The birth of id Software

Retro games: Commander Keen

Commander Keen is one of those game-changing games. It was the first game on MS-DOS / IBM PC which featured two-way parallax scrolling – a feat something only reserved for game consoles. It was also the birth of id Software.

I remember getting this game through a magazine. Back in the 90s, there were plenty of “computing” magazines which distributed software on floppy disks as part of the magazine. I never owned the full game, but I had great fun with this episode 1 of Commander Keen.

The creation of this game is a fun piece of gaming history. Wikipedia explains the history of Commander Keen well or you can watch this 10m documentary below:

The gameplay is like any sidescrolling platformer. Avoid all enemies by either jumping over or on, use the ray gun (when you have it) to kill or stun it. You jump from platform to platform to reach the end of the level.

Here is a long play for Commander Keen:

You can play Commander Keen 1: Marooned on Mars online. This is the first installment of a three-part release which was released as shareware. For those born after 1980, shareware is fully playable demos which are free to copy and share. You pay for the full version.


  • ENTER = select + start
  • ARROWS = move
  • CTRL = jump
  • CTRL + ALT = shoot
  • SPACE = hud / extra info / pause

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