Released all the way back in 1977, the Atari 2600, also commonly referred to as the Atari VCS, ignited a video gaming revolution. Though not technically the first video game console, the 2600 is credited with popularizing in-home gaming and more-or-less laid the foundation for the ever-growing industry.
While it packed less computing power than what’s found in the average microwave these days, the rudimentary early Atari library still hosts a couple of must-play games. Of course, most of the best 2600 games were simple, mediocre conversions of popular arcade titles, but they maintain an undeniable appeal that has yet to diminish.
One of the best-selling titles on the seminal console, Activision’s Pitfall! put the publisher on the map and showcased just how entertaining these downsized arcade ports could be.
A jungle adventure for the ages, the goal of Pitfall! is to navigate across a total of 256 screens and collect 32 treasures within a time limit of twenty minutes. It was a daunting high-score sprint that many children of the early 80s may well remember, and, despite its stiff controls and blocky visuals, it remains every bit as entertaining as it was in 1982.
A pack-in title that shipped with almost every Atari console released before 1982, most gamers who grew up with the console likely have fond memories of battling friends and siblings in the iconic multiplayer title Combat.
Two players take control of what could charitably be described as a pair of tanks and navigate a one-screen course, aiming to bombard each other into oblivion. While it’s arguably too simple to hold anyone’s attention these days, there’s a definite appeal to its approachability, and dusting this off and playing it with a couple of friends can be a definite blast, even forty-some years later.
Originally released in 1984, the Atari 2600’s Kung-Fu Master was a loose adaptation of the Jackie Chan movie Meal On Wheels, which debuted the same year. An incredibly innovative title for its time that sported a not-insignificant resemblance to 1985’s NES title Kung Fu, Kung-Fu Master featured five unique levels, each of which contained a boss.
Though it was still a high-score-centric arcade port, Kung-Fu Master‘s level-based structure was ahead of its time, and the combat was about as nuanced and intricate as a single-button controller could allow. It’s definitely worth checking out today, if only to appreciate how influential it would have been for early game developers.