When I was a kid we had an Atari 2600 in a box in the basement left over from either my Dad or my sisters’ curiosity in video games from a time before I was born. I played it some when I was little and my sister took our (or her) NES to college. There were also a few stores in my hometown where Atari games could be found for dirt cheap, so there’s always been a weird, it’s-better-than-no-video-games kind of nostalgia in my heart when it comes to Atari.
A few years back I found this little booklet at my Mom’s house and stashed it in one of my many junk boxes. I recently dug it out and I knew I had to scan the pages and post them here on the site. With Atari graphics being so horrible, they had to rely on these cool watercolor illustrations to advertise the games, and it’s really fun to look through. So here is, in full, the 1981 Atari Video Computer System™ Catalog.
I don’t know about you, but the thought of a Wizard, a police officer, a Spaceman, and a cowboy all watching me play Combat with my buddy Pele is kind of awesome. Although that wizard has a pretty dastardly look on his face.
Well, I’m sold. True-to-life sound effects? Sign me up! I just hope they make a game about E.T.!
I love how serious that pitch is. It’s like a slap across the face from Atari demanding your Mom’s purse and for some reason you like it.
Here we go, Asteroids! We had Asteroids for the Atari, but I was also lucky enough to grow up with a really-for-real Asteroids arcade cabinet in my room so I didn’t play that cartridge much.
Those two guys sitting down look like they’re totally not taking this captive-in-an-asteroid-belt thing seriously, and the dude standing up is like “What the hell guys!”
I want to see that illustration fully animated. It looks like complete chaos, and not the slow, boring crawl of dots that I remember Missile Command being.
AKA Missile Command 2: The Good Version. It’s crazy how iconic the design of those aliens has become.
How have I never played this Superman game? Is it any good? Regardless it’s chocked full of DC trademarks if that description is correct. I haven’t played those other two games either, but for more obvious reasons.
It’s funny, but I never made the connection with Breakout and the actually-breaking-out-from-something metaphor.
These games all look hilarious. And if you’re a human cannonball, wouldn’t it hurt if you hit the target too?
Night Driver? I’m sure that game was on many kids’ wishlists.
I love how that family is playing Checkers on a TV on top of a barrel, Cracker Barrel style.
I’ve never played Othello but if the board game versions had Space Robots on them I’m sure I would have been a lot more interested.
Not gonna lie, I would play the hell out of Sky Diver, and I have no idea why.
Adventure is the Atari game I played the most, and I’ll always be terrified of that little Duck-Dragon.
How does Combat not get a snazzy two-page spread? I love that game.
Codebreaker and Basic Programming are perfect examples of the difference between the Atari gaming generation and my Nintendo/Sega generation. Games were still very much a nerdy, hacker thing at this time.
Before long, you and your computer will be making beautiful music together!
Wow, the Atari club was only a dollar a year? Meanwhile in 2013…Xbox Live, DLC..ugh.
I only left out two pages, but they’re just a big checklist of which games require which paddles, and they had a bunch of scribbles on them so you’re not missing much.
So there you have it. The 1981 Atari Catalog in all it’s glory. Does it make you want to go out and get one of those Atari Flashback things? I’ll admit, it kind of makes me want too.
So were you an Atari kid? If so, what games did you have?