Ten years ago, I posted a list of 10 of my favorite Atari 2600 games. It’s a system that I grew up with as a kid, and since we didn’t have an NES, it was the dominating console in our house in the 1980s. So we ended up with a lot of games for it, and after doing some nostalgia trawling the other day, I realized that there were plenty of other favorites I wanted to add. So here goes, another list of 10 games that I liked — whether or not they were classics!
1. Dark Cavern (1983)
If you got sick of eating pellets and running from ghosts in Pac-Man, it was time to slam in Dark Caverns to go on the offensive. Basically, you get a guy who’s running around a maze blasting robots with his gun (the robots can shoot back), and every six bullets, you run out of ammo and have to find the next gun. It was one of those games that I could project a lot of action movies or personal fantasies onto, so I dumped a lot of time into these shootouts. I forgot about this until the other day when I came across a screenshot for it and gasped so loud that my wife was worried for me.
2. Fishing Derby (1980)
Activision really had most of the great games for the 2600, and Fishing Derby is one of its simpler and earlier titles. Two players race each other to fish up the most poundage, with sharks trying to eat the caught fish off the hook. The real fun came when you tried to snatch the other player’s fish first and get those deep fish for the big points.
3. Solaris (1986)
After the NES came out in 1985, pretty much everyone ignored the old Atari 2600. However, these latter years of the 80s saw some of the most advanced and sophisticated games for the console, including Solaris. This was a really fine-looking game in which you zoomed over planets and in outer space on rescue missions. In my opinion, it even looked better than some early-era NES titles.
4. Pitfall! (1982)
I’ll admit, I was terrible, just terrible at this early platformer — yet everyone in our family played it, because there was something captivating about trying to make it pass obstacles on a grand treasure hunts. Those crocodiles can drown in quicksand, though. (And no, we never got the sequel.)
5. Yar’s Revenge (1982)
One of the outright strangest titles for the system was also one of its best. It’s all about being a gigantic space fly who has to dodge a constantly moving missile and break down the shield around a boss before summoning a boss-killing super-blast. There’s a lot of (sorry) on-the-fly strategy going on with this cult classic, and I have fond memories of both the game and the comic book that came with it.
Dang, that brings back memories.
6. Vanguard (1982)
A fun and mindless side-scrolling shooter that was kind of a early R-Type game. Nothing super innovative, but it was fun to shoot in four-directions.
7. Ice Hockey (1981)
I wasn’t much into the sports games on the console, but Ice Hockey was simple fun — and you could bash your opponent down with your hockey stick. That’s pretty much all we did, just fight.
8. Dig Dug (1982)
I’m guessing pretty much all of the classic games for the 2600 came out in 1982? I was six years old back then, so it’s all a blur when any of these got released. But anyway, Dig Dug was just a great, solid arcade port that gave you a bit of strategy and a bit of action fun. I didn’t play it the most out of the games, but I did enjoy it.
9. Battlezone (1980)
Pulling off any sort of simulated 3D on the 2600 was nearly impossible, but Battlezone at least gave us a 3D feel back in 1980. It was a pretty basic tank shooter, but I liked that it was slower and more methodical. Really helped with the fantasy of it.
10. Frogs and Flies (1982)
This game looks simple and basic, but let me tell you, Frogs and Flies is one of the most intense competitive games on the system. You and another player assume the roles of frogs leaping back and forth on lily pads, trying to snatch up flies. It’s a competition to see who can get the most before the sun sets, and it really got heated in our household. The gradual onset of nighttime in the background was incredibly effective as a timer, and I’ll always remember this one fondly.