Today marks the release of Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration, a huge collection of old-school arcade and home games, compiled with love by Digital Eclipse. It covers nearly the entire span of the company’s history, including its questionable Atari Jaguar days, and includes tons of behind-the-scenes footage to go along with its games.
We’ll be covering the game in more detail next week. But to commemorate the anniversary of the company that brought us so many awesome memories, we thought it would be fitting to name our five favorite Atari arcade games of all time.
Now, of course, this is a huge legacy to cover, ranging from Pit-Fighter and Hard Drivin’ all the way to Blasteroids and Toobin’. But rest assured, we did our homework and selected five games that you should have no trouble tracking down and playing today. Get your quarters ready because it’s time to take a trip back in time!
Released all the way back in 1980 (damn, we’re old), Tempest redefines what a “twitch shooter” is supposed to be. You guide a lighted cursor across an enclosed grid, shooting at enemies that come at you from the middle. But be careful, if they hit you with bullets or attack you from the outside, you lose a turn. Even after 40 (!) years in existence, this is still a truly worthy arcade favorite. Don’t forget the Superzapper recharge!
In the 80s, movie licensed video games were a dime a dozen, and some just didn’t relate to the material that they were covering. However, there were some diamonds in the rough, and among them was Star Wars, a vector-based first-person shooting adventure. You control Luke Skywalker in his X-Wing as he invades the Death Star, blasting TIE fighters and avoiding snowball-like projectiles along the way. The game was a massive hit, and it’s really not hard to see why, as it continues to be highly addictive and fun to play. Alas, it hasn’t had a proper home release in years, but you should be able to track down an Arcade1up machine of your very own with enough dedication. (Plus it has Empire Strikes Back and Return of Jedi to boot!)
Though the visuals may look a bit, ahem, primitive by today’s standards, Primal Rage continues to be an iconic fighting game in its heyday. You take control of legendary creatures as they appease (and eat) their followers, while taking down the competition. Its “hold down buttons” gameplay was unique at the time and worked rather well, and it’s still a blast to play against a friend. Plus the visuals, as 90s as they are, still shine on a pretty good display today. My only real complaint? We never got to see the weird-looking sequel surface in arcades. Well, most.
Wow. RoadBlasters came out in 1987 and it still feels surprisingly fresh, especially when compared to other racers from the decade. The game puts you in a souped up charger, with the mission of reaching the finish before gas runs out. Along the way, you’ll use your cannon and other weapons to clear the road of unfavorables, while watching out for mines and other obstacles. This one is still a great deal of fun, and has aged rather well with its visuals and music. We could use a reboot anytime here, Atari. Maybe something with multiplayer…?
As one of the games that truly started it all for the company, Asteroids is surprisingly complex. You use buttons to control your ship instead of a joystick (well, in older versions), busting up space rocks and avoiding gunfire from flying spaceships. Things get frantic quickly in each stage, so you’ll need quick maneuvering and blasting if you want to stay alive. In spite of the simple black and white visuals and the successful sequels that followed, we’re still in love with what the original Asteroids did for us.
Now here’s a game that doesn’t, ahem, bug us. GET IT?! Anyway, Centipede is all about shooting the heck out of some insects, while using an innovative (at the time) trackball controller to handle movement. But be careful, spiders come popping out of nowhere and bothersome mushrooms can easily get in the way. This one’s still a classic to this very day, and continues to thrive with arcade and current-gen reboots. But the original’s where it’s at, even though we don’t have a trackball controller to enjoy it with. Yet.
Happy 50th anniversary, Atari!
Want to win a fresh new console to play Atari 50 on? We’ve got you covered with our giveaway!