20 Games that Defined the Apple II

A little video my friend Scott sent me.

Direct link to video.

The games shown are, in chronological order:

  1. Ultima I
  2. Castle Wolfenstein
  3. Wizardry
  4. Swashbuckler
  5. Choplifter
  6. Lode Runner
  7. Cavern Creatures
  8. King’s Quest
  9. Impossible Mission
  10. Karateka
  11. The Oregon Trail
  12. The Bard’s Tale
  13. Elite
  14. Might and Magic
  15. Pirates!
  16. California Games
  17. Maniac Mansion
  18. Wasteland
  19. Prince of Persia
  20. Battle Chess

Not a bad list.  A lot of the games on it were on multiple systems, so I think they more define computer games in the 1980s rather than the Apple II specifically.  But not bad.  I played most of them.

If I were making the list I would probably strike Battle Chess and California Games from the list, as they came so late in the the cycle.  Prince of Persia is a bit questionable for me as well, as I played it on the Mac much later on.  But Wasteland was the last Apple II game I ever bought, so that plays into it.  What defined Apple II games for me came much earlier in the life of the platform

Instead I would add Aztec and probably Autoduel.  I would also substitute in Epoch (which doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry) for Elite, Ultima III in for Ultima I (which I think was just a better, more popular game), and probably Seven Cities of Gold for one of the over-represented-on-the-list RPGs.  And I would have a strong desire to get F-15 Strike Eagle in there somewhere.  And Pinball Construction Set.  And Taipan! as well.

There is the problem with making such lists.  I can look at all those Apple II games and pull out quite a few great ones.

And, as a side note, Oregon Trail is one of the games in the video I never played.

At least not on the computer.

Instead, that was a game we played as a teacher driven role playing game when I was in 7th grade.  True to the spirit however, when people refer to playing the video game version it sounds exactly like our role play version.  As young boys, my friends and I all loaded up our wagon with guns and as much ammo as possible and most of us went on to die of dysentery.

15 thoughts on “20 Games that Defined the Apple II

  1. HarbingerZero

    Wow, up to this point I’m not sure I knew anyone else who had done the classroom version, lol. I loved it. I have some of the material I’ve cobbled together over the years from various teacher sites.

    F-15 was my first flight sim and my first *real* computer game, by which I mean it wasn’t Bouncing Babies or Armchair Quarterback. I definitely think it should be on the list.


  2. Gorbag

    Did you play Castle? Top-down adventure game, monochrome, using only ASCII characters for graphics. That was the first game I ever played, on a COMPAQ “portable” computer (that weighed about 40 lbs). My dad got a new hard drive for it at some point, and we were certain it wouldn’t *ever* be full – 40MB! Games were the size of text files, hundreds of k at their largest. And then :graphics: happened… Space Quest should be on that list too.


  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Gripper – I think part of what made Autoduel great was the limitations of the medium (crappy 80s computer systems) forced Origin to append RPG elements to the Steve Jackson Car Wars game. It became a Car Wars campaign rather than just cars shooting at cars.

    @Gorbag – That sounds like a Roguelike game, in which case it should probably on the list of ways I wasted school processing resources in college.

    @HZ – The funny thing was that the teacher who did the Oregon Trail unit with us was one of the first teachers I recall having a very leftist leaning classroom agenda. He was going to fix the world by indoctrinating the youth! Previously he had talked about sports, and what was a “real” sport and what was just gratuitous violence. Soccer, basketball, and baseball were sports. American football, boxing, and auto racing, as examples, were clearly not sports and should be shunned. And hunting was not only not a sport, but clearly murder.

    So we started off the Oregon Trail and he gave us our supply options and budget. Most of the boys filled up their wagons with guns and ammo. I think this caused him great mental anguish and he at first suggested then demanded we rethink our choices.

    That was, I think, my first ever conflict with a GM over whether I was playing the game “right,” something repeated frequently in the years after. Eventually he gave up and let us die of dysentery and lead poisoning.


  4. John Dougan

    I’d have put Muse software’s Robot War on the list. We burned a lot of time on that, both running games and brainstorming strategies


  5. Gaff

    This is obligatory–my first flight sim was “Flight Simulator 2.0” on the IIc–i assume ver. 1 was on the Apple II. I have bought every new iteration of Pirates! that has come out in the last 30 years after playing the original Apple version.


  6. nelsonminar

    Nice video. Such a joy seeing that goofy 1 bit-per-pixel graphics with 6+ colors.

    It’s strange to see Oregon Trail on there and not Lemonade Stand. And if there were room for Rocky’s Boots too, why, that’d be swell. And I’d swap Archon for Battle Chess!


  7. Ben

    The Apple IIe had some great shooters that weren’t mentioned here like Starblazer, Gorgon, Rescue Raiders, Aquatron, Repton, Star Maze, Stellar 7. And how about Gemstone Warrior?! Then we had Sabotage, Boulder Dash, Miner 2049er, so many others :D


  8. Colin

    Conan ( the barbarian?) better than lode runner similar style.

    Law of the West… Awesome game. First person shooter plus role play

    Where in the world is Carmen San Diego? ( Broderbund software :. Several years before the tv show) awesome game.

    Beach head/ beachhead II / Raid Over Moscow… These were the pinnacle of Apple two games.

    Agree with one on one ( dr j vs bird)

    Also might and magic and kings quest, Oregon trail deserve the list. Karateka too. There was another game I really can’t remember that deserved the list too

    F-15 strike Eagle..: I associate that with C64


  9. Evan Edwards

    Wow. Thank you for mentioning Epoch. That was an amazingly great game for the era it was in.

    I’d agree that Below the Root was a defining game, but it required the Apple //c or ][e, while I had a ][+. Part of the “what is a defining game for your personal memory” is based on what system you are using.


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