Old Atari 2600 Manuals

2012-10-07 10.12.26

As a kid I never thought about saving the boxes to my Atari 2600 games. Most of us back then kept our games in plastic holders, or shoe boxes, or drawers. I don’t think most of us had the “collector mentality” back then. A day or two after opening them, the games went in the drawer and the boxes went in the trash.

The manuals, however, were important. Take Space Invaders, for example. Space Invaders has 112 different variations. Along with the “normal version,” there are versions where players one and two alternate turns, versions where they compete at the same time, versions where they complete at the same time and alternate shots, versions where one player moves with and one player moves left, versions where players alternate fire and controls, versions where one version moves and the other player fires, versions with moving shields, versions with zigzagging bombs, versions with fast bombs, and versions with invisible invaders. Without the manual, players would have no idea which version of the game on the cartridge contained which features.

AtariAge.com has a ton of manuals online for vintage Atari cartridges. If you happen to run across old Atari cartridges and don’t have the manual, this is a great resource for you!

The manuals above are mine. Some of them I got new way back in the late 70s. Some of them I picked up at garage sales from other people who managed to save them. Ironically (or perhaps sacrilegiously…), I store them in a padded Nintendo carrying case. To be honest whenever I need to figure out a game’s settings I typically just visit Atari Age, but I will always enjoy thumbing through those old, glossy pages and looking at the way things used to be.

Rob O'Hara

I'm into old video games, old arcade games, old computer games, writing, photography, computer/network security, and of course, the 1980s!

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4 thoughts on “Old Atari 2600 Manuals

  1. ddsw says:

    You definitely needed that manual for Swordquest, and the stupid comic book, too. Otherwise the game made no sense.

  2. Space caverns is a lot like that, it has something like 48 variations. The manual included a big chart where you could look through & see that a given setting had 2 or 4 overhead enemies, large or small enemies, 1 or 2 side enemies, straight or diagonal bullets, 1 or 2 players, and several levels of difficulty. Unfortunately my 2600 manuals all vanished many long moons ago. Fortunately, I was able to find an html manual online when I decided to emulate it. Warlords also had over 20 variations, which you needed the manual o tell you which did what.

  3. Parker MacArthur says:

    I completely forgot about the 100+ variations of Space Invaders! My brother and I pretty much played just the “normal” versions, similar to the arcade style of play. I seem to remember enjoying one where you could “curve” your shots but then again, that might have been a Combat game variation with the tanks.

    I see the manual for Air-Sea Battle. Man, the countless hours I spent playing that, I could have been a violin virtuoso!

  4. Even the manual couldn’t help me beat E.T.! My dad used to cut the boxes apart and paste the covers to a big board, so we had this big collage of Atari boxes. Sadly, it is long gone. Would have been awesome to hang over the couch:)

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