The best games in Atari 50

Atari 50 is the compilation game from 50 years of Atari games and consoles. It’s also a love letter to the origins of gaming and the people who made gaming a culture all its own. Over 100 games make up this collection, and the company has included the original manuals for each, as well as a virtual museum of all the different arcade cabinets and consoles Atari produced from the late ’70s to the Jaguar in the ’90s.


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The games have been ported to be clear for modern use but have otherwise remained unaffected by the way they appeared and were played in their time, leaving those who grew up with the games feeling pure nostalgia and those who who are new to them can learn more about the history of being a player.

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10/10 Storm (1981)

Tempest first appeared in late 1981 as an arcade cabinet. It was Atari’s first full color game and featured a 3D interface played either in lanes or as a tube that you could only see from one side. Tempest, which comes closest to the shooter game genre, was well received in arcades and encouraged players to play mini-tournaments.

The game could be played by up to two players, who took turns at the controls, adding a layer of competition to the already challenging gameplay. If you’re playing the game now, it’s still just as easy to lose track of time after you’ve been drawn into Tempest.

9/10 Crystal Castles (1983)

Crystal Castle's Atari gameplay

Crystal Castles puts you in control of the protagonist, Bentley Bear, who would become a popular character among die-hard gaming fans. The goal is to navigate Bentley through the castle to collect gems while dodging or defeating enemies you encounter such as the gem eaters or Berthilda the witch.

The game was originally available through arcade cabinets, but was also playable on the Atari 2600. A puzzle game at its core, you can play alone or with another person as you make your way through the danger-filled castle.

8/10 pong (1972)

Pong Atari home screen

Pong is arguably the game that started it all. A simulated table tennis game that you can play against a friend or the computer on the arcade cabinet. The game was later made available on Atari’s console and maintained its reign as a classic game. The controls are as simple as the onscreen graphics, but Pong manages to engage the player(s) with pure competition.

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If you’ve ever played Pong, you’ll no doubt understand the experience of initially balking at the game, “How could this be fun?” your Player Two to “Just one more try!” to ask.

7/10 Gravitar (1982)

Gravitar Atari gameplay

First on an arcade cabinet, Gravitar was later ported to other avenues of gameplay, including PC, and can be played alone or with a friend. In Atari 50 you need to unlock the game as there are a handful of classic games that can only be accessed after completing certain objectives with the other games in the collection.

Gravitar is a shooter game, but it can also be considered a sci-fi game since the main objective is to travel through solar systems in your spaceship. In each you will find a mix of planets, a home base and a “Death Star”. You have to defend yourself against incoming threats and alien attacks every time to get to your home base.

6/10 Food Fight (1983)

Food Fight Atari gameplay

Food Fight was originally on an arcade cabinet but was later added to other Atari consoles such as the Atari 7800. Visually, the game doesn’t offer much color or action, but that only makes you pay more attention to Charley Chuck, who you control, through a path of enemies and chefs desperately trying to prevent you from enjoying your ice cream, before it melts.

As the name suggests, you will be attacked with food, and your only defense is to throw food back to stun your attackers. You can play solo or take turns playing with a friend as you progress through the levels and live out your childish canteen fantasy of an epic food fight followed by ice cream.

5/10 Outlaw (1976)

Outlaw Atari gameplay

Outlaw is a classic western style shooter that even came with a gun attached that came with the arcade cabinet. The game was later made available for home play with the Atari 2600, which also had a gun port for gameplay like Nintendo’s Duck Hunt. Your main goal is to draw your weapon faster than the Outlaw when he appears on screen.

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You can choose to play as Billy the Kid, when you want to be sure you’re the fastest puller, or as Half-Fast Pete, who’s much more accurate and helps you unlock various high score achievements. Either way, the game pits you against the CPU in a deadly speed battle.

4/10 Me, Robot (1984)

I, Robot Atari gameplay

I, Robot was a limited edition arcade cabinet with fewer than 1,000 cabinets being produced. The game wasn’t a huge hit, and the gameplay can be polished and a bit confusing given its minimal graphics, but it has its place in gaming history for a reason.

The first commercial game with 3D polygon graphics, the story lets you play as Robot1984 against Big Brother, dodging flying objects and moving around red tiles to take you to the next level. Each level was visually unique, but they weren’t randomly generated – just created individually. I, Robot also included a secondary game called Doodle City where you could experiment with the polygon blocks yourself.

3/10 Centipede (1981)

Centipede Atari gameplay

Centipede is another classic that might seem overly basic and remind you of your grandparents, but there’s a reason it transcended arcade cabinets and was included in many Atari consoles like the Atari 2600 and Atari 5200. As a simple shooter, your goal is to eliminate enemies and kill as many centipedes as possible as you progress through the levels.

Aside from being a game that will keep you playing, Centipede can boast of two distinct reasons: it was one of the first commercially successful games of that era, and it was one of the first games to have a significantly high female player base.

2/10 Outbreak (1976)

Atari game breakout

Breakout has remained a classic from its days as an arcade cabinet. Use trajectory and bounce to knock out as many blocks as you can to advance to the next level. Like Grvitar, Breakout is one of the games that must be unlocked to play on the Atari 50, but it’s well worth the effort.

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If you haven’t had the joy (and frustration) of playing Breakout, now’s your chance to experience another historic game. Aside from being played, it is a Hall of Famer notable for its association with a young Steve Jobs who worked at Atari and a young Steve Wozniak who was instrumental in the game’s development.

1/10 Asteroids (1979)

Asteroids original gameplay graphics

Asteroids is perhaps the most popular and most ported game from Atari’s early days. You must pilot a spaceship in the middle of an asteroid field while destroying attacking flying saucers. Despite being a shooter game, the best approach to Asteroids is to play strategically.

You can play against the computer or against a friend, but your real enemy are the rocks that are coming and tearing apart your ship at full speed. If you’re a beginner, you’re definitely going to crash and die more often, which only feeds your urge to play more and perfect your strategy.

NEXT: Game consoles that go by more than one name

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