In the early 1980s, Atari released a series of games for their popular console that are now considered to be some of the best games in that genre. Atari‘s real-time strategy games are some of the first video games to implement this type of gameplay. They’ve proven to be hugely popular with gamers who enjoy challenging themselves with strategic thinking.
The original games were designed for the Atari 2600, but some of them have been ported to other systems. The seven games listed below are some of the best that Atari released for that console, and they’re still fun to play today.
#1: Dungeon Master
Dungeon Master was one of the first Atari games ever to implement the real-time strategy genre, and it was released in 1987. The game was originally designed to be played on a tabletop board game that featured the same gameplay, so there’s some overlap between this and its modern-day counterpart.
Dungeon Master was one of the first games to use 3D polygonal graphics, so it’s not as simple as it might seem at first glance. The game used a first-person perspective, and your goal was to defeat the evil being that ruled the dungeon. To do so, you had to explore the tunnels and fight a variety of enemies that inhabited them.
The game has four players who start off as dungeon masters building up their own armies in their own dungeons. When the map is completed, two of the players fight it out to see who can become the king.
#2: Another World
Another World is another game that Atari released, and it became an instant classic in 1991. This platformer was two games in one, allowing gamers to switch back and forth between the two characters they controlled. There were two different environments to explore, and much of the gameplay revolved around solving puzzles.
Another World is sometimes referred to as Out of This World because its story is based on a science fiction theme. Some of the backgrounds are animated, and the characters themselves are highly detailed with their own unique personalities and behavior.
The game became popular enough that it was ported to numerous other systems, including the Super NES, the Sega Genesis, and even the Xbox Live Arcade. It’s a great game for anyone who enjoys platformers or real-time strategy games because it combines the two genres.
#3: Carrier Command
The gameplay in Carrier Command is similar to the menu-based interface seen in the Nintendo GameCube game Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Party World. This means that it is a very easy game to learn for gamers who enjoyed that particular genre.
Carrier Command is built around building and commanding a team of aircraft carriers, so it definitely has some strategic elements. The game features over 20 missions and five different types of aircraft to use as your own personal arsenal.
The gameplay is simple enough that those who aren’t gamers will be able to enjoy this game. There are two different game modes: arcade-style and simulation mode.
IK+ was one of the first Atari games to use a cut scene to give it some form of narrative. The game is dubbed as one of the first role-playing games and features a lot of interactivity in its design. The goal of IK+ is to guide army units through a series of levels while fighting off an ever-growing number of enemies.
IK+ is the best beat-em-up game available for the Atari 2600, but it’s more challenging to play than it looks. Like most beat-em-up games, you have to memorize the various attack patterns used by each enemy. Once you’ve learned this, you can destroy them with relative ease.
The International Karate, IK+, was released by Atari in 1987. It is a type of fighting game that puts you in control of the character’s movement and attack patterns. The game was released on both the Atari 2600 and the 5200, but there were some minor differences between them.
#5: Super Sprint
Super Sprint is intended to be a racing game, but it’s really more like a cross between a real-time strategy game and a role-playing game. This game is meant to simulate racing, but it takes work to play just by looking at the controller.
There are four modes of play: arcade, time trial, and two types of tournaments that feature human or computer opponents. You can play against the computer for hours on end, which is good because you need plenty of practice if you want to win any of the tournaments.
Super Sprint is best played with a joystick and two buttons. Players will be able to use the buttons to accelerate and brake, but they can also make use of the joystick to control the car’s movement.
#6: Prince Of Persia
The Prince Of Persia series is among the world’s most popular video game series. The main character’s name is actually featured in the games because that’s how he was introduced to gamers.
The Prince gameplay is pretty simple. You must maneuver through the levels while trying to avoid all sorts of traps, enemies, and obstacles in your path. The levels are very straightforward, and you have limited health, so few strategies are involved. This is why it’s best to memorize the level designs before playing them.
The first game in the series was released in 1989, and it can be played on any Atari system that has an expansion slot. The 1984 release was actually a PC game, but after being ported to the NES in 1992, it became one of the best platform games ever created.
#7: Turrican II
Turrican may not be as popular as some of the other Atari 2600 games, but it is definitely one of the better platform games in existence. In Turrican II, you control a man with special abilities that allows him to traverse the terrain, jump on platforms, and even slide down narrow ledges.
The game’s story is standard fare and doesn’t add anything to the gameplay. You are a warrior who has to fight off an evil deity that has overtaken the land. Turrican II has several different modes of play, and you can even jump into the cockpit of an F16 jet fighter and use it as your own personal vehicle.
The game’s difficulty is fair, and it’s best played with a joystick because that’s how Turrican was intended to be played. Bonus points are awarded for fast-moving through the levels within a short amount of time.
Tips for Choosing the Best Atari Real-Time Strategy Games
If you think about the Atari like a library, you are going to have to pick and choose what games you want to play. Your choices will be limited, whether it’s because of time constraints or personal preference. Here are some tips to help you pick and choose the right games for your needs.
1. Pick Titles That Don’t Depend On Graphics And Sound
The graphics and sound effects on the Atari systems may be primitive, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy great gameplay. Give it a pass if a game doesn’t have good graphics or sound effects.
With this in mind, many of the more strategic games are actually better because they are built around a unique premise or gameplay style that makes them more enjoyable. These titles don’t need flashy graphics or impressive-sounding effects in order to excel.
2. Pick Titles That Feature Simple Gameplay
Some of the best Atari real-time strategy games of all time are those that are built around a simple design. These titles don’t need graphics and sound effects to be compelling. That’s because they are based on a specific gameplay style that you can easily learn.
Some of the best interactive adventure games for the Atari 2600 were also designed to be easy to play, so you can get in and start gaming as soon as possible.
3. Try to Embrace the Classic Games
Most of the Atari 2600 games available in stores today are designed to appeal to a younger audience. However, the original classic Atari games are a different story because they focus on gameplay over entertainment value. Don’t make the mistake of playing the newer versions of these classic video games because you will ruin their integrity.
Many people believe that sequels and remakes automatically reign supreme over original titles, like in gaming history, but this is only partially true. The original games came first, and they’re the games that should be played, not copies of those titles with updated graphics and gameplay.
4. Learn About the Developers
If you really want to enjoy the best games available for the Atari 2600, then you have to learn about the people who made them.
The creator’s name is featured prominently on the box of every video game, so take some time out of your schedule to learn more about them. Each developer has their own unique style, and they all bring something special to the table.
5. Try to Find the Original Versions
The best Atari 2600 games aren’t found in stores. The best way to find them is to search through the internet because there are so many options. Avoid the knockoffs because they’re usually made cheaper to appeal to a wider audience, but they’re usually less good quality.
If you want to find the original versions of some of the best games ever released, you have to exercise patience. You won’t find them at your local retail store, so don’t even bother looking.
6. Try to Find a Good Cheat Code
Some of the best video games that were released on the Atari 2600 require cheat codes to unlock special features in the game.
When you’re playing any of these games, it’s best to spend some time looking for a cheat code. You can usually find them online, but you’re out of luck if you need an internet connection.
Some gamers will be hard-pressed to find any available games from the 8-bit era, but everyone should try. The Atari 2600 is a great console and features more than 200 titles.
The best Atari games from this era were first-person shooters and platformers. Most other games are shooting games, so if you enjoy that genre, you’ll have plenty to choose from.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Milton Buzon/Shutterstock.com.