Pop Culture

10 Most Popular Atari 2600 Games of the 1980s

Atari’s Console and Games

The Atari VCS (Video Computer System) hit the market in 1977, and by 1979, it was the hottest video gaming console on the market with 100 million units sold that year. The first edition of the system cost $199 and included the console, two single-button joysticks, two paddle controllers, and one ‘Combat’ game. Eight other games were available but were sold separately. In 1982, Atari released their best-selling game, Pac-Man, and the VCS console got a new name: Atari 2600. By this time, Atari was dominating the market and making billions of dollars. It is thanks to the titles on this list of the 10 most popular Atari 2600 games that the system lasted until 1992.

The Most Popular Atari 2600 Games

10

Donkey Kong

most popular atari games

Donkey Kong (1982)

Mario has to rescue Pauline from Donkey Kong while dodging barrels, fireballs, and shoddy construction. Mario’s one weapon, the hammer, comes with the drawback of being unable to jump.

Developer: Nintendo R&D1

Publisher: Coleco Industries

Programmer: Garry Kitchen

Release Date: 1982

Total Units Sold: 1.46 million

9

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

popular atari games

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Of all the Atari 2600 games, E.T. was arguably the most infamous. Atari rushed the game’s release to sync up with the film’s release. As a result, players find it obtuse to simply unplayable. This game is seen as one major factor in the Great Crash of 1983.

Developer and Publisher: Atari, Inc

Programmer: Howard Scott Warshaw

Release Date: December 1982

Total Units Sold: 1.5 million

8

Mario Bros.

best atari 2600 games

Mario Bros, (1983).

Players must help Mario and Luigi clear pipe-ways of crabs, turtles, sentient ice chunks, insects, and fireballs while they collect coins.

Developer: Nintendo R&D1

Publisher: Atari, Inc.

Programmer: Dan Hitchens

Release Date: December 1983

Total Units Sold: 1.59 million

7

Frogger

popular atari games

Frogger (1982)

There are many jokes about chickens crossing roads, but only one game about frogs doing the same feat. Guide your frog through high-speed traffic and moving logs in order to reach the other side.

Developer: Konami

Publisher: Parker Brothers

Programmer: Ed English

Release Date: August 1982

Total Units Sold: 2 million

6

Demon Attack

most popular atari 2600 games

Demon Attack (1982)

Fend off multiple varieties of “demons” with only a laser. While initial versions stop at level 84, Fulop changed one line of code so that further releases went on forever.

Developer and Publisher: Imagic

Programmer: Rob Fulop

Release Date: March 1982

Total Units Sold: 2 million

5

Space Invaders

best atari 2600 games still worth playing

Space Invaders (1980)

It’s just your tank and three brittle shields against waves of alien invaders. As the body count rises, so too does the alien menace’s advance.

Developer Taito

Publisher: Atari, Inc.

Programmer: Rick Maurer

Release Date: 1980

Total Units Sold: 2.5 million

Entertainment Earth

4

Missile Command

atari 2600 games

Missile Command (1981)

You command a trio of anti-missile batteries to defend six cities from a rain of missiles, some of which splinter into multiple projectiles in mid-flight. Lead developer Dave Feurer claimed to have had countless nightmares of cities ravaged by nuclear blasts while he worked on this title.

Developer and Publisher: Atari, Inc.

Programmer: Rob Fulop

Release Date: March 8, 1981

Total Units Sold: 2,760,000

3

Asteroids

atari 2600 games

Asteroids (1981)

Players must steer an armed spaceship through an asteroid belt, but they must avoid crashing into enemies or debris while they shoot those threats. If players are reckless, they may be caught off-guard, since blasting large rocks leads to smaller fragments. While the player’s perspective is locked within one screen, the borders wrap around. This means that when you move past one edge of the screen, your ship appears on the opposite side.

Developer and Publisher: Atari, Inc.

Programmer: Bradley G. Stewart

Release Date: July 1981

Total Units Sold: 3.8 million

2

Pitfall!

atari video games

Pitfall! (1982)

This action platform title has players controlling Pitfall Harry as he jumps and swings on vines in order to avoid crocodiles, quicksand, scorpions, and other jungle hazards.

Developer and Publisher: Activision

Programmer: David Crane

Release Date: April 20, 1982

Total Units Sold: 4.5 million

1

Pac-Man

atari 2600 games

Pac-Man (1982)

Pac-Man was the most popular of all the Atari 2600 games, by far. Charge through mazes lined with pellets, ghosts, and power pellets, but be careful. Unless you eat a power pellet, you must avoid the ghosts while consuming every pellet; power pellets give Pac-Man the limited ability to eat ghosts. Although Pac-Man was a best seller, many consumers complained that this version was inferior to the arcade original.

Developer: Namco

Publisher: Atari, Inc.

Programmer: Tod Frye

Release Date: March 1982

Total Units Sold: 7.7 million

Considering the ten most popular titles in the Atari 2600 games library, it’s easy to see how 30 million units could have sold. The 2600 had been on the market for more than 14 years and after a successful career was officially discontinued in 1992. It had earned the designation “the longest-lived home video game console in video game history” thanks to the Atari 2600 games that brought the fun of the arcade into millions of homes across the world.

See also:
Best Selling 80s Cars

Share Your Thoughts
Jim H

Just like many of you who visit this website, Jim grew up in the 1980s. Since that timeframe, Jim has developed a love for website design and history. Jim and his wife Kim decided to put it all together and created inthe1980s.com. Thanks for visiting!