In last week's issue of Creative Loafing, I offered my picks of numbers 6-10 on the list of the best games created for the Atari 2600 back during the game console's heyday in the 1970s and '80s (for the record, they were Adventure, H.E.R.O., Yars' Revenge, Space Invaders and Ms. Pac-Man). Here, I present the remainder of that list.Top 10 Atari 2600 Games: Part II
5. Missile Command. "Shall we play a game?" As the commander of three anti-missile batteries, the player must defend six cities from an endless hail of ballistic missiles and smart bombs. 1980's Missile Command is a compelling example of the Cold War's effects on popular culture. There is no way to "win" the game — the message being that there are no winners in a nuclear war. Later, this idea was famously in the 1983 film WarGames.
4. River Raid. Developed by Activision, 1982's River Raid was one of the first scrolling top-down shooters. The player controls a fighter jet as it flies over the River of No Return in a raid behind enemy lines. He or she is constantly avoiding certain death while taking out tankers, helicopters, fuel depots and enemy jets. River Raid is still extremely challenging, even by today's standards. Like most old school games, there is no end to the game — assuming players replenish fuel and avoid crashing, they could theoretically play forever. FOR-EV-ER.
3. Jungle Hunt. Surely Pitfall!, Activision's 1982 side-scrolling platformer, belongs on this list, right? Not quite. I'm going to opt for Taito's Jungle Hunt instead. Following in the footsteps of Pitfall!, this features a jungle explorer on safari. The player must rescue a damsel in distress from a tribe of bloodthirsty cannibals by swinging through treetops and navigating a crocodile-infested river. In the game's final level, the lady friend must be rescued before she's lowered into a boiling cauldron by said cannibals — pretty neat, right?
2. Combat. Combat was one of the nine launch titles for the Atari 2600 in 1977, and it was included in the box with the console. It offers players 27 different game modes, all of which are variations on tank, biplane and jet gameplay. Two players strategically maneuver tanks (or other vehicles) around intricate battlefields and shoot each other until time runs out. It's just like real war, basically. Featuring what appears to be the world's first graphics, Combat remains one of the Atari 2600's best games for its simple but competitive gameplay.
1. Asteroids. Controlling a small triangular spaceship, you must shoot and destroy asteroids and flying saucers while dodging debris and enemy fire. Developed by Atari, Asteroids hit arcades in 1979 and made its way to the 2600 in 1981 — and it's still every bit as fun now as it was then. There's something so satisfying about blasting a giant chunk of space rock into a bunch of smaller chunks of space rock, all while frantically flying around in circles. Asteroids is not just the best Atari 2600 game, it's one of the greatest video games of all time.
Honorable Mentions: Solaris, Pitfall!, Breakout, Pong, Kaboom!, Centipede, Star Wars, Gauntlet, Atlantis, Demon Attack