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2600 Games Worse Than E.T. - The Atari Times

2600 Games Worse Than E.T.


Sorry Howard, E.T. is NOT the worst game of all time!
by Gregory D. George

May 19, 2014
As you may know, a recent expedition to the Alamogordo landfill in New Mexico was undertaken by a team looking to find the "3 million E.T. carts" that were supposedly buried there. You've surely seen this on the interwebs that they ended up finding more than just E.T. cartridges. And the person who dumped the cartridges said it was more like 700,000+ rather than 3 million.

One of the bylines for every story seemed to be, "Worst game of all time found in New Mexico desert." Howard Scott Warshaw, the programmer of E.T. actually likes that the game has received that moniker so he can joke about how he has the widest range of game ratings since Yars' Revenge is one of the best Atari games. But the truth is: E.T. is faaaarrr from being the worst game on the Atari 2600 let alone the "Worst game of all-time."

So, why is E.T. often called the worst game? Because the lazy media would rather blame the 1983 crash on one game rather than a glut of bad games which is the actual truth. Poor E.T. has become the scapegoat for everything bad that has ever happened in video gaming! Now, that's not to say that E.T. is the greatest game ever - It's not. But it's not the worst ever either. (Have you played Superman 64?!)

So yes, it was more than a single game that brought it all crashing down and it's time for these bad games to take responsibility and share the blame! So, here's a list of some games that are worse that E.T., and I didn't have to look all that hard to find them! Atari experts say these games are terrible, let's find out!


BugsBasic Math / Fun With Numbers - So, yeah... kids love to play games about school, right? So doing math problems is exactly what they want to do at home, right? No. There is no gameplay here. Just solve the problem. Yeesh...

Bugs - Move your paddle left and right and shoot critters advancing to the top of the screen. But avoid the critter that can hit your paddle. Hm... I can see where this might have been OK as an arcade game, but not... oh, who am I kidding? Since I can't shoot the critter that attacks me, this game sucks!

Concentration / Hunt & Score / Memory Match - This game uses the keypad controller. Shoot, I can't even get it to start in Stella... Gee, I must be dumb. Why would you play this on a video screen when you could do the same thing with a deck of cards?!

Cruise Missile / Radar - So I'm flying my saucer in a very narrow strip at the top. What am I supposed to do? Seems like the fire button does nothing. And don't tell me to read the manual when people don't bother to read the E.T. manual either!

Dancing PlateDancing Plate / Dishaster - Who comes up with this stuff? Run around and keep plates spinning so they don't crash to the ground. Smash 'em all I say! This reminds me a bit of Tapper, but what would you rather do? Have a drink or run around an spin plates? The animation and sound are horrible in this one.

Fire Fly - How could something named "Firefly" be so awful? This is what passed for a game back then? There's no gameplay that I can see. You just move around and do... what? Nothing?

Flag Capture - This is a "strategy game" and it appears to be 2-player only. It has some blocky graphics even by 2600 standards. It might have been better if it was turn-based, but it's really just a "who can find the flag the fastest?" I can't see enjoying this one at all.

Football - It's football, for the 2600! Some people like this one I suppose. Oh, wait, NO ONE likes this game. It's only on one screen, there are only 6 players on the field, and the game play is lame.

Glacier Patrol - Not a horrible game, really. But certainly not better than E.T. You walk back and forth and shoot ice bricks that drop downwards. Kind of like Oink! in reverse. Every so often a snowball zips past and you have to jump over it by pressing down. Down!? Why not Up? Not a very fun game.

Home Run - MAYBE if they pared down the game and called it "Home Run Derby" it could have been more fun. But as it is, it's the most poor excuse for a baseball game I have ever seen.

Karate - Tall and skinny characters, sluggish controls, boring game play... WHAT THE HECK? WHY ISN'T THIS THE FACE OF THE 1983 CRASH!?!?

Pac-ManPac-Man - Ok, so some people hate this game, so I decided to list it here. Is it worse than E.T.? Debatable. The main criticism is that Pac-Man is not like the arcade, but at least it's PLAYABLE! Unlike most of the games on this list.

Porn games - No redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Racquetball - I give them marks for trying to do a 3D perspective and it has some cute looking characters, but trying to figure out where to go to hit the ball... This game never should have been attempted on the 2600.

Skeet Shoot - I don't know whether to laugh or cry with this one... It sort of feels like Atlantis with practically no graphics. It's almost impossible to hit the skeet. You man appears at random locations at the bottom... Maybe it would have been better to keep him in one place?

Skin Diver/Scuba Diver/Sea Hunt - Meh, it's not terrible. Has some gameplay to it. I originally thought it sucked since you automatically dive about half-way into the water,but I guess they were trying for realism (haha.) What I don't like is how after you shoot your spear-gun, you can't move. So if you miss, that giant whale is going to get you.

Slot Racer - I remember wanting this one back in the day. I thought the cartridge art was so cool... I'm glad I never ended up getting it, because I would have been very disappointed! Pretty lame graphics, practically no sound, weird controls (although they make sense after a few tries) and it's only 2 player.

Sneak n PeekSneak N Peek - Um... Is this a porn game? Really, the characters look a bit "excited" if you know what I mean. It has some nice graphics I guess, but the game play is nil. Walk around and find the other player. And hope they didn't watch you as you went to hide. This falls into the category, "Why does this need to be a video game?"

Sorcerer - Well, it's playable. You hop on a magic carpet (I guess) and fly to the right, shoot a group of 3 bad guys (with one shot) and collect the treasure. Maybe they were going for a Pitfall! vibe here but with shooting? I don't know and I don't even care. Dull in 2 seconds.

Sssnake! - I always wondered why people hated this game... Thing is, I always got it confused with Tapeworm which is much better and lives up to the Snake style of  gameplay. Anyway, I think they were copying Centipede with this one. My beef with this is that I can only move around the inner part of the screen and not anywhere I want to! WHY?

Star Fox - A Defender-esque type game... but I can't even hit anything! I saw the AVGN review (Mike & James reviews actually) of this game and they showed how you get "flipped off" when you get hit. A grand (I mean crap) game if ever there was one.

Star Ship - This could be the inspiration for Star Raiders... in Star Ship you look out into space from your cockpit and shoot invading aliens. That's it. The graphics are very basic and the game-play is monotonous. There is a "Lunar Lander" option, but it's not nearly as good as it sounds.

SwordQuest - Ah yes, the much maligned SwordQuest games. Most of the games on this list are derided for being too simple with lame graphics and game-play. SwordQuest on the other hand is hated because it's too frickin' complicated! You have to find objects and move them to their correct room and solve a puzzle from the comic book. Uh, my brain hurts, make it stop!

Texas Chainsaw Massacre - This has it's fun moments as you get to run around as Leatherface and kill everyone with your chainsaw. Don't forget the gas! There's really nothing to this game and gets boring quickly.

Vulture AttackVulture Attack / Condor Attack - Looks like they were trying to copy Demon Attack here. But with terrible graphics and one life? Not sure how to get my gun to start moving or firing. Anyway, why play this when there's Demon Attack or Phoenix?!

Yes, there are clearly lots of games that are worse that E.T. If I had paid full price for any of these games back in the day I would have been really ticked off. Gee, you don't suppose THAT is what caused the crash of 1983? Not just a single game, but many of them!

And these games aren't just worse than E.T., they are WAAAAAAAY worse! It's a proven fact! (Sorry Howard, I know you like to think you programmed the worst game of all time, but I think that Fire Fly programmer has got you beat by a mile!)

So don't perpetuate the myth. E.T. is NOT the worst game of all time!

Am I way off the mark? Did I insult your favorite game? Well, you know what you can do about that right? Leave a comment below!




More bad games! FireFly, Glacier Patrol, Skeet Shoot, Sssnake!, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Sorcerer.

Fire Fly Glacier Patrol Skeet Shoot Sssnake! Texas Chainsaw Massacre  Sorcerer








Reader Comments for 2600 Games Worse Than E.T.

Bad ones by Darryl B. on 2014-05-19 21:55:29
Yep, Sneak 'n Peek made no sense whatsoever as a game. I played several games of it when I bought a friend's 7800 and it was in the batch. It wasn't fun or anything.

Star Ship--BIG disappointment when I played it on an emulator, since I liked the way better arcade game it was supposedly based on. The Lunar Lander games on there were a total joke, nothing like the arcade game of the same name.

Sword Quest--the problem with that is that it was hard and not fun, along with the puzzles.

Surprised at Solar Fox though, although I never played this port. I played the arcade original though.
Heh, I can't read by Darryl B. on 2014-05-19 21:57:04
STAR Fox, NOT Solar Fox! I never even heard of that one.
Bad by Gregory D. George on 2014-05-20 09:49:32
Yeah, Solar Fox is pretty good!

I went through all these games for this article and I felt sick afterwards... bad game after bad game! Yeah, it's no wonder the industry crashed with so many angry customers saying, "Never again!" when they got shafted with a $40 lemon. But with some of the crap games that come out now I sometimes wonder if we learned anything from this? Hm....
Swordquest by Eric on 2014-09-07 00:12:24
Eh. Swordquest isn't complicated. Just *not good.* I had... Earthworld, I think. It was an unconnected mess of random rooms - here you're trying to ... not get hit by horns, there you're playing something like a bad frogger ripoff - it was really just a horrible series of games.

That said, it could probably be an MMO today. (The series, that is.)
Great List! by Bruiser on 2014-09-15 02:34:10
Not sure I can add anything, but this was a great list and it's good t see some defense for poor old E.T...

I saw somewhere there's a modern 're-release' of E.T with a lot of the bugs fixed.
Exocet by Joel H on 2015-07-19 12:39:46
This was the worst game ever.
You are right! by Aloan on 2015-09-22 19:46:59
having been there with the 2600, I liked playing E.T. back in the day.. I knew that I had to just be careful with the pits, but it was a nice game and yes so many other games that did not even make it to the list exist! I'm glad some smart people can know the truth: that E.T. is far from it!
Texas Chainsaw by Fred on 2015-11-07 12:09:46
Michael Myers is Halloween, not Texas Chainsaw. That's Leatherface.

Leatherface by Gregory D. George on 2016-03-26 15:11:51
Thanks Fred, I corrected it.
Airlock by Tinnitis on 2016-06-07 20:51:33
AIRLOCK BY DATA AGE could be won in minutes! Both levels! What do you do then but wish you had your $30 back?
ET by gambler172 on 2016-08-17 14:11:47
ET is not bad....I like it
Why do people ocuiuse Atari not being fun by Bob on 2017-01-16 00:47:28
People always give Atari shit just because of graphics of the game when will gamers learn that graphics are not everything .You now what matters it's the fact the game is fun to play and it works . Give Atari a break with calling E t a bad game .The guy who programmed it only had 5 weeks to work on the game . And he did a pretty good job on it okay I said it .Atari was giving the gamers what they wanted a diffut game so they gave it to them .So it came out and people thought it was glitch ing out or something .It was not gliching out at all you just needed to read the freakin instruction manual on how to play . You t was not Atari making crappy games it was the over devolopers that we're doing .There I said you people can argue with me all you want oh no Atari was making those games .Well let's get back to E t the guy had 5 weeks to work on it well if you people think you can make a
Perfect game in 5 weeks go ahead and try . You see it just won't work .Another thing that really took a toll on Atari was the fact that they sold their arcade divion . Such was making games with really great graphics so the Atari that makes the home video game consuls should have fryer to work out a deal were Atari arcade give Atari coonsules the rights to port over the games like they were originally presented in but they could make some minor changes . I am not saying that you guys treat Atari like crap it's the other people that do it like the youtubers
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