Different television/electrical standards. America was 60Hz/NTSC, Europe was 50Hz/PAL. Games written in Europe on the PAL standard were usually incompatible with NTSC machines, and vice versa. Especially so if the game used advanced programming tricks that relied on exact timing.
Usually the PAL version of a given game is better, the C64 scene was just more developed in Europe. Excellent example being OP pic, Bionic Commando.
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