Top 10 Atari 2600 Games

The Atari 2600 is a true rarity and a classic that introduced many representatives of the older generation to the fascinating world of video games. The games for this console didn’t have great graphics or intricate plots with lots of twists, but they had something more substantial – the soul. So we offer you an exciting excursion into your childhood to remember the top ten Atari 2600 games.

10th place: Combat

In this game, there are two tanks, each controlled by the player. The tanks move around the playing field and shoot at each other until time runs out. The player with the most points wins. The type of shells (shells bouncing off the walls, such as direct-flying missiles, guided missiles, and tank Pong) and the ability to damage the opponent with a direct hit or just bounced shell changed in the game variations. There was also a version with an invisible tank (it became visible for a few seconds after the shot), as well as the Pong with a hidden tank. The playing field could be empty or be a simple or complex maze.

9th place: Adventure

This game was inspired by Colossal Cave Adventure, the text game created by Will Crowther and modified by Don Woods. Although the game’s prototype was text-based, this game is graphic. Adventure was released in a total of one million copies, making it the seventh best-selling game for the Atari 2600 in the entire history of the platform. 

The player’s primary task is to find the cup and return it to the golden castle. The player character, represented by a simple square, travels through castles, mazes, and various rooms. Some of them have a sword, keys to unlock a particular castle (golden, black, and white), a magic bridge allowing you to move through the walls, and a magnet attracting other items. Three dragons guard essential items in the mazes (they can only be killed with a sword). There is also a bat, taking or leaving things randomly in rooms and stealing them from the character. The character can also grab it and travel through the mazes on it.

8th place: River Raid

The player controls an airplane, flying over a river between its banks. On the way, there are ships, helicopters, airships, and other objects, and the player can destroy them by shooting vertically upwards. Moving upwards, the plane can move left and right at the player’s command. Activating “up” speeds up the movement of the game airplane, and starting “down” slows it down. The plane has a reserve of fuel; if it runs out, the player loses a life point. The reserve can be replenished by flying over the refueling platforms, coming across on the way.

At the end of each level, the player meets the bridge crossing the river. A tank can move across it, and if the bridge is destroyed, it opens fire on the surface of the river. There may be other active objects leading to fire in the game world, and the player needs to avoid it. At the beginning of the game, the player gets a certain number of life points, which can be lost when colliding with the river bank or an object above the river surface and when the enemy shell hits the plane. The player is given extra lives for the points earned. River Raid has several dozen different levels, and their difficulty increases as the game progress.

7th place: Q*bert

In Q*bert, the player races the character of the same name through an isometric pyramidal structure of three-color cubes. The goal of Q*bert is to jump on top of these cubes to recolor them into a given color (for example, from blue to yellow). In the early rounds, the player’s task is simple: it’s enough to make one jump to each cube. Subsequent rounds are more complex: the cubes must be visited twice, change their color back to the wrong if you jump on them an extra time, and so on. If Q*bert jumps over the edge of the pyramid, he falls and dies. In this case, the body of the first slot machines makes a mechanical sound caused by a pinball hammer.

6th place: Frogger

The goal of this game is to help the frog to cross the game screen from the bottom to the top. The game field is divided into 13 rows: the first row is the starting line, rows from the second to the sixth is a road where cars drive at different speeds in both directions, the seventh one is a safe area for a breather, rows from the eighth to the twelfth is a river with floating rows, otters, and crocodiles from left to right and groups of turtles from right to left (besides, snakes and spiders can appear on the logs). In the thirteenth, last row, there are five cells. The frog must overcome the road, climb the logs and turtles across the river and occupy one of the five cells. To pass this stage, you must populate all five cells. After that, a new set begins automatically with denser and faster traffic, faster rivers, and more enemies.

5th place: Dig Dug

The goal of Dig Dug is to destroy underground monsters by blowing them up until they burst or by dropping rocks on them. The game has two enemies: Pookas, round red monsters (created from tomatoes) wearing yellow glasses, and Fygars, green dragons breathing fire. The player character, Dig Dug, is dressed in white and blue and can dig tunnels in the ground. Dig Dug dies if he faces Pooka or Fygar, burns in Fygar’s fire, or if a rock falls on him. After a few seconds, the partially blown monster gradually deflates and regains its normal appearance. During this time, the player can walk through it safely. Monsters usually crawl through tunnels but can turn into ghostly eyes, slowly creeping through the ground. The last enemy in the level will try to escape through the top left corner of the screen.

4th place: Space Invaders

Many people, even those who have never used the Atari 2600, have probably heard of this classic. Although the game is quite simple by today’s standards, it is the founding father of modern gaming. It has helped the game industry become one of the world’s largest. Space Invaders represents the shoot-them-up genre where the player controls a laser cannon by moving it horizontally, at the bottom of the screen, and shooting off aliens looming from the top. The player’s goal is to destroy five rows of eleven aliens moving horizontally and vertically toward the bottom of the screen. The player has an infinite amount of ammunition. When hitting an alien, the player destroys it and receives points. Killing aliens increases the movement speed of the remaining aliens, as well as speeds up the tempo of the sound effects. A more substantial wave appears when all the aliens are destroyed, and the player gets one extra life point. The number of new waves of aliens is unlimited to make the game endless.

3rd place: Super Breakout

Super Breakout has three advanced game modes to choose from: 

  • The Double mode allows the player to play with two racquets simultaneously (one above the other) and two balls. The life point is lost only when both balls are out of play, and as long as they are both in space, the points are doubled; 
  • The Cavity mode is designed the same way as in the first part of Breakout: one racquet and two balls. But there are two more balls on the opposite wall, and the player can also use them to destroy bricks. Extra points are given for this, but tripled points are only given if the player can keep all three balls in play; 
  • The Progressive mode also has a single racquet and a ball, but whenever the ball hits the racquet, the entire opposite wall moves down gradually, and the longer the ball stays in play, the more speed increases. It is the most intense of the three-game variations, requiring more player skills. It causes a desire to break through the lower bricks quickly to reach special bricks and get more points before the wall crushes the player.

2nd place: Missile Command

The point of the game is straightforward but fascinating at the same time: the player moves a crosshair across the sky using the trackball and presses one of the three buttons to launch a counter-missile from the appropriate launcher. Counter-missiles explode when they reach the crosshair, forming a fireball persisting for a few seconds and destroying all enemy missiles that hit it. There are three launchers with ten counter-missiles in each of them. The launcher stops working after all the counter-missiles are used up or if it is destroyed by enemy fire. Missiles from the central launcher fly to the target at much higher speeds. Only such missiles can destroy a smart bomb at a distance.

1st place: Pitfall!

Many people remember this great game by its 16-bit Sega version, but the Atari 2600 version was its ancestor. It is a platformer with side-scrolling, not smooth but with a changing screen. When the hero reaches the end of the screen, a new screen appears, and there are 255 such screens in the game. You’ll have to control an adventurer named Pitfall Harry. The point of the game is to collect all 36 treasures spread over the screen, such as gold bars, bags of money, and rings with gemstones, for the allotted 20 minutes, while numerous obstacles and enemies are hampering it.

The Sega version allows you to play the classic version of the game at one of the levels.