The First Two Gens (Pre-NES game recs)

I remember liking Dragonstomper back when I went through a (very brief) Atari phase. It’s an RPG whose simple combat kind of reminds of For Frog the Bell Tolls. It was fun to just walk around and explore for a while. I never beat it.


They actually started making the paddles again for their 2600+ (CX30+ Paddle Controller Bundle - Official Atari Video Game Console Accessories – Atari®)


There are so, so many arcade games that I’d have to swing back around for another go when I have a minute, but just real quick, I grabbed my Retroid Pocket 3 from the desk drawer to see which Atari 2600 games I’ve saved as “favorites.” In context, this era was before my time, so all of my experience is via emulation and collections (and yes, again, Atari 50 and the Jeff Minter collection are great for this). I’ll post up the artwork of the ones I’ve liked so much that I saved them among random channel surfing on this particular device, because that’s one of the coolest things about the era:

Demon Attack (1982)

Demons to Diamonds (1982)

Dragonstomper (1982)

Joust (1982)

Beamrider (1983)

The Earth Dies Screaming (1983)

Breakout still rules, too. I also saved Fatal Run to my favorites, but even though it’s on the 2600, that would be a cheat because it came out in 1990


There’s a bunch o’ stuff to list (especially in the arcades), but I’m going to just drop the first thing that crossed my mind:

Get yourself one of these …

… and locate this thing, very likely worn and damaged from being thrown across the room for the last 5 decades …

… and come back to the thread absolutely hating me because (choose one):

A. I’ve given you a new addiction
B. This game has finally pissed you off
C. You’ve gone through the many emotional stages of Kaboom! before and how dare I dredge that up

PS Real talk it’s one of the first things I play when I dust off the 2600 ;)

Edit: Oops! Other folks rec’d Kaboom! before me. So actually, don’t come back here and blame me. Blame them points up


oh man, that Paddle controller reminds me of how much I love dial-style controls and again reminds me that I’m a mark for Breakout-likes, old and new

So, real quick, of course everyone should play Tempest at the arcade with a dial if they can, it’s eternally the perfect vector fever dream, but also, Warlords (1980) is one of my absolute favorite Atari works – it’s essentially multiplayer Breakout with each person defending their castle, made of breakable bricks, in each corner:

You can play it at a stand-up cabinet, on the Atari 2600, or on the Atari 50 collection (and probably elsewhere), but the sit-down cocktail cabinet with four dial controllers is The Way. I dream of owning that one day, it’s such a chill piece that anyone can immediately grasp and enjoy, while still having a nice chat and a drink


Tempest is amazing! To add, if you get a chance to play on a legit original arcade Tempest with the original monitor: treasure it. The monitors on those machines are rare*, expensive to fix, and notoriously temperamental and known to go down.

Also see: arcade Pole Position (except isn’t the monitor, it’s their PCB boards).

  • = I don’t just mean, “CRT’s in general are getting harder to find”. I mean the specific color Vector monitor that Tempest uses is a notorious point of failure and a potential money pit for owners to keep alive. :frowning:

PS: Warlords is amazing as well! Especially when you have three other drunk friends to play against. :stuck_out_tongue:


I’ve had a few more days to think about recommendations, so here are a few more:

The Atari 2600 Raiders of the Lost Ark game may be a bridge too far for folks, but I recommend it! You’ll have to get an original cart (or emulate) since the chance of it being licensed again ever is approaching zero! It’s a little bit like ET, Adventure, and Haunted House (kinda), in that it’s abstracted almost to the point of being surreal, and it’s about making your way through these individual set piece rooms in a way that will most likely require note taking or memorization. Honestly, you should probably try and find a scan of the manual before trying it! Games of this era and of this style really let manuals do some heavy lifting.

Also, if you’re interested in checking out what was the state of the art in arcade conversions circa 1982, you could always try some Colecovision games! I don’t have any particular recommendations here, because most of the games your likely to have heard of are easily (maybe even more easily) available in emulation, but I think it’s pretty dang interesting to see 1982 versions of arcade games that have subsequently been mostly forgotten, and that never got ported to any other system (like Pepper II, Looping, or Cosmic Avenger) or got ports for the 2600 that are extremely poor (like MouseTrap, Venture, or Lady Bug).

(Ooof, these kinds of things are probably only interesting to someone with bizarre specific interests like me!)


I’ve never messed with a Colecovision and this sounds like a great reason to. I didn’t know it occupied such a peculiar niche.


As a kid, arcade games were my first gaming love, and Coleco had some top notch ports of stuff I never would have played otherwise. Sadly, I didn’t own one until around 1996! The controller is also pretty interesting as an object (but horrible to actually use like most controllers of the era).

I’d say definitely check it out! You’ll get to see one of the best pre-NES versions of Donkey Kong before stopped licensing it!


Thanks for all the recs and thoughts in this thread so far. Definitely cool to see so much love for these games.

I was messing around with some different games last night; here are two I especially liked:

Frog Bog (Intellivision) - It’s a vs. game where you’re a frog and all you can do is jump in a totally prescribed preset jump arc and stick your tongue out to eat a bug. That’s it, basic jump and back tongue flick. You just have to eat more bugs than the other frog who can only do the exact same things as you can.

I just played against the computer, but I could see this being pretty fun against a human opponent in a simple but deep way. It’s all based on the timing of a couple of basic actions, and hey frogs are cool, so I liked this one.

Pepper II (ColecoVision)- This one is a maze game where you have to walk around the edges of different sections to color them in and get points, so I think it’s kind of like Qix. The graphics and sound on this one are pretty vibrant and wild, so that was a selling point, as was the way each level contains multiple screens that you can move through somewhat freely. Also, apparently, there is no Pepper I, so that’s mysterious and cool.


Pepper II is real real fun. I hope they make a Pepper IV some day


Pepper II is fantastic! The closest game to it mechanically is Sega’s Amidar from 1981, which I suspect was the inspiration for Pepper II. I think the only version you’ll find is arcade.

Also by Exidy (and with a great ColecoVision version) is Venture, a kind of proto-Legend of Zelda but obviously very simplified.