Friday, November 6, 2020

Apple II - Classic Games and Resources

When I re-started my Apple II journey I wanted to share some of the knowledge I had acquired over the years and put into full service when I began to build my Apple //e system in October.  For me, an Apple //e is a gaming machine, and there are lots of great games for the system.  I will discuss some of them first, then give links to more information which I have found helpful for Apple II users.

Before you deride Apple II games for their 6-color graphics and their beeper sound, consider that the Apple II has certain advantages both as a home computer and a gaming platform.  As a home computer, the Apple II computers rely on fewer custom chips than other gaming-centric home computers, making repairs and replacements easier to come by.  The Apple II series is easy to access to perform upgrades and routine maintenance, rarely will you need more than a screwdriver.

When it comes to games the Apple II has some advantages over its rival home computers.  It can load games off disk far more quickly than a C64 or an Atari computer as well as make backups of save game disks in a much shorter period of time.  It can boot disks instantly and drives are powered by the system.  It supports two button joysticks, which is handy for games that use the second button.  It supports 80-column text mode, something other 8-bit computers did not support.  Its ability to use double high resolution graphics mode with 15 colors which can be plotted almost anywhere permits games like King's Quest to be playable on the system.  


I put edutainment first because when people think of an Apple II, their first thoughts tend to gravitate toward the educational games they played in school.  Classics here include simple supply and demand exercises like Lemonade Stand, puzzle solving games like Rocky's Boots, and historical and geography standbys like Where in the World and Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego.  Number Munchers is a charming Pac-Man like game that relies on math problems.  Freedom! uses a similar engine to Oregon Trail but you play as a slave in the American South trying to escape to the North, a unique concept.

The Oregon Trail (1985 version)

Where in ... is Carmen Sandiego Series

Lemonade Stand

Number Munchers

Rocky's Boots


Role Playing

Perhaps the second genre of gaming that is associated with the Apple II is the role-playing genre.  Most of the classic series from the 1980s originated on the Apple II.  The Apple II could not beat most other home computers and video game consoles with graphics or sound, but it could offer nearly ubiquitous disk storage.  So you get the first five canonical Ultima games (plus Akalabeth and the Ultima I remake), the first five Wizardries, three Bard's Tales and the first two entries in the Might and Magic series.  Wasteland and Dragon Wars got their start on the Apple II, and Elite received one of its two proven US ports (C64 port is confirmed, IBM PC is debatable).

Ultima Series

Wizardry Series

The Bard's Tale

Might and Magic Series


Dragon Wars


Adventure Games

As the Apple II had a huge advantage in storage capabilities over other home computers until the IBM PC came along in 1981, text and graphical adventure games were published for the platform in great numbers.  All the Infocom Z-Interpreter games like Zork, Planetfall and A Mind Forever Voyaging are here, and many support 80-column text.  Sierra Online got its start with the Hi-Res Adventure series.  Colossal Cave Adventure received many variants on the Apple II, with both Microsoft and Apple publishing 350-point versions for the platform.

Infocom Z-Interpreter Games

Hi-Res Adventures

Scott Adams' Adventures

Colossal Cave Adventure Variants


There is a myth that the Apple II only had good adventure, RPG and edutainment games.  This is simply not true, there are many fast paced games for the platform.  Breakout, later known as Brick Out and Little Brick Out is the earliest game ever written for the Apple II, in fact the system was designed in part to be able to play Breakout.  Choplifter and Lode Runner became very famous on other platforms but originated on the Apple II.  Datasoft provided several quality ports like Bruce Lee and Conan.  Rescue Raiders is a Choplifter-like game with Mockingboard support and Skyfox is an arcade vehicle shooter with impressive Mockingboard music and sound effects.  Airheart is one of the very few action games that really runs well that uses double high resolution graphics.  And for you violent types, The Bilestoad features blood and dismemberment.


The Bilestoad

Breakout - Brick Out - Little Brick Out


Bruce Lee

Conan: Hall of Volta

Lode Runner/Championship Lode Runner

Rescue Raiders



There are many games which require digital dexterity but are less fast-paced and more cerebral than the games discussed in the previous section.  The Castle Wolfenstein games rely on stealth and planning to get past the Germans.  The roots of the cinematic platformer can be enjoyed in Jordan Mechner's Karateka and experienced fully in his Prince of Persia.  Windham Classics is also fondly remembered for its platform adventure games Below the Root and Alice in Wonderland, even if they are C64 ports.  

Castle Wolfenstein/Beyond Castle Wolfenstein


Prince of Persia

Below the Root

Alice in Wonderland


Simulation games were not many on the Apple II, which had limited RAM and graphical capabilities, but quite a few were made.  For people wishing to see the origins of Microsoft Flight Simulator, you will find them here with Flight Simulator and Flight Simulator 2.  For those wanting a peak at the first game in the Stellar 7 series, Stellar 7 makes for a good Battlezone clone.  The Test Drive series was started on the C64 but received a rather impressive port of the first game to the Apple II.

Flight Simulator/Flight Simulator 2

Stellar 7

Test Drive

General Sites and History

If one really wants a true understanding of the Apple II, the appleIIhistory site has a remarkable history of Apple II and the company's other early computers.  I list two FAQs because both have good information on them.  If you want high-resolution photos of the machines and wikipedia cannot provide, look to Vectronic's Collections.  The Apple II fanbase is a decentralized lot, so A2Central and Call-A.P.P.L.E. can give you news and more links relevant to Apple II users.


Apple II Bits

apple II faq

Apple II Frequently Asked Questions


Vectronic's Collections

Software & Manual Archives

The main Apple II software archive for the longest time was the Apple II Asimov FTP.  The FTP is not modern browser friendly, but there are html mirrors of it.  If the software has been made publicly available, it will be found there.  You find software under "images" and DOS and ProDOS system disks under images\masters.  There is also plenty of game manuals and system guides there too.  

Jason Scott, software curator of the Internet Archive, has an active interest in Apple II and PC Compatible software.  A modern day cracker going by the name of 4am has cracked thousands of separate Apple II software releases, including hundreds of games. properly from original media without inserting cracktros.  The woz a day collection has more recently archived original disks properly in the woz format which can contain all the structure necessary to preserve not only the data on the disk but any copy protection mechanisms as well.

Asimov FTP (also

Internet Archive - 4am Collection (search Internet Archive generally for manuals)

Internet Archive - A Woz A Day Collection

Manual Repositories

The Apple II has a lot, and I mean a lot of stuff written about it during its lifetime.  Apple published manual after manual for the machine and its components, the Apple //e, //e Enhanced and //e Platinum all have separate manuals. There are several third party works that are also essential to understand the system and its DOSes.  I give several sites which have high quality scans of Apple II manuals or game documentation.  Sometimes a manual has been scanned by multiple people, such as the Apple II (Plus) Reference Manual, with scans of very variable quality.

Apple II Documentation Project

Apple2Online Documentation Library

AppleLogic User Manuals Archive

ClassicCmApple II Manual Archive

Duxbury Systems Apple II Manual Archive

MOCAH - The Museum of Computer Adventure Game History's Vintage Book Library

Youtube Channels

I have only linked to channels with a significant Apple II focus.  These channels review new hardware and homebrew software for the Apple II, provide guides for the novice and show how to fix problems.  

Assembly Lines

Joe's Computer Museum 

Chuck Hutchins

TanRu Nomad

Adrian's Digital Basement

Discussion Forums

Forums are very useful to ask questions, obtain advice or just debate an issue.  These are some of the most active forums devoted to the Apple II.

Applefritter Forum

AtariAge Forum - Classic Gaming - Apple II Computers

Vintage Computer Forum


Here we have representatives of Internet 1.0 and 2.0.  The Apple II usenet community still thrives whereas most newsgroup communities have long passed away.  There are some very knowledgeable people who still use the Apple2 group.  Use Google Groups to access it.  On the other end of the spectrum, Facebook has a good group which is especially useful for learning about new products and restocks of not-so-new products.

comp.sys.apple2 (usenet)

Apple II Enthusiasts Facebook


There are a lot of storefronts dedicated to selling Apple II hardware and, to a lesser extent, software.  Here are links to some with a description of the most notable item(s) for sale.

a2haven (SDFloppy II, FastChip //e, Apple II VGA Scaler)

Apple2Online (Specializng in all Apple II hardware and software)

Apple Rescue of Denver (Specializng in all Apple II hardware and software)

Applesauce (Applesauce Flux-imaging Hardware)

Assembly Lines Shop (Apple II BOOTI USB Hard Drive Emulator Card)

BMOW - Big Mess o' Wires (Floppy Emu)

Ian Kim's eBay Seller Store (Mockingboard 4c, SD DiskII Plus, A2Z80Plus)

KbooHK (wDrive)

ReactiveMicro (Mockingboard & Phasor Clones, ReActiveMicro Drive, Universal PSU Kit)

R&D Automation, Inc. (CFFA 3000)

1 comment:

  1. Wow, thanks for the Woz-a-Day tip! It'll be fantastic to be able to play all those old games without cracktros and on the intended number of floppies, e.g. in Prince of Persia's case, two instead of the three. I guess crackers weren't into compressing things back then?