Following the success of their first personal computer called the Macintosh, Apple (which was run by Steve Jobs at the time) released the Apple II in 1977. With a more compact design, the Apple II was built to accommodate anyone; from kids to adults.
Initially, Apple planned to market the computer as an educational tool, which is why they were placed in US schools throughout the country. At the same time, the computer was becoming popular with both families and entrepreneurs due to its business software.
While I can go on and on about the technological achievements this computer garnered during its run, I’m here to talk about one thing: the best Apple II games! Many may not think of video games when they imagine the Apple II, but the computer had a myriad of titles that were innovative, fun to play, and made the computer stand out.
Here are some of the best Apple II games, in my opinion:
The first on our list of the best Apple II games is Robotrom. Even though it wasn’t quite the same as the double-joystick arcade version, this one really stood on its own as possibly the best Apple II games that doubled as an arcade port.
When my sister and I were growing up, I’d watch the way she would get totally lost in the realistic alien invasion and crush level after level, none of which I had ever even seen. You just couldn’t experience Robotron on other platforms the same way you could with the Apple II.
2. The Bard’s Tale
This one first came out on the Apple II and was published by EA, and has a TSR’s Dungeons & Dragons vibe to it.
What sets it apart is how visually appealing it is, with fantastic 3D elements and animation, as well as the range of influence and decision making ability the player has. For instance, you can gather and bring along up to 6 characters to explore the dungeons.
There’s still the use of text for battle and combat, but you can’t argue with this port’s popularity. The Bard’s Tale ended up being ported for several different kinds of computers and its legacy includes three sequels and a construction set themed after the adventure game.
3. Prince of Persia
Celebrated in the world of Apple II gaming, Prince of Persia was developed by Jordan Mechner to delight its players with creative graphics that he actually made more realistic by filming the running and jumping motions of his brother, which he then used to influence the animated characters.
This game boasts thrilling platforming and fighting experiences that are reminiscent of the adventures of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Prince of Persia appeared on the scene five years post-Karateka and quickly became a huge hit that gamers still acknowledge today.
This one doesn’t seem to be as well known, but for me stands out as one of the games I can claim to have mastered in a way that I have not managed to replicate in any other area of my life.
Bolo was a game featuring tanks, written for Apple II by someone who must have really known what they were doing. The expectations a gamer would generally have had at the time for things like fluidity of movement and quality of visuals were definitely met in this game.
At the start of every new round, the player would be greeted with a new maze that would be mapped at random to keep things interesting. Also worthy of note were the unusually polite artificial intelligence adversaries you would encounter in this game. Overall, Bolo was an impressive Apple II port.
Predating the sensational Prince of Persia, Karateka was released for Apple II after being created by Jordan Mechner, a university student at the time. A lot of the foundational elements of what would eventually make Prince of Persia great began in this game.
You get the sense of a dynamic and engaging storytelling adventure that pairs well with the smooth movements of the animated experiences, simple though they may be. You could have played a handful of similar fighter games and still would have come up missing the authentic feel of Karateka.
6. Lode Runner
It seemed simple enough: climbing, running and digging. With Lode Runner, it was easy to be lulled into a stupor. Either dig left or right, and hurry up and dig your hole to safety before you get trampled mercilessly.
The bad guys would come and if you hadn’t started to dig soon enough, you were toast. Legend tells, however, of a kid who discovered an epic secret: to cross over a perilous divide too wide for jumping, use the head of a falling bad guy as a springboard mid-leap. I am proud to share that that kid was me.
7. Ultima 1: The First Age of Darkness
Even if the cover art drew you in initially on this game, the plot might at first strike you as boring. As fantasy inspired games go, the story line about a diabolical wizard set on world domination is arguably predictable, but the way this game engages players speaks for itself.
So popular that it would eventually be redesigned in 1986 for the Apple II, Ultima’s D&D vibe drew players in and featured detailed visuals to enhance the RPG experience. Garriott clearly was inspired by Tolkein’s work, which came through in the game’s theming. The remake of Ultima 1 came through with even more visually striking graphics and improved speed.
Taipan!, inspired by a James Clavell book by the same name, offers great freedom of choice to players as they take their turns to trade and negotiate through a high seas adventure. Strategy and piracy combine to set gamers up for a challenging quest to trade and plan their way to wealth.
Mega-Micro Computers wanted players to be able to make decisions and take risks in this high-stakes venture. One might have to tactically avoid shady businessmen, offer enticing trade agreements along a journey between seven different possible ports, or sacrifice resources to improve the quality of their ship. This well-designed endeavor still remains as one of the best Apple II games out there.
9. Beyond Castle Wolfenstein
The first of its kind, Beyond Castle Wolfenstein is an improvement upon the game Castle Wolfenstein, a stealth game designed by Silas Warner, a gifted programmer. Hideo Kojima also famously developed a series of stealth computer games, but his success followed after that of Warner’s.
Both this game and its predecessor are noteworthy in that they pioneered stealth gameplay and added innovative variety to the computer gaming world. Beyond Castle Wolfenstein allows the player to navigate into enemy territory with the help of passes, disguise and close-range weapons like knives for inconspicuously taking out an enemy target. The audio is excellent and noticeably adds more dimension to the experience of this action adventure game.
Possibly pushing the limits of the Apple II as far as performance, Choplifter challenged gamers to test their aiming and shooting skills with a remarkably efficient gun that could be counted on to move with fluidity and steadiness.
Rescuing hostages from the enemies while blasting shots at attackers, the player of this game must be focused on action, not score, as suggested by the absence of a running point total for the player to track success.
As a result of the popularity this fun and difficult game attracted, Sega set its sights on Choplifter and ported it to a traditional, coin operated arcade game in 1985.
That’s it for the best Apple II games on our list. I hope that you enjoyed our picks and had a nice trip down memory lane.
Think we missed some great ones? Let us know in the comments below!