Top Tens: Favorite Atari 2600 box art

Welcome to a new feature here on Bio Break — Top Tens! Every so often, I’ll be churning out a listicle that covers something of interest to me that I’d like to share with you. Today’s topic: The coolest box art that the Atari 2600 ever produced.

1. Berzerk — I don’t know about you, but I’d totally go see this movie, read this book, and/or buy this breakfast cereal.

2. Defender — This one always struck my imagination for a few reasons. First, that weird late ’70s/early ’80s fashion and hair. Second, the way a lot of book and game covers in the 80s featured elements that overlapped and bled into each other. But third, because this art forces you to look from the perspective of the soon-to-be kidnapped people on the ground. It’s a story in itself.

3. River Raid — I always adored Activision’s minimalistic Atari 2600 covers. There was always movement, action, and those trademark rainbow stripes. This one may be my favorite of them all.

4. Missile Command – Dang, could they have put more onto this cover? It’s like you’ve got Rebel Joe over there, calmly taking out nukes while his computer is exploding and a holocaust is happening over to the right there.

5. Adventure – This reminds me of every cheesy elemntery school textbook I used to own. That late ’70s fantasy look is very distinct but also holds a lot of personality.

6. Pitfall — OK, one more Activision cover, because Pitfall is a dang classic. I think they crammed in every obstacle and objective into this fantastic 3-D piece of art. I kind of want it for my room.

7. Cosmic Ark – This one gets cited a lot as a great piece of video game cover art. I like the complex model and how this looks like it might be the cover to an ’80s glam rock album.

8. Star Raiders – Putting the viewer in a first-person perspective works well here, especially to get the imagination cranking.

9. Robot Tank – Shh… it’s another Activision one, although this cover has a much different art style (but the same rainbow stripes!). I loved scifi illustrations like this.

10. E.T. – Yes, everyone loves to bag on this game, but it’s a fantastic illustrated cover with a lot of things to spot and a sense of movement and power.

Top Tens: 10 more favorite Atari 2600 games

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.

Top Tens: My favorite TV sitcoms

Welcome to a new feature here on Bio Break — Top Tens! Every so often, I’ll be churning out a listicle that covers something of interest to me that I’d like to share with you. Today’s topic: My favorite TV sitcoms of all time.

  1. Bob’s Burgers — Forget the Simpsons, this is my animated family of choice. I usually close out every day by watching a quick episode with the Belchers and their amazing town of characters. While I can’t stand Linda, pretty much everyone else entertains me with (surprisingly) wholesome togetherness and quirks.
  2. Community — There aren’t enough words to let me properly gush about how much I love this innovative sitcom about adults going to a dinky community college. Great characters, pop culture dissection, and a different angle every week made these six seasons among my favorite to see over and over again.
  3. The Office — I don’t binge watch this like some people do, but I am deeply fond of this cast and the day-to-day weirdness of Dunder Mifflin. Unpopular opinion? I think Season 9 is better than 7 and 8 by far.
  4. Arrested Development — Forget the newer seasons, the first three classic seasons that aired on Fox were the best-scripted comedy of all-time. I’ve rewatched this show so many times and am still picking up on new gags!
  5. Parks and Recreation — Less cringy than The Office and a little more cartoonish. It’s just a terrific ensemble cast that had a strong run from seasons 2 through 7. I just finished rewatching this and I think I said on Twitter that P&R had the best finale that I’ve ever seen.
  6. Brooklyn Nine-Nine — Obviously I love Michael Shur’s library, and this did a great job capitalizing on Andy Samberg’s comedy style while introducing a wide range of supporting characters that are deeply funny in their own right. Joe Lo Truglio is deeply underappreciated for his physical body comedy.
  7. Futurama — Again, I prefer this over the Simpsons. The characters are more consistent, the futuristic setting is very unique, and I get a shot of sci-fi in with my comedy.
  8. New Girl — I think Zooey Deschanel’s manic pixie dream girl thing got old a while back, but happily New Girl quickly took the spotlight off of just her and made it far more of an ensemble comedy with so many likable and bizarre personalities.
  9. Happy Endings — It’s Friends, if Friends was way better and didn’t have Ross and Rachel and other people I hated with a passion. It’s such a shame this show didn’t get more acclaim; it’s really brilliant in its own way and deserved a lot more recognition.
  10. Better Off Ted — I agonized over the last spot on this list, because I did want to include shows like Modern Family, Scrubs, The IT Crowd, Black Books, Venture Bros., and 30 Rock. But I had to include the two-season Better Off Ted because it’s, start to finish, a light-hearted hoot that lampoons evil corporate culture without any downer episodes.