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The Top 20 Greatest Games For Your Atari - The Atari Times

The Top 20 Greatest Games For Your Atari


Atarians vote on the best games for Atari systems
by Gregory D. George

August 14, 2002
How many times have you clicked on a "World's Greatest Video Games" link only to discover that most of the games listed were released within the past few months? Or even worse, the list omits such important video gaming milestones likePong, Asteroids, or Tempest 2000?

Welcome, classic Atari gamer, to The Top 20 Greatest Games for your Atari!

All of the games on this list should be recognizable to anyone who has ever played an Atari system. There aren't many surprises here, which just goes to show you how important these games are! And since the readers decided on these games, this list is indisputable! ;-)

So, without further adieu, let's begin the list!

Honorable Mentions:

Here is a list of several games that definitely deserve to be remembered as some of the greats of all time.

  • Battlezone (Arcade)
  • Crystal Castles (Arcade)
  • Dig Dug (Arcade)
  • Frontier: Elite II (Atari ST)
  • Gauntlet (Arcade)
  • Klax (Arcade)
  • Midi Maze (Atari ST)
  • Miner 2049er (Atari 8-bit)
  • Populous (Atari ST)
  • Qix (5200)
  • Starglider (Atari ST)
  • Star Wars (arcade)

20. Pitfall II: Lost Caverns


The sequel to one of the most well-known games from the golden age of video gaming, Pitfall II takes the concept of spelunking to new heights and pushes the Atari 2600 to it's limits! Thanks to a special chip, this game is widely regarded as having some of the best music ever produced by an Atari 2600.

Versions: 2600, 5200, 8-bit.

19. Dungeon Master


Dungeon Master is one of those great RPG games where you must traverse a dungeon in real time fighting monsters and learning spells. Prior to this, adventure games were mostly text adventures or 2D games where you "look down" on your character. Dungeon Master turned that all around and made adventuring a 3D experience!

Versions: Atari ST

18. Tempest


If you're looking for the most frantic blasting action ever, you can't do better than the original Tempest! From it's color vector display to the precise dial-controller, Tempest is a game no true video game fan can pass up!

Versions: Arcade, Atari ST, Jaguar.

17. Breakout


Breakout took Pong to the next level putting Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak on the video game map. The anticipation builds as you attempt to smash a small hole in the side so that your ball can hit the bricks from the other side. What a rush when all works in your favor!

Versions: Arcade, 2600, 5200, 8-bit, Jaguar.

16. Pong


Those who say the video game started with Computer Space would be wrong. Pong was the game that catapulted the video game from the bar to the home. Clones of the game appeared everywhere and Atari and the video game was launched into the public eye for the very first time.

Versions: Arcade, 2600, Dedicated consoles

15. Star Raiders


Before Star Raiders, space combat had never been so much fun or exciting! This is one 32K game that managed to blow people away with it's fantastic graphics and gameplay. Star Raiders was such an awesome experience, that many people bought and Atari computer just so they could play it. Play any space combat today and you will see influences of the original (and still the best) Star Raiders.

Versions: 2600, 5200, 8-bit, Atari ST

14. Kaboom!


There's something special about racing the mad bomber that keeps Kaboom! in so many classic lists. The game is so simple, fast, easy, and fun to play that it's no wonder everyone who plays it gets hooked. You goal is to prevent the bombs from reach the bottom of the screen. Use your water buckets to stop them, or else Kaboom!

Versions: 2600, 5200, 8-bit

13. Alien vs. Predator


Voted as one of the scariest games of all time, Alien vs. Predator will have your heart pumping a mile a minute! Not only is this game a fright-fest, it also requires the use of something most FPS action games don't: Your mind! Don't forget, you can also play as the alien or the Predator. "Game over, man! Game over!"

Versions: Jaguar

12. Ms. Pac-Man


The 2600 version of Ms. Pac-Man is so spectacular, it's almost enough to make gamers forget about that awful original version! The goal: Guide the first lady of video gaming around a maze eating dots and chomping ghosts! She really is more than Pac-Man with a bow!

Versions: 2600, 5200, 7800, Lynx

11. Space Invaders


Space Invaders for the 2600 is widely regarded as the first killer app for any system. When the world was going crazy for the arcade version of Space Invaders, this was the only system that allowed you to play it at home. Defend the earth from the marching aliens and the evil purple football!

Versions: 2600, 5200, 8-bit, Atari ST

10. Yars' Revenge


Now here's a game concept you won't see in the political correct millennium! You are an angry fly out for a little revenge on the Quotile. You must attack the shield and then blast the core with your cannon. Yars' Revenge is one of the most unique games ever, even if it was meant as a clone of Star Castle.

Versions: 2600

9. Centipede


Do you remember the first time you saw Centipede? Do you recall that moment that you placed your hand on the cool white tracball and sensed the precise control it delivered? Do you remember the moment when you yelled at the game, "Darn you, you stupid spider!" Few people will remember the exact moment they first played this game because it's likely they've played it hundreds of times since. Centipede is one of the greatest games of all time because it offers fast action, and easy to learn gameplay.

Versions: Arcade, 2600, 5200, 7800

8. Warlords


If you were asked to devise a 4-player version of Breakout, would you have thought of Warlords? Yes, long before this game turned hands into claws on the 2600, Warlords began it's life as an arcade game. Few games elicit as much multiplayer excitement as Warlords. And the computer even puts up a decent fight against would be attackers.

Versions: Arcade, 2600 & a 5200 Homebrew titled "Castle Crisis."

7. Missile Command


Alert! Alert! Incoming ICBMs! You have been chosen to protect the earth from nuclear extermination!

The theme of this game has rung home for over 20 years now. Missile Command has become the defacto standard game when referring to nuclear war. Even John Connor defended the world by playing it it Terminator 2.

Versions: Arcade, 2600, 5200, 8-bit, Jaguar, Lynx

6. River Raid


Whenever River Raid is mentioned, so is the name Carol Shaw. She is one of the few women game designers who has not been overlooked in this male dominated industry. The fact that River Raid is so beloved by gamers should be an inspiration to all of us, male and female. Oh, and don't forget to refuel!

Versions: 2600, 5200, 8-bit

5. Pitfall


Were you as blown away as I was when you first saw Pitfall Harry swing on that vine? Did you cringe having to cross the crocodile infested ponds? And did you ever wonder where in the heck those underground caverns lead? Pitfall! is another one of those games that remains a classic. Shoot, there was even a cartoon featuring Harry, Rhonda, and Quickclaw!

Versions: 2600, 5200, 8-bit

4. Combat


There isn't a 2600 owner in the world who has not played Combat. As the two-player only pack-in game for the VCS, you needed a friend to play which meant video games were the path to becoming a social event instead of a solitary one. Today, you'd be hard pressed to find a game where you must find a living opponent. Had this style of game continued, video games might not have become such an "anti-social activity."

Versions: 2600

3. Tempest 2000


Forget the scores and the polls... THIS is the Jaguar's best game. Don't tell me you haven't played it, or read about it, or seen pictures, because I know darn well that you have. Jeff Minter truly outdid himself with this game, and it's likely it will never be topped. Not even by Jeff himself. This web has a mind of it's own!

Versions: Jaguar

2. Asteroids


Do you have any concept how big of a game Asteroids is? Not in code size, but in sheer popularity and name recognition. THIS, my friends, is the game that brought down the mighty Space Invaders. This is the game that has been imitated and copied more often than any game on the planet. And this is one of the few games that is as fun today as it was in 1979.

Versions: Arcade, 2600, 7800, 8-bit

Can you guess the number one Atari game of all time?




Reader Comments for The Top 20 Greatest Games For Your Atari

by Pac Man on 2014-03-26 15:35:40
Lady Bug and Pacman were my favorites
Top 20 games by John on 2014-10-01 21:01:00
Someone forgot H.E.R.O.
Possible the best game for the 2600. But definitely in the top 5.
Oy! by Darryl B. on 2014-10-02 12:37:47
Good catch with H. E. R. O., that game was amazing considering it ran on a 2600! It didn't get as much attention as it deserved due to coming out during the crash, but at least it got ported around to a crapload of platforms (console and computer) though.
Fan assembled by Gregory D. George on 2014-10-02 22:26:33
Well, this list was assembled by fans. If I remember correctly, it was 10 points for your #1 game, 9 for the #2, and so on. Then it was all averaged together. So, yeah, HERO is a great game, but the aggregate didn't think so. :(
by Darryl B. on 2014-10-03 15:51:01
It was one of those that slipped under the cracks, as it wasn't a huge seller and well known that way. Escape from the MindMaster is another one that comes to mind (pardon the pun) too.
List by Android on 2016-08-14 01:20:24
Some of these games are terrible. I can think of many many others more deserving.
by Edwin Archbold on 2017-04-17 10:41:50
I think Galaga
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