Atari Shrine

Atari 2600

My first video game was the Atari 2600. God knows how many hours I spent playing that thing, competing with my brother, organizing ladders, holding tournaments in the basement. I used to love flicking the little power switch on and off real quick so you could get those wierd "mutated" versions of the game.Although there are many more Atari 2600 games out there, these are the ones I had (…or at least remember having…this was a long time ago!)

If this doesn’t bring a sentimental tear to a computer gamer’s eye….

(screenshots courtesy of Atari Age)


Adventure (1980): Running around looking for keys and keeping away from all the dragons, especially the dreaded red dragon. Damn bat stealing my keys all the time. There was a great easter-egg in this game where you could walk through a wall somewhere and see the programmer’s names in a secret room or something.

 Armor Ambush (1982): If you love "Combat" then you’ll love this game. This version features different terrains that can effect your tanks mobility, in addition to being able to control multiple tanks. Lots of cool variations make this one easily one of my favorites.
 Asteroids (1981): Based on the awesome stand-up video game. (I used to pump quarters into that one at the roller-skating rink!) Now you could experience all the excitement in your own musty basement!
 Basketball (1978): Nothing like shooting some hoops with my homies. Pretty fun, for awhile at least. Hilarious graphics used when they run around with a blinking leg and a solid leg to give the illusion of "movement"…. Taking the full-court shot…nothing but net! Simple, yes, but can be fun if you’re in the right mood.
 Bezerk (1982): "…You fight like a robot!" Ahhh, that taunt will forever be etched in my memory. What an awesome game this was. I’m still looking over my shoulder for that weird boucing happy face, Evil Otto, that comes out if you dawdle too long. There is a lot of strategy involved in this game, dispite how it looks. Don’t underestimate Bezerk!

Breakout (1978): Yes…the timeless Breakout. Using the ever-versitile Atari "paddle-wheel" control, you bounce the ball through the bricks. Oddly therapeutic. I loved the mode where the ball would eat through all the bricks instead of just one at a time. Well, ok, it was fun for a while, but I just can’t see myself plopping down on the sofa with a six-pack and wanting to spend the night playing Breakout, no matter how fond my memories might be.


 Canyon Bomber (1978): A brother, what a crappy game. Drop "bombs" into the canyon. Sort of like a reverse "Breakout". Can’t even control the altitude of your "plane". Boring.
 Centipede (1983): Another classic game based on an arcade version. Shoot the centipede as it descends though the mushrooms. Each shot splits up the centipede into separate pieces. Watch out for the occasional spider that bounces across the screen. The graphics do suck in this version though, doing no justice to the arcade version of the same name.
Circus Atari (1978): Jump up and down on a see-saw type thing in order to bounce up and pop, *ahem*, balloons. Pretty fun actually, with some game variations to jazz things up when it gets a little slow.
 Combat (1977): Yeah baby! How many Saturday mornings did I spend wasting my friends on this game. Important to spend as much time finding the perfect angles for the ricocheting bullet as possible! I also loved the "invisible" mode where you were invisible until you fired you gun. This game is classic! Man I used to kick ass with the guided missile option, making my missiles curve so sweetly around the blocks and right into the other dudes tank…how sweet it was!

Defender (1982): A disappointing adaption of the arcade game. Far too easy even on the hardest levels. The graphics are terrible, flickering so bad that the aliens can’t really be seen sometimes. There’s a little "feature" in this game that makes your ship disappear whenever you fire, so if you fire fast enough (which most 12 year old kids could do at that time), then the aliens couldn’t shoot you.


 Donkey Kong (1981): A little boring in the fact that there are only 2 levels to the game (and no difficulty setting). The levels themselves are fun, and pretty realistic, but how many hours can you spend jumping over barrels and fireballs on the same 2 levels?
 Football (1978): Crude gameplay, and exceedingly simplistic graphics. Nothing like a good-old 3-on-3 game of football. Some liked this game, I can’t say that I did. Although it was fun every now and then for the "hilarity factor" of outrageous passing and running plays that you could sometimes put together, this game never saw to much TV time with us.
 Frogger (1982): This game is a blast to play! Jump across the highway, take a break on the river shore and then try to get across and fill up the empty boxes at the top. A simple concept that is surprisingly fun to play. Despite the primative graphics, the game play itself is faithful to the arcade version, giving hours of good old fashion "frogger" time wasting.
 Galaxian (1983): A very fun Atari version of the arcade game. Lot’s of fun with the dive bombing aliens gives challenging game play for when you get bored with the standard space invaders.

Gorf (1981): If I could have back all the quarters I stuck into this arcade game…man, I played this one like mad! The game had 4 very distinct levels, a space invaders-esque first level, galaxians like level 2, a bizzare black hole level next, and finally the typical mother ship. What is cool about Gorf is that if you miss the enemies, you can press fire again and your original missile will disappear so you don’t have to wait for it to leave the screen. The Atari version is fairly faithful to this, but lacks the up-and-down mobility of the arcade version. Otherwise, it’s pretty fun, if not a little too easy.

 Gunslinger (1978): What can you say? Shoot the other, er, cowboy before he shoots you. The game at least has a ricochet effect to add to the limited excitement. Some other game variations can spice it up a bit, but otherwise, it’s not going to get a lot of play time when you have other two-player games that are so much more fun.
 Haunted House (1981): Oh my God! I loved this game! You are simply a pair of eyes that wander around a haunted house, collecting objects and avoiding "enemies" like bats, spiders, and ghosts. You have 9 lives and have to rum around the mansion trying to collect 3 pieces of an urn so you can get out before you lose all your lives. There are some pretty cool "spooky" effects (keep in mind this was 1981!).

Indy 500 (1977): An awesome little game full of cool variations make what appears to be a boring "race the blocky cars around the track" game into something that has amazing replay value! Besides the standard "race", there are ice tracks, "tag" variations, and a crash-to-score variant. With a single-player time-trial mode, you could skip school and practice all day in order to kick your friends’s butts!

Joust (1983): Although this game appears to be a brutally stripped-down version of the arcade game, it is still a lot of fun. Knock the enemies off their ostriches by flying higher than them when you collide, collect eggs, avoid the, *ahem*, lava at the bottom. Even has a fun 2 player mode just like the arcade.


 Maze Craze (1978): Don’t be fooled by the simplistic look of this game: Maze Craze rocks! Cruise around a maze trying to catch robbers or elude them. Set up fake "dead ends", invisible mazes…tons of variations and combination. I spent countless hours on this one. A good one to put in "mutate mode" too!
 Mega Force (!982): Oh lord, just hearing the words "Mega Force" should make any movie going cringe with fear. Alas, despite this horrible movie, the game writers felt compelled to come out with a version for the Atari. Jump around on your motorcycle, shoot things, repeat, repeat, repeat. Boring. But better than seeing the movie.
 Missile Command (1981): Another arcade favorite (that I sucked at, but never gave up pumping in quarters…). The Atari version was remarkably fun to play. The game was made extra challenging by limiting the number of missiles you could have in the sky at any one time, to compensate for this, you had only 1 missile base you had to protect (as opposed to 3 in the arcade version). A lot of the fun was completing a level and seeing what the next funky color scheme would be!
 Moon Patrol (1983): This game is very faithful to the arcade version and a heck of a lot of fun to play. You have to both shoot space ships above you while clearing rocks and jumping over holes in front of you. Very challenging and a lot of replay value!

Night Driver (1980): Break out the paddle-control and put on your seat belt. A simple "driving" game where you hurtle down a dark road avoiding other cars, trying to best your time on different tracks, including a random track option. Simplistic to the extreme, could still be fun to blob out with for a while.

Pac Man (1981): Oh man, how I looked forward to this game! After who-knows-how-many quarters I shoved into Pac Man at the arcades, I finally got my eager little hands on the Atari version one day in 1981. When I first played it, my jaw hit the ground and I said, "What the hell is this!?" What a disappointment.The ghosts flicker so bad they are hard to see sometimes, the little escape tunnel is on the top and bottom of the map instead of the left and right (as it is in the arcade game), and Pac Man’s face itself only changes directions when you turn left and right, i.e., when you go up and down he still keeps chomping his mouth to the side. Boring, way too easy, and crappy graphics. What a disappointment!

 Pele’s Championship Soccer (1980): I’m sure Pele was pretty pissed off when he saw what he had allowed his name to be associated with! This sad little sports game is pretty damn primative. You play 3-on-3 "soccer" (can you even call it soccer when there’s only 6 players?), with your 3 players always moving as a group. Get the ball downfield and take a shot at the computer controlled goalie (you couldn’t even control your own goalie, making for some pretty bogus goals!). Acck. This clunker didn’t see too much TV time in our house either.

Pitfall (1982): Another great way to waste a summer day by sitting inside playing Atari. Pitfall Harry runs through this horizontally scrolling jungle, collecting bars of gold and silver, swinging over quicksand and crocodiles, running from snakes and scorpions, crawling through tunnels…this game was truly innovative and the game play is awesome! You had a time limit in which you had to collect the most amount of gold and silver…and as always, try to complete the "perfect" game of collecting ALL the gold bars in the time limit was a true challenge!

 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1982): This game rocked! Tenously based on the movie of the same name, you ran around as Indiana Jones, trading with merchants, fighting thieves and even finding the map room, where, if you have the correct inventory and the correct time, the location of the ark will light up for you. The gameplay was fun with a relatively complex inventory of items to use in different situations. The programmer of this game is the same one that made Yar’s Revenge, and has programmed a few funny easter eggs into this one.
 Reactor (1983): A lot of my friends hated this game, but I loved it! You have a little ship in a nuclear reactor that is approaching meltdown. Two little "nuetrons" bounce around that you can knock about for extra points. Control rods on the wall help you shrink the ever expanding core, buying you more time and maneuvering room. A little tedious at times, but still fun to put on the "walkman" radio and veg out for a few hours.

Riddle of the Sphinx (1982): A nifty little adventure game that was a hell of a lot of fun to play. You wandered through the "desert" collecting items to offer to "Ra" at the end of the map. Along the way you must avoid theives and scorpions. Furthermore, Isis and Anubis wander around the desert to help and hinder you respectively. A fun little puzzle to solve on various difficulty levels.



Sky Jinks (1982): In this, *ahem*, game, you fly around pylons in a aerial race-course while avoiding ballons and trees. You try to get the best time you can while flying through courses of various length (up to 99 pylons). Flying the plane was fun when you got the hang of tight-cornering around the pylons, but there really isn’t much more to it than that. Dull.

Slot Racers (1978): A totally crappy game. Graphics suck, even for 1978, I mean, c’mon! Game play was slow and you had to kill you opponent 25 times to "win"…faaagiddaboutit!

Space Invaders (1980): What can I say about this game that hasn’t been said already? A legendary game, full of variations such as moving shields, wiggling bullets, invisible aliens, and any combination there of. Fun to "mutate" giving strange alien layouts. Don’t forget the classic "double-bullet" cheat by holding down the reset button when you power up the game…gives you the ability to have two bullets on the screen at the same time!



 Spider Man (1983): Spidey shoots his, er, web up the building while you climb to the top to fight the green goblin. Watch out for bad guys in the windows that will kill you if you touch them. Great gameplay includes free-climbing or swinging from you web, and the ability to throw a web to stop your fall if a bad guy knocks you down. At the top of the building you "defuse" bombs while the Green Goblin flies around trying to knock you down to the ground. This was an really fun game to play. Using the "mutate method" you could get some REALLY bizarre building layouts, sometimes having to swing from pixel to pixel…Great fun!

Spike’s Peak (1983): Holy crap! I LOVED this game! You had to scale a mountain with different "enemies" trying to stop you: bears, bees, eagles. For some reason, your little dude was really slow and you get killed a hell of a lot, making this game oddly difficult to finish. If I remember right, this was a fun one to "mutate" with the on-off switch.


Surround (1977): Just like the Tron "light cycles", you had to out-smart and out-maneuver your opponent, forcing him to crash into the walls. It was always kind of fun to go into the stores that had this game on display and "write" the F-word on the screen using your controller…heh heh. Otherwise, this game is about as minimalistic as you can get. Single-player is possible with a totally moronic AI opponent that would pretty much end up killing himself if you just stayed out of its way. Didn’t really burn up too much time on this one.


Target Fun (1983): Yeee-Haaaa! It doesn’t get more fun than this…NOT! Shooting square "bullets" at various slow moving targets was not my idea of a good waste of time. You could only have one bullet on the screen at a time, so if you missed a targety, you couldn’t shoot again until your first bullet had left the screen. Yawwwwnnn….Had a stupid single-player version with an artificial "intelligence" opponent that just shot all the time regardless of the position of the target.


Venture (1982): A pretty lame version of the arcade game which was pretty damn cool. A bare-boned "adventure" game, you walked around from room to room and gathered items for points. In the arcade game you had an arrow that you would shoot, but in the Atari version it was just a dot! Pretty boring…needless to say this one didn’t get a lot of playtime at our house.

Video Pinball (1981): Who doesn’t remember spending sunny summer afternoons curled up in a dark basement with this one. A lot of fun dispite the obvious design flaws. You bounced a square "ball" around the simple pinball "machine" and racked up points along the way. The so called "spinners" would actully slow down the ball, and after you got the hang of "nudging" the ball, you could bounce it from the top of the bumper up through the rollover slots over, and over, and over, and over, and over….racking up some amazing scores! Addicting as hell!



 Warlords (1981): A fun paddle-control game, which supported up to 4 players at the same time. Hurl fire balls at your opponent’s, ahem, castle and eventually expose the warlord himself…then go for the kill shot. You could hold the ball by pressing the button when it hit your shield, otherwise it would just bounce off like ‘Pong’. Fun to play with 4 people and gang up on the guy you like the least, killing him over and over until he quits and goes home. However, even when ‘dead’, a player could still control his shield like a "ghost" and continue to deflect the balls around. Maybe a bug in the game, but was a cool twist!
 Yar’s Revenge (1982): Man oh man! I would play this little bugger for hours at my grandma’s house listening to my first LP I ever bought: Dancer! Eating the little bricks away to expose the ‘Qotile’ and blast him away with your space missile. Taking refuge in the rainbow-colored safety zone when the Qotile would hurl fireballs at you. One of the hardest Atari 2600 games…it started off easy enough but then the Qotile’ fireballs would start to track you across the screen, even changing direction in mid-flight! This game was the best!