Best Games - Commander Keen
If you played games on a pc in the early 90s you had to be happy with slower experiences. Adventure games, puzzle games, strategy games and microsoft flight simulator. To be fair one of those is a pretty intense piece of software, but accurate flight sims aren’t the sort of thing that sells hardware to a lot of people. Not the sort of thing you can build a healthy market on. When you looked at the kind of games coming out on the Genesis and the SNES, the pc just wasn’t that thrilling. There were a lot of reasons to buy PCs, they just didn’t have much to do with games. Computers like the Amiga or the Commodore had a more or less unified set of hardware inside. If you were writing a game you could be sure that anyone that bought it would be able to run it on those machines. PCs came in a lot of flavours and some of them were barely able to manage a complicated spreadsheet. There were a few popular versions of DOS and the fledgling versions of windows would shake themselves apart as soon as any demands were put on them. If you wanted to play games there were a lot of options available, but you might skip the PC for any console.
Since the mid to late 90s, the best place to play the most demanding and cutting edge games was, and remains, the PC. Consoles, tablets, phones, have all improved to the point that there is a truly startling amount of computer power in your pocket or in your hand right now, but none of them can keep pace with even a moderately powerful PC. For every major change, there has to be a turning point. In the case of the PC dominated video game industry that turning point is one game. Doom.
Wait, no, not Doom. March back a few years and the same bunch of guys that eventually make Doom create a smooth, fast scrolling platformer that feels like a Mario game, but plays on a PC. Not a specially outfitted, super high end PC. Just a regular run of the mill PC that lots of folks had at their home or office used to run Word or Excel. Commander Keen was the proof that these computers could be used to make games that were at least as good as their console counterparts. And the first set of levels was free.
If you had a PC you could pick up a disc or get a copy from a friend and play Commander Keen.
So, was Commander Keen better than Mario? No. No it wasn’t. But it was good, played well, and it had a quirky attractive charm to it that felt honest and genuine, not just a blatant ripoff. But mostly it changed the way people looked at their PCs. If you were interested in games you wouldn’t instantly run to the current consoles or older Amiga games. You might give that shareware PC game a try. Commander Keen paved the way for 3D cards, Sound Cards, and PC gamepads. Without Commander Keen, I don’t know that the PC as a gaming platform is guaranteed.
Commander Keen, still one of the best PC games.