The 5 Best Commodore VIC 20 Games – for Very Nostalgic People

Commodore VIC-20

It is hard to imagine a day when computers were an obscure thing and mainly the reserve of the rich and corporations. Companies that pioneered mass market models often met with either dizzying success or staggering failure. That is because there was no template for success back then. People did pretty much whatever they thought felt right – or that fell within budgetary parameters. That’s why you see so many all-in-one designs that place the computer inside of the keyboard. An absolutely bizarre configuration by today’s standards, this format was popularized as the go-to model design for consumer models.

The first to reach one million units in sales and create a sensation in its wake was the Commodore VIC-20. An 8-bit home computer made by Commodore Business Machines, the VIC-20 introduced tons of users to the power of a computer as a business machine and personal device. Of course, a huge part of this was video games, though probably not the kinds of video games we imagine today.

Not only were these games, on the largely part, simple stuff but also many of them ripped off gameplay concepts from one another. That is a polite way to say that originality was not the order of the day in VIC 20 game development. But what was standard fare, and something that helped catapult the console into popularity, was the novelty of it all. Computers were rare, strange, and somewhat unknown devices. If anyone did have some frame of reference for what a computer was doing, it was probably either from a movie, television show, or arcades.

As you can imagine, bringing this kind of high-level technology into the living room made computers both a sensation but also made some people worried that it was nothing more than a fad, destined to die out quickly and miserably. What computers like the VIC 20 helped do was show the world that, far from being a fad, these devices could become integral parts of everyday life.

So when it comes to video games and this glorious HC, it is the memories made either playing alone or with others and it is partially the novelty and the nostalgia that comes along with that which makes the computer so integral to many older gamers’ personal gaming history. Without further ado, here are the top five Commodore VIC 20 games that I remember fondly from those early days of computers and video games.

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5. Omega Race (Commodore 1982)

Omega Race for the Commodore VIC-20

Omega Race

Truth be told, this game was originally published by Midway in 1981 as an arcade game, and later ported to the Vic-20 by Commodore the following year.

How would I describe this game? Mix Asteroids together with a little bit of Space Invaders and you get Omega Race. Piloting a triangle around your screen, you take out enemies as they appear while avoiding coming in contact with them.

The center of the screen is awkwardly dominated by a huge “high score” and player information box but, aside from that, it is pretty standard fare. Graphics are pretty nondescript and the attempt at music, while appreciated, will probably not be friendly on modern ears.

What Omega Race does offer though is arcade fun and fair but challenging gameplay.

4. Tutankham (Konami 1982)

Tutankham for the Commodore VIC-20

Tutankham

Another arcade port coming with a funny story: its original name was Tutankhamen, but it turned out to be too long for the arcade cabinet. Yeah, such things did happen in the 80s, lol.

As for the game, Tutankham looks like a prototype of the adventure role-playing games we enjoy today like Zelda and company. You are an explorer in what looks like ancient tombs. Armed with a projectile weapon, you defeat enemies such as snakes and baddies that look like mummies to retrieve a key and unlock the gate at the end to proceed to the next level.

If you had a color display, this game’s graphics are actually quite impressive. From bright colors to detailed sprites, Tutankham has some high-quality production values underneath it all.
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3. Blitz (Commodore 1979)

Blitz for the Commodore VIC-20

Blitz

This game has an interesting concept that might not be the most appropriate in the age of terror. Still, it is an intriguing gameplay conceit that, with a few changes, would be pretty appropriate for modern smartphones and the like.

You fly a plane across the screen as it descends ever lower. With each pass you get one bomb to drop on the skyscrapers below to level them and avoid a collision. The challenge here is both picking the right sequence of skyscrapers to level and pressing the button at the right time.

Like I said, not the most politically correct concept for the modern era but a strong gameplay concept nonetheless.

2. River Rescue (Thorn Emi Video Programmes 1982)

River Rescue for the Commodore VIC-20

River Rescue

Pilot a boat down the river and take out the objects that come along the way. Sensing a theme here? Way too similar to River Patrol.

Like I said, not the most original concepts behind these games on this list but definitely a lot of fun to be had.

Everything is on rails which adds to the difficulty of the game and, like most games in this vein, becomes more fun the better you get at it.

Honorable mention:

Radar Rat Race (Commodore 1981)

Radar Rat Race for the Commodore VIC-20

Radar Rat Race

Another bell is ringing… Very, very similar to Rally-X by Namco. According to Wikipedia though, it deals with a licensed clone.

You are a rat in a maze, and you have to collect the cheese while avoiding the cats at every turn. Simple enough, right?

Think of it like Pac Man but with rats, cheese, and cats. You actually compete against red-colored rats as you run through the maze, which is an interesting twist on the maze-runner format that I think would have really been cool in Pac Man.

And now, let us find out my number 1 pick…

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1. Clowns (Commodore 1982)

Clowns for the Commodore VIC-20

Clowns

The short description: like Breakout but with seesawing clowns. But this game takes a concept that is pretty tried and true in gaming at this point and adds some fun variants on it. The seesaw keeps clowns destroying blocks above but, beware, if a clown gets caught up on a ledge and falls to the ground before you can catch him with the seesaw, it is game over.

Yes the gameplay might sound easy, but the game itself is challenging. My older cousin and me would spend hours trying to clear the first 10 levels. For some reason, we thought we might get some special prizes or gifts by doing that. Not sure if we have another gaming urban legend here, but I need to tell James, lol 😀

Oh, Clowns was also the very first game I played on a home computer, so it will always hold a special place in my gaming heart.

As with any retro console, an individual’s memories are likely to be more powerful than anything else. You can evaluate and judge a game all day long but, if someone had fun, that is all that matters. What about you? Did you own a Commodore Vic 20? What were some of your favorite games to play? Or how about some of your fondest memories of the system? Let me know your thoughts and stories in the comments below.

Commodore VIC-20 home screen

About Andrew A.

Andrew is the founder and owner of RetroGamingLoft. He considers himself a natural-born gamer and is on a mission to keep our younger gaming years alive through the medium of Retro Stories. His event recount includes hopes, dreams, broken joysticks, magic, nostalgia and another final boss defeated.

12 thoughts on “The 5 Best Commodore VIC 20 Games – for Very Nostalgic People

  1. Emmanuel Buysse

    The games are before my time, I’m from the 90’s. Yes the Pokémon age, the Nintendo age. However, my sister knows this, we differ quite a time from each other, and she loved this. I will share this with her, pretty sure she has lots of stories about it. Thanks for sharing it. 

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Emmanuel, thanks for visiting my blog again.
      I appreciate that you are going to share my post with your sister. She is more than welcome to leave a comment and share some memories, of course. 🙂
      Till next retro post!

      Reply
  2. Aabidah Ahmed

    These games are old and before my time but people still had these games in what is called a Game-Centre, and I always use to play these games. 

    There are plenty more games like the ones listed above which are really great, but you have a great collection you are sharing. I won’t forget the Tutankham, I played this one with many others not listed above and up until this day I won’t mind playing them again.

    Thank you for this great old school collection of games and all the best to you.

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Aabidah and welcome back to my website.
      A bit of envy knowing that there are such cool Game-Centres where you live, lol just kidding. Much admiration for them, actually.

      Tutankham was one of the first adventure games I ever played (maybe the second after the arcade Pitfall, I cannot properly recall), definitely the first one on a home computer. It looked magical and – at the same time – very real to my eyes. The magic consisted of seeing a stylised man moving all over the screen. The real thing lied in the fact that stylised man could use weapons, kill enemies and what not… Needless to say, another game that secured itself a special place in my heart.

      Thanks again for your comment, stay tuned for more retro rankings!

      Reply
  3. Robert Trevor

    I have never even come across these games, or these computers,but they seem rather basic, which they are by today’s standards,I suppose.

    This omega race, reminds me,of space invaders a little, which I played long a go ,it was quite an interesting game, and one that I enjoyed.

    I remember playing a game very similar to River rescue,and I think it may have been River patrol,the graphics look very similar, and it was a good game.

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Robert and thanks for your comment.
      Yeah, we are talking about a very old home computer, and games are obviously basic.
      Despite this many of them had a captivating gameplay, and you would be surprised at how many people are still playing Commodore VIC-20 games.
      Thanks again for dropping by, hope you stay as a regular!

      Reply
  4. Harry

    Every single time I visit your blog, I become extremely nostalgic of the years that I was younger. 

    I specifically remember coming back from school and inhaling my food in order to play some games on my Commodore. Omega Race was my favorite of all those 5 games.

    I wish I could play again but unfortunately, my Commodore doesn’t seem to work anymore :/

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Harry, what a pleasure to hear from you again!
      Like I said, bringing back nice memories is my mission and comments like yours make me want to write and publish as much content as I can.
      Sorry your Commodore is not working any longer. If you are fancying buying another one, I suggest that you take a look at my recent posts about the Top 5 ways to buy retro games and the top 5 retro game shops online.
      Thanks again for your comment, glad to have you as a regular! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Tomas Bishop

    I wasn’t born when games were being made like this. I did however take the time to try older games, and I realized that the more arcade like games were actually better. It seems like games were being made more fun. Now it’s all about the graphics and how good it looks. Also the mechanics of games are getting worst every single year. It’s honestly frustrating. Make games great again!

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Tomas and thanks for your supportive comment, it means a lot!
      The games on this list are graphically basic (to say the least), so they were unlikely to leave a visual impact on people. Video games were very new at the time, so people were not looking for realism, they just wanted to enjoy the novelty of gaming.

      Based on this, their forte had to be the gameplay, and this is certainly the main reason for some of us retro-ers are still playing them today. When something is fun and easy to play, you keep coming for more, that is a fact.

      Make no mistake, there were also countless poor efforts, but again, those with a great gameplay bring back exhilarating memories, and you can easily forget about aesthetics.
      I see your point about today’s games: I understand that consumers demand realism, but graphics are only a part of it.

      Thanks again for stopping by, stay tuned for more retro articles!

      Reply
  6. Allen

    Wow! This takes me way back. I couldn’t help but sustain a big cheesy smile on my face when I saw the Commodore Vic 20. That was my first ever computer and I had so much fun with it. I was so amazed at that time what I could with it that it inspired me to learn the Basic Computer Language. I would write small simple little programs that were responsive and interactive. The Vic 20 in it self was like a big game to me. My younger self couldn’t wait to come home from school and start playing around with that Basic Programming Language. I was born in 1970 and have played with other nostalgic games before and after the Commodore Vic 20 came out. My first game ever was called Pong. It was like a virtual ping-pong game with one console and 2 hand held paddles with a circular knob in the middle that would control your paddle on your side of the screen. The object of the game was to block the little blip from getting past you. You score points by failing to block the blip, sending it back to the other side. Anyway, I’m gushing about my early days and I can go on for a while. I will leave you with this; after pong came Intellevision (by Mattel), Atari, Nintendo, and Sega. They were all fun and I wish I still had all of my original gaming consoles. This website is a fantastic forum to go back and bring out that forgotten youth we once were. It takes me back all over again. I never would’ve had the enjoyment I just experienced if I hadn’t discovered this site. Will you be writing and article on the Intellivision game console soon? I would love to hear about it.

    Outstanding!!! *****

    Reply
    1. Andrew A. Post author

      You know Allen, I like making lists, so if I should rank the comments I have got so far, yours would definitely be at the top!
      I do not even know where to start thanking you… Your comment is filled both with nostalgia and with enthusiasm, you were the one who took me back!
      My aunt worked for a multinational company back then and she did know how to use computers.
      So one day, she wanted to surprise my cousin and me and started to write a program in basic… A couple of hours later she had made a text adventure. Needless to say, to me that was pure magic! I kept looking at the screen in total awe, while she smirked.

      An article about the glorious Intellivision is in the works, and maybe it will see the light of day sooner than you might think… Just stay tuned! 😉

      Reply

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