The 103 classic games that did, and didn’t, make the Atari 50 anniversary cut

Atari 50 includes teases of various console designs and game box art images.”/>
Enlarge / The box art for Atari 50 includes teases of various console designs and game box art images.

Atari Corp. / Digital Eclipse

Earlier this year, news emerged about yet another Atari classic-gaming compilation meant to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary. As we’ve seen quite a few Atari-branded collections over the years, we wondered exactly what shape Atari 50‘s selection of “over 100 games” would take ahead of its launch on Steam, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch on November 8.

Thanks to a European retailer listing that emerged over the weekend, we now have an apparently final list of the Atari 50 selection of games: 103 in all, as spread across arcade cabinets, six console families, and a selection of “reimagined,” newly coded games and ports. The verdict: It’s pretty good, yet it’s still a glaring reminder that the compilation might better be named “Atari Corp. 50.”

Missing vowels and details about Vctr Sctr (for now)

We’ll break this article up into platform-specific lists, which each include our own notes and analysis, and we’ll start with the least-surprising list. This collection’s stewards at Digital Eclipse (TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection) had already announced plans to “reimagine” six games beyond the original code supplied by Atari’s archives, and these alone could be worth the price of admission for ’70s and ’80s gaming stalwarts.

Two of these, haunted house and Yars’ Revenge Reimagined, were announced as straightforward modern-graphic versions of their Atari 2600 counterparts, and while we trust Digital Eclipse’s track record, we have yet to see exactly how these two games have been rebuilt, or whether they lean on classic pixel designs or new 3D assets . Two additional games sound like souped-up, modern remixes of their original counterparts: Quadratank (a four-player touch-up of the 2600’s Tank) and Neo Breakout (which combines Breakout and pong as a two-player versus game).

The last two reimagined games in the collection are the most intriguing. Vctr Sctr will combine “gameplay from a variety of vector arcade classics” into a newly remixed experience. It’s unclear whether this new game will break classics up into mini-games or smush them together into a new game experience, but either way, the original Atari arcade library was rich with vector-driven games to choose from. Additionally, Swordquest: Airworld is a new sequel to the 2600’s three-part Sword Quest series.

This week’s leak does not include any previously unknown games in the above “reimagined” category. For surprises, we should move on to the compilation’s selection of arcade cabinet games:

  • Akka Arrh (1982, unreleased)
  • Asteroids (1979)
  • Asteroids Deluxe (1980)
  • Black Widow (1982)
  • Breakout (1976)
  • Centipede (1980)
  • Cloak & Dagger (1983)
  • Crystal Castles (1983)
  • firetruck (1978)
  • foodfight (1983)
  • Gravitate (1982)
  • I, Robot (1983)
  • Liberator (1982)
  • Lunar Lander (1979)
  • Major Havoc (1983)
  • maze invaders (nineteen eighty one)
  • Millipede (1982)
  • Missile Command (1980)
  • pong (1972)
  • Quantum (1982)
  • Space Duel (1982)
  • Sprint 8 (1977)
  • Super Breakout (1978)
  • Tempest (1980)
  • Warlords (1980)

Since these lists are alphabetical, this selection’s biggest surprise is at the top. Akka Arrh is one of the rare few Atari arcade games to be canceled and somehow avoid a wider online release or leak in the years that followed. That changed in 2019 thanks to a controversial dumping of a rare cabinet’s ROM chips, so this game’s inclusion isn’t necessarily a world premiere for MAME fans. Still, Digital Eclipse and Atari Corp. deserve credit for shaking hands and giving fans a legitimate path toward purchasing and enjoying this unreleased game. (Atari Corp. had previously done this for the unreleased arcade game maze invaderswhich launched on Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 3 in 2018.)

The collection’s biggest concession is made clear by the date range in the above list. Notice that no cabinets beyond the year 1983 appear. That’s no accident. Shortly after the early 1980s video game industry crash, the company’s corporate masters at Warner opted to break Atari into parts and sell them. The hardware-focused division, Atari Corp., is responsible for this year’s anniversary compilation, while Atari Games, Inc., went on to release many incredible Atari-branded arcade games before eventually being acquired by Midway—which, this many years later, is now controlled by Warner Bros. Discovery. (A chance corporate-gaming meeting, then!)

Thus, Atari Corp. and Digital Eclipse apparently have not licensed many notable “Atari” arcade classics from their current license holders at WBD. That list is quite long, but just counting the year 1984, that leaves out the megaton games paperboy and Marble Madnesswith the legendary likes of Gauntlet and 720 following a few years later. Similarly, anything with a significant Hollywood tie-in, like 1983’s Star Warsalso doesn’t make the cut.

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