Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My 10 Favorite Atari 2600 Games

Atari turns 40 today, and as I do with so many things, I'm celebrating it with a pointless, personal list of things I like. Funnily enough, I only recently was reunited with my old Atari 2600. I haven't checked to see if it still works or not, but just having it is a fun connection with that time in my life. I'd forgotten we even owned some of the games that are in there.

It's weird to think now that we only got the Atari when I was 6, and I think we really only played it until I was 8 or 9. I got really into text adventure games on my Dad's PC for a while, and then when I was 9 we got the Nintendo Entertainment System. As a result, I don't have a lot of incredibly strong memories based around Atari games, and some were honestly just too advanced for me at that age and I gave up on them--as a kid, I had some really hard problems focusing (which is why I kept failing math). Also, going through the list of Atari games now, there were a lot of Atari games that were incredibly crappy ports of superior arcade versions, so most of the Atari games I think of loving (Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Centipede, Star Wars) were actually games I played over and over again at Showbiz Pizza.

Anyway, here are my 10 personal favorite Atari games.

10. Adventure
Honestly, I was never entirely sure what was going on in Adventure. Sometimes I think of Adventure and realize I'm confusing it with the original Legend of Zelda. I don't think I ever read the instructions for any of these games, to be honest. Impatient kid with focus problems.

9. Mario Brothers
Superior in the arcade version, yes, but still some weird fun in the home version. Little did I know that 30 years later I'd still be playing Mario games and loving them just as much as I did then.

8. Berzerk
Another game where I didn't really know what was happening but got caught up in the pace.

7. Q*Bert
Of all the games I had that were incredibly frustrating, this was the one I enjoyed. (We also had Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was so frustrating that I hated it to death.) The game called for finesse and the joystick kind of made that impossible.

6. Math Gran Prix
AKA the Game I Mention and No One Knows What I'm Talking About. I only ever played this with my sister and no one else, because it was dorky to like educational games. But I had a real problem with math as a kid, so my parents thought this might help, and for the most part it did (nothing really helped my problem being able to focus; not for a long time). The idea was that you had to answer math questions to move your car up a couple of spaces.

5. Joust
Also better in the arcade, I mostly just enjoyed this because it always became a total free-for-all with my friends. There was a high school kid up the block who had a LOT of games, and me and some friends used to go over there and play games in his finished basement (which also had a bar--can you imagine this set-up for a repressed memory happening in a suburban neighborhood today? and no, nothing happened... and no, I wouldn't let my kid do the same thing today). My friends and I would play rounds of Joust and totally just devolve into chaos.

4. Haunted House
The most fun game I never actually owned. I think I played this a lot at my friend Jeff's house.

3. Pitfall!
This game was what I (and many others, I'm sure) had been hoping for from the Raiders of the Lost Ark game. It could be frustrating, but I could sit and play this for a long time, trying to get further and further into it.

2. Asteroids
Another game it was easy to get lost in if you were fast enough. I loved sitting and playing this with my friends; we'd have tournaments, like everyone else, and it would just get bigger and bigger and bigger.

1. Combat
The game so basic it came with the machine (it's basically like Pong but with more versatility of movement). But I loved playing this and torturing my sister with it, and seeing just how many levels the whole thing was going to go through. This was just the most fun game I ever sat and played on the Atari 2600. And I played it a lot. Hell, I'd like to play it right now.

Thanks for the fun, Atari!


Splotchy said...

Agh! I should do this, too. Adventure! Haunted House!

Did you ever play any Imagic games? Demon Attack was great. Also, Riddle of the Sphinx was neat, kind of a pre-Zelda adventure game.

I loved Megamania, which was an Activision Space Invaders riff.

I didn't know Mario Brothers existed on the 2600. Wow.

The port of Berzerk was great, but I missed the "Chicken! Fight like a robot!" voice.

I was never big into any of the Pacman games, but Ms. Pacman was a very decent port.

How far did you get into Pitfall? I wonder if it was possible to complete that damn game. I loved Pitfall II if only for the fact I could finish the thing.

AGH. I should do this. Okay, might do this tonight. Thanks a lot for this post, man!!!

Nathan said...

Adventure was really pretty complicated for an Atari game. I think the goal was to bring the cup back to the castle, but there was a lot about it that confused me.

I wrote my own post on Atari, although it's more general rather based on any particular games. Oh, and I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award.

Kelly Sedinger said...

Oh, Adventure was so cool. So was Pitfall. I never had an Atari...I had to rely on sleepovers at my friend's house....

Creekwalker said...

I never owned Pitfall myself but enjoyed it immensely with a neighbor. There was a Star Treck type game that beat the living hell out of the TRS-80 version of the game I worked on, mostly because of the 3-D aspects. but was otherwise pretty similar. My favoritest game that Atari itself put out was Breakout. I last played the game when it didn't present a new round (wall) after I'd cleared the first two with one ball.

Vachon said...

There are emulators out there you can find. I use z26 myself and there are plenty of ROM sites to get the games off of.

SamuraiFrog said...

Splotchy: Becca played Riddle of the Sphinx, but I never got to. I never played Ms. Pac-Man on the 2600; we had Pac-Man, I think by the time we got the machine they were just giving it away with it. I hated that thing; I loved the arcade version so much and was so good at it. Like, big kids gathering around to watch me good. That was the only time that ever happened.

I honestly don't know if you could beat Pitfall or not... I just played it until I got tired of dying all the time.

Nathan: I like to think of myself more as an Unrelenting Blogger.

Kelly: Sleepovers were a great way to get to play with other toys your parents wouldn't get you. Or watch programs you weren't allowed to watch.

Creekwalker: Breakout was almost on this list. I just remember loving the colors. Becca especially loved that game when she was a kid, apparently.

Vachon: Sometimes I find emulators online and spend far, far too much time with them. Of course, I spend far, far too much time with the Wii now...

Nathan said...

Versatile,'s all basically the same.

I've never played Riddle of the Sphinx, but I understand you needed two joysticks in order to choose items, or something like that.

Kal said...

Combat and Pitfall were so much fun. To actually use your TV to play games was such a great thing when I was young. I am amazed I never got into gaming more than I am because I have great memories of those times.

Splotchy said...

Nathan, yeah, you need two joysticks for Riddle. It sounds unwieldy, but it was actually not bad at all.

It's nothing compared to E.T. climbing out of a hole, at least.

I haven't done my post yet. Yar's Revenge!!! (that's my new swearword interjection)