I often teach with the Atari VCS (2600) in my courses at Georgia Tech. I teach both assembly programming for the 6502 processor and the Atari's unique Television Interface Adapter graphics and sound system, and the Batari Basic BASIC language compiler for VCS. I like teaching the Atari not because I think it represents a practical skill, but for other reasons: for one, it gives students an experience with extremely constrained computational conditions. For another, it helps them understand this influential home game console in a more historical context.
The games below are split into two groups: assembly games and Batari games.
All of the assembly games were created in a section of Special Topics in Game Design and Analysis devoted to the Atari VCS
. This was a graduate course with students in both computing and digital media. Some of the Batari games were created in that course as well, but most come from Introduction to Computational Media
, a sophomore-level course in Georgia Tech's degree in Computational Media
. The Batari games created by groups of 3-4 people were made in that course; the others were done in videogame design and analysis. I've tried to include the students' own explanations of their games, if available.
To play any of these games, you'll need an Atari VCS emulator like Stella, which is free to download and works on Mac, Windows, and Linux. If you want to crack open the source code, check out the official Batari site for instructions on how to compile BASIC code. To learn how to assemble for the VCS, I suggest reading the AtariAge.com programming forum. If you run OS X, I've created an easier way to develop for VCS using Apple XCode. In the future, I'm hoping to create a more accessible introduction to assembly programming for VCS, which I will then publish on this website.
My top picks from these student games are as follows. In the assembly category, Push and Top Rock are stand-out examples. In the Batari category, there are so many great games, it's hard to choose. Among my favorites are Aww Nutz, Block In, Bomber, BreakBack, Cave Race, Chillin' Out, Construction, Copter Commander, Dance Dance Retrolution, Dancer, Dorothy X, Falldown, Go-B, Panic Disco, and Tank Assault. But try them all, as each shows a different take on this unique game platform.
Update 19 Jan 2008 This page now includes games created in Intro to Computational Media, Fall term 2007. We had almost 30 new games this term alone, so I've started to break up the Batari section by year to make it easier to see what's new. This course will next be offered in Fall 2008, so check back around the start of 2009 for a new crop.
For more on my own work with the Atari VCS, take a look at the book Nick Montfort and I are writing about the console, or one of my VCS games, Guru Meditation.
6502 Assembly Games
Pilot an alien flying saucer intent on world destruction. Use your beam to the destroy houses and trees below, but watch out for the killer bees, Earth's last hope for salvation.
A hangman-like game based on binary arithmetic. Add the two binary numbers on the left side of the screen correctly to prevent the man at right from falling to his death. To set a bit, press up on the joystick. To move to the next place, press left.
A two-player game. Player one uses a UFO to plant a monster that harvests the city's buildings. Player two pilots a van-mounted gun in defense.
A two-player tetris-like game. Attempt to fill your opponent's side of the screen by moving and turning the blocks to fit in the right place.
A Simon-style memory game for the VCS. To play, reset the console and then follow the computer prompts. Move the joystick in the direction that corresponds with the correct color/sound, press the button, and release the joystick.
A rhythm action breakdancing game. Follow the moves of the dancer on the right. Use the joystick to select a move at the correct time to earn a point.
Batari Basic Games
Waging a battle of epic proportions, Alien and Predator face off in an underground chamber. Armed with extreme sped and agility, the Alien is a strong match for Predator, whose advanced technology provides him with homing missiles directed by his own movement. The first player to kill his opponent 10 times, scoring him 100 points, by either attacking (Alien) or shooting (Predator) wins the game.
Our game is based on the competition TV show American Gladiators. More specifically, we loosely represented the popular event Assault. The arena is based on the set from the early years of the show, with the grey floor and prominent blue obstacles. Player two is based on the gladiator known as “Malibu,” and is outfitted in red while player one is outfitted in yellow, and represents the contender. Player two defends the flag with a cannon as player one attempts to steal it and return it to his base.
by Athelia Hanson-Kahn, Ferris Hua, Sid Kantamneni
You are a young asteroid at home deep in space, content to flit back and forth between the Elder Bodies as the herd slowly drifts along. Suddenly, something strange and terrible begins to happen. A fierce creature- a dreadful shiny thing- appears out of the blackness on the edge of the herd. The other youngsters soon begin to disappear in flashes as the thing (you hear a strange sound whispered amongst the elders: '*myneng syp'* ) spits fire into the herd. Soon you are the only youngster left. You must protect the herd, if not yourself.
We think that any game good or bad, simple or complex and high or low tech can still be fun when two people get to engage in competition. Everyone likes to win and those that lose will try and get a rematch so competitive games urge people to continue and play until someone is compelled to quit. We combined two of our game ideas to make one multiple mini-game variant, one half quick draw one half sumo.
by Anna Coley, Elizabeth Daihl, and Malinda Drinkuth
A one player squirrel game where the user is a squirrel and they must collect
at least 25 nuts to win. The player has three lives and loses a life if they
are hit by a faling leaf. The player must use the keyboard arrows to to climb
up and down the tree, and run left and right along the branches and the ground.
Mother Rabbit has dropped a carrot into the center of the playpin. You and your sibling are both hungry-- slowly losing energy. Some one has to be fed. BATTLE to survive.
by Jerry Fu, Stevie Frederick, Zeeshan Ebrahim
This game brings back the nostalgia of two classic games -- Pong and Breakout -- but in an entirely new way. We mixed elements from each game together in order to create a new and exciting experience.
In this game you battle against your opponent to finish your Black Friday shopping before they can.
by Christopher Wiggins, Michael Yutko, James Yoo
In Bomber you take command of a WWII bomber who is on a solo mission to lighten the enemy density ahead. If you don't bomb enough tanks, your squad will surely fail.
by Joseph Rinaggio, Michelle Richards, Robert Poppell
You play as Buzz, the Georgia Tech mascot, with the objective of trying to shoot rival college mascots. Buzz and the other mascots have the ability to navigate throughout the field and around the GT logo. The direction in which Buzz navigates is also the direction he will shoot at his rival mascot.
Play as a catapult and shoot rocks at a moving tower. Use up and down to change your trajectory and space to fire. Destroy 15 castles to win the game, but be careful, the castle fires back!
The player starts the game off covered in bees, flailing their arms in a comical fashion. They need to navigate a single screen field patrolled by bees to try and get to an item (like an epi-pen) to move on to the next level.
This Atari version of Dance Dance Revolution, entitled Dance Dance Retrolution, is played to the tune of your 80's favorite, "Mr. Roboto". As the blocks scroll up the screen in sync with the music, you and your opponent are challenged to match that synchronization with key presses. The more accurate you are, the higher your score goes, but be watching your dance meter, because if you and your competitor can't keep it up, it's game over.
by Emily Cribb, Austin DeNoble, Alex Dost
A game of cooperative skill. You and a friend take the controls of either a "medic" or a "heavy". Dodge the falling boulders while helping each other out to obtain the highest score!
by Jessica Raboud, Matthew Remmele, Richard Shemaka
Espionage is a one-player game wherein one takes the role of a spy trying to steal data from the computer-controlled police. The basic premise is a game of capture the flag, with the court divided into two portions: the computer's side containing the flag, the playfield, and the defender against the player's side containing a base to capture the flag. Only the player can cross the line between both sides.
A driving/shooting game where you must stop E.T. and his henchmen from unleashing E.T. for the Atari 2600 upon the world again. As an added bonus, the driver of your vehicle is none other than Professor Bogost!
by Ben Orchard, Michael Groves, Travis Harkleroad
Falldown is a relatively simple game in which the player controls a ball which falls indefinitely to the right. You control the ball by moving the joy stick up and down. You lose when the walls push your ball all the way to the left side of the screen. There is no way to win, you are just trying to get the high score. When you lose you move the joystick to the right to start the game over.
by Michael Grande, Justin Gorski, Jen Gergely
Run away from your finals in Final Fight!
Guitar Hero for the Atari 2600! Grab a friend and play the lovable Tetris theme song together. Features interweaving, textured arrangement with two different parts: melody and harmony. The better you play together, the better it sounds! PLEASE read the README and set your controls properly.
by Nick Poirer, David Poore, Jenny Rainwater
A game meant to be played by two people, Laserblast is a competitive quickdraw shooter. The first player to fire their laser when the forcefield raises gets an advantage over the other. Then, in the kill or be killed world of outer space, free for all shooting begins.The first person to get Laserblasted three times loses. It is very highly recommended that you find a friend to play this game against or much of the competitive fun will be lost.
by Laura DeMichelis, Daniel Fuller
Use the joystick to drive the lawnmower over gophers and score points. Dodge the golfball lest it break the blades on the lawnmower. You have 199 seconds to play. Try to score as high as possible in that time!
In this game, a two player battle between the Mario brothers for the love of Princess Peach, Mario (we mapped him to WASD movement and fire button '1') and Luigi (we mapped him to the arrows for movement and fire button 'space bar') are controlled by humans with goal of traveling to the middle to pick up Princess Peach (by running into her) and then carrying her back to your starting point. Running into the other player will steal Peach, and shooting them with a fireball will send Peach back to the middle. Scoring resets the screen for a new skirmish on a new map, and 5 scores by a player wins the game! Space bar will reset from the win screen. Good luck and enjoy!
Tough to say, even tougher to play! Guide your ship in an intergalactic battle, repelling nuclear warheads across fields of debris to strike your opponent! First player to get 10 nukes past their opponent wins! Are you game enough?
A demo of two AI characters will play when starting the game. Press spacebar to begin two player mode. Spacebar again for one player mode against the AI. Use the arrow keys to move and the spacebar to change player modes (1-2 player).
by Chris Grayson, Christine Duong, Ethan Edgerton
Two opposing players separated by a line that runs vertically down the middle of the play space. On each side of the play space, there is also a wall that further restricts the movement of each player. If either player runs into their back wall or the “fence” in the middle, they will lose a life, which is documented on the score counter, and then be transported back to the middle of their area.
by Mary Lane, Kameron Lovell, and Paul O'Neill
This is Spacetroids, the arms smuggling avoidance game. You try to avoid the asteroids as they come at you. If you get hit, you die, but can press the space bar to restart.
It's the year 2350. In mankind's determined search for intelligent life, we have unknowingly led a dangerous breed of aliens to earth. Their small planet is getting too crowded and they plan to colonize earth and claim it as their own. You are employed by the government to battle these fiends and keep the earth safe. This game is a battle to the end in which the winner gets control of earth.
by Ben McMurray, Chris Morrell, Ryan Oliveria
It's the clash of the titans as Trogdor the Burninator faces off with a brave, but unfortunately nameless knight. Speed, accuracy, wit, and, most importantly, time all play a factor in the battle to see whose majesty is truly superior.
A game similar to Frogger, but with a twist. There are two players, one being the frog and one being the truck. Other trucks not controlled by anyone restart the frog when they hit it. The goal for the frog is to get to the other side of the screen without getting hit by the trucks.
Fall 2005, Spring 2006, Fall 2006
The Aborigines are angry that the British used their land to house their criminals. They built a giant hang glider and are destroying all the criminals with blow-darts. The criminal will appear at the bottom of the screen above the score. The player controls the hang glider and manages to hit the criminal 25 times to move on to the next level. If the criminal hits the hang glider 5 times, the player loses and the game start over.
A two-player Pong-style combat game. Blocks destroyed on one side appear again on the other. Each player attempts to fill his opponent's space.
by Max Anderson, Patrick Jarret, Michael Boyce
This game is an extension of the Atari game Breakout. The game has been expanded to include two player capabilities. The screen is divided in half, giving an equal-sized playing area to each player. Players compete to clear their board and stay alive (keep their ball onscreen) at the same time. Both players move horizontal paddles across the bottom of the screen to deflect the ball which will clear any blocks it touches.
Our game will be a 2-player game in which the players are puppies, and the objective of the game is to throw and catch a Frisbee at each other. The game ends after a set time or if one of the players fails to catch the Frisbee and the player who did not drop the Frisbee is declared the winner. The puppies will be able to move freely on the horizontal axis, but cannot go beyond the invisible vertical line drawn in the middle of the screen. There will also be treats falling from the sky which the puppies can catch for extra points.
by Derryl Carter, Amy Chang, Curtis Johnson
The object is to collect the fire, found at the end of the maze, in as little time as possible. The timer on the bottom records your progress, and will reset to zero when you make contact with any of the walls - something you are not allowed to do. The trick is patience and coordination, you are doing well if you can reach the end in under half a minute.
by Tatum Clanton, Robert Norman, Ari Velazquez
We made a game called Chillin' Out, where the user is Poncho the penguin, who must successfully traverse the playfield. Poncho also must watch out for the murderous Serge the sea lion, who will eat him at nearest chance. We did not include solutions to the game because we thought it would ruin the fun and the levels are fairly simple so it should not be too difficult.
The game's plot is rather simple, you play as two construction workers who are upset with each other and decide to solve their differences by squishing the other underneath huge crates.
The goal of the game is to pilot a helicopter through a treacherous cave by controlling its height with the spacebar. The further into the cave you progress, the harder it gets to stay alive as the cave size and helicopter velocity change. As in all good games there is no winning condition, just survive as long as you can.
A two player dance performance game. Player one attempts to dance to earn points. Player two throws fruit from the audience in disappointment.
by Joseph Simoneau, Joshua Strully, David Sponaas
Our intention was to create a 2-person game based loosely on capture the flag with some new twists. Firstly, players will be able to shoot each other to immobilize them for some period of time. Secondly, a large portion of the playfield will have players concealed, so that each player will not be able to see the other player's motions while in this area. Scoring will be based on returning a flag from an opposing base to your own. There will be no limit to the number of rounds played, and score will be kept as long as physically possible on the Atari 2600 system. Maps will cycle through a predetermined set of playfields for each round.
by Cameron Jansen, Benjamin Marriner, Andrew Windsor
Doom hockey! Play it and you will feel an experience of pure carnal bliss as you drive an bouncing bomb into the enemy strong hold as either a Space Marine or a Doom Demon! Fire missiles and stun your enemy! First player to ten wins the battle but does he win the war? The battle rages on for all ages!
by Cameron Aubuchon, Tarick Khalaf, Daniel Stensland
The game we have decided to make is "Dorothy X: The Witch's Revenge," a story of Americaís favorite tornado survivor and her journey through a post apocalyptic Oz. As Dorothy travels down the yellow brick road, she does not encounter the same friendly creatures she had interacted with on her previous journey; instead she is startled to find a band of zombies out for her blood. Luckily for Dorothy, she remembered to bring her shotgun and is armed and dangerous, ready to fight her way down the yellow brick road to take down Oz.
A simple two-player soccer game. One player shoots, the other defends.
by Jennifer Whitlow, Chris Occhipinti, Chris Henderson
Our design for our game consists of two player sprites that each have missiles. The object of the game is to shoot at the other player without being hit by the center missile or the other player. After a given amount of time the game will move to a new level. In each level, the sprite in the center begins to shoot more missiles more often. When one player gets hit, the other player gets a point and the game goes back to an earlier level in the game.
by April Headen, Colman Bryant, Jill Donnelly
Player's objective is to destroy radioactive falling debris in the sky with a limited number of missiles. The objective is to think logically because there is more debris than number of missiles, but when you hit a piece of debris a chain reaction is set off that hits nearby debris. Explosion of debris will be based on size of debris. The population number is the timer. The faster you blow up all of the debris the higher the score.
by Jon Garner, Amanda Glosson, Kyle Koza
In this two player game each player tries to put the ball in the other persons goal while at the same time navigating through a playfield littered in obstacles. The person to reach five points first wins and the next play field is loaded. There are three playfields total.
John Swisshelm, Greg Kinsey, Patrick Jahn
The game we came up with was a racer with two players. The two racers would drive down a screen trying to kill each other by pushing each other into the walls or obstacles.
In this project, we decided to make a game where two players have to avoid falling objects. Their score increases by twenty each second both players are alive. When one "dies", the score increases by ten each second. When the last player loses the screen goes blank.
You play as Jacob Mallard, a K9 from the NYPD narcotics unit. There's been an increase in the amount of crack being distributed in your precinct, and as top dog it is your job to put a stop to it. Everyone knows that Guillermo von Swagen is the major distributor/importer of the drugs, so it's him your after. You need to infiltrate his distribution center and collect as much evidence as possible in order to put him away.
by Emily Gantt, Matthew Saeger, Stephanie Sellers
It's a satisfyingly addicting two-player Atari game. It was inspired by our interest in having loads of fun when we should be studying and of course Harry. Give yourself a chance to experience the thrill of broom flight. Download it and try it out for yourself. Please don't forget to read the game-design document and see just how we got to this successful point in our game-designing careers.
A multi-screen one-player maze racing game. Avoid the minotaur!
by Justin Gilman, Nicole Green, Ben McMurray
Panic at the Disco is a one player game geared towards those stuck in the times of Studio 64 and big ‘fros. The player has 1.8 seconds to match the move of the computer. Don't Panic or You'll mess up! The player is allowed 3 mistakes before losing. This game is very quick paced.
by Andrew Korzik, Martin Rojas, Jenifer Vandagriff
This is a two player game that consists of two Indians that will be in a scrolling arena and the purpose of the game will be for the Indian girls to run up the valley and avoid the buffalo, each time they hit a buffalo they attain injury and the first to reach 100 dies. The girls can also shoot, but they will lose life by shooting.
The player assumes control of Samuel L. Jackson, with the objective of trying to shoot snakes and rescue people in the rows through a down-scrolling playfield without colliding with the snakes going down the playing field. The player has the ability to navigate throughout the plane and in the aisles. The player can also shoot up, down, left, and right.
by Amrit Bhavinani, Jared Caldwell, John Douglass, Daniel Gibson
Terminator is a two player coop game. The objective is to navigate the two players through the space and kill the bosses. After a certain number of hits and boss kills, the bosses will become increasingly difficult to kill and will require more boss kills to reach the next boss.
by Zachary Antoine, Joy Salter, Matthew Robertson
Top Gun! A jet fighter game for two players. To play the game, each player controls one of the jets and fires upon the other. The first player to 20 points wins.
This is a 2-player game designed so that each player has very different abilities. Player 1 controls Quakman (a Canadian Goose) and can shoot missiles rapidly across the screen at Growl. Player 2 controls Growl (a bear) and can slide blocks across the screen towards Quakman. Each player has a very different goal. Quakman's goal is to defeat Growl in all 8 stages. The counter at the bottom of the screen represents time, and therefore Quakman tries to defeat Growl in the fastest time possible. Growl's goal on the other hand is to prevent Quakman from navigating through all 8 stages for as long as possible.
by Abram Wallace, Collin Gillens,
The game soccer is inspired by pong. Each player controlls a soccer player and the 2 players try to kick the ball into the other players goal. If the ball goes past the goal and not in then it is reset into the field. Movement of the players is restrict horizontally and vertically to keep them close to the goal. As a bonus a crazy naked fan will run across the screen at random times and if the players hit him with the ball a bonus is achieved.
by Matthew Yannetti, Mike Roth, James Truesdell
In our game player 1 is put in the seat of the space ship once again, but this time player 2 gets to be the asteroid field. The way we decided to represent the asteroid field was to have the asteroids appear in random places so long as player 2 is holding down the fire button on their controller. Player 1's controls work the same as usual, they steer using the joystick and they shoot using the fire button.
Our game will have two players on the field. Each player can move freely and fire one homing missile at the other player.The homing missiles will home in on each player. If the player who fired it is moving, the missile will move towards them at high speed. If they are standing still, then the missile moves towards them slowly.If your missile gets to the opposing player before you get shot, you get a point.
The player controls a tank and attempts to hit the cute little duck on the other side with projectiles. Each player has one weapon and can select the velocity and angle of the weapon. A player wins a round by hitting the duck three times.
by Jon Yi, Nick Lance, Tom Morrison
Two players control tanks and try to return "supplies" to their respective bases. Scoring is based on how many returns the player gets as well as how many times he kills the other player.