This list doesn’t include every game from the 2nd generation, unfortunately–I lost the original files. But here’s what I have.
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Original version: River Raid, released on 1982/08/19 for Atari VCS a.k.a. Atari 2600
Recommended version: River Raid, released in 1983 for Atari 800
Isn’t it amazing how war, the greatest misfortune, often provides the greatest backdrop for a story? Whether it’s an epic tale of a warrior’s fight as in The Iliad, or the slow torment of a man’s mind as in “Lawrence of Arabia,” war has a seemingly limitless capacity for showcasing the ultimate struggle in all its manifestations. It makes sense then that video games, tasking the player with overcoming a struggle, would be so well suited to war. What makes River Raid so special, though, is that it’s one of the first shooters to take place on a “realistic” depiction of Earth. The cover of the manual even appears to be alluding to the mountainous jungles of Viet Nam. So let’s go raid that river!
Original version: Yar’s Revenge, released on 1982/05 for Atari VCS
It’s funny how game consoles and computers carry different connotations with them. Even though consoles are just computers designed for a specific purpose, they carry a different association. Today, consoles are considered more “sociable” whereas PC gaming is often considered suitable for a “lone-wolf.” Multiplayer games on consoles are built with the living room in mind, and up until the seventh generation any game with a multiplayer mode included local multiplayer (i.e., the other players are sitting next to you instead of miles away) by default. In the 1970s and ’80s consoles also carried the connotation of shrinking down arcade cabinets to cartridges. Ever since the days of Home Pong consoles tried their hardest to bring arcade games to households.
Original version: Ms. Pac-Man, released in 1982 for arcade
Original version: Nibbler, released in 1982 for arcade
In my Ms. Pac-Man feature I remarked that the 1981 game Lady Bug demonstrated that the “maze chase” genre allows for many different interpretations, and now I’m here to show you that it can be taken in an entirely different direction with Nibbler, a game that makes traveling through the maze steadily more and more restrictive by filling it with a snake. Intrigued? I thought so.