The Top 5 Atari 2600 Games

The Atari 2600, revolutionary, ahead of its time and most importantly loads of fun. No longer did we ask mom and dad for chutes and ladders, parcheesi or hungry hungry hippo. Now we had an interactive experience in the palm of our hands, literally!

#5. River Raid – Activision – 1982

This game was very addicting. You controlled an airplane in a top-down view over a river and gets points for shooting down enemy planes, helicopters, ships and balloons.

The really cool factor was that the player could refuel by flying over fuel stations while shooting down enemies and avoiding obstacles. The graphics were excellent for its time as well as the game play.  The long river gave us non-repeating levels with increasing challenge and zero load times.  Can this ve released on VC please???

#4  Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – Parker Brothers – 1982

Let’s face it, At-At walkers were the coolest enemies on the face of the universe. This game lets you play the role of Luke in his snow speeder while he attacks these amazing “things”. The game-play solid, graphics – excellent for its time. Luke would have to attack the nose many times, while the At-At would start turning pink until it explodes. There was also a difficult sweet spot to attack that would destroy the At_At instantaneously. My only gripe was the lack of tow cables in the game, but as we know that surfaced many years later in Shadows of the empire.

# 3 Pitfall – Activision – 1982

David Crane became a household name after this title made its way to homes via the 2600. The game sold over 4 million copies for the Atari 2600 and I could remember playing countless hours of the game at our cousins house. The graphics, game-play, challenge and even the sound effects while you swing across on your vine made the game very exciting.

“The player must maneuver a character known as Pitfall Harry through a maze-like jungle in an attempt to recover 32 treasures in a 20 minute period. Over the course of these 20 minutes, Pitfall Harry would have to tackle dense forests, snakes, bats and insects.”

#2 Enduro- Activision – 1983

What an exciting game this was, this was the first game that made you feel as if you were actually driving a racing car. The object of the game is to be in an endurance race and to pass a certain amount of cars each day as to continue the race the next day.

This game included various elements which would make repeat gaming fun. The player would have to drive through the night, where he would only be able to see the oncoming traffic’s tail lights which would limit his reaction time to dodge. Then the road would be affected by the weather and snow would cause the player to be cautious when turning to avoid skidding. The feel of the game was unprecedented, it really felt like you were driving in snow when you controlled the car. This one is a masterpiece!

# 1 Keystone Kapers – Activition – 1983

This is my favorite Atari 2600 game of all time. The gameplay was “Capcom-esque” You can control the officer throughout the screen with the utmost precision.

Inspired by Mack Sennett’s slapstick Keystone Cops series of silent films, the object of the game is for Officer Keystone Kelly (the user) to catch Harry Hooligan before he can escape from the department store.

The elements that made this game legendary were:

1. The use of the escalators (in the dept store)

2. The use of the elevators (Rolling Thunder was probably inspired by this years later)

3. The map feature shown in the bottom of the screen which indicated where the enemy was located within the dept. store

4. The speed in which the constable can maneuver, he was able to run fast!

5. The joy of finally nabbing that crook!

Well folks, that wraps up my favorite 2600 games. Yes, I picked many or almost all Activision games. Oh well, they were light years ahead of the pack in the 80’s. They just made better games, that is the only way to slice it.

Yes, I omitted the obvious big ones, like Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Popeye and Frogger. Those belong on a top 10 list if anything, these were the creme of la creme.

Agree? Disagree? Let’s hear what our readers have to say!

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5 responses to “The Top 5 Atari 2600 Games”

  1. mrjuandrful says:

    Wow, great list man. If you would have offered me $1000 I still wouldn’t have guessed Pitfall Harry’s name.

    I would have added Superman to this list and got rid of River Raid. I was not a fan of flying games.

    Here’s my Top 5:
    5. Superman
    4. Jawbreaker
    3. Pitfall
    2. Kaboom!
    1. Ghostbusters

    Man, I need a top 10, I also liked G.I. Joe Cobra Strike and Dig Dug.

  2. Kezins says:

    I never even played Enduro. I actually still play River Raid once a week.

    My 5:

    5. Donkey Kong
    4. Empire Strikes Back
    3. Pitfall
    2. Yars Revenge
    1. River Raid

  3. Refugee says:


    I must of logged over 1000 hours playing Yars Revenge throughout my youth. I absolutely loved that game. After some careful thought I decided to exclude it from the list because of the poor graphics. It excelled in every other category though. My list had games that pretty much excelled in every category, game play, fun factor, graphics and repeatability. Activision games were just that much better. Glad you have River Raid up there and that you still play it once a week!


    Jawbreaker? was that a joke? LOL the rest were good picks, superman was a lot of fun to play. Kaboom was also a a great pick, loved that game but it needs more screens, gets boring after a while.

  4. Kezins says:

    You are right that the game had some poor graphics. I suppose I ranked it high because of the game’s addictive nature. River Raid has been an obsession of mine since it came out for some reason. Back in the day, I used to take polaroid pictures of my high scores.

  5. Shakeel says:

    I required attari 2600 aeroplane game if someone can arrange it for me i will be thak full to him/her

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