Subs by Atari

Subs by Atari


I have another obscure Atari arcade game. This one is Atari Subs and was released in 1979. Subs was the first arcade game to use dual monitors and because of this dual screen configuration the cabinet is pretty unique looking. As you can see in the flyer above it’s a wide cabinet and it has a nice large marque in the front center that lights up. At a 45 degree angle on both sides of the cabinet each player has his own controls and monitor that the other cannot see. You can either play 1 player against the computer or 2 players against a friend, of course against a friend is the most fun if you ask me. A while back I wrote about some Early Atari Arcade Design Concepts that someone had saved and along with those photos they also had some concept drawings of Subs. I believe they were originally posted on so I want to give them credit.



The object of Subs is to find and destroy your enemy’s sub. Normally you do not see your opponent’s sub on your screen and he cannot see you on his and since you cannot see the enemy’s submarine there are clues you must use to track it down. There is a small sonar display in the bottom corner of the screen that will sweep the area ever few seconds and give an approximate location of the enemy. If one player runs into an island or hits the edge of the playfield he will become visible. Torpedoes are always displayed on both monitors so firing one will give away the sub’s position. Using these clues you must maneuver your submarine into position to lunch torpedoes in the direction of the enemy but you are only allowed two torpedoes in the water at a time. The controls for your sub are a steering wheel which of course turns your sub left or right (port or starboard is probably more accurate) and a Torpedo fire button. You are always moving forward and there is no way to control your speed. The recommended game time is 90 seconds but can be set from 30 seconds to 4 minutes in 30 second increments. You can buy more time if you like by adding additional quarters before the time runs out. The person who has destroyed the most subs when the time runs out wins. As you watch the video just remember there’s a second screen on the other side of the cabinet displaying the other subs point of view.

Unfortunately Subs is pretty rare game which will make it difficult to find out in the wild. I do not know of any console ports of the game. Its dual monitor design would make that difficult to do I imagine and it also keeps it from playing well in emulation. Keep an eye out though there are a few of them out there and if you do find one I would suggest you drop a quarter and give it a try.


I'm a kid of the 70's and 80's. Grew up on Saturday morning cartoons, Atari and Music Videos. My current hobby is repairing arcade games, mostly from the 70's and trying to find space to put them.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. I remember this game! I have fond memories of playing this arcade against my sister at a local mall when I was in high school. I believe, however, that the machine came out in 1977 not 1979 (I graduated from High School in 1978).

    I can believe that the game is rare since it came out about 35 years ago.

    Thanks for the memories!

  2. Welcome back, Blinddog! Another fantastic video to a very interesting looking title, I can’t wait to see what you have to share next. :)

  3. Thanks Blinddog, another cool game that I never saw before! There are 12 people who own one in KLOV’s registry, so it is at least common enough that I should get to see it eventually.

  4. Thanks guys. Ubikuberalles that’s pretty cool that you remember this game I haven’t found many that do, including me. The first time I played this game was right before I bought it.

    There does seem to be some confusion on the release date for this game I’ve seen it marked 1977 and 1979. I can tell you the cabinet and the game board have a copyright of 1978 and few other documents I’ve seen made me lean towards the 79 date but it would be nice to have it verified one or the other.

  5. Thinking more about this, I realize that submarine games just suck me in, so I am sure I would love this. One of the first games I played as a little retroist was Sea Wolf (can’t remember if SW was the first or Stunt Cycle) and the memory of playing it at the skating rink is really vivid. I later played a lot of Destroyer (basically Sea Wolf from the ships perspective) at the same skating rink. That is why I went nuts playing Depthcharge at PRGE last year and why I’m sure I would love this. I think if I were buying a machine, I might prefer to start with Sea Wolf because the cabinet is just so iconic and cool.

  6. Great informative post, blinddog.
    Never knew this existed, and now I wanna play it!

    Stepping into arcades in the early 80s was like walking into a dreamland,
    and seeing this concept art reminds me of how, in the earlier 70s days, my kid brain began to be trained to jump into Play Mode the moment I spotted an intriguing cabinet (yeah, Sea Wolf was also my training ground for video sub-hunting).

    So when arcades began to fill out with modern, colored attractions, the oldies still stood proudly among them, offering their battered wares for cool remembrances of battles fought in diners, restaurants, laundrymats and bowling alleys.
    I never missed a chance to revisit these old friends.

    Of all the oldtime arcade machines I’d like to have nowadays, I think this one makes the list for its creative use of co-op, cool looks and retro stylings.

    Always a joy to read your articles.

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