Monday, June 30

CDP's Top 30 Atari Games Of All-Time (15-1).


Finally, the second 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 26 years, and by no means is a complete document of well-researched Atari 2600 history. Please enjoy.


15. Asteroids

Proof that classic and timeless games don't have to look good at all to be amazing, Asteroids looked identical on almost every platform it was released for, including the 2600. Most games from this era had no ending; you simply played until you died, and that always gave me an anxiety complex at the time. Even though I loved Asteroids, I'm pleased that we've more or less moved on from 'high score' aspect and focused more on rewarding the victor with a cheap cut scene or poorly-dubbed dialogue. We've come so far.

Semper Fi, SS Triangle. Semper Fi.


14. River Raid

River Raid always reminded me of Spy Hunter if it was set in a river (such brilliant insight by a published author). This was yet another one of the many spectacular games created by Activision for the Atari 2600, and one of the more popular at the time; everyone I knew had River Raid before I did. I was never any good at it, but I always came back in an attempt to conquer it, which is a sign of a classic game, in my opinion.


13. Berserk

What an interesting and groundbreaking game. Enemies that couldn't be killed, one of the first examples of speech synthesis in a cartridge, maze-like levels and a Boss that actually killed players in real-life. If you've been previously unaware of Berserk, click the links and get educated on one of the weirder chapters of early gaming history.


12. Centipede/Millipede

Also known as Panic Attack: The Game, the Centipede/Millipede combo was fast-paced, frantic, worthy only of skilled players and capable of causing all-out brawls between friends competing for high scores. I think I remember getting punched in the face as a direct result of a Centipede marathon. I'm sure I was in the right, whatever the argument was.


11. Crystal Castles

The older I get, the more I appreciate and enjoy Crystal Castles. Sure, 'Bentley Bear' is one of the more feminine and un-intimidating lead characters in Video Game history, but this was the first attempt at taking a Pac-Man-style game and putting into the third dimension. There used to be a Crystal Castles machine at the laundromat next to my best friend's house in the Third Grade, reminding me that the best memories are sometimes made in the most awkward and depressing places. I'm so happy that I own my own washing machine.


10. Seaquest

Seaquest holds an interesting place in my heart for being the only game in history that my mother could destroy me at. She loved this game; absolutely adored it for some reason, and practiced hard and often at consistently taking me to task over and over again. She never showed this level of compassion or obsession for any other game since then, which I find incredibly bizarre, yet endearing. From my own standpoint, the sound effects and gameplay are addictive and the premise is fun and endlessly replayable. I love Seaquest, although probably not as much as my mom did.


9. Breakout

When it comes to simplistic, addictive games, Breakout is nearly on par with Tetris as being stylistically perfect. The 'seconds to learn, a lifetime to master' element shines with full-force here, all but cementing Breakout's status as a game that will be played for generations to come. No honest storylines, characters or objectives to speak of here, just a fun exercise that has entertained millions for almost 30 years now.


8. Pole Position

The racing game that essentially created all racing games to follow, Pole Position was an arcade staple; In fact, I've seen more of these machines at various arcades over the last 20 years than any other games I can think of, with the exception of Ms. Pac-Man. The Atari 2600 transfer wasn't 100% perfect, but for me, the idea of never having to pay to play Pole Position again was an awesome feeling for my 7-year-old self.


7. Space Invaders

Oh, man. What else is there to say about Space Invaders? The sheer paranoia brought about by the grating sound effects and ever-advancing alien army. The fact that it's one of the longest-lasting and revered video games ever made. The fact that, even after all these years, it sort of scares me for some reason. There's just something about Space Invaders that we're all well-aware of, and that's neat to me. Maybe the nostalgic feeling of the game has long surpassed the actual credentials that Space Invaders realistically entails, but isn't that what all good things do?


6. Jungle Hunt

Stage One: Swing through a series of vines. Stage Two: Swim with (and subsequently stab to death) bloodthirsty crocodiles. Stage Three: Jump over/run under advancing boulders of various sizes. Stage Four: Jump over two evil cannibals that plan on eviscerating your girlfriend. Repeat as necessary. The sound was tight, the graphics did exactly what they needed to do, and the realization that the 'girlfriend' you just saved was a pigtail-swinging 10-year-old make Jungle Hunt an absolute must-play Atari 2600 classic.


5. Frogger

As you've probably noticed with this Top 15 list, it's really hard to list the shortcomings or downfalls of the bulk of these games. When you talk about the greatest Atari and Arcade classics of all-time, you're dealing with games that have transcended their electronic limitations and changed our lives in one way or another. Ranking some of these games is arguably next to impossible; they're all worthy of the highest praise. Frogger is no exception. By taking a simple task, throwing a simple storyline atop of it and adding simple twists to appeal to gamers, Frogger is a perfect example of flawless game creation in action.

With current games boasting 90 minutes of cutscenes, downloadable content, online play and endless button combinations, it's good to remember that myriad options does not necessarily a classic game make.


4. Spider Fighter

Sweet merciful Jesus, do I love Spider Fighter. Apart from the awesome cover art and downright-disgusting instruction manual art for the game, it is without any uncertainty the fastest and most difficult Atari 2600 game I've ever played. You can click on the accompanying link to see the gameplay in action if you wish, which is an absolute blast and improving on just about everything that its influences had created in the past. When it came to producing quality Atari games, Activision was in a class all its own. There is a 'plug-and-play' game out there now with Spider Fighter on it; I strongly suggest you shell out the $9.95 and own it for yourself.


3. Missile Command

February 1, 1987. A day which will live in infamy. The Atari 2600 is given to me by my parents for my 5th birthday, which includes a copy of Missile Command. A mere handful of hours later, Missile Command becomes the very first of hundreds of video games that I win. The feeling was incredible, and I've been a changed man ever since. My sister was born the day prior to this, but I'll stand firm in my theory that my Missile Command victory had the longest and most profound effect on me.


2. Pitfall!

Three years before Super Mario Bros. took over the world, Pitfall Harry made gaming history for the Atari 2600. With an astounding 2.6 million copies sold, Pitfall! is one of the most popular cartridge games ever made, and rightfully so. This was a game; there were objectives. There was a beginning and an end (not a great one, but a definitive ending nonetheless). There was strategy, a time limit, and many different ways to complete your missions. In short, this was a brilliant example of what would later become the home gaming explosion of the late-80's. For my money, Pitfall! was the greatest game ever created specifically for the Atari 2600.


1. Dig Dug

After all this time, after all these years and after all these advances in entertainment and video game technology, there is one game on this Top 30 list that I will come back to again and again, and it's Dig Dug. It's the perfect combination of strategy, pattern recognition, high score maximization, sound effects and theme music (which only plays if you're moving around, hilariously), increasingly difficult levels and the feeling that you can always get better at it. Dig Dug is a true, original classic. It's still fun, still conjures up good feelings and memories and can be played by anyone. To me, it's what best represents the Atari 2600 Age, and those who were fortunate enough to live in it.

Thanks for reading. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

Dig Dug is a good game but not a great game. Pitfall was my favorite, happy to see it place so high.
Always have and always will love Pitfall. In fact, I may name my third child Pitfall Harry. Although, then kids may short his name and dub him Pit-Hair. Hmm. Guess I'll have to think that one through.

And Asteroids was an instant classic. If for nothing else, it provided us one of the classic lines from National Lampoon's Vacation:

"You got Asteroids?"
"No, but my dad does. Can't even sit on the toilet some days."
I went back and forth between Pitfall! and Dig Dug right up until I published this list; it was a tough decision. If I had been a little more skilled at the former as a kid, it probably would have ousted the latter.

Naming your child Pitfall Harry is just asking for trouble. Jason Lee probably already has purchased the rights to it.

Also, looking at the Asteroids photograph reminded me of that damn UFO that shows up and obliterates you for next-to-no reason from time to time. What was with our irrational fear of aliens in the late 70's and early 80's?
I cannot believe Fast Food did not make the list.
Yay for Dig Dug!

I think I am going to go through my hubby's secret stash of Atari to see which of these games he owns.

Actually, it is not such a secret. He has two giant Rubbermaid bins meticulously labeled "Atari 2600." They are on the shelves in the room where nothing can touch the floor. :)
I think we were all afraid of aliens until ID4 came out in '96 and taught us that UFOs are MAC campatible, and that all you have to do is upload a virus from your MAC to theirs and you'll cripple their defenses.
HATHERY - I can't believe that I actually own Fast Food.

HILBELINK - For the record, I still own 21 of the 30 games on my list, and I had owned up to 27 of them. I'd go to the exchange store and buy them out someday, but I honestly don't know how much time I'd seriously spend playing the 2600, especially with Guitar Hero 4 looming on the horizion.

BRUCE - Isn't it poetic that we're capable of killing damn near everything with a virus? Humans are way worse than roaches when it comes to being walking infestations of unstoppable death and destruction. It's the only reason we've lasted this long.

Bill Pullman, especially.
CDP - I think all this talk of Fast Food means you need to put together a "Worst Atari/Nintendo Games of All Time" list. It must be done!

I, too, was and continue to be a big fan of Pitfall!, Frogger, and Dig Dug, so consider me content with this list.

Also, I got my mix from Will K. in the mail this weekend! And it totally rocks! Huzzah!
Fast Food is actually very fun. Ryan just doesn't like it because I was better at it than him.
Fast Food is idiotic and should be played by no one. It's better than E.T., but only by a little bit.

I'd love to make a list of the Worst NES/Atari games of all-time, but I probably haven't played very many of them, and would feel very sad spending a ton of money on research.

I do, however, want to keep doing more of these retro-nostalgia list thingies (especially to pass the time when I start writing the next book), and I still want to cover the best Super Nintendo/Sega Genesis games of all-time.

From there, who knows.
My research on Fast Food has showed me that many look back on it with fond memories. I don't see why it's any more stupid than all the other repetitive Atari games. At least this had funny graphics!

You also forgot Human Cannonball on this list.
Mmm-hmm, Circus Atari, too.

The reason it's stupid is that instead of aliens, bad guys, monsters or exploding cars, you're digesting food with a disembodied mouth. That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, significantly moreso than any other game on my list.

Most importantly, I wasn't introduced to Fast Food until I was 21 years old, which is way too long after the fact.
You just weren't LUCKY enough to have it as a kid. Thank goodness this gem made it into our lives as adults.

And Human Cannonball.
You're just begging for a beating tonight, aren't you?
The principal just found me to tell me that my truck has a flat tire. Blast! (I know that is related more to Friday's post, but I just need to vent.)
HATHERY - I love Wil Wheaton, and I remember sending this article to you a year ago.

"POW! He was decapitated! They found his head over by the Sno-Cone concession!"

HILLBILLY - Remember to set the parking brake, and tighten the lugs in an equal fashion.
Yeah--I probably didn't read it. You send me lots of articles :(
I'm just trying to make you a part of my world, baby!

(To be said in a 'Snake' from The Simpsons voice)
No, I do remember reading it now. When I was looking at the article I was thinking "Hey, I've thought that joke before!"...but I haven't. I was just remembering back to the last time I read the article. Foiled again.
Jungle Hunt!!!
Wil Wheaton has already invented everything that's cool. We're merely bobbing around in his wake.

I hate that bastard. He has my life.

MOE - Out of all the games on my list, I think I spent the most time playing Jungle Hunt. The 'cannibal' music is hypnotic.
Fast Food - "It's simple, difficult, and challenging...all at the same time." ~ TheLegend2600, YouTube contributer (11/22/07)
CDP - No kidding. I'd pay $10 just to see the game again, let along play it.
MOE - Proof that Fast Food fans are to be pitied. Friends don't let friends comment on YouTube.

There's gotta be an exchange store near you that carries Jungle Hunt. Either that, or there is no God.
There's not an exchange store that carries Fast Food, though. It's in the "rare" category on the Atari 2600 cartridge lists. Another reason it's awesome.
Yeah, I couldn't be happier that I own it. My pantaloons are filling with urine as we speak.
Dig-Dug! Yes!

(That is all time allots me to comment. I've got to go to bed...)
First...I can't believe it took you that long to come up with Hillbilly.

Second...I can't believe you called me Hillbilly. I thought we were friends.

By the by...Scott walked me through the steps of changing a tire today, and I recognized all of them thanks to your recycled post. :)

Except my truck doesn't have a parking brake. But it does have a big hole in the side. I got that going for me.
Pitfall! Yippeeeee!
I had an Atari XE... it was half video game system / half computer. It didn't do much of anything in my house except play Dig Dug. Good call on you're number one pick!
CAVEMAN - Sleep tight, gentle Caveman. Sleep tight.

HULLABALOO - My fingers kept wanting to type Hillbilly, so I gave them just that one liberty. Never again.

Glad you got the truck fixed.

REESE - I'ma play me some Pitfall! tonight, yo.

BLENDETTA - Darn right. Thanks for commenting; don't be a stranger to the CDP!
This Atari XE intrigues me; I wish to subscribe to its newsletter.
CM Punk! CM Punk!

Oh, and I got to see Kofi's rump. That was truly a Jamaican sensation.
"Put that in your blog, barbecue boy!"

Funniest line ever.
Yep, it was a good night overall.
Oh. My. God.
CDP, you know what you have to do. Now make it so.
This is a capitol blog brimming with good old timey cocksuckery. Well done you miscreants. Rickey shall indeed return.
EMILY - The Donkey Kong wallpaper would fit so awesomely in my office right now, you have no idea. Perhaps a decal purchase is in order...

RICKEY - Well, I do proclaim Rickey Henderson to be the most whimsical jest of the season! Thank you, kind sir, and thanks for all the stolen bases.
Great stuff about the glories of the old Atari. I loved Buck Rogers and the 24 Century, I think that's right. I'm trying to check out the blogs that are rated as the funniest online, keep up the good work.

My blog is
I've just started updating it again, mostly yarns about Yoda, the Hulk, Barack Obama, etc. Hopefully the humor will hit home, keep up the great work on this site.
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