Top 15 Best Games Made For The Atari 7800 (Ranked)

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Atari may be mostly known nowadays as a game development company, but back in the day, they used to be a major console manufacturer.

Released in 1986 with the budget gaming market in mind, the Atari 7800 competed with the NES by keeping prices low.

It wasn’t enough to wrestle the market from the Italian plumber’s hands, but it was still a commercial success thanks to its backward compatibility with the Atari 2600 and the low development cost.

And since Atari’s return to console manufacturing with the Atari VCS has reignited the passion of many retro game enthusiasts, I think it’s the perfect opportunity to review the Atari 7800’s library.

Let’s dive in and reminisce about some of the best games on Atari’s third major console.

 

15. Dig Dug (1986)

Dig Dug Atari 7800 gameplay

First up, we’ll be taking a look at Dig Dug: a maze game initially developed by Namco, where the player has to dig strategically to earn points and clear the board of baddies.

You achieve this by either inflating them until they pop – given you face them head-on – or by digging in such a way that large rocks will fall on your enemies and crush them.

While considered a maze game, it’s pretty different from something like Pac-Man.

In this case, the player is creating the maze rather than just navigating it. This adds a new degree of complexity while also allowing players to develop their varied playstyles.

 

14. Ballblazer (1987)

Ballblazer in Atari 7800

If you have a friend who’s enthusiastic about classic games too, then Ballblazer is the first game you need to get for your Atari 7800.

In this game, players take control of “Rotofoils”, angular ships they’ll use to pick up and throw a ball into their opponent’s goal – all in the first-person view, which wasn’t typical is sports games.

It may sound pretty basic. But the vaporwave-looking presentation and the use of a checkered board to help simulate a three-dimensional space help it rise above the competition.

 

13. Ninja Golf (1990)

Ninja Golf Atari 7800 screenshot

Even if you have nobody to play with, you don’t have to miss out on the 7800’s roster of unique sports games.

An excellent option for single-player fun is Ninja Golf.

Half golf game, half beat-em-up, this title has you fending off hordes of enemy ninja in-between shots. Depending on where your ball lands, you’ll also battle giant frogs, sharks, and snakes.

Granted, the game focuses less and less on golf the more you approach the green – but I promise that doesn’t make it any less fun.

 

12. Robotron 2084 (1987)

Robotron 2084 gameplay screenshot

Another intense title that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat is Robotron 2084, a fluid multi-directional shooter that shines for its dual-joystick system.

The use of two joysticks lets you move in one direction and shoot in another.

This allows players to execute more complex maneuvers, and makes the game more dynamic and exciting in real time.

It’s hardly the only game in the genre. But it was pretty influential – and letting you use two separate joysticks rather than having to buy a custom gamepad was a master move on the developer’s part.

 

11. Ikari Warriors (1990)

Ikari Warriors in Atari 7800

There’s nothing quite like a vertical-scrolling shoot-em-up to get arcade game lovers riled up, and SNK’s Ikari Warriors is one of the best on the Atari 7800.

This run-and-gun title is similar to the classic Commando, as were many others during its time.

Still, Ikari Warriors sets itself apart with unique graphics and excellent level design that pits you against tanks, helicopters, and more.

If you’re a fan of SNK, you’ll probably recognize Colonel Ralf Jones and Lieutenant Clark Still – the main characters in Ikari Warriors who also make appearances in other SNK games like Metal Slug and TKoF.

 

10. Donkey Kong (1988)

Donkey Kong game screenshot

Nintendo’s seminal contribution to the Golden Age of Arcades makes its way to the Atari 7800 as a beautiful port that stands shoulder to shoulder with its arcade cabinet counterpart.

Dastardly gorilla Donkey Kong has taken the beautiful Pauline hostage, and it’s up to Mario – called “Jumpman” at the time – to climb up and save her, avoiding DK’s rolling barrels and retrieving Pauline’s lost items for bonus points.

Jumping over rolling barrels may look simple, but Mario’s first adventure was designed to claim your dimes as fast as possible.

Each level is considerably more challenging than the last, and clearing them becomes a strategic affair reminiscent of a puzzle game rather than a platformer.

 

9. Mario Bros. (1988)

Mario Bros. Atari 7800 screenshot

Donkey Kong may mark Mario’s first appearance.

But the first game bearing his name was Mario Bros. – initially released for arcades in 1983.

And we all know how it goes:

Mario and Luigi are two Italian-American plumbers doing their best to protect NYC from the horrors that lurk below the asphalt. This involves making their way into the city’s sewer system and battling several waves of mutated turtles, crabs, and more.

This port is basically arcade perfect, and an excellent way to enjoy such an influential title on a home console.

 

8. Galaga (1986)

Galaga Atari 7800 gameplay

It may not have spanned a long-lived franchise with characters that rival Disney’s Mickey Mouse in popularity, but Galaga was an essential title in arcades during the 80s.

The Galaga name is synonymous with space shoot-em-ups. While the competition was fierce, the title’s excellent boss battles, exciting bonus stages, and appealing aesthetic set it apart from the competition.

The Atari 7800 version is among the very best ports, boasting even smoother gameplay than the arcade cabinet for the first few levels.

 

7. Ms. Pac-Man (1986)

Ms. Pac-Man gameplay screenshot

The sequel to the massively influential Pac-Man saw the return of the same excellent gameplay with a more frantic pace, updated graphics, and a feminine touch.

Whether making the new protagonist female was an ethical decision or an attempt to reach wider audiences is unclear. Still, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this was the first female protagonist in arcade history.

The Atari 7800 port looks terrific, and plays just like it did on the original arcade cabinet.

It’s a definite must-own on Atari’s third machine.

 

6. Commando (1989)

Commando Atari 7800 screenshot

If rather than a cerebral maze game you’d rather hone your reflexes in the chaos of war, then the acclaimed Commando is the way to go.

This classic run-and-gun shoot-em-up follows Super Joe, the most overpowered G.I. of his time, as he shoots his way through hundreds of enemy operatives in his quest to destroy the opposing army.

What makes the Atari 7800 version shine above all others is the inclusion of a special built-in sound chip that overrides the system’s base hardware to achieve better sound quality.

 

5. Food Fight (1987)

Food Fight Atari 7800 gameplay

A food fight may not sound too exciting when compared to running through the jungle gunning down enemy soldiers.

But don’t let that stop you from giving Atari’s Food Fight a try.

Much like real-life cafeteria food fights, you’ll need strategic thinking and quick reflexes to get through Food Fight’s four evil chefs – Angelo, Jacques, Oscar, and Zorba – so you can reach and eat a rapidly-melting ice cream.

 

4. Centipede (1987)

Centipede game screenshot

Shooting aliens and enemy soldiers is fine and all, but have you seen a centipede?

Those things are terrifying.

If there’s something that needs exterminating, it’s those monsters.

In Centipede, you’ll operate the Bug Blaster to stop 12 waves of diverse insects, which include – of course – centipedes. It’s action-packed and can get pretty tense once it gets going. You’ll need lightning-fast thinking if you want to make it all the way through.

The Atari 7800 version of this game includes both a co-op and competitive mode, so gamers of all skill levels can play together and have a blast.

 

3. Donkey Kong Jr. (1988)

Donkey Kong Jr. Atari 7800 gameplay

The sequel to Nintendo’s critically acclaimed Donkey Kong didn’t have the same cultural significance as the original title.

But as a game, Donkey Kong Jr. is among the very best offerings of the 80s.

Rather than re-release the same game with new levels, Nintendo re-imagined the game from the ground up. They replaced protagonist Jumpman with DK Jr., which reflects on the level design – now with vertical vines to climb and swing from.

The Atari 7800 version isn’t as nice-looking as the arcade cabinet or the ColecoVision port, but gameplay and content-wise, it’s perfect.

And there’s even a Switch port if you’re looking to try this on a newer console.

 

2. Dark Chambers (1988)

Dark Chambers Atari 7800 screenshot

Dark Chambers is one of the most exciting and technically impressive games in the Atari 7800’s library.

It allows up to four players to raid evil lairs together in one of the earliest dungeon crawlers in video game history.

Besides the ambitious multiplayer element, the game shines for its fantastic visuals and great sprites, which do a lot to bring your fantasy adventure to life.

If you find Dark Chambers similar to 1985’s Gauntlet, it’s because they’re both based on the same game: Dandy, released in 1983 through the Atari Program Exchange.

 

1. Joust (1987)

Joust Atari 7800 gameplay

My favorite game on the Atari 7800’s not-so-extensive library has to be Joust, initially released for arcades in 1982 by Williams Electronics.

This unique title has your character – a jousting knight – riding a flying ostrich through several challenging levels where enemy buzzard-riders will try to throw you off your mount.

What makes this game so special is mainly how fun the co-op multiplayer can be. Unlike most past attempts at co-op gaming, the developers managed to make it feel like a true companion feature, rather than a nuisance.

Joust was a turning point for the future of multiplayer gaming, and it’s best enjoyed on the Atari 7800.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.