5 of the best Atari games on Evercade
You have hopefully seen the recent news that Atari cartridges for Evercade will be entering legacy status at the end of the year, meaning that they will no longer be actively produced but will still be available from all retailers while stocks last. With that in mind, we thought it would be a good time to bid these carts a fond farewell by highlighting some of our favourite Atari games from these classic carts.
We’ve already previously covered the two Atari Lynx cartridges in this post, so today we’ll be focusing on Atari Collection 1, Atari Collection 2 and Atari Arcade 1. We’ll also be avoiding titles we’ve already given Evercade Game Spotlight articles to — we’ll have links to those in an “honourable mentions” section down below. And, as always, this is by no means a definitive list of “the only Atari games you should play on Evercade” — we invite you to discuss these games and share your favourites via all the usual social channels!
Anyway. Let’s get underway!
Ninja Golf! I mean, not much more really needs to be said than the title, really, but in the interests of convincing those who have never given this unusual and creative game from Atari Collection 1 a go for themselves, here goes. You’re a ninja… at least you want to be. There’s one last step in your training, though, and it’s the most deadly of them all. Nine holes of Ninja Golf! Your task is simply to survive, and preferably attain a good score in the process, though that is honestly secondary to simply remaining upright.
Ninja Golf unfolds in two distinct phases: the golfing phase and the ninja-ing phase. In the golfing phase, you’ll use a small map to aim your shot and time a button press to ensure the ball flies as far as possible in a single shot. Then, the ninja phase begins as you run from your shot location to wherever the ball landed. You run in a straight line, so if your ball passed over any hazards other than the fairway, you’ll have to contend with the challenges each of those offer. The desert-like terrain of bunkers conceals deadly snakes, the foresty rough has enemies hiding in the undergrowth and water hazards will see you contending with sharks!
Wherever you go, rival ninjas will do their best to stop you alongside all the other hazards, so you’ll have to make use of your powerful kicks and skill with throwing stars to dispatch them. Along the way, you’ll find various power-ups that restore your health, give you extra lives or make you invincible for a short period. Upon reaching the green, instead of a putting challenge, you’ll be tasked with squaring off against a gigantic dragon using nothing but your shuriken. Are you up to the challenge?
Ninja Golf has been a cult hit for many years thanks to its unusual premise and straightforward but highly enjoyable gameplay. While one might think of it as a silly joke game initially, a bit of time spent with it will reveal a solidly designed, genuinely compelling arcade-style experience that will keep you coming back for more time after time. Absolutely one of the best Atari games on Evercade, without a single doubt.
Aquaventure from Atari Collection 1 is a fascinating title not only because it’s a fun game, but also because for many years there was a great deal of mystery surrounding it. It was never released back in the day, see, and for a long time no-one seemed to really know what happened to it, where it came from, why it wasn’t released and even who was responsible for creating it. No mention of it appeared in Atari’s memos from the period, leading many to believe it was a casualty of Jack Tramiel’s takeover of the company in the mid-1980s, which was a somewhat turbulent time for the Atari 2600 platform, among other things.
In more recent years, Atari themselves enlisted the assistance of Matt Reichert of AtariProtos.com, a site dedicated to sniffing out the history and origins of all manner of Atari games, both released and unreleased. It took him many years, but after many interviews with people who were at Atari at the time — including some conflicting accounts from the same people on different occasions! — he determined that one Gary Shannon was likely responsible for the game’s programming, if not its original design. Shannon was responsible for two other games during his time at Atari, though both were cancelled prior to release: the Muppets game for children Miss Piggy’s Wedding, and Mind Maze, a game that was intended to explore the idea of extra-sensory perception or ESP through the unreleased, head-mounted “MindLink” controller.
Aquaventure, by contrast, was a much more conventional game and by all accounts the prototype version that eventually found itself out in the wild appeared to be complete. It’s a simple game that involves diving down into a series of caves to retrieve treasure while blasting fish, but the score-chasing nature of it makes it a highly addictive experience well worth spending some time with.
Dark Chambers from Atari Collection 2 is another game with an interesting story behind it. Its origins lie with a game originally released for Atari 8-bit computers, known as Dandy. This game was designed by one John Howard Palevich as part of his undergraduate thesis at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and was originally intended to be a networkable means of computerising tabletop roleplaying games. Indeed, the original name Dandy is intended to be a play on “D&D”, short for “Dungeons & Dragons”.
In 1985, Atari Games, actually a different entity from the part of Atari that was releasing home computer and console software, put out their popular arcade game Gauntlet, which bore something of an uncanny resemblance to Dandy. Designer Ed Logg later admitted that Dandy was a direct influence on Gauntlet, though at the time the resemblance resulted in a lawsuit between Palevich and Atari Games that was supposedly settled out of court with, among other things, a full-on Gauntlet arcade machine being given to Palevich.
So where does Dark Chambers fit in all this? Well, in 1988 Atari, who had previously published Dandy under its “Atari Program Exchange” label for Atari 8-bit computers and subsequently licensed it out for ports to other platforms (where it ended up being a completely different game), decided to revisit Dandy without Palevich’s involvement and remake it as a console game. The result was Dark Chambers. And while the two games are obviously distinct, you can see many connections between the two: most notably, the letter-name levels, and the way in which enemies “power down” through several different forms as you shoot them.
Fun fact! If you enjoy the Atari 2600 version of Dark Chambers on Atari Collection 2, try putting both Atari Collection cartridges into your Evercade VS at the same time, and you might just find a little something extra waiting for you to play with…
There are about a bajillion ports of Asteroids on various platforms, many of which come directly from Atari themselves, but the Atari 7800 version found on Atari Collection 2 is one of the best versions out there. Eschewing the stark vector graphics of the arcade original in favour of some colourful pixel art with a real sense of weight to it, this version of Asteroids maintains the simple but addictive gameplay of the arcade original while offering a range of difficulty curves to cater to players of all skill levels.
If you’ve somehow gone this long without ever playing Asteroids, the concept is simple: you’re in a tiny little fragile spaceship, and there’s a bunch of asteroids all around you. To stay safe, you’re going to need to destroy them — but you’ll also need to watch out, because big asteroids split into little asteroids when you blast them! There’s also alien flying saucers and crazy satellites to content with. Space is a dangerous place, for sure.
Asteroids takes a little adjusting to thanks to its challenging “turn and thrust” controls, but the Atari 7800 version is arguably one of the most accessible takes on the formula — and its chunky, satisfying graphics certainly make it a pleasant experience to play, too. While the arcade original may have been revolutionary, this port is commonly cited as a fan favourite.
Our last pick, Canyon Bomber from Atari Arcade 1, might not be everyone’s first pick for one of the best Atari games of all time, but spend a bit of time with it and you’ll find a simple, addictive and highly accessible game that is particularly fun to play with a friend on Evercade VS.
The concept is simple: there’s a canyon, and you need to bomb it. Specifically, the canyon is full of rocks, and you need to destroy as many of these rocks as possible by dropping bombs from various aircraft. The controls are as simple as the concept: you have one button to worry about, and that drops bombs. Flying your aircraft is taken care of automatically, so all you need to do is time your bombing in such a way that you score maximum points and avoid missing.
At the start of the game, things are very simple, because wherever you drop a bomb, you’ll hit something and score points. But as the canyon gradually empties, you’ll need to be more accurate with your shots if you want to keep scoring points. And bear in mind that if you drop a bomb and don’t hit any rocks three times — or let your aircraft pass over the canyon without dropping a bomb three times — you’re out of the game!
Clearing the whole canyon is harder than you might think, but chasing high scores is a ton of fun. Getting one up on a friend by competing against them is even better. So if you’ve never given Canyon Bomber a go as yet, pop in Atari Arcade 1 and you might be surprised how long you spend staring at this classic black-and-white game from the earliest days of the arcade. Sometimes exactly what you need is something simple but addictive and challenging, and that’s precisely what Canyon Bomber provides.
We’ve previously covered several Atari games in our Evercade Game Spotlight features, so be sure to check those out if you want to know a bit more. Specifically, we’ve covered Adventure, Solaris, Ishido: The Way of Stones, Awesome Golf (as one of our top 5 sports games), Millipede (as one of our top 5 TATE mode games) and Gates of Zendocon (as one of our top 5 Lynx games).
As a reminder, then, our current contract with Atari concludes at the end of December 2023, meaning no new copies of Atari Collection 1, Atari Collection 2, Atari Lynx Collection 1, Atari Lynx Collection 2 and Atari Arcade 1 will be produced from 2024 onwards, but these cartridges will remain on sale while retailer stocks last. If you’re yet to enjoy these classic games from the OG gaming hardware manufacturer, be sure to take the time to add these carts to your Evercade collection sooner rather than later.
With over 260 games available