A Short Retrospective on the Atari 2600

When Atari 2600 was THE console...

If you grew up in the 1980s, you know what an Atari 2600 is. It had a relatively short life span but it was famous for its games. We would spend countless hours and quarters in the game room at the arcade and then play Atari 2600 when we needed gaming at home. The console had a grand library of games and still has an old-school charm that seems to be increasingly rare these days. It's no wonder that people want to make their own version of it, albeit with modern hardware and software. 

Today, we'll be looking at some of the best games for this console.


"Asteroids" is one of the first games that we played on the Atari 2600. It was one of the best selling games for this console and it's not hard to see why. The premise of the game is very simple: You control a spaceship and you must shoot asteroids before they hit Earth. The fact that you can play along with 2 or 4 players made it even more interesting. But, as simple as it looks now, it must have been mind-blowing for those who were playing it when it was released to arcades back in 1979. It's truly a classic and if you like old-school games, there's no way around this one.

Yars’ Revenge

"Yars' Revenge" is another game that took the gaming world by storm when it was released in 1982. It's the most successful original game for the Atari 2600. You control a small ship that must shoot at the enemies coming out of their base. The game looks very simple but truth to be told, it isn't easy to play. Our childhood memories are so much brighter when we think about it today because it's so much fun to play over and over again even with gameplay extremely similar to the aforementioned "Asteroids."

The graphics were simple but the gameplay was very engaging and it's one of the reasons why the game was such a big hit. A great game for people who enjoy fast-paced and action-packed games.


Released in late 1980, many people were skeptical about "Adventure" when it first came out because it didn't look like any other game that they had ever played before. It is often said that this is one of the first complex role-playing games on the market and its impact on both the industry and gamers alike can be felt even today. Its "Easter egg" was romanticized in the novel and feature film Ready Player One.

The graphics are simple but they really don't need to be any better than what they are now to capture their purpose: You must explore an ancient castle, fight monsters and find treasure. This fun-packed game will not disappoint you if you're a fan of RPG games.


"Battlezone" is a 1980 arcade game that was ported to the Atari 2600 in 1983. It's a tank-like game where two people can play simultaneously together. One person controls the turret, while another controls the movement of the tank itself. It's a very fun and challenging old-school tank game that looks fantastic even today if you ever decide to play it again for nostalgia reasons. It was a fun game to play with friends; just like online bingo.

For a single player, "Battlezone" can be played in two ways: You either control the turret only or both the turret and tank at once in order to move around more freely on changing levels of terrain. In multiplayer, the second player controls the tank.


"Berzerk" is one of the most well-known games that appeared on the Atari 2600 console in 1982. You must shoot your way toward the exit while avoiding robots that are there to stop you with their fire. The game was quite popular at its time because it added an element of mystery to gameplay since you never knew what kind of foes might be there with their arsenal ready to give you a hard time.

"Berzerk" also has an element of strategy in its gameplay so it's not just another shooter where you shoot everything in sight.

Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong was released in 1981 and it went on to become one of the most successful arcade games of all time. So, it's no wonder that they wanted to port it to most home video game consoles at the time, including Atari 2600. But, shortly after its release, this game had one of the biggest controversies in gaming history: It was believed that Nintendo created this game so they could keep their rights for this game and they didn't want any other companies to own the rights.

After Coleco was granted the home console rights in 1982, they bundled it exclusively with their ColecoVision home console. But just six months after the release, Atari was granted permission to develop Donkey Kong for the Atari 2600 and was released in 1983.

What happened to these games after the 1983 crash?

In 1983, Atari Corporation declared bankruptcy and for a short time it had more than $3 billion in debt. The company was then bought by Jack Tramiel, who established a new entity under the name of Atari Games. The new company was not included in the original bankruptcy auction due to Jack Tramiel's ownership of the firm, but after a lawsuit filed by Warner Communications Atari Games became property of Tramiel.

Atari Games retained several games from Atari's third-party developers, including Activision, Parker Brothers, Imagic and Kee Games. Activision became an independent company, while the others were later sold to other companies like Warner Communications.

Then came Nintendo. In 1985, Nintendo started a console war with their " stalking horse ". In 1988, due to losses, they released the console in the USA at a price below $200 US. And from there on until 1994 it was Nintendo's domination in the video gaming industry.

In 1991, Atari Games released their own follow-up to Atari 2600: The 32-bit UltraHES machine which offered a number of improved features over its predecessor. It had a faster processor and a full 16 MB RAM that allowed programmers to code more complex games for it. This machine was able to compete with the NES, but it wasn't enough just yet. And then came the look of things. In 1992, Atari Corporation was finally bought by Hasbro Interactive, ultimately becoming part of Infogrames Entertainment. Then in 1996 Atari released the Jaguar video game console that brought back to life some classic titles like Tempest and Shadow Dancer.

But it wasn't enough…

Atari released their final home video game machine (outside of handheld systems) in 2001; the Atari Jaguar XE, which was succeeded by the Atari Jaguar XF in 2003. One year later, Infogrames selected to shut down all operations at Atari Games due to restructuring plans initiated by French investor Paul Bekker.

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