For those of us growing up in the 1980s and privileged enough to witness the birth of PC gaming, it was a magical time. Since then, PC games have become hundreds of times more powerful and have reached levels of sophistication and realism that would boggle the mind of a kid back in 1985.
That doesn’t mean the classic retro games of the Apple II are any less impressive. The creativity and downright genius of early software engineers to be able to pack epic levels of fun in such a limited technological box is simply amazing. It blew the minds of the children and adults of the 1980s and they would still today… if only given half a chance. Read on and appreciate the greatness that was Apple II games.
Introducing the Apple II
The iconic Apple II hit the home PC market in 1977 and sold 5-6 million units before the line discontinued in November 1993. The Apple IIe was in hundreds of schools across America by 1990 bringing educational classics like The Oregon Trail to bright-eyed school children that might otherwise not have access to a computer.
The Apple II was state of the art with the ability to interface with color TVs and early EVGA Apple II monitors at an affordable price. The Apple II was one of the first PCs to support 5.25-inch floppy disks that became the standard for games.
Apple II Games
There were 567 games officially released for the Apple II series. We would be here all day discussing all of the mention-worthy titles, so we broke it down into the type of game and hand-picked two of our favorites.
The First Game
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. This is certainly true with the Apple II. The Apple I was not powerful enough to program Steve Jobs’ mind child “breakout” in BASIC. Wanting or rather needing to bring the game to PC, Jobs brought in his friend Steve Wozniak to design the game and build a PC that could run it. The Apple II was created to play the 1977 game “Breakout.”
They were fast-paced, live or die, action arcade games testing your hand-eye coordination and your quick thinking skills. It was like pinball but in a digital dream.
Your mission in this 1982 war-themed game is to fly a military helicopter into hostile territory and save POWs. The object of the game is to land the chopper, collect the POWs, and return them safely to home base the whole while avoiding complete destruction by enemy tanks.
The object of the game is simple. You are Peter Pepper, a chef on a mission to prepare hamburgers. The game had 6 levels of increasing complexity and difficulty. With each level, Chef Pepper would need to cross over the hamburger parts such as buns, lettuce, and meat making them cascade down to the next level.
Once all the ingredients fall down the maze and on to the waiting plates below the level is complete. Enemy food makes Peter Peppers’s time difficult by wandering around and threatening the life of the chef. The Chief even could fight back with a limited number of Pepper bombs that would render the enemy food harmless for a short time long enough to go through them or away from them.
If you are the type of gamer that likes to think your way to victory over your enemies the Apple II had a wide selection of classic and newly created strategy games for hours of mind-bending fun.
The centuries-old board game chess was written in code all the way back in the 1950s vacuum tube era, but did the pieces fight? It wasn’t until Battle Chess, released in 1988 did the game take on its imagined warlike moves.
A move in Battle chess meant you would get to watch a mini-battle play out on the board before the winning piece took up position in place of the defeated captured piece. With 6 different types of pieces that could fight and die on the battlefield and keeping in mind, a king cannot capture a king hat made 35 different battle animations to enjoy. Other than that, it was a decent chess playing engine and you could play the computer or your friends, even online.
Inspired by the book of the same name, Taipan! was a 1982 turn-based strategy game. You play the role of a trader trying to make his fortune trading with pirates and merchant ships at ports around Asia. The game had tons of strategy and elements of luck. The player’s ship would face pirate attacks and even extortion from the Hong-Kong local Li Yuen.
The object of the game is to accumulate wealth and avoid being sunk or bankrupted. Once your net worth reaches one million pounds you have the option to retire. You could say you won the game at that point.
You can get out of your skin and go somewhere else and become someone else in these exciting open-world role-playing games. These titles could be played for years and still have places to explore, treasures to find, and enemies to defeat.
Ultima is a series of nine epic tales with each new release becoming more sophisticated than the last. The first game, Ultima, 1 was released in 1981. Ultima IV Quest of the Avatar is considered by many to be the height of the series and the 1985 RPG pushed the envelope of what could be done with PC role-playing games. Ultima was the ultimate RPG of the 1980s and few would argue.
Built on the tried and true character development strategy of D&D, your character has attributes that determine your likelihood of success in the game’s objectives. Ultima had everything you could want in a fantasy world. Endless screens to explore, underground fortresses, castles, towns, and even a space ship that could take you to infinite random worlds.
The Bard’s Tale
Also released in 1985 The Bard’s Tale was a legend in of itself. Like Ultima, it is based on character development. You role-play a group of up to 6 characters fighting together the evils lurking in the streets and dungeons of a fantasy world.
It is not all fun and games, but educational too. Personal computers in the classrooms were becoming commonplace in the schools of America during the 1980s. Here are two you might have played during computer class if you were in school back then.
The Oregon Trail
Arguably the most well-known and loved Apple II game of all time, The Organ Trail seeks to encapsulate the struggle and determination of late 19th-century American pioneer making the grueling wagon journey to Oregon.
Choose the names of your party members and gasp when the game tells you they have drowned, died of snakebite, or contracted Typhoid. This 1985 historical reenactment and resource management game’s objective was to survive the trip and keep your party fed and healthy.
This 1973 business simulation game was imported to the Apple II in 1979. You play a small business owner providing the public with one product, lemonade. Your success depends on the decisions you make each “round.” Players buy stock, can increase or decrease their prices, and even buy advertising.
Lemonade Stand was largely proclaimed for the design. The game was seen as an excellent way to introduce children to business and decision making challenges.
Apple II Emulators
Chances are, your old Apple II PC sold for a $100 at Grandma’s yard sale in 1995, but not to worry. Retro gaming lives on today thanks to emulators. Emulators create a virtual machine emulating the systems of old. The emulator plays the software in a window on your modern PC and a portal to the past is instantly created for your retro gaming pleasure.
AppleWin and Virtual II are both reliable emulators that will take you back to the 1980s in 8-bit glory. Install the emulators and load the Apple II Roms of your favorite retro games. You can even play immediately on a web-based emulator like Virtual Apple.
Keep Retro Gaming
Still, have the same passion for 80s Apple II games as you did back then? We understand and you are not alone. Retrothusiast is a community of die-hard retro gamers and you are welcome here!
The exciting thing about our retro gaming hobby is that no matter how long we play these games we are always seeing something new. Keep reading and explore further retro gaming with more articles on our blog.