Conquest (which was basically Risk), Stellar 7, Summer Games, and so many more.

One of my all time favorites was Alternate Reality. I loved being able to freely explore the city, stop by for a bite to eat at a local tavern, get a bed at one of the many inns and then head back out for more exploration the next morning (or day if you were a night owl).

I think my other two all time favorites would have to be Starflight & Elite. In each, you have an entire galaxy to explore. Starflight offers a Star Trek like experience, exploring worlds while Elite offers an opportunity to be a smuggler or a simple trader traveling to all the star systems, avoiding pirates and the police (if you chose the former profession).

Great fun.

JJ Tyson from Chapel Hill, NC on January 06, 2012:

Cool and interesting article. Great job.

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