Preface to Classic Home Video Games 1989-1990 By Brett Weiss

Brett Weiss’s book, Classic Home Video Games 1989-1990: A Complete Guide to Sega Genesis, Neo Geo and Turbografx-16 Games, has finally been released in softcover. To mark this occasion, Mr. Weiss has given The Retroist permission to reprint the book’s preface.

Before we get to that, here’s the description of the book:

The third in a series about home video games, this detailed reference work features descriptions and reviews of EVERY official U.S.-released game for the Neo Geo, Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx-16, which, in 1989, ushered in the 16-bit era of gaming. Organized alphabetically by console brand, each chapter includes a description of the game system followed by entries for every game released for that console (regardless of when the games came out). Video game entries include historical information, gameplay details, the author’s critique, and, when appropriate, comparisons to similar games. Appendices list and offer brief descriptions of all the games for the Atari Lynx and Nintendo Game Boy (since they came out in 1989), and catalogue and describe the add-ons to the consoles covered herein– Neo Geo CD, Sega CD, Sega 32X and TurboGrafx-CD.

You can order the book here:

Without further ado, here’s the preface to Classic Home Video Games 1989-1990: A Complete Guide to Sega Genesis, Neo Geo and Turbografx-16 Games:

“For me, 1989 was an exciting year. After slogging away for four years at a job I hated, delivering copier machines via a bobtail truck, I took the plunge and decided to do something I would enjoy, even if it meant working for less pay. I applied for and quickly got a job with Lone Star Comics, which is a retail chain in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Ironically, I was hired not because I was a comic book expert (which I was), but because of my mad truck-driving skills. My job with Lone Star, in addition to waiting on customers and sorting and bagging back issue comics, was to commandeer the company van, delivering new comics to various Lone Star stores. (My position at Lone Star led to management and then to the ownership of two comic book stores, but that’s a story for another day).

During my first year with Lone Star, three significant (mind-blowing, to be exact) pop culture events transpired: the release of the Tim Burton Batman film, which kicked off the second wave of Batmania (the first was during the Adam West era); the debut of The Simpsons television series, which changed the face of prime time television forever; and the beginning of the next generation of video game systems with the unveiling of three new consoles: the Sega Genesis, Neo Geo, and TurboGrafx-16 (not to mention the Game Boy and Atari Lynx handheld units).

While I didn’t get the chance to play a Neo Geo or a TurboGrafx-16 until later, I picked up a Genesis shortly after the system hit store shelves. From a sheer practical standpoint, I didn’t need a Genesis – my Atari 2600, ColecoVision, NES, and other systems were keeping me plenty busy – but I simply had to have one, thanks to the stunning, arcade-like intrigue of such next-gen titles as Altered Beast, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, and Golden Axe, and to the “oohs” and “aahs” I kept hearing from Lone Star customers and from some of my friends who had already bought (or at least played) a Genesis.

I was certainly pleased with my Genesis purchase and was doubly so with the arrival of Sonic the Hedgehog (1991), which at the time was the fastest, most dynamic platformer I had ever seen or played. The game helped make the Genesis the cool system to own. Not only that, the spunky protagonist – a blue, spiky-haired hedgehog with an attitude – quickly became Sega’s far-famed mascot, giving the company something Nintendo already had for years with Mario.

Over time, I would add many more games to my Genesis collection, including such favorites as Captain America and the Avengers, Gunstar Heroes, Mega Bomberman, Ms. Pac-Man, Road Rash, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Space Invaders ’91, Streets of Rage, Streets of Rage 2, and Sunset Riders.

Since hundreds of games were released for the system, the bulk of the book you hold in your hands covers the Sega Genesis. However, I paid no short shrift to the Neo Geo, with its plethora of bold, brash, bombastic fighting games, or to the TurboGrafx-16, with its wonderful array of quirky titles and hardcore shooters (to this day, Galaga ’90 is one of my all-time favorite games). Regardless of which console from 1989 is your favorite, you’ll find plenty of information and opinions here on all of that system’s cartridges.

Released on the heels of Classic Home Video Games, 1972-1984 (2007) and Classic Home Video Games, 1985-1988 (2009), Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990 is the third book in a proposed four-volume series. It was fun to write, but also very difficult, partly because the games of the era are typically longer and more involved than the titles covered in the first two books.

When I talk to gamers at conventions and online, I’m sometimes asked why I write reference books instead of tips and tricks guides or historical accounts of the industry. The answers are simple. The Internet and the Digital Press guides have all the tips and tricks anyone needs, and Steven L. Kent (with The Ultimate History of Video Games) and Leonard Herman (with Phoenix: The Fall & Rise of Videogames) have the market cornered on history books and do a much better job of it than I ever could.

My books contain a lot of video game history, of course, what with the retro theme and all, but the emphasis is on the individual games themselves. Each entry for the Genesis, Neo Geo, and TurboGrafx-16 includes data, description, gameplay elements, and, in most cases, critical evaluation. (The games for the console add-ons, such as the Sega CD and TurboGrafx-CD, are included in appendices near the back of the book. The handheld Atari Lynx and original Game Boy are also covered in the appendices).

Another reason I write reference books is that I’m obsessed with them. It started when I was a kid during the mid-1970s and would pore over the Guinness Book of World Records. I would sit with my tattered paperback copy of that book for hours, utterly transfixed by such phenomena as the world’s tallest man, the world’s longest fingernails, the world’s heaviest twins, and the woman with the world’s thinnest waist. (In the years since, I’ve read countless other reference books to pieces, including Leonard Herman’s ABC to the VCS: A Directory of Software for the Atari 2600, which helped pave the way for my Classic Home Video Games series).

In addition to the Guinness Book of World Records, the 1970s was a decade filled with entertainments that were enticing to my impressionable young mind. These included The Land of the Lost, The Super Friends, Star Wars, the rock band KISS, Marvel and DC comic books, and, of course, video games. When such monolithic testaments to man’s ingenuity as Midway’s Gun Fight (1975) and Atari’s Breakout (1976) began rubbing elbows with my beloved pinball machines at the local arcades, I became quickly hooked. To help pay for my newfound obsession, I would pop games on pinball machines I had mastered and sell the resultant credits two for a quarter.

Shortly after I discovered video games in the arcades, various cousins and friends started receiving – as Christmas presents – these incredible machines that would hook up to their television sets to play games. I wouldn’t get my own game system (a ColecoVision) until 1982, but I was a frequent fixture at the homes of anyone I knew who owned Pong (or any number of Pong clones), an Atari VCS, a Fairchild Channel F system, or an Odyssey 2 (back in those days, no one I knew had two systems).

So, since I grew up playing video games and reading reference books, and since I always wanted to be a writer, it only made sense to write reference books about video games.

The research I did for Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990 was exhaustive and exhausting. An addition to playing (and replaying) an insane number of games, many of which I had to borrow from friends or purchase on eBay or in various gaming stores throughout Texas and Oklahoma, I spent hundreds of hours going over every little detail – from character names to production dates to game developers – in order to assure that the information was as accurate as humanly possible.

Also, I tried to measure the positives and negatives of each game objectively. I took the era in which the games where made into consideration, of course, but if a game hadn’t held up particularly well over time, I usually mentioned it. While graphics and sounds play important roles, my bottom-line consideration each time I evaluate a game is how much fun it is to play.

The one drawback to researching and writing the Classic Home Video Games series is that it takes away from time I could be playing modern consoles, such as my son’s Xbox 360 or our family’s Nintendo Wii. Regardless, I largely prefer 2D twitch-gaming and scrolling action over 3D exploration and first-person shooting anyway, so I’m content to mine the past while others pave the way forward.

For some of you, this will be your second or third book to purchase in the Classic Home Video Games series, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. For others, this will be your first experience with my work, and I want to thank you as well. I certainly hope you enjoy what you read.”


Get lost in the Movie Monster Mazes of 1976!

In the Seventies, I would buy the latest issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND off the pharmacy’s magazine rack nearly every month. One of the best parts of the magazine were the mail order pages where tons of awesome monster-related and scifi-related items were advertised by the Captain Company of New York, New York. There was a multitude of monster merchandise, both common and uncommon, and in 1976 my eye caught sight of Item #21279 and I had to have it.


I was never able to send away for anything from the Captain Company, but thanks to the local Waldenbooks store in my NJ mall, I was able to get my 8yo hands on a copy of the book MOVIE MONSTER MAZES.


It was a great thrill to score something which I’ve stared at all month long, month after month, in the back pages of FAMOUS MONSTERS magazine. MOVIE MONSTER MAZES did not disappoint this young monster movie fan. Not only were the mazes themselves challenging with an actual time limit assigned to each one, but the artist/author Vladimir Koziakin illustrated a wide and deep range of cinematic creatures most of whom are hardly ever utilized in merchandise.

For every classic monster in this book, such as THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA…


…there was a more obscure character, such as the Vampire from the lost silent movie LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT.


There is a maze made out of  the classic FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER…


…and the less-than-classic FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER from the 1958 B-movie!


A maze you can do by the light of the full moon, THE WOLFMAN.


A maze to do as you rock around the clock, I WAS A TEENAGE WOLFMAN.


It is the inclusion of these B-Movie monsters that makes this book that much more special to any monster fan. Here is a small sample of them from the fifty mazes you can do.




Even the sub-genre of monster movies I love most of all, the giant monster movie, is well represented too.




Koziakin, the illustrator, is not without a sense of humor in creating these mazes.


moviemonstermazes-00013moviemonstermazes-00019As an 8 yo I always thought it was funny that you entered THE INVISIBLE MAN maze via his nose.

This book was published in 1976 and the monsters of modern horror were included as mazes as well.



But out of all fifty of these monstrous mazes, the creepiest one is the maze where you’re forced to stare at the hideous visage while trying to beat its five minute limit, THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY.


Even though I’ve had this book for 40 years, only a select few of the mazes have been completed. It is not that the mazes were an activity not worth the time, but rather the probable reason was that the idea of being lost in a maze within one of these monsters is a bit…creepy!



Holy Oversight! Batman: Facts And Stats Is Out Now!

I think 2016 is looking pretty groovy for us fans of Batman ’66. I mean we have a brand new animated movie featuring Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar just around the corner. DC Comics is continuing to publish their 1966 inspired line of comics – stories finding the Dynamic Duo crossing paths with the likes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and even Steed and Peel from The Avengers.
Batman - Return of the Caped Crusaders

Now we have the release of Batman: Facts And Stats from the Classic TV Show from Titan Books. In all honesty the book is what is advertised on the tin. It is a collection of interesting information concerning the three seasons of the TV series.

Images courtesy of Titan Books.

Images courtesy of Titan Books.

I hope you will forgive the quality of my scan on these pages. The book itself is appropriately colorful as was the Batman ’66 series. The design is thanks to Rian Hughes and it really pops – it certainly manages to capture the spirit of the show.
Now of particular interest is the text…written by one Y.Y. Flurch. I bring this up because that is the name of a fictional author from episode 31 of the first season of the 1966 series. In an episode entitled Death in Slow Motion!
So who is Y.Y. Flurch really? Turns out it is none other than Joe Desris – who just so happens to be a Batman historian. Desris has a coffee table book coming out in December entitled Batman: A Celebration of the Classic TV Series!

Who is Batman: Facts and Stats from the Classic TV Show for?

Everyone that has a passing interest in the 1966 Batman series, naturally! I do think I should point out that this is by no means an in-depth look at the TV show. At 80 pages it succeeds in its task – to give the reader some fun facts and stats. From quick bios on not just the Caped Crusaders and Batgirl but the supporting players in that classic show. Of course one of the things that really made the 1966 show stand out was the many guest stars who lined up to play villains. While not every single one gets the spotlight, the book definitely goes out of the way to focus on some of the most memorable.

Key locations used frequently in the show are given entries as well as those stylish vehicles that made appearances throughout the three seasons.

You can pick up Batman: Facts and Stats from the Classic TV Show today, nay, right this second at most bookstores. Of course you can also hop on over to Amazon and order your copy here.


Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree By Glen Brogan

Friends, you know what today is right? It is October 1st! That time of the year that we here at The Retroist do our best to embrace the Season. Like with The Halloween Tree illustration you see below by Glen Brogan, inspired by the 1972 Ray Bradbury story.
The Halloween Tree Pumpkin - The Disney Geek
The month of October has always meant a great deal to me – my absolute favorite time of the year. It signals the arrival of Bradbury’s Autumn People. Which is why on The Retroist our posts for this month turn to things eerie and spooky. Also sharing though our memories of the fun of the past that so often return during this Season.

TK421 Maul

Image courtesy of Glen Brogan and Strange Kids Club,

Image courtesy of Glen Brogan and Strange Kids Club,

Why start your first post of October with The Halloween Tree?

I chose that particular subject because the story itself sums up some of my feelings of the season the best.
“The wind outside nested in each tree, prowled the sidewalks in invisible treads like unseen cats.
Tom Skelton shivered. Anyone could see that the wind was a special wind this night, and the darkness took on a special feel because it was All Hallows’ Eve. Everything seemed cut from soft black velvet or gold or orange velvet. Smoke panted up out of a thousand chimneys like the plumes of funeral parades. From kitchen windows drifted two pumpkin smells: gourds being cut, pies being baked.”

Why not take a moment to listen to Ray Bradbury himself discuss on how he came up with the idea for The Halloween Tree. The novel as well as the 1993 animated film by Mario Pilusio and featuring the voice of the late great Leonard Nimoy!

[Via] faroukabad

That wonderful illustration by Glen Brogan by the way was done for the Strange Kids Club. Sadly that was a couple of years back so I’m not sure if a print is still available for purchase.


Geeky LEGO Crafts By David Scarfe

If you visit The Retroist often you know I have no issues with sharing my love of fanmade LEGO creations. I believe that is exactly why No Starch Press got in touch with me to review their upcoming book.

Geeky LEGO Crafts: 21 Fun and Quirky Projects by David Scarfe is right up my alley. I also bet if you or a member of your Family enjoys LEGO you too will enjoy Scarfe’s book. Especially if you enjoy various retro based projects…
like that Retro Controller Phone Station. Which is obviously designed to resemble the original Nintendo Entertainment System controllers.

I think some of these LEGO projects look tough!

I totally understand you being concerned about that, I really do. I mean we can’t all have the skills of those that post over at The Brothers Brick, right? I am happy to say that David’s book can put you at ease because Geeky LEGO Crafts has step-by-step instructions.

Each project also gives you a visual difficulty rating. Just in case a young builder decides to tackle something like…the Bearskin Rug!

You can see in those images for Tetris fridge magnets that Scarfe has your back on each project. Breaking down not just the color of the pieces but of course how many of each piece you will need.

I was happy to find many of the Geeky LEGO Crafts projects are video game themed – like the Space Invader Space Holders. Or even the flying ducks from 1984’s Duck Hunt. But you also have the option of constructing everything from a Cassette Tape letter holder to a Grenade Planter.

If that does nothing for you, perhaps I can interest you in the Robot Wine Bottle Holder!

I believe that Geeky LEGO Crafts: 21 Fun and Quirky Projects is being released on September 30th. Which means you have plenty of time to visit No Starch Press and pre-order a copy for yourself.

David Scarfe should be proud of his book, it is very well written and entertaining to boot. With the Holidays just around the corner it might make the perfect gift for that LEGO fan you know!


32 Years Later I Get To Read This Dragon’s Lair Storybook!

Dragon’s Lair, the 1983 Laserdisc arcade game holds a very special spot in my heart. I have certainly gone on enough about it on The Retroist these last six years as well as the 10th episode of the Diary of An Arcade Employee Podcast.
Dragon's Lair ad
Why? Well, the easiest answer is I was totally captivated by the animation from Don Bluth and his studio but I also was at that right age to become enamored with the idea of becoming a valiant knight attempting to brave the perils of the Dragon’s Lair.

While it certainly has plenty of Players who seem to rail against the game…well…being a game on rails, I still find myself captivated by it today as when I first walked into my local Showbiz Pizza and saw the line of Players waiting their turn.

I think that the only real complaint I ever had about Dragon’s Lair was the lack of merchandising. It wasn’t until Dragon’s Lair 3D: Return to the Lair was released back in 2002 that we fans finally got our hands on some proper action figures!

So what merchandise was available for Dragon’s Lair in the early 80s?

  • There were some excellent buttons that fans could get from the Don Bluth Animation fan club.
  • Aladdin Industries Inc. released an incredible metal lunch box.
  • Dragon's Lair - Lunchbox - PJ Gamers - OVGE

  • The Don Bluth Studios published the Tele-Story Presents Dragon’s Lair storybook – which came with an audio cassette tape to listen to while reading the story.
  • A set of Dragon’s Lair flip books that you could yet again order through the Don Bluth Animation fan club back in the day.
  • Milton Bradley produced a board game based on the popular arcade title – which I just so happened to be lucky enough to get my hands on, thanks to a good friend and co-worker at the arcade.
  • There were some cheap toys manufactured by the Larami Corporation for Dragon’s Lair but these were just cheap plastic bugs and slingshots with the game’s logo stamped on the packaging.
  • I'm happy to say that I have the Dragon's Lair Sling Darts!

    I’m happy to say that I have the Dragon’s Lair Sling Darts!

  • I think one of the greatest Dragon’s Lair produced pieces of merchandise was Fleer’s exceptional sticker and rub-off game cards.
  • Dragon's Lair Stickers C

  • Last but not least Marvel Books – yes – as in Marvel Comics, released a series of coloring books and storybooks with images from the game as well as some minor puzzles and word searches.

I am happy to say that after 32 years I finally was able to get my hands on one of those Dragon’s Lair storybooks!

Are you finally going to talk about the Dragon’s Lair book?!

Yes. Calm down, friends. I was just giving you some of my personal thoughts and background info on the merchandising for the game. Yeesh. Dragon’s Lair: The Quest for the Stolen Fortune was designed by Paty Cockrum and Marie Severin – with the word games, mazes, and crossword puzzles created by Suzanne Weyn.

It finds Dirk the Daring being summoned to the Royal Palace where he is put on the trail of the dastardly and deadly Lizard King!
Naturally after the reader helps Dirk navigate the traps left behind by the Lizard King…
..they must attempt to vanquish the evil ruler.
Thankfully if a younger reader found themselves stuck they could always take a quick peek in the back of the book to get the answers they needed.
Now I know that I said I was lucky enough to get my hands on this book, the truth is I was only able to read through it when I dropped in at the arcade. You see, Shea ordered the book from eBay for one of our Players – a young boy who very much like I was at that age captivated by the Dragon’s Lair arcade game.

So I guess in truth my quest for these books still awaits!

Arkadia Retrocade - Atari 2600

Atari 2600: Long Live the VCS!

The beloved Atari 2600 will turn 40 years old next year. To get a jump on that milestone, Brett Weiss has given The Retroist authorization to reprint his Atari 2600 essay, which is one of 60 chapters in his book, Retro Pop Culture A to Z: From Atari 2600 to Zombie Films.
Mention the words “Atari 2600” to most anyone between the ages of 35 and 55, and you’ll likely hear such effusive praise as: “Atari was great!” “I had one of those when I was a kid, and my brothers and I used to play it all the time!” “Those games were so much fun!” And, my favorite, “I got one on eBay so I could show my kids how we used to play video games. They loved it!”
Atari 2600
Released to store shelves in October of 1977, the Atari Video Computer System (VCS) is one of the most important consoles ever produced, rivaling the Nintendo NES and Sony’s PlayStation and PlayStation 2 in terms of bringing video games to the proverbial masses. While not the first video game console (the original Odyssey and the Fairchild Channel F both predate Atari’s venerable machine), the Atari 2600 (as it came to be called) made the word “Atari” synonymous with “video game” in the minds of the general public (at least until Nintendo assumed that role during the mid-to-late 1980s with the release of the NES).
Video Olympics
The Atari 2600 launched alongside nine game cartridges: Video Olympics, Starship, Street Racer, Blackjack, Indy 500, Surround, Basic Math, Air-Sea Battle, and Combat, the latter of which was the pack-in game with the system. In addition to Combat, the 2600 came with two stiff, but solid joysticks and a pair of rotary paddle controllers, which worked beautifully with such subsequent releases as Super Breakout and Warlords. The joysticks and paddles had just one button each, forcing programmers to be especially creative when designing more elaborate games. One such title, the immensely creative Space Shuttle: A Journey into Space, programmed by Steve Kitchen, utilized the switches on the console itself during gameplay.
Space Shuttle - Activision
Built with a meager 128 bytes of RAM (Random Access Memory), the Atari 2600 was originally designed to play simple racing games, crude Pong variations, rudimentary educational simulations, and basic action games. However, when the sci-fi classic Space Invaders descended upon the arcades in 1978, helping turn the coin-op video game business into a multi-billion dollar industry, an Atari 2600 port was inevitable.
Space Invaders
Released in cartridge form in 1980, Space Invaders sent sales of the Atari 2600 into the stratosphere (the cartridge itself sold more than 1,000,000 units), laying the ground for such simplified, but action-packed arcade-to-home translations as Asteroids, Missile Command, and Ms. Pac-Man.
Ms Pac Man
Some of the best, most sophisticated offerings for the Atari 2600 were released by such third-party companies as Activision and Imagic, both of which were manned (at least in part) by ex-Atari employees longing for more royalties and more recognition for the games they would program.

Activision in particular had a number of standout hits, including: Kaboom!, which made brilliant use of Atari’s paddle controllers; Pitfall!, a groundbreaking adventure platformer that paved the way for such legendary side-scrollers as Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog; and River Raid, a hugely influential vertical-scrolling shooter that was one of few games of the era programmed by a female (Carol Shaw).

Media licensing played a big part in the Atari 2600 catalogue as well, spawning such titles as: Flash Gordon, loosely based on the 1980 feature film; Journey Escape, starring virtual versions of the famed rock band Journey; King Kong, a poor man’s Donkey Kong; Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man, a playable take on the 1980s cartoon; Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, a great game that dark fantasy writer (and non-gamer) Harlan Ellison once trashed mercilessly in a review; Strawberry Shortcake Musical Match-Ups, a good reason for little girls to fire up the 2600; and Superman, an adventure game that broke new ground with its mission-based objectives.
Superman - Atari 2600
While the Atari 2600 was an incredibly successful system (more than 30 million units were sold during its record-shattering lifespan of 14 years and two months), it wasn’t without its share of competitors. In 1980, after test-marketing the system in 1979, Mattel released the Intellivision, which, as company pitchman George Plimpton pontificated about in a number of TV commercials, had better looking, more sophisticated games – especially when it came to sports titles and space combat games – than its popular progenitor.

Despite the advances made by Mattel, the 2600 easily won the first console war, thanks to its plethora of arcade ports and to its vast cartridge library, which contained games that were generally faster and more enjoyable than that of the Intellivision.

By 1983, the Atari 2600 was starting to show its age. The previous year saw the release of the ColecoVision and the Atari 5200, both vastly superior to the 2600 in terms of graphics and sounds. Computers such as the Commodore 64 were also taking market share away from the 2600. Further, the 2600 library was getting increasingly crowded with shoddy third-party releases that appeared to be quickly slapped together to cash in on system’s popularity. Combine this with the release of a couple of disappointing high profile titles – Pac-Man and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial – and you’ve got a recipe for disaster, meaning the Atari 2600 had all but died by 1984, which was the year, along with 1983, of the fabled Great Video Game Crash.

In 1986, the home console industry rose Phoenix-like from the ashes with the release of the phenomenally successful Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), which Nintendo began test-marketing in the U.S. in 1985 (the Japanese equivalent, dubbed the Famicom, was released in Japan in 1983). With video games once again in the public eye, Atari released a smaller, cheaper version of the system unofficially called the Atari 2600 jr., which hit retail shelves in 1986.
Atari 2600 jr
That same year, Atari unveiled the Atari 7800, which was backward-compatible with the 2600, meaning it could play most of the games in the 2600 library. Both the 2600 jr. and the Atari 7800 barely made a splash in the wake of the NES juggernaut.

The Atari 2600 met its official demise in January of 1992, with Atari focusing its future efforts on the ill-fated Atari Jaguar, which debuted in 1993.

However, to paraphrase the great Mark Twain, reports of the death of the Atari 2600 were greatly exaggerated. Thanks to a number of factors, including a wave of nostalgia and a fanzine by the name of the 2600 Connection (which began in 1990 and lasted for 100 issues), the Atari 2600 saw new life throughout the 1990s. Collectors began buying and selling games through the mail, and the advent of eBay near the middle of the decade had people retrieving their Atari 2600 systems and games from their closets and attics and selling them to the highest bidders.

While Atari officially abandoned their famed system in 1992, programmers and computer-savvy fans began producing “homebrew” Atari 2600 games during the mid 1990s. While some homebrew titles are cartridge-only, many games have been released in professional looking boxes with accompanying manuals. Many are downloadable to your computer as well.

Some of the more interesting Atari 2600 homebrews include: Blinky Goes Up, a vertical scrolling platformer; Edtris 2600, a Tetris clone and one of the earliest 2600 homebrews; Evil Magician’s Return, an Adventure-style game; Halo 2600, a simplified homage to the Xbox classic; Lady Bug, a stunning port of the 1981 Universal maze game; Medieval Mayhem, an updated take on Warlords; Okie Dokie, a puzzle game and one of the first 2600 homebrews; the Asteroids-inspired Space Rocks; Ultra SCSIcide, a Kaboom!-inspired action title; and Star Castle Arcade, a port of the brutally difficult arcade shooter. And far too many others to mention.

Online retailers dealing in homebrew titles, which are typically priced around $30-$60 each, include AtariAge (, Good Deal Games (, and Atari (

Another phenomenon surrounding the renewed interest in the Atari 2600 is skyrocketing prices for the harder to find, more highly sought after games. According to the late, lamented Video Game Trader magazine, some of the more valuable carts include Chase the Chuckwagon ($64), Condor Attack ($162), Crazy Climber ($91), Eli’s Ladder ($861), Gauntlet ($1155), Lochjaw ($454), MagiCard ($545), Malagai ($385), Pepsi Invaders ($638), River Patrol ($432), and Video Life ($1585).
Video Life
If the cartridge comes with the original box and manual, the game is even more valuable. In fact, the box is sometimes worth more than the game itself since the vast majority of boxes were discarded shortly after the games were purchased.

In 2010, a man named Tanner Sandlin of Austin, Texas, while reading an article about rare and valuable video games, recognized one of the titles, discovered that it was still in his garage, and sold it on eBay for $31,600, one of the highest prices ever paid for a video game. The game was Air Raid, which he had purchased at the closeout store, Tuesday Morning, back in the 1980s. There are less than 20 copies of Air Raid known to exist.

Factory sealed titles can also be worth big bucks, as evidenced by a copy of Music Machine that sold at for $5,250 in 2009. Music Machine was originally released only through Christian book stores making it exceedingly rare today, especially unopened.
The Music Machine
Fortunately for budget-conscious 2600 fans, most of the better games in the Atari 2600 library are super cheap, due to the fact that they were released in large quantities. It’s easy to find such games as Asteroids, Combat, Defender, Dig Dug, and Ms. Pac-Man selling for a buck or three apiece at retro video game shows or stores or on eBay. Also, although not nearly as common of a sight as it was a decade ago, 2600 games still show up at garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores (though sometimes overpriced as “antiques”).

Collecting for the Atari 2600 entails more than just game cartridges and the system itself (which was available in several incarnations, including consoles produced by Sears and Coleco). A host of tie-in merchandise was released during the system’s heyday, including a trackball controller ($15-$20); a Missile Command audio book ($20); a Starpath Supercharger for playing more powerful cassette-based games ($100); a Joyboard controller that players could stand on ($45); patches that players sent off for after achieving high scores on Activision games ($10-$50), and a plethora of third-party joysticks ($5-$25 or more).

There was even a comic book series. Published by DC Comics from 1984 to 1985, Atari Force ran for 20 issues (plus a Giant Size special), with Fine to Near-Mint copies easy to find in the $1 to $5 price range.
Atari Force
For gamers and nostalgia buffs not wanting to clutter up their media shelves with a bunch of cartridges, there’s the Atari Flashback (2004), which resembles the Atari 7800 console and comes with 15 built-in 2600 games and five built-in 7800 titles. This was followed by the Atari Flashback 2 (2005); which resembles the original Atari 2600 console and comes with 40 built-in games; the Atari Flashback 3 (2011), which comes with 60 built-in games; and the Atari Flashback 4 (2012), which comes with 75 built-in games.

Another option is emulation ( is a good source for this), which lets gamers download and play 2600 games on their home computers.

One important occurrence of the rise of 2600 fandom was the release of Leonard Herman’s ABC to the VCS: A Directory of Software for the Atari 2600 (Rolenta Press), which was published in 1994 and updated in 2005. This was the first of a number of books on older games, paving the way for such titles as Steven L. Kent’s The Ultimate History of Video Games (Three Rivers Press, 2001), Van Burnham’s Supercade: A Visual History of the Videogame Age 1971-1984 (MIT Press, 2001), and my own Classic Home Video Games, 1972-1984: A Complete Reference Guide (McFarland, 2007).
Classic Home Video Games
Price guides followed as well, including a series of Digital Press collector’s guides and Video Game Trader magazine.

Thanks to rabid fandom and the innate appeal of older video games, which offer simple, yet endearingly timeless challenges, a number of 2600-related websites host message boards and are filled with valuable resources, including reviews, manual scans, tips and tricks (including walkthroughs for such titles as Adventure and Pitfall!), and scans of such classic videogame magazines as Atarian and Electronic Games. Some of the more lively sites include Digital Press (, AtariAge (, and The Video Game Critic (

Atari 2600 Facebook pages are fun as well, such as AtariAge and Atari Museum Marketplace, where you can buy and sell games.

The best thing about collecting for the Atari 2600 is that you get to play with your collection. Baseball cards, stamps, pottery, wine bottles, and other such collectibles may be nice to look at, but video games are much more interactive. Just be sure to think twice before you break open that factory sealed cartridge. It may be worth a small fortune.

MY FONDEST ATARI 2600 MEMORY: After spending the first few years of the existence of the Atari 2600 playing it at various friends’ homes, I finally got one of my very own in 1983. I bought it with 10 cartridges from a high school classmate for the unthinkably low price of $10. It was the second system I owned, after the ColecoVision, which I had received for Christmas in 1982.