Getting Good: Commando

During the inception of video games as an entertainment medium, there was a theme that stood out among the vast majority of titles, space shooters. Mostly due to the fact that these games originated and gained traction in the ‘70s, with the space race fresh in the minds of the entire world, a good chunk of the games of the time were set in the vastness of outer space, and the objective was, almost always, to shoot and destroy the unrelenting hordes of aliens hellbent on destroying you.

Take Space Invaders, for example, one of the most popular space shooter games at the time. This had you fighting against, you guessed it, invading aliens. This continued in games like Galaga, Asteroids, Defender and others. However, while space shooters were definitely a hit at the time, this genre extended far past its usual setting and went on to inspire many titles in other settings.

Commando is one of such titles inspired by space shooters, but it was grounded in a more realistic setting, that of jungles and caves. In this sense, while the general gameplay is similar to that of a space shooter, you control a single lone soldier instead of a spaceship and have to make your way through several levels and environments to breach the enemy walls and destroy their forces.

Developed by Capcom and released in 1985, Commando is a popular vertical shooter and the inspiration behind other famous titles (or infamous, as some would say) such as Ikari Warriors. Furthermore, its legacy extends far past this game as the main character, Super Joe, also appears in the Bionic Commando series, which was also developed by Capcom, released a few years later, and went on to create its own standalone legacy.

In this article, we’re going to show you the basics of Commando, as well as how to get good at the game.

Considering that the vast majority of the gameplay is the same from the beginning to the end, and what changes most between levels is the enemy variety, we will be focusing more on the different foes that you will encounter in this game, and provide only some basic survival and strategy tips further on.

The Basics

The objective in Commando is to make your way through the levels and reach the end. However, along the way, you’ll encounter throngs of enemy soldiers and a wide variety of foes barring your path, which you’ll have to promptly dispatch to keep moving forward. Keep in mind that, no matter how many enemies you kill, they will never stop coming, so the idea is to simply open a path and continue moving while dodging the enemy fire and grenades.


The controls are fairly simple:

  • Joystick: Simply moves Super Joe in any of the 8 main directions. However, Joe is a bit sluggish and takes a moment to turn in the desired direction, kind of like driving a truck.


  • Fire Button: Fires Joe’s machine gun. This button fires two rounds every time you press it. Sadly, there’s no auto-fire function. Furthermore, since bullets are unlimited in Commando, you’ll find yourself mashing this button throughout your entire session.


  • Grenade: Lobs a grenade at the top of the screen. Unlike your machine gun, which can be fired in any of the 8 directions, grenades are automatically thrown towards the top of the screen, even when facing straight down. Furthermore, every time you throw one, you’re left immobile for a split second, which can leave you open to enemy fire. Unlike your machine gun, your grenades are limited, and you can pick up additional units by collecting them from crates strewn throughout each stage.


Despite having a wide variety of enemy types, most of these foes are somewhat fragile, as the majority die with around one or two shots. However, the same goes for Super Joe, which makes the best way of winning at Commando to simply avoid getting shot or blown up. Luckily, knowing your foes is half the battle, so here is a list with all the enemies you’ll encounter in this game.

Foot Infantry

  • Foot Soldier: The most common enemy type, they can fire their guns, throw grenades, and move around the field. However, Joe is much faster and can outmaneuver them at every turn.

They grant 200 points per kill.

  • Covered Soldier: Enemy soldiers that cover themselves behind the safety of a wall and attempt to shoot at Joe from their position. They can’t be shot when in cover, but a grenade can take them out easily.

They grant 500 points per kill.

  • Prisoner Guards: These are more like bonus enemies, seen always escorting a prisoner. They always appear with their backs turned at you, which gives you a chance to take them out before they can fire back.

The first guard grants 1,000 points, while the second grants 4,000 points. 

  • Mortar Soldier: They act similar to covered soldiers in the sense that they position themselves behind walls. However, instead of firing their guns, they rain destruction on you with their mortars. Luckily, the best way to avoid their fire is by doing the thing that you should always be doing while playing Commando; never stop moving.

They grant 500 points per kill.

  • Commander: Another type of bonus opponent, only this time they don’t even fire back. Commanders appear on-screen running from you and trying to keep safe.

They grant 2,000 points per kill.

  • Trench Soldier: Similar in every way to covered soldiers, though they’re in trenches instead of behind cover. They’re also worth fewer points than their counterparts.

They grant 200 points per kill.

  • Bazooka Soldier: Armed with nasty RPGs, the explosives from these enemies function similar to grenades, but travel much faster through the air.

They grant 500 points per kill.

  • Water Soldier: One of the deadliest threats when you’re crossing large bodies of water, especially since you can’t hit them when they’re submerged. They usually surface when they manage to swim close enough to your position. However, you can blow them up with a well-placed grenade before they’re able to fire at you.

They grant 200 points per kill.

  • Tower Soldier: These enemies appear as you get closer to the airports, positioned high above the battlefield on their towers. They’re similar to covered soldiers in the sense that they can only be taken out with grenades. However, it’s easier to just avoid them and press on.

They grant 500 points per kill.


  • Motorcycles: These come in two varieties, bridge bikes, and regular bikes, neither of which can be killed and must be avoided. The former appears only while crossing bridges mid-stage, lob a grenade, and ride off. On the other hand, the latter appears in the empty expanses in certain stages. They try to run you over before riding offscreen permanently.


  • Jeeps: They always appear from the bottom of the screen, with a driver and a gunner. They’re really hard to hit, especially since you’ll have to keep moving to avoid the gunner’s fire.

They grant 1,400 points per kill.

  • Humvee: Very similar to regular bikes. They appear from one side of the screen, try to run you over, and disappear into the other side. They can’t be killed.

Despite the vast enemy variety that you’ll encounter on every stage, the idea of Commando is to simply press onwards. To this end, you can even choose to ignore the enemies, dodge their attacks, and keep moving north, running to the end of the stage, which is usually the best strategy. However, you might want to kill enemies to rack up points and score extra lives. You get one extra guy at 10,000 points, and then another every 50,000 points after that. Nevertheless, at the end of every level, you’ll need to defeat several waves of enemies before advancing to the next stage, which is this game’s version of boss battles.

Happy hunting!

Thanks for reading! Here at PrimeTime Amusements, we like to keep ahead of the curve in arcade game rental and sales and pride ourselves in providing the best service in the country. If you’re looking for a game in particular, or have a few questions about the industry, feel free to give us a call at 1.800.550.0090 or to swing by at 5300 Powerline Rd. Suite 210, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, 33309.

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