7 Forgotten Atari 2600 Classics

Released in September 1977, the Atari 2600—initially known as the Atari Video Computer System (or VCS for short)—defined the early home console gaming era with simple, inexpensive hardware that proved rugged and capable.

Due to a flexible video hardware design, creative programmers stretched the console’s market lifespan far beyond what its designers originally intended, and the platform took the industry to incredible heights. (Just before crashing the whole thing, but that’s a story for another time.)

If you’re familiar with the Atari 2600’s legendary gaming library of over 400 titles, you’ve probably heard of, or even played, games like Combat, Yars’ Revenge, Pitfall!, River Raid, Demon Attack, or popular arcade conversions like Frogger, Super Breakout, Ms. Pac-Man, Centipede, or Space Invaders. Classic games like Adventure and the Swordquest series pioneered home console adventure games, while titles like Basketball, Home Run, and Tennis showed what console sports gaming could be during the medium’s formative years.

The 2600’s library feels incredibly diverse: Dozens of genres appeared on the platform, including platformers, shooters, simulations, word games, and weird stuff that I can’t even describe. I thought it would be fun to look beyond the usual “greatest hits” of the 2600 and instead explore some of the console’s hidden gems—lesser-known titles that tend to get overlooked compared to their famous cousins.

I’ve only picked seven here, but there are dozens more incredible, weird, strange, and amazing 2600 games out there. If you’re interested in playing these yourselves, I recommend tracking down a real Atari 2600 and a CRT TV set (ask around among family and friends) with authentic controllers to give yourself the most authentic experience. It’s easy to pick up a ton of 2600 carts for fairly cheap on eBay (or find a multi-cart like the Harmony). Unlike games for more advanced consoles, these just don’t feel the same emulated.

When you’re done reading, I’d love to hear about some of your favorite underrated Atari 2600 games in the comments. Happy gaming!

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