Games I Don’t Think Anyone Remembers: Commander Keen (Any of Them)

Back in the early ’90s, id Software developed a series of games, released as “episodes” (and as shareware, if anyone remembers that term) for DOS. Yes, the days of gaming in DOS, which I remember fondly. These were the Commander Keen games, which were 2D sidescrollers/platformers. (Though they were released as episodes, there were really two Commander Keen games; the first was episodes 1-3, the second episodes 4-5)

The games presented the adventures of Billy Blaze, who took on the alias Commander Keen for his adventures through space, where he combatted aliens and explored dungeons and towers and ships and stuff. Yes, things and stuff. And he jumped around on a pogo stick.

Back in the day, I had episodes 1-6 (which are all the entries in the series), and I played them quite a lot on my family’s old Windows 3.x machine. I remember navigating the DOS prompt, starting the game, and beating them. The basic gameplay is simple: two types of jumps (normal or on pogo stick), firing the phaser (which you have to collect ammunition for), walking around, that’s about it. Later games have you finding gems and switches to complete stages.

A while back, Cosmowright on Twitch was speedrunning the fourth game in the series, and that led me to retrieve the games from my external drive. While the earlier games feel a bit sluggish, the later games in the franchise hold up to modern games surprisingly well.

If you want to play them, the once-shareware games are officially available on Steam, where you can get episodes 1-5 for just $5 (it seems episode 6 was discontinued back in the day, so the fact I have it on floppy means something).

So, if you’re looking for some old-school games that are still fun to play, check those out.

In researching this, I discovered there was one additional game, this one made for the Game Boy Color, called simply Commander Keen. I may vaguely remember hearing about it at one point, but I’ve definitely never played it. It was developed with id Software’s permission, but didn’t involve any of the original developers. Tom Hall, creator of the franchise in the first place, has since stated that he does not consider it part of the Keen series.

Does anyone else remember the Commander Keen games?

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