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Lode Runner
Lode Runner Coverart.png
Developer(s) Douglas E. Smith
Publisher(s) Brøderbund & Ariolasoft
Designer(s) Douglas E. Smith
Platform(s) Apple II, VIC-20, Commodore 64, DOS, ZX Spectrum, Atari XL/XE, SG-1000, XBLA, Windows, iPod, Macintosh, Virtual Console, PlayStation Network, BBC Micro, Atari Jaguar, PlayStation, NES, SNES, Mega Drive/Genesis
Release date(s) 1983
Virtual Console
JP March 6, 2007
NA June 11, 2007
PAL March 12, 2010
Xbox Live Arcade
April 22, 2009
Genre(s) Platform, Puzzle
Mode(s) Single player
Rating(s) ESRB: Everyone (VC)
System requirements Keyboard

Lode Runner is a 1983 platform game, first published by Brøderbund. It is one of the first games to include a level editor, a feature that allows players to create their own levels for the game. This feature bolstered the game's popularity, as magazines such as Computer Gaming World held contests to see who could build the best level.[1]



The prototype of what later became Lode Runner was a game developed by Douglas E. Smith of Renton, Washington, who at the time was an architecture student at the University of Washington.[2] This prototype, called Kong, was written for a Prime Computer 550 minicomputer limited to one building on the UW campus. Shortly thereafter, Kong was ported to VAX minicomputers, as there were more terminals available on campus. The game was programmed in Fortran and used ASCII character graphics. When Kong was ported to the VAX, some Pascal sections were mixed into the original Fortran code.

In a weekend (circa September 1982), Smith was able to build a crude, playable version in 6502 assembly language on an Apple II+ and renamed the game Miner. Through the end of the year, Smith refined that version, which was black-and-white with no joystick support. He submitted a rough version to Brøderbund around October 1982 and received a one-line rejection letter in response to the effect of "Sorry, your game doesn't fit into our product line; please feel free to submit future products."[2]

Smith then borrowed money to purchase a color monitor and joystick and continued to improve the game. Around Christmas of 1982, he submitted the game, now renamed Lode Runner, to four publishers and quickly received offers from all four: Sierra, Sirius, Synergistic, and Brøderbund. He took the deal with Brøderbund.

The game was released in mid-1983. The original microcomputer versions included the Apple II series, the Atari 8-bit family, the Commodore 64 and a Konami version licensed for the MSX computer named "King's Valley". Later versions include those for the Atari ST, Sinclair Spectrum 48K/128K, NES, Windows 3.1, Macintosh, and the original Game Boy.


Screenshot from Apple II version

The player controls a stick figure who must collect all the gold in a level while avoiding guards who try to catch the player. After collecting all the gold, the player must travel to the top of the screen to reach the next level. There are 150 levels in the game which progressively challenge players' problem-solving abilities or reaction times.

Levels feature a multi-story, brick platform motif, with ladders and suspended hand-to-hand bars that offer multiple ways to travel throughout. The player can dig holes into floors to temporarily trap guards and may safely walk atop trapped guards. Over time, floors dug into will regenerate, filling in these holes. A trapped guard who cannot escape a hole before it fills is consumed, immediately respawning in a random location at the top of the level. Floors may also contain trap doors, through which the player and guards will fall, and bedrock, through which the player cannot dig.

Notably, the player can only dig a hole to the sides, and not directly underneath himself. This poses an important strategy: when digging through a wall that's n blocks high, the player must first dig a gap that's at least n wide to be able to dig through it, as the number of spaces will shrink with one each layer, and the player needs at least one free adjacent space to be able to dig.

The player starts with five lives; each level completion awards an extra life. Should a guard catch the player, one life is lost and the current level restarts. The player's character can fall from arbitrary heights without injury but cannot jump, and players can trap themselves in pits from which the only escape is to abort the level, costing a life, and begin again.

Brøderbund referred to the game's guards as members of the Bungeling Empire, enemies common to Choplifter, the Lode Runner series, and Raid on Bungeling Bay.

The game is an excellent example of the trap-em-up genre, which also includes games like Heiankyo Alien (1979) and Space Panic (1980).


A review in Computer Gaming World praised the game's particularly easy-to-use level editor and the strategy involved for an arcade title, describing it as "one of the few thinking men's arcade games".[3] Tetris designer Alexey Pajitnov claimed it to be his favorite puzzle game for many years.[4]

Computer Gaming World also noted that the animated characters in Lode Runner were "borrowed" from Choplifter, an earlier Brøderbund title.[3] Smith claims the characters were not borrowed, but because the characters are only 7x10 pixels, there are inevitable cosmetic similarities.[citation needed]

GameSpot named Lode Runner as one of the "Greatest Games of All Time".[5]


Over the years, Lode Runner was ported to numerous systems, including Commodore 64, MSX, Atari ST, PC-8001, PC-8801, PC-6001, PC-6601,X1, FM-7, SG-1000, Atari 400/800, PC-9801,MS-DOS, IBM PC, Mac OS, NES, Game Boy, BBC Micro, Nintendo DS, Virtual Console, Xbox 360 (XBLA), iPod and NDS.


  • Lode Runner (1983), the original game published by Brøderbund, developed for Apple II, contained 150 levels and level editor.
  • Championship Lode Runner (1984), a direct sequel with 50 levels edited by fans and intended for expert play. This game is also scheduled to be released in Japan on October 27, 2009 on the Virtual Console.
  • Lode Runner's Rescue (~1985) 3-D sequel at least available for the Commodore 64, including dozens of 3-D perspective levels and screen design editor.
  • Hyper Lode Runner (1989) for the original Game Boy.

A Lode Runner board game was designed by Donal Carlston and published by Tsukuda in 1986.[6]


In 1984, Irem developed a arcade conversion of Lode Runner which contained 24 selected levels from the 150 original levels.

Irem brought many of their arcade inspired levels to the Famicom Disk System under the names Super Lode Runner and Super Lode Runner II.

The arcade version had numerous sequels, including:

  • Lode Runner: The Bungeling Strikes Back (1984)
  • Lode Runner: Majin No Fukkatsu (1985)
  • Lode Runner: Teikoku Karano Dasshutsu (1986)
  • Lode Runner: The Dig Fight (2000)


  • Lode Runner: The Legend Returns, a 1994 Sierra remake of the original game with enhanced graphics and tools.
  • Lode Runner Online: Mad Monks' Revenge, the 1995 sequel which replaced all the elements of the previous plus new online play.
  • Lode Runner 2 (1998), Isometric 3D gameplay
  • Lode Runner 3-D (1999) for the Nintendo 64.

Several versions of Lode Runner were not released in the U.S., such as Lode Runner Twin and Power Lode Runner, which vary gameplay, mostly by adding different characters and scenarios. Another title, Battle Lode Runner, was originally exclusive to Japan, but made available in April 2007 on Nintendo's Virtual Console service.[citation needed] The original Lode Runner followed in June 2007. There is also a Cubic Lode Runner, a 3-D Lode Runner variant released only in Japan for the Nintendo GameCube and PlayStation 2.[7]

The NES version, developed by Hudson Soft, marked the first appearance of Bombermen as the opposing robots. The end screen to Bomberman for the NES notes that the original White Bomberman has turned human and hints at his appearance in another game, with the Lode Runner behind him. In the Japanese version, the reference is more direct: "Congratulations - Bomber Man becomes Runner - See you again in Lode Runner."

In Japan, the Famicom version of Lode Runner allows editing and creating levels to share with friends using a Famicom Data Recorder.

Hudson Soft also announced a version of Lode Runner for the Nintendo DS.[8]

Xbox Live Arcade

On January 7, 2008, a remake of Lode Runner, developed by Tozai and Southend Interactive, was announced at CES '08, and was released on April 22, 2009. The game features revamped 3D graphics, additional game modes, cooperative and competitive multiplayer support, six new block types and a level editor, as well as Live leaderboards and a timeline of the game's history.[9][10]


Lode Runner was made available for the click-wheel version of Apple's iPod in mid-December 2008 with enhanced, scrolling graphics. It was released by HudsonSoft. It contains 130 levels and several tutorial videos.


External links

Strategy wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From StrategyWiki, the free strategy guide and walkthrough wiki

Lode Runner
Box artwork for Lode Runner.
Developer(s) Douglas E. Smith
Publisher(s) Brøderbund Software, Hudson Soft, Irem
Japanese title ロードランナー
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Action
System(s) Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Commodore 64/128, Commodore VIC-20, MS-DOS, Mac OS, MSX, NES, Sega SG-1000, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Wii Virtual Console
Players 1
Series Lode Runner
This is the first game in the Lode Runner series. For other games in the series see the Lode Runner category.

Lode Runner broke the mold for platform/ladder computer games when it came out. Not only did it include 150 different levels for the player to tackle, it also included a complete level editor that allowed players to continue the fun long after the 150 levels were beaten. What started as a side project for Doug Smith while he attended college, became a phenomenal success after Brøderbund bought the rights to publish his game for the Apple II, on which it was developed, as well as just about every other system that could handle it.

Lode Runner captured many players' imaginations, as well as their dollars, so it went on to great commercial success. The first sequel to appear was Championship Lode Runner which contained 50 of the most difficult levels designed for the original by fans, and intended for play by experts only. Following Championship, many sequels and ports, including an arcade version, were developed to cater to new and old fans of the series alike. Even to this day, the license is still alive with developments like a version of Lode Runner for the Nintendo DS.

Hudson Soft brought the first 50 levels of Lode Runner to the NES, albeit slightly altered due to vertical resolution restrictions. The Famicom version of Lode Runner was the tenth best selling Famicom game released during 1983 and 1984, selling approximately 1,100,000 copies in it's lifetime. Hudson later brought all 50 levels of Championship Lode Runner to the Famicom as well, staying more faithful to the original level designs by providing vertical scrolling in addition to the horizontal scrolling, although the first level is different. Hudson is still the current development license holder in Japan.

Irem developed an arcade version of Lode Runner, which was followed by three sequels. Most of the arcade levels consisted of the original 150 levels distributed among the various arcade versions, while some levels were entirely original. Irem brought many of their arcade inspired levels to the Famicom Disk System under the names Super Lode Runner and Super Lode Runner II.

The story

Lode Runner has been presented in such a variety of ways that the premise changes from version to version, but the object of the game is always the same. Simply put, you are a (police man, criminal, treasure hunter) who is attempting to (recover, steal, gather) all of the (loot, boxes, gold) from the (crooks, security guards, island natives). You're pretty much free to make up any story that you like.

How to play

  • You control the main character with a joystick.
  • 1 button: Press the button to dig a hole in the direction you are facing
  • 2 buttons: Press the left button to dig a hole to the left, press the right button to dig to the right.
  • You must collect every box, loot, or gold to make the escape ladder appear and advance to the next stage.
  • You must avoid contact with every other person in the stage.
  • Dig holes to trap enemies or fall through them to reach lower levels.
  • Holes fill themselves in after a period of time. Enemies that are trapped in the holes are briefly removed from the stage, but eventually return.

Table of Contents

  • Version differences

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