The Absolute Best Atari Sports Games of All Time

Atari 2600 wood veneer version on isolated background

The Absolute Best Atari Sports Games of All Time

Key Points

  • The Atari game company created many systems and was the leader of the video game market from 1975 to the early 1980s.
  • Sports games are meant to simulate a real-life sports experience with fun graphics and audio.
  • Enduro and Super Football are examples of popular Atari sports games.

The Atari 2600 was overrun with dozens, if not hundreds, of sports games. However, most of them are somewhat lackluster. Going back to Pong, sports games have always lent themselves well to video games as they’re competitive. Most sports games are relatively easy to recreate in a video game. Below is a list of the top seven sports titles on the Atari 2600.

Pete Rose Baseball

screenshot of Peter Rose Baseball
Pete Rose Baseball is a good baseball game for its era, although it’s pretty basic with unremarkable graphics.

©mobygames.com – License

No baseball player was as controversial as Pete Rose. Before he fell out with the MLB, he was the face of the Atari 2600 game Pete Rose Baseball. Like most of the sports games of the time, no players appear, as all the characters are little more than stick figures. Still, this is an impressive title for its time, considering just how many options you have.

You get to play as numerous players on the field. As a batter, your movements are limited to just wiggling around the batter’s box to get in striking distance of the ball. Your swing is automatic if you are in range and you proceed to move around the bases. As you proceed, you control all four runners as they make their way around the bases.

The gameplay also includes playing infield, outfield, and pitcher. All of these positions have their intricacies with some impressive controls. The pitcher, for instance, has different throwing options, while the outfielders can throw the ball to a baseman.


Who doesn’t love a good racing game? Atari 2600 had many racing games. However, only a few lived up to their hype. Enduro was made by Activision and is a pretty good take on the racing genre. However, it does have some notable omissions, such as only having a single difficulty option.

The gameplay consists of pressing the button to accelerate and using the joystick to move left and right. There are also other cars to avoid on the track. The objective is to pass as many cars as possible, and there is a countdown at the bottom of the screen.

The game takes place across multiple days and settings. Time in the game also passes as the day turns to night which helps distinguish the passing of days. In addition to darkness, you must race through fog and snow, which offer a nice variety. While it is a lot of fun to play, the biggest problem is that it lacks a multiplayer mode which is strange for a racing game.


screenshot of Golf Atari game
Golf on the Atari 2600 has a multiplayer mode where players try to reach the hole with the fewest shots possible.

©mobygames.com – License

Although golf has fans, bringing it to a home console can be hard. It is a slow sport, yet many people look for fast-paced action games. However, Golf on the Atari 2600 is about as good as you can get from a console. The game was developed and sold by Atari and stays true to the sport.

The game has nine holes in total that you must play through. Strokes work like in the real world, so you can keep taking swings until you get the ball in the hole. With that said, each hole still has a set par that you should try to get. For the most part, pars are well above what it should take to reach a hole.

You can move the difficulty switch if the game feels too easy to make the hole smaller. The controller button controls the swing, and holding it down longer leads to a harder swing.


screenshot of Boxing Atari game
The game’s background is a simple green screen with a yellow outline to signify the boxing ring.

©mobygames.com – License

Boxing games on any console always seem to be a fan favorite. But in the early console generations, they always seemed super popular. Boxing on the Atari 2600 is certainly no exception. Like many sports games at the time, Boxing was developed and published by Activision, and it used a straightforward top-down layout.

Inside are two crudely drawn characters. They look the same, except one is white and the other black. The top of the screen has a timer and scorecard, which keeps track of the winner until the end of the match.

The gameplay consists of moving around the ring with the joystick and using the button to punch. You need to get the most punches by the of the match to win or get over 100 points for a knockout. There are two types of punches, long and short, with the shorter punches worth two points and the long ones only worth one point.

Super Football

In Super Football, player one is in a red jersey and starts the offense.

Before the Madden series we know and love today, Super Football on the Atari 2600. Football games have always been a favorite, but they typically consist of top-down views with limited control. However, this game gives you a nice view behind the quarterback, as you would find in later football titles.

Because of the console’s limited power, there are only five players on each team. That isn’t much of a problem since it keeps the screen from getting too cluttered up. Super Football also has a scoreboard at the top of the screen, which accurately saves time. There are also choices for how long you want the game to last.

One nice thing about Super Football is that you can call plays. However, you will have to use the playbook in the manual, which tells you what controller pattern to press for each play. While the game looks pretty rudimentary by today’s standards, it is easily one of the best sports titles of the era. Plus, it also features a multiplayer mode.


screenshot of Tennis 1981 game for Atari
The graphics are basic, but the people look pretty good as they run around the court.

©mobygames.com – License

Tennis is about as simple as it gets, but the Activision Tennis games do an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the game. The game is set on a green court with white boundaries and a thick line that serves as the net. The Atari 2600’s joystick controller works well to move around the court, and the button is used to whack the ball.

What adds some real depth to the game is that there are two speeds to choose from. In addition, you can select the game’s difficulty setting on the console. The difficulty switch on the console essentially changes how far away the ball can be for you to hit it. Nicely enough, the difficulty can be set independently if you are playing a two-player game.

Scores are kept on the screen using the traditional method for Tennis. While Tennis is one of the more basic games on the Atari, it does offer a good time and delivers exactly what it promises. The controls are also pretty smooth, and the multiplayer mode is also good.

BMX Airmaster

screenshot of BMX Airmaster
Landing is the hardest part of the game.

©mobygames.com – License

BMX Air Master was made by TNT Games and later purchased by Atari. Whether a BMX stunt bike game is a sports game is up to you. But we consider this one of the best sports games to make it to the Atari 2600. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a cycling expert to master the insane tricks you can pull off in the game.

The controls are a little strange as you must wiggle the joystick left and right to gain speed. Then when you get in the air, use the joystick to do tricks before coming back down. You can also hold down the button while in the air to do a pose with a trick. To land correctly, you must align yourself with the ramp on the descent.

Going down wrong means the biker will crash or lose their life. The game uses a scoring system where you need to get the highest score by completing as many tricks as possible. You keep doing this until the time expires, then proceed to the next event.

Summary of the Best Atari Sports Games

RankGame Title
#1BMX Airmaster
#3Super Football
#7Pete Rose Baseball


To top