Codex Gamicus

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] IP and Trademark holder of Lode Runner is Tozai, Inc.


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.


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. Should a guard be carrying a bar of gold when he falls into a hole it will be left behind, and can be retrieved by the player. 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. Unlike guards, the player's character may not climb up out of a hole, and will be killed if it fills before he can escape by other means. Floors may also contain trapdoors, 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 X blocks high, the player must first dig a gap at least X 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.


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, PlayStation, Virtual Console, Xbox 360 (XBLA)and iPod.


  • 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 an 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), an advanced remake of the original game developed for the arcade. The gameplay is almost exactly the same (save the addition of a two player mode) and the only heavy modification was the graphics and advancement to a 512 color palette.
  • Lode Runner: Majin No Fukkatsu (1985)
  • Lode Runner: Teikoku Karano Dasshutsu (1986)
  • Lode Runner: The Dig Fight (2000)


Several versions of Lode Runner were not released in the U.S., such as Lode Runner Twin and Power Lode Runner (1999, SFC), 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 and released in 2006.[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.


  1. "Lode Runner Contest", Computer Gaming World: 22, August 1984 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Lock'n'Lode", IGN, 1999-02-17, 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Besnard, John (October 1983), "Lode Runner", Computer Gaming World: 20 
  4. Interview to Alexey Pajitnov. Retrieved on 2008-01-01
  5. Greatest Games of All Time: Lode Runner from GameSpot
  6. Lode Runner | BoardGameGeek
  7. キュービックロードランナー公式サイト
  8. LodeRunner | ロードランナー
  9. Lode Runner for Xbox 360 on GameRankings
  10. Lode Runner (X360) Review, IGN

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