There are two Atari sites that I visit every day. The first is one that all Atari fans know about, the awesome Atariage.com. The other is just as good, but for some reason not quite as popular. Atarimania.com is a wonderful site, completely dedicated to being what Lemon64 and LemonAmiga.com are to Commodore fans, all wrapped up into a single destination for Atari enthusiasts.
Before we go any further, let me be clear that I don't know anyone at Atarimania.com, and they have not asked me to write anything about them. I just feel that this gem is very under appreciated and should be more popular. This isn't completely altruistic, because the more people that participate on the site, the more fun I will have when I visit.
The AtariMania.com site is dedicated to preserving software, literature, reviews, manuals, and ... you name it for all Atari systems. It used to be a large database of Atari 8-bit computer software, but now it has been extended to the 2600 and the ST as well. The site also covers all other Atari systems and Arcade games, but they they don't all have the same level of detail (yet) as the 2600, 8-bits, and ST lines. Everyday you will find new goodies uploaded to the site. From new roms dumps, to manual and review scans, to new language versions of games that very few knew existed. The site is updated some days on an hourly basis, so I even find my self sometimes going back a couple times a day when I am taking code writing breaks.
I use the site daily to research games and game ideas. Just last week I used the Berzerk information to help create an HTML5 clone that I am doing in my rare spare time...plus it is just plain awesome fun to read through everything in the database. If you like a game by a certain programmer, you can search his/her name and all of the games he/she created. You can do the same with publishers, developers, time periods, etc. the database it simply incredible.
Also, the people who run the site are very cool. The other day I wrote (in a comment on the game page) that I wanted to play a game (Dave Munsie's shareware classic, Kid Kong - you can see their response in the comments) on my ST emulator but the rom didn't exist. In a matter of hours they had responded an added the disk image for download
Let's take a brief look at what kind of information is on the site.
They currently have cataloged close to 8000 Atari 2600 games across various languages and editions. Their database includes over 13,000 screen shots from the various games and 2300+ rom dumps. Best of all, you can play 2600 games from the site, right in your browser. I do this very often. Today I played Amidar and Maurader to try and see if I could combine them into a mash-up game of some sort for a client.
For the 8-bit line of Atari computers they have cataloged close to 9,000 pieces of software (mostly games), along with 15,000+ screen shots, and just about 5,000 actual game disk dumps to play in your favorite emulator (or write to disk and test on an actual machine).
The Atari ST range of computers is pretty new to the site (relatively), but is has been receiving the most updates over the last few years. They have cataloged over 6,000 peices of software (again, mostly awesome games), with 22,000 (!!!) screen shots and over 2000 disk / game dumps.
The rest of the stuff
Aside from game roms, screens, and descriptions, they have a giant collection of Magazines and books, as well as videos, scans, and other various awesomeness across the range of Atari machines (arcade, 5200, 7800, Lynx, Jaguar, etc). You can even sign up and create your own collection pages using your account.
There is also an extensive collection of reviews, manual scans, catalogs and other juicy coolness on the pages for the various games in the database. For example, take a look at the entry for Bruce Lee (one one of the best 8-bit games ever created). They have even typed in the original reviews for the game from Electronic Games and Electronic Fun magazines.
As a fan, the site needs more users and participation. There are too many games (even classics) than have few if any ratings or comments on them. There is also a pitifully underused and under-appreciated message board that should be a popular as the Atariage board but only has a reflection of a shadow of Atariage's awesome participation. Let's make one thing clear though, the site certainly has a level of popularity and participation, but it would be much better if more people got involved.
I know that many people (like me) visit Atariage.com on a daily basis and participate (or at least lurk) in the forums. So I ask all of those people to please also visit AtariMania.com. I know that Atariage.com users love to write because by god, I see literally (ok figuratively) novels written every day (on the Atariage message boards) covering subjects like The ST v. The 8-bits, and the top 10 best Pac-man games on the 2600. The best thing (in my opinion) you can do for a site like Atarimania.com is to take some of that Atari enthusiasm and write comments on the games and materials that are being tirelessly formatted and put up on the site by the amazingly dedicated staff.
Anyway, this is my little plea to the Atari community at large. How great is AtariMania.com? Pretty f*cking great. Don't take my word for it, visit the site for yourself. You may find yourself lost in the games, videos, magazines and playable 2600 games. So if you have not been there before, you might want to do it when you have some time to browse and comment on things. These guys are doing some great work, and the best way we can show them we appreciate it is to spend time looking at it and letting them know how awesome it really is.
(8bitjeff is Jeff D. Fulton)