The game's protagonist is called "Rockford". He must dig through caves collecting gems and diamonds and reach the exit within a time limit, while avoiding various types of dangerous creatures as well as obstacles like falling rocks and the constant danger of being crushed or trapped by an avalanche, or killed by an underground explosion.
The Commodore 64 version of the first game was also re-released on the Virtual Console in Europe on September 19, 2008, and in North America on June 1, 2009, but was removed from the service in 2013.
The official Boulder Dash games started in 1984 with the original home computer title, and continue to be published by First Star.
Boulder Dash (1984) – the original Boulder Dash was published on multiple home computer and consoles.
Boulder Dash (1984) – it was then released on arcade console by Exidy. This version was almost identical, but with coins buying 30 seconds of game time. Historically, this was the first home computer title to be converted to an arcade console.
Boulder Dash (1985 – Arcade) – in 1985, Comptiq released another arcade version on Data East's "DECO Cassette System", with improved graphics but a reduced display grid on a vertical monitor.
Boulder Dash II (1985) – the second home format was published under several different titles; Rockford's Riot on the MSX, Rockford's Revenge on the C64 (with the former used with the ZX Spectrum's marketing, but the latter used on the cassette inlay, originally the game was going to be called pebbles, Reg Wilkins, Allan McInlay, Martin Brown and David Kivlin were on the design team). The second release in Japan was titled Champion Boulder Dash, but it's not a port of the western game.
Boulder Dash 3 (1986 – Apple II, C64, Spectrum, PC) – monochrome space-themed graphics and poorly designed levels made this a critical failure.
Boulder Dash Construction Kit (1986 – Apple II, C64, Spectrum, Atari 8-bit computers, Atari ST) – this release included a small number of levels (12 caves and 3 intermission levels), but was titled Boulder Dash IV – The Game for the Spectrum re-release. The title allowed players access to tools which allowed them to design their own levels.
Rockford (1988 – Arcade, Amiga, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Arcade, Spectrum, Amstrad, C64) - Rockford was originally a licensed arcade game produced by Arcadia Systems, and later converted to various home computer formats.
Compute! favorably reviewed Boulder Dash Construction Kit, noting that the sample game was much more difficult than the original Boulder Dash.Mean Machines gave the Game Boy port of Boulder Dash a score of 90%, praising it as "one of the finest video games ever written", describing the game as "one to buy as soon as possible" and noting its faithfulness to the original Commodore 64 version.
IGN reviewed the Virtual Console release of the Commodore 64 version. Although the graphics and sound were both found to be dated they enjoyed the game stating that it "still feels as fresh as it did in 1984." They concluded by stating "though it doesn't look like much, Boulder Dash rocks."
The ZX Spectrum version was voted number 9 in the Your Sinclair Official Top 100 Games of All Time.
Zzap!64's reviewers gave a mixed response to Boulder Dash III. Gary Penn criticised the new graphics style but conceded that the gameplay was still enjoyable although not showing any real innovations from previous titles. Gary Liddon agreed that the game wasn't much different to its predecessors but remained good fun. Julian Rignall was the most enthusiastic about the game declaring it "the best in the Boulderdash series". Overall the game was given a 93% rating.