The graphics weren't that great compared to today, but the gameplay was awesome. Step back in time to the days of simple, but fun video games at home in the 1980s.
For a lot of kids in the early ’80s, this was the first video game they ever played that was kind of like an RPG. It wasn’t really an RPG, more of a hide-and-seek game within a maze, but it still felt like an RPG to kids. Of course it had those flat, square early graphics the Atari 2600 was infamous for, including dragons that looked like chickens. But still, the game was a lot of fun, at least until you defeated the dragon, unlocked the gate and placed that golden grail within the castle; after that is was sort of, “Well, what do I do now?”
Despite the fact the asteroids in this version didn’t look much like the ones in the actual arcade game, the game play was similar to the arcade version. And boy could you rack up the points! Once you got good at this game, it could keep you busy for hours blowing away those floating blobs in space. Oops! Sorry, those were floating asteroids in space.
One of the first, basic maze shoot-em-up games. You’re a guy running through a never-ending maze while defending yourself while shooting at robots. It doesn’t get much more simple than that. And because it was such a simple game, it made a good port from the arcade to the Atari 2600. Really, it looked like you were playing the arcade version at home.
Not the most popular of games, but I have found memories of shooting those bears and the flying ducks and all the other little targets moving across the top of the screen. Basically “Carnival” was just another of “Space Invaders” but with different graphics and a few extras tossed in. The graphics on the Atari 2600 version weren’t as good as those in the arcade, but they were still pretty good, and the game play was somewhat compatible.
The Atari version didn’t look a whole lot like the arcade version, but it was close enough you could tell it was the same game. The play was decent, though sometimes a little jerky and not nearly as good as the arcade game of the same name.
Tanks. Airplanes. Whatever. One on one. You shoot at each other. A very early game for the Atari 2600, thus a very simple game. For a lot of kids growing up in the Atari age, this was one of the first games they played because some versions of the Atari 2600 came with this game boxed with it.
The graphics were pretty bade when compared to the arcade version of this famous game, and the game play wasn’t exactly the same, though it was somewhat similar. Also, there weren’t nearly as many levels in the Atari version as the arcade one. But still, this was the first home version of “Donkey Kong,” and it rocked for kids.
It would have been difficult to screw up “Frogger.” It’s a very simple game. You’re a frog trying to cross traffic without getting hit by cars, then you have to jump across logs to your home. The Atari version was made by Parker Brothers, and it had quite good game play. The graphics were simple, but that was to be expected.
This game was a breath of fresh air after the disaster that had been the Atari version of “Pac-Man.” This game had the right colors and at least similar game play to the arcade version. But I think by this point it was too late; too many customers had already been turned off by the horrors that had been “Pac-Man” and “E.T.” and the end of one of the greatest home video game eras was looming.
The first racing fame for a video system. And despite its extremely basic graphics, it was a good game. Just the car, the sides of the road and a blip that was supposed to be a house on the side of the road. And despite the game’s simplicity, it wasn’t always that easy.
This might have been the first big hit game for the Atari 2600 that was actually made by Atari. The geniuses at Activision came up with this one. Another simple game, but for its time it had pretty good graphics for the Atari system. You were a little man traveling through the jungle collecting treasures while having to swing on vines over the heads of crocodiles, jumping scorpions and leaping on logs to cross lakes.
Not everyone loved this game, but it was one of the first mystery games to kind of make it big. Like in the movies, you’re Indiana Jones, and you’re on a hunt for the Ark of the Covenant. Playing that little blip that was Indiana Jones, you had to gather up your whip and a gun and a … a parachute? I don’t remember that from the movie. Ah, well. It was still an interesting game, especially for the times.
One of my favorite Atari 2600 games. It was made by Activision. You pilot a fighter jet along a river while shooting at other planes and helicopters and boats. The further you got along the river, the harder this game got. Also, “River Raid” was the first game I remember where you had to worry about your fuel in the game.
Probably the best ever Atari port from the arcade version. But that’s to be expected, “Space Invaders” being such a simple game. And back in the very early 1980s, everybody played this thing. “Space Invaders” was hot for a long time.
You’re flying one of this air speeders from the movie. Your job? To take down the Imperial Walkers. Easier said than done. Despite the boring background constantly flowing by, this game from Parker Brothers had decent graphics for the Atari 2600.
Another maze game where you have to shoot critters, gather treasure and escape. Only to find yourself in another maze. It never ends. But the graphics for the Atari game matched the arcade game pretty well.
The first pinball game for a home video system, at least that I remember. Some folks found it boring, yet despite its simplicity, I loved it. But I liked pinball, and this brought together two of my early loves: pinball and video games.
Probably my favorite Atari 2600 game actually made by Atari. You play a little bug man called a Yar, and you fly around eating and shooting at a space shield so you can kill the enemy behind the shield. I had hours and hours of great times with this game. Once I even played it for 23 hours straight, and would have kept playing except my mom made me turn it off to eat dinner.
The Atari version of this game got a lot of flack because it looked nothing like the version in the arcades. But I still kind of liked it. The basic game play was somewhat similar to that of the arcade version, you had to fly a space fighter jet over a giant spaceship or space station or whatever it was while avoiding and shooting at the enemy, but the details of the two versions of the game were light years apart from one another. They did not look like one another at all. But what could you expect from the limited graphics of the Atari 2600?
A last note: I know I've left out, and probably forgotten, tons of great games. This list was just the ones that provided me the most fun as a child.
Other video game links
10 Classic Games for Intellivision
10 Forgotten Arcade Games I Still Love
10 Awesome Arcade Games of Yesteryear