The Atari 2600. The original ‘must have’ video game console. For those of us that haven’t been spoiled by today’s modern graphics, it’s a fun, basic, but challenging system to play. The original Atari 2600 came out a little before my time but finding an Atari system in the 80s was fairly easy, and its blocky graphics and joystick controllers was still very much part of my youth. Nowadays finding a working Atari 2600 console and game cartridges is no small task so I’ve instead invested in an Atari Classic Game Console (in this case the Atari Flashback 8 gold), and that will be the system I am referencing in this post.
The Atari 2600 – A Quick Look Back
The Atari 2600 could be considered the grandfather of modern video game consoles. Released to the public on September 11, 1977, it was not only one of the first video game systems produced in the Second Generation of consoles but was the first console to really resonate with the public and become a household name. The system was sold with two joystick style controllers, and a game for $199, which works out to roughly $850 dollars today. Even with the seemingly high price tag, the Atari 2600 sold over 30 million units in its lifetime and was the first video game console that was considered a commercial success.
*** If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Atari and other consoles, check out my post on The History of Video Game consoles. ***
What’s in the Box
As I stated earlier, finding a working Atari 2600 with functioning games and controllers is a big pain in the @$$ these days. So, if you’re an old guy like me looking to relive your glory days, a young buck who’s into retro gaming, or even just a console collector, I’d recommend getting your hands on an Atari Classic Game Console.
Like most of the classic game console remakes that are being produced today, the Atari Flashback is not only smaller and more durable than its clunky 40-year-old forefather, but it also comes pre-loaded with games and the Atari Flashback 8 Gold comes with 2 wireless controllers that work quite well, so no fighting with 2 foot controller cords (looking at you Nintendo). The games look great, or as great as an Atari 2600 game can, running at 720p plugging into any flat screen TV via HDMI cable. No worrying about those stupid RCA cables to get your game on. All in all, the Atari Classic Game Console setup is fairly brainless, and looks good on my TV stand, next to my NES and SNES Classic Game consoles. For the modest price of $112, I felt it was money well spent.
As anyone who’s played an Atari before knows, the games are often a frustrating mix of basic, yet unforgiving game play and simplistically beautiful design. Yet for every playable game there was often 5 unplayable hunks of garbage to suffer through. Fortunately, with the Atari Classic Console i bought, most of the wheat is separated from the chaff, and the system is pre-loaded with 120 of the Atari essential games.
Some of the highlights for me include Pitfall, the original side-scrolling platformer, Space Invaders, one of the first video game shooters and an arcade classic, and of course Frogger, the ultimate “throw your joystick at the TV in frustration” game. And with so many other titles to play, one could spend days losing repeatedly at all the different retro titles on the system. As far as entertainment to dollar ratio goes, the Atari games deliver a lot of bang for your buck.
The last time I actually held an Atari 2600 joystick in my hands and played on the original system was well over 20 years ago, so its hard to compare how the Atari Classic Game Console holds up against the original 2600. That being said, the system just feels right. Everything I remember from the Atari 2600 is there and plays as I think it should. The games look as good as a 40-year-old system can on a HD TV, and the added function of saving, pausing and rewinding games makes the Atari Flashback 8 Gold even better than the 2600 in a lot of ways. If your looking to have some fun and appreciate retro video games, the Atari Classic Game Console might just be right up your alley. Just remember to keep an eye on your blood pressure as these games have been known to infuriate even the most tranquil of men.
I’ll be honest, this system isn’t for everyone. The games lack any kind of real story or character development, and the graphics are love or hate. But if your looking for a quality system to get your Atari fix, the Flashback 8 Gold is an excellent choice. I picked mine up online at Walmart for $112 and couldn’t be happier. Its fun to have friends over and have Frogger competitions or see who can get the high score in Asteroids. The wonderful thing about Atari games is even non-gamers can pick up the sticks and have an enjoyable time, as pretty much all the games are easy to learn, but hard to master.
While I decided to purchase the Atari Flashback 8 Gold, there are tons of other Atari Classic Game Consoles for purchase. The Flashback series alone runs from 1 – 8, each slightly different from the next, not to mention all the other knock-offs, emulators and Atari bundles out there. For those of you interested I’ve included some links to help you on your purchase of your own Atari Classic Game Console. So, get out there and get gaming!