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The Best Atari 50 Games to Actually Play Today

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best atari 50 games warlords

As we discussed in our review, Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration is definitely more of a museum than a gameplay showcase, but there are still a heck of a lot of games in here to play! So where should you start? Here are our picks for the best Atari 50 titles to try.

Note: these selections are about trying for the first time now. There’s undeniably a lot of nostalgia value here! And some that hold up better if you’re used to the control schemes of yesteryear. But hey, if you already know where you want to start? You don’t need us to tell you anything!

The best Atari 50 arcade game: Warlords

Atari 50’s selection of arcade titles is drawn from the company’s early days, largely out of necessity: that division was sold off, so later releases are owned by someone else. Still, these years definitely include some classics. Like Jobs’ and Wozniak’s Breakout! Or the grandpappy itself, Pong!

Our favorite, though, is Warlords, a title that thrives in today’s barcade era with its intense multiplayer and simple-but-intuitive controls. This isn’t the original game, exactly — as the game’s quick to point out, the 2600 version was designed first — but it certainly feels like the definitive one. It also benefits from Digital Eclipse’s implementation of the full arcade experience, with overlays and bezels to make the action appear fairly close to it did in its original context.

best atari 50 games yoomp

The best Atari 50 Atari 2600 game: Combat

The 2600 — or Video Computer System for you fellow old-heads — is undoubtedly Atari’s most iconic console. As a result, it saw the most releases in general, and certainly leads to the most inclusions in Atari 50. But they’re also the ones that have been plastered onto any device willing to license them! So in many ways they’re not the draw for this collection.

Still, if you’re looking for a game that stands the test of time? A two-player game of Combat can’t really be beat. A few later releases in the franchise are included in Atari 50, including an entirely new one with a Bomberman-like feel! But there’s something about the simplicity of the original. We’re usually the items-on sort of people, but Combat shows the appeal of distilling everything down to reading an opponent’s movements.

The best Atari 50 Atari 800 game: Yoomp!

The Atari 800 had a lot of fans in its day, but the best 800 game in the collection is, well, decidedly not of its day. This 2007 fan release is essentially an endless runner, as you bounce over holes in a tube and stay alive. Like a lot of modern homebrew, Yoomp! uses advanced techniques to look and play a lot better than most games of the 800 era. Atari 50 does make some oblique references to the homebrew scene, mostly around a Ready Player One project, but it’s a fascinating topic and one we’d love to see compiled and preserved more deeply.

dark chambers 7800

The best Atari 50 5200/7800 game: Dark Chambers

It may seem a bit weird to lump these two together, but the 5200 largely didn’t get much time to develop its identity, and its presence here largely consists of arcade ports. And… it’s 2022! Play the arcade version.

The 7800, though, fares a bit better. Dark Chambers is a Gauntlet-like dungeon crawl game, with the advantage of being able to take a breath without your life ticking frantically downward. The controls don’t feel awful, either? Which we note only because it’s such a rarity in the Atari console library. Just don’t accidentally play the 2600 version of the game, which is also here. It’s… compressed, in some perhaps uncomfortable ways, to fit on the platform.

The best Atari 50 Lynx game: Scrapyard Dog

We’ve talked about the Lynx before — largely in the context of its Evercade title compilations — and that context maybe works better for the library than this one. Lynx games need the smallest screen you can find to make a lot of visual sense! Even more than its Game Boy and Game Gear peers.

Still, you might have some fun with Scrapyard Dog? Maybe? Heading back to the included Lynx games feels more like a curiosity, and no game in the bunch is as curious as this quirky platformer.

best atari 50 games tempest 2000 also why the heck not digital eclipse nuon collection

The best Atari 50 Jaguar game: Tempest 2000

It’s not hard to see why the Jaguar failed, judging only by the selections in Atari 50. While there are a few gems on the system not included, the ones here were a big part of its presence in the market. And they’re not great! We can’t say they age poorly, because their loose controls and muddied visuals seem like they’d have been just as disappointing at the time.

Nevertheless, we’ll make a pick: Tempest 2000. Surprised? Of course not! Jeff Minter’s psychedelic game has developed a cult following in the years since its release, and even seen sequels both spiritual and officially licensed. Simply put, both its look and its gameplay are infused with a style that doesn’t rely on at-the-time comparisons to impress. It’s nice to see the game more widely available, especially for more recent fans, so they can experience more of the series. That’s probably all we’re going to get, too! At least until Digital Eclipse gets around to making a Nuon compilation.

vctr-sctr digital eclipse

The best new Atari 50 game: VCTR-SCTR

If you’re not playing Atari 50 for the history, we suppose you might be here for Digital Eclipse’s smattering of new experiences. They don’t have the scope of full 2022 games, certainly! And they’re all over the place in terms of visuals and purpose. But many of them are fascinating.

Our favorite? VCTR-SCTR. While the others in the bunch are riffs on one old game, this one’s a tribute to the company’s wider vector catalog. Swapping between Asteroids and Lunar Lander is a bit frantic! In a fun way! Um, usually. It didn’t make us finally good at Lunar Lander, but still. We had a good time.

Developed by Digital Eclipse and published by Atari, Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration launched on November 11, 2022 for $39.99. It’s available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Series S/X, PC and… really? Yep, even the Atari VCS.

Graham Russell
Graham Russell, editor-at-large, has been writing about games for various sites and publications since 2007. He’s a fan of streamlined strategy games, local multiplayer and upbeat aesthetics. He joined Siliconera in February 2020, and served as its Managing Editor until July 2022. When he’s not writing about games, he’s a graphic designer, web developer, card/board game designer and editor.