Anyone who plays video games today owes a huge debt of gratitude to Atari and the founders and engineers who worked for the company during its formative years. Atari was responsible for many of the earliest arcade games and some of the earliest games consoles, and throughout the 1970s and 1980s helped shape the industry that now competes with Hollywood in terms of budgets and earnings.
My first games console was an Atari, and I still remember the day my dad brought it home and set it up for me and my brothers to play. Although I must have been no more than five years old, my love of gaming was forged at that very moment, a love that has lasted for 30 years and counting.
The history I have with Atari means I will always have a soft spot for those early titles. And with the Atari Arcade now featuring games playable directly in Web browsers with no need for Flash or Java – thanks to the power of HTML5 – I can happily relive my childhood with new versions of some truly classic games.
There are eight retro games available to play on Atari Arcade at the time of writing: Pong, Asteroids, Missile Command, Super Breakout, Lunar Lander, Combat, Centipede, and Yars’ Revenge. The first five mentioned are detailed below, but I’ll let you discover the latter three by yourselves.
Pong was one of the earliest video games ever conceived, and it’s about as simple a game as you can get. This was table tennis in video game form circa 1972, and it still stands up to scrutiny even with its shiny new HTML5 uniform on. You control one paddle or bat, and the CPU controls the other; the aim of the game being to score points by hitting the ball beyond your opponent’s reach.
Top Tip: Moving the bat as the ball makes contact equals spin.
Asteroids was the essential space shooter for many years, and it influenced countless other games in its genre. You control a spaceship as it spins around destroying the titular asteroids. Unfortunately, one shot doesn’t destroy an asteroid, it merely breaks it up, meaning you’re left with space debris that can quickly build into a nightmare.
Top Tip: Keep moving at all times, but stay well and truly in control.
Missile Command sounds more fun than it actually is. You’re in charge of the defenses of this city against a brutal enemy attack. So with missiles raining down on you from all angles you fight fire with fire and shoot the threats down before they can hit home. This game is played with the mouse rather than the keyboard, and it’s a little hit and miss. Literally.
Top Tip: Focus on the direct threats to your missile silos first and foremost.
Super Breakout is basically Pong turned on its side with a wall of colored blocks instead of an opponent. The idea is to keep your ball (or balls) in play in order to destroy the whole wall. There are three game modes, all of which are more fun they should be for (sane) grown adults. Once again spin plays a big part in the success or failure of your efforts.
Top Tip: Get the ball in behind the wall to see a chain reaction of bouncy goodness begin.
Lunar Lander has to be the most ingenious-yet-frustrating game ever made. The concept is simple: land your lunar craft on one of the platforms provided using the thrusters at your disposal. But if you’re as heavy-handed as I am you’re more likely to crash the lunar craft rather than land it safely, whatever good intentions you start each attempt with.
Top Tip: No sudden or extravagant movements… try the slow, subtle, methodical approach.
Playing these retro games instantly brings memories flooding back, and summing up nostalgic feelings like that means Atari Arcade is more than worthy of your time and attention. Even if you’re too young to have played these classic video games the first time around then you’ll still be able to wring some fun out of Atari Arcade.
The games mentioned above are just the first of many due to be added to Atari Arcade. Not only is the Atari library to be raided again, the free development kit and tutorials that are available to download mean brand new titles will appear on Atari Arcade in the coming months and years.
Do you have a favorite amongst the games mentioned? Is there another Atari game you’d love to see given a makeover for the modern, HTML5-powered Web? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.