The best coin-op conversions for the C64

arcadeconv_thumbEarlier this week I came across a clip of an old 80s movie called “Joysticks” on the excellent website. Now the movie itself is somewhat typical of what you could call the Porky’s Revenge type of film, with lots of women in shorts that are well, way too short (and the same goes for the T-shirts), but it did send me on a trip down memory lane, back to the days that I’d get my pocket money and head down to the arcades to check out the latest titles and see if I could get my name up in the high-score table.

Back home, I would wonder if these games would ever come to life on my trusty breadbox and look just as good. Unfortunately, when I did find a coin-op conversion for the C64, most of the time I was a bit disappointed that the game did not look like the original, or (perhaps even worse), did not provide the same gameplay as the arcade version.

Now, for the former, in a way this was to be expected, as the hardware for the coin-op was specifically created for that game and converting it to hardware that was more generic (and 8-bit) was challenging to say the least. As to the gameplay, the main goal of a coin-op was to have you put in as many coins as possible, with an average game lasting hence only a few minutes. It would not be good from a commercial point of view to have someone playing for an hour on just one quarter. The experience at home is quite different as there you do not have this impetus to have as much quarters in as possible, so some tweaks to the gameplay were done because of this. This is not to say, that all conversions were like this, as many did follow the same taxing challenging gameplay, giving you the option to “continue” (like putting in a new quarter), every time you lost your final life.

Having said all this, some games did manage to be just like the arcade version and played just like it. Was it due to some genius programming trick, or was it simply because the arcade version of the game itself did not have such taxing demands on the hardware itself? OK, a Pac-Man conversion would indeed be quite easy to do, but how about the more complex games? I think it was, especially in the later years, the knowledge, understanding and the insights in how to make the most of the C64s hardware that provided the developers the necessary tools to create the (almost) perfect conversion.

So, we come then to the question of which one was the best coin-op conversion for the C64? There’s going to be some debate, as tastes differ, but in my opinion, the top-5 when it comes to reproducing that arcade feel, along with being a game that actually looks and plays like the original, is like this:

1. Yie Ar Kung-Fu
2. Ghosts ‘n Goblins
3. Track & Field
4. Turbo Out Run
5. Operation Wolf

So, how did I come to this selection. Number one for me is Yie Ar Kung-Fu, as it boast graphics that are pretty darn close to the original. The gameplay, in which you have to face ever more powerful enemies, who all use their unique weapons is exactly the same as the coin-op. I don’t know how they squeezed all that coin-op madness into this 8-bit version, but they did, along with a perfect SID-tune version of Jean Michel Jarre’s Magnetic Fields synthesizer classic. A perfect 10 in my book!


Number two is a strong runner-up as this has got to be the best coin-op platform conversion done for the C64. Sure enough, the arcade version featured small animated graphics, so that’s right up the C64s alley but the gameplay itself, and even the eerie music is done to near perfection. It’s just as hard as the one in the arcades and that makes it for sure one of the most challenging platform games on the breadbox.


Number three, a sports game. You got to have a sports game in the top 5 and Konami’s Track & Field was a top sports game in the arcades, and definitely a top game on the beige beast. It plays the same, it feels the same, and it’ll shred your joystick to pieces. You haven’t played a sports game on the C64 if you haven’t played this one (and it’ll give you a real work-out in the process).


Fourth spot is for a racing game and what other could be there than Out Run. It was a classic and a hit in the local arcades and the sheer skills that the programmers used to convert that same dimply lit arcade racer feel to the C64 have made it into one of those must-have games on the C64. Add in the great soundtrack and you’ve got a winner.


Last but not least, the final entry into my personal top 5 is Operation Wolf. A first person shooter before the term existed, it only lacks the machine gun replica that you used on the arcade cabinet to shoot your way through wave after wave of enemies in this classic side scrolling shooter. Before there was Doom or Quake on the PC, there was Operation Wolf on the C64!


So there you have it, my list of best coin-op conversions for the C64. Perhaps you preferred Golden Axe, or question why I did not have 1942 up in that list. Let me know your top arcade conversions in the comments below or on FB or Google+.

I know what top-notch arcade games I’ll be playing this weekend!

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5 Responses to The best coin-op conversions for the C64

  1. had you gone to amiga then, looks like it.. no …power drift , ghouls n ghosts, bionic commando , gaplus , pacland, green beret, ikari warriors … how could you miss bionic commando!!!… and no mention of bubble bobble

  2. You can’t forget Satan’s Hollow. It was one of the earliest arcade conversions and absolutely stellar considering the state-of-the-art at the time, making excellent use of the C-64’s color palette and sound capabilities. I also thought Pooyan was quite well done.

  3. Robby "The C= guy"

    Never easy to make a top-5 and as I said, there will be some debate :)
    Excellent games there you mention, and wouldn’t look bad in a top-10 :)

  4. Commando

  5. Its virtuel insane to make a Arcade Conversion Top Five for the C64…i believe that the C64 had the best Conversions of all the 8-Bit Computers, and the most..Yie Ar Kung Fu is the best Choice of your List…
    Here is mine…insane..but iam up to the Task!

    1) Wizard of Wor (with Speech Module) NTSC Version!
    2) Mario Bros (Prototype) NTSC Version!
    3) Green Beret
    4) Bagitmen
    5) Crystal Castle (Thundervision Version!)..much better then the C64 Atari Version!

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