Finally, the first half of the CDP‘s list of the Top 30 Atari 2600 games of all-time. This is my own personal list based on games that I’ve been fortunate enough to play over the last 22 years, and by no means is a complete document of well-researched Atari 2600 history. Please enjoy.
30. Air Raid
Air Raid is one of only two games on this list that I haven’t actually played. I did, however, feel the need to include it for the sheer rarity and mystery that it conjures. The shape of the cartridge. The fact that it’s worth thousands. The artwork on the game itself. This all perfectly represents the nostalgia and wide-eyed wonder of the Atari Age.
29. Star Raiders
Star Raiders utilized a computer keyboard that I didn’t have the instructions for in 1986, so for the first year that I owned the game, it was essentially impossible to play. Once I located the manual and keypad directions, it became significantly more fun, as you would imagine.
Sure, Bobby Is Going Home was a bit of a Pitfall!-style ripoff, but at least they picked a decent game to cannibalize. I played (and enjoyed the hell out of) this game when I was in the 4th Grade; it belonged to an old friend named Dave. Judging by how rare the game appears to be now, I certainly hope he held onto it.
Combining elements of Space Invaders and Missile Command, Atlantis is a game that holds up just as well as the afformentioned classics (Just to be sure, I played it again last weekend). The only thing I don’t like about it is the generic cover art for the cartridge. It’s almost as if they knew it was the generic equivalent to Missile Command, so they packaged it as accordingly.
26. Grand Prix
I hate Grand Prix. Loathe it with the blazing intensity of a thousand suns. A few months ago, I almost broke the game over my knee. Why? Because Grand Prix reminds me that I’m an idiot. With just a tiny bit of memorization and pattern recognition, you can blaze through racetracks like a man possessed. Hell, you could probably train a chimp to play this game better than me. I on the other hand, have yet to get a mere 70-second track devoted to memory. This is, presumably, because I’m an idiot, and Grand Prix sucks for reminding me of that.
25. Haunted House
Without Haunted House, there might not have been a Resident Evil. Seriously. The survival horror genre hadn’t been invented before Haunted House forced you to walk through a dark mansion in an attempt to retrieve an urn from the ghost of the former owner. On long-term influence alone, Haunted House deserves recognition.
This was the other game on this list that I actually haven’t played for myself. I did, however, watch someone play it for hours on end (I didn’t own the cassette add-on required to play it), and it was positively groundbreaking and expansive for its time and primitive technology. And while it looks to be nothing more than an early example of that maze Screen Saver that comes pre-loaded in Windows 95, the mini-games and twists were more than enough to keep you interested for weeks.
This would be a good time to explain some nuts and bolts that went into this Top 30 countdown. I’m trying to rank my favorite Atari 2600 games of all-time, not ‘arcade games in general.’ This needs to be taken into consideration when you see that games like Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and Q-Bert have been omitted from the list. The reason being is that while these were timeless and classic arcade games, they more or less sucked a boatload of ass when reformatted for the 2600. Galaxian is a little bit of both; not graphic-intensive enough to suffer when re-packaged, and not memorable enough to sit alongside of multi-format classics like Asteroids and Space Invaders.
22. Yar’s Revenge
Much like Star Raiders, Yar’s Revenge was not a ‘jump right in’ sort of game if you were lacking the instruction booklet. However, once you understood the missions at hand, it became a strategy masterpiece for the 2600; perhaps overrated in 2008 but underrated at the time of release. Also, the sound effects for this game were fairly epic, and I just read that in 2005, a sequel was created. Rad.
Joust holds a bittersweet place in my heart for being the final Atari 2600 game that I purchased new as a kid. I think it cost me $35, which is absolutely hilarious to me now that I can find used copies for a quarter at the Video Game X-Change at the East Towne Mall.
The main thing I want to mention about Adventure is the same thing that everyone likes to mention concerning Adventure. Apart from the fact that it’s a groundbreaking-er, adventure game, it’s the first instance of an ‘easter egg’ in a video cartridge. By following a secret area, a hidden screen reveals the name of the game’s creator, thus paving the way for disgruntled developers to implant messages into their games for decades to come.
Boy, I loved Defender, but did I suck at it. In fact, this game is constantly referred to as one of the most difficult of all-time. I haven’t played it on the 2600 or at an arcade for years, and with good reason. I’m too old to get sodomized so violently by a 30 year old game that I look back upon so fondly. It would sort of like imagining your grandmother in hell.
Burgertime was one of those great arcade games that transferred less-than-beautifully onto the 2600, but I still included it because it was still endlessly replayable and just as fun. Also, I’d say that this was a precursor to Tetris in getting my Obsessive-Compulsive disorder on the right track.
A 3-D vector game with no ending that was created when the main developer had a nightmare about monsters crawling out of holes in the ground to kill him. You know what; I don’t even care that the Atari 2600 port of Tempest never got past the prototype stage; this game ruled.
This paddle-based game relied on you catching and defusing bombs with buckets of water. Kaboom! was yet another of the ‘catching things before they hit other things’ game, but a high score of 3,000 points or more got you access into the Activision ‘Bucket Brigade;’ an exclusive club that I have yet to be invited into.
The conclusion to the Top 30 will arrive tomorrow and round out the week. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.
Related Goodness: The CDP’s Top 15 NES Games Of All-Time.