8bitrocket.com's Project: Save Atari #2: Top-10 Atari 2600 Games That Could Have Been Franchises

8bitrocket.com’s Project: Save Atari #2: Top-10 Atari 2600 Games That Could Have Been Franchises

8bitrocket.com’s Project: Save Atari #2: Top-10 Atari 2600 Games That Could Have Been Franchises

Note :This week we are exploring some ideas that we believe could help Atari -Infogrames pull itself out of their current difficulties, while at the time time treating Atari’s illustrious past with the reverence befitting the world’s first video game company. We are calling this effort: 8bitrocket.com’s Project: Save Atari

We start Save Atari Week with a list of the top-10 Atari 2600 games we believe, should have been, (and maybe could still be) used to create franchises that incorporate both nostalgia and modern game play. Out of all the games created for the Atari 2600, only one, Pitfall! has been mined as a franchise for modern platforms, and it has not been treated very well. However, there were many games for the Atari 2600 that should have lived on as franchise brands far beyond the death of the platform. Yes, some of these games were made by 3rd parties, but if Atari-Infogrames wanted to make these games a reality, we are sure they could do it.

Combat! At its core, the Combat! cartridge was all about multi-player action. Atari Inc. should have launched a Combat! game with each successive console that upped the ante in graphics, number of players and game play sophistication. If they had done that, they probably could have created a lasting franchise that would have changed with the times through many iterations of genres and platforms. Simple action would have given way to strategy, and In 2008, Combat! would be an major RTS franchise. As well it could have been spun-off with titles that fit in the niche carved out by Battlefield 1942, which would be closer to its roots.


Demon Attack : This single screen shooter from Imagic could have easily leapt to new platforms by extending the game. First with multiple levels and weapons, and then to the action of a scrolling shooter.In 2008, Demon Attack should be talked about in the same hallowed voices as R-Type, 1941 etc.



Street Racer/Night Driver: The action of driving “up” the screen in Street Racer could have easily been extended to Spy Hunter-like combat, then to the pseudo 3D of Out Run, the real 3D of Midtown Madness, and finally to the emergent world of a Grand Theft Auto. Similarly, the pseudo 3D driving of Night Driver should have been developed into the leading game in the Midnight Club genre of dark, neon underground racers.



Keystone Kapers : Activision’s Keystone Kapers the player ran through a scrolling department store, evading obstacles in pursuit of a criminal. The game was extremely well-done for the time, yet too simple to keep players attention for very long. However, the platform action of the game could have been extended far beyond it’s roots as a simple chase game. The character of the policeman and the robber should have been developed further for other platforms, while keeping the simple idea of the chase to the end. In 2008, this should be Activision’s Sonic or Mario series, with new entries for each successive platform incorporating new technology and game play patterns, while retaining the classic battle between good and evil.


Space War : The original Space War was two played space combat game that relied heavily on physics. As more powerful platforms arose, Space War should have moved with them, first to better graphics and more players, then to a “galaxy domination” style theme like Star Control. In 2008, Space War could be the dominant strategic, space warfare series on the market, but it would always have the option to let the player drop into “Space War” mode, where you could battle with a space ship for some good, 2D action.



Yar’s Revenge : In Yar’s Revenge, the Zorlon cannon must be destroyed by the player Yar by shooting through the moving shield that protects it. This was fine way to start the series, but this sci-fi shooter should have had a history that went far beyond this simple concept. While the action of shooting through moving walls could have been retained through the series, Yar needed to land and take a humanoid form for further adventures. While each game could have ended with the destruction of the Zorlon cannon, the “getting there” would have moved to a more Metroid-esque game where, in the final scene it would have been revealed that Yar was not in fact Atari president Ray Kassar with his named spelled backwards, but was instead, a very pissed off version of VCS programmer Carla Meninsky (responsible for both Dodge’Em and Warlords).


River Raid : This was by-far, my favorite game on the 2600. Activision did attempt to make a version for the 8-bit computers, but it did not add very much to the game play experience. This game needed go 16-bit with slightly up and back perspective that would have given the visuals more depth, and it needed a good story to explain why we were raiding the 256 screen “River Of No Return”, Subsequent games should have gone 3D, but kept the game action oriented and not too sim-like. There is simply no reason why I can buy an action flight sim named Heat Seeker in 2008, but I can’t get one named River Raid. No Reason At All.


Outlaw : Outlaw was basically a game in which multiple people shot at each other with guns and hid behind obstacles (some of which were destructible), with a simple scoring system that tallied how many times you killed the other guys. Sound familiar? Yes, it was the first console death match shooter. Keeping the old west theme (still criminally under-used), the franchise could have easily moved to scrolling play fields, split screens, then to 2.5D and onto 3D, and finally multi-player. Doom what?



HERO: Activision’s H.E.R.O is the one game on this list that really would needs no changes at all. The brilliant mix of flying, shooting, setting bombs and rescuing people made it one of the best console games of the 90’s. It is a little known title because it was released in 1984, and no one really cared at the time. Sure, you could add fancy 3D graphics and stuff like that, but none of it would improve an already perfect game.


Adventure : Finally, the top of the list. As a game inspired by an all text-based mainframe diversion, Adventure was an adequate game for the 2600. However, as as an impressionist piece of art, it was a masterpiece. Who could have predicted the minimalistic existentialism of your avatar being a “dot” or even the transcendentalism of the “bridge”? It could take you anywhere if you could find the right way to place it, but did you really want to go where it would take you? Further iterations of Adventure on more powerful platforms could have taken this minimalistic-existential-transcendent-impressionism to new heights. Explorations of topics like true love, real hate, foreboding, longing, revenge, valor, and what it really means to be human could have been explored by means of an abstract world that contained a single glowing chalice, and three dragons that look kinda like ducks. In the 21st century, there would be no arguments about “games as art” because the proof would already be in the living rooms of the millions who owned any game in the Atari Adventure series. Alternatively, Atari could have simply continued the series as a bunch of increasingly sophisticated kick-ass Role Playing Games beating Final Fantasy to the punch by several years.
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