Broderbund: Great Games for Everyone

Happy Friday!

Thanks again for joining us for another episode of Nerdy by Nature. On today’s show, we reminisce further on the good ol’ days of PC gaming, and talk about how Broderbund was so popular with not only gamers but computer users.

Little Background

Broderbund was founded in 1980 by brothers Doug and Gary Carlston in Eugene, Oregon. They really wanted to market the Galactic Empire video game that Doug had created in 1979 for the Radio Shack TRS-80. Their sister, Cathy, joined the company a year later. The name Broederbond was chosen in the Afrikaans language meaning “association of brothers”. For simplicity the spelling became; Brøderbund.

So what games are Brøderbund known for? Well, to name a few; Choplifter, Lode Runner, Karateka, and Prince of Persia (all of which originated on the Apple II). Later, Myst and the Carmen Sandiego series of games became a main staple in early PC gaming. Also, if you were not playing a Broderbund game, you were being productive; The Print Shop (for printing signs and banners on dot matrix printers) or Mavis Beacon typing.

The company became a powerhouse in the educational and entertainment software markets with titles like:

  • Choplifter (1982)
  • Apple Panic (1982) – very similar to Lode Runner
  • Lode Runner (1983)
  • Karateka (1987) – best smooth animation in an Apple arcade game.
  • Wings of Fury (1987) – good solid action flight game
  • Hard Driving (1990) – very popular at arcade as it had a full cockpit
  • Stunts (1994) – 3D realistic driving with ability to make own tracks.
  • Prince of Persia (1989)
  • Prince of Persia 2 (1993)
  • The Battle of Olympus (1988) side scroller – reminds me of Zelda
  • In the 1st Degree (1995) – interactive legal drama adventure real video clipsThe Last Express (1997) -cartoon based point-click adventure
  • Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (1985) (1992)
  • The Guardian Legend (1988) -hybrid action-adventure-shoot em’ up
  • Myst (1993)


  • Fantavision – simple animation maker
  • Print Shop series
  • Printmaker
  • Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing
  • Family Tree Maker
  • 3D Home Architect


Brøderbund was considered one of the most popular software publishers of the 1980’s. This is primarily due to the games having been released for pretty much all major computer systems. While their original first game was released for the Radio Shack TRS-80, they later focused programming for the Apple II, and began expanding to other platforms as time went along. It wasn’t until about 1985 that Brøderbund seriously developed for PC compatibles. During the 1990s, Brøderbund mostly concentrated on educational titles for PCs and Apple Macintosh with a few ventures into RPGs style and strategy type games.


1982, Broderbund released “Choplifter” for the Apple II. The was simple; fly the chopper land at designated areas, rescue the people, evade being shot by planes and tanks as you make your way back to the base. Very simple, yet considered to be the first Interactive Computer-Assisted Animated Movie. A fusion of arcade gaming, simulation, and film like visuals. Lode Runner, ladders evade green men, line.

Then in 1983, “Lode Runner” was released. You control a stick figure up/down ladders, all while collecting boxy objects (gold) for points and avoiding the other stick men (guards). While seemingly easy, the game was difficult. 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.

In came “Prince of Persia” (1989). The game is set in ancient Persia. While the sultan is fighting a war in a foreign land, his vizier Jaffar, a wizard, seizes power. You must gain back control, venturing through a series of dungeons up into the palace to defeat the Grand Vizier Jaffar, and of course save an imprisoned princess. This game breaks new ground with animation so much so that it can only be described as ‘human like’. While in development, actual real life footage was captured on camera and rendered back in graphics. This game essentially set the bar for what was to come with how realistic characters move within games.

“Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”released originally in 1982 and classed as an ‘educational’ game. The goal of the game is to track Carmen’s villains around the world, arrest them and hopefully arrest Carmen herself. The player begins the game by first going to the country where the crime took place and then obtaining hints from various sources on where the thief went next, leading to a chase around the world to find the thief before time runs out. While it being a game first, it helps teach research skills and fundamentals of geography as well entertaining.

The “Where in the World” is considered to be Broderbound’s best success with the release of multiple sequels: Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? (1985), Where in the U.S.A. Is Carmen Sandiego? (1986), Where in Europe Is Carmen Sandiego? (1988), Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? (1989), Where in America’s Past Is Carmen Sandiego? (1991), and Where in Space Is Carmen Sandiego? (1993), including a TV shows which debuted in the early 1990’s.

Just when Broderbund couldn’t top “Where in the Word” popularity, they did so with the release of “Myst” (1993) released on CD-ROM. Myst is an open world graphic adventure puzzle video game that puts the player in the ‘first-person role’ of a stranger. The stranger uses a special book to travel to the island of Myst, and it is there that puzzles are solved in order to travel to other worlds known as “Ages”. Clues found in each of these Ages help to reveal the back-story of the game’s characters. The game has several endings, depending on the course of action the player takes.

The game’s success also led to a number of games which sought to copy Myst’s success, referred to as “Myst clones” and contributed to the demand of CD-ROM drives just so they could play the game.

Where’d you go?

So, what happened to Broderbund? They were eventually purchased by The Learning Company in 1998.

Did we inspire you to play some more classics! Retro, for me, brings back so many great memories. Tell us what your favourite Broderbund game was (and is) on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or in the Comments below!


Stay Nerdy,

– Chris

Nerdy By Nature © 2016 - 2017
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