The Shining…For The Atari 2600?!

There were a handful of films that received a game adaptation on the legendary Atari 2600. Megaforce, Tron, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Fantastic Voyage, and Alien to name just a few. But until this morning when we were charged with cleaning out the clogged water pumps on Level 6 did I realize what we were really missing on the Atari 2600 was a game adaptation of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece The Shining! We were busy scrubbing out the pipes that lead to the pumps when Daniel XIII asked if I had ever heard of…

Of course this isn’t a lost Atari 2600 title though considering they made games for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween you have to wonder if back in the Golden Age if someone hadn’t at least thought about bringing The Shining to the home console. No, it took 35 years for us to finally get a game adaptation like we could have played on the 2600, all thanks to Pippin Barr and Let’s Play: The Shining.

All images courtesy of Pippin Barr.
All images courtesy of Pippin Barr.

The Shining - Walking in the maze - Pippin Barr

The Shining - Typing - Pippin Barr

This browser based Flash game lets your experience all of the thrills in 8 bit format of The Shining! You WILL drive to the Overlook Hotel, you WILL see blood gushing from the elevators, you WILL meet the scary twins, you WILL sit at a desk and use the arrow keys and spacebar to type, and you WILL hack down a door with an axe to get at your terrified Wife…and more!

The Shining - Tricycle - Pippin Barr

The Shining - Staircase - Pippin Barr

From Pippin Barr’s Press Release:
“Let’s Play: The Shining was originally conceived as being a game focused entirely on Jack’s perspective in the movie so that the player would always have the anti-hero role throughout. The main reason for that was that it seemed funny, but it’s also true that it ties in a little better with themes in the movie (and book) of control being exerted specifically on Jack to get him to do the terrible things he does. The player is then the hotel. But because I wanted to call the game “The Shining” at that time, it didn’t seem reasonable to solely represent Jack, as it wouldn’t be true to the movie. So the idea shifted to making an E.T.-esque movie-tie-in game that might have appeared on the Atari 2600 at the time. That amused me because it seemed funny to choose The Shining as your vehicle for “making a quick buck” based on a successful movie. (It wasn’t all that successful on release, plus it’s a horror movie – although there are other Atari horror movie games.) But I ended up struggling too much both with the art style and the interaction style when I was trying to stay close to Atari 2600 principles. There was a brief moment where scenes from the movie were each modeled on a specific Atari game like Basketball or Boxing, but that approach built an overly constrained feeling that made the game not fun to make and probably not that fun to look at. So finally the game switched to match the retro-esque art style of Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment and thus picked up its final title of Let’s Play: The Shining. The title works well from my perspective because it keeps hold of the idea that the game is “of” the movie, but also lightens it by including “play” in the title and making it a clearly second-order look at that movie. The idea of it’s being a “Let’s Play” also fits well with the non-game nature of most of the game, in that it’s more that you play through scenes than that you actually confront challenges or make choices. Play as in act, more than play as in game, almost. And that’s it. Once the art style was set it pulled everything along with it and the game was relatively “easy” to make from that point on, though it was still very time consuming trying to balance between “true to the movie” and “true to the game style”. Maybe I managed, maybe I didn’t.”

So make sure to follow any of the links provided above to start enjoying Let’s Play: The Shining for yourself!


Editor at Retroist
Searching through the alleys for useful knowledge in the city of Nostalgia. Huge cinema fanatic and sometimes carrier of the flame for the weirding ways of 80s gaming, toys, and television. When his wife lets him he is quite happy sitting in the corner eating buckets of beef jerky.

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