With over 30 million units sold, and in excess of 400 games released, the Atari 2600 is a home gaming legend amongst consoles. But not every game that was planned or created made it onto the store shelves, and amongst these unreleased projects were some fine geek choices. Here are 5 of them...
1. Lord of the Rings: Journey to Rivendell
This game was announced by Parker Brothers in their 1983 catalogue, however it was never released and for the next twenty years the common belief was that little or no work had actually been done on the game's coding. But then, in 2001, a former Parker Brothers employee gave a prototype of the game to the operator of the AtariAge website, and it turned out to be complete. The game itself is quite complex and features several characters from the book, including Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee, Aragorn, Gandalf, Tom Bombadil, and Glorfindel.
And thanks to the Internet Archive, you can now play this game right here in your browser...
2. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: Ewok Adventure
Also from 1983, and also from Parker Brothers. This game was completed and scheduled to be released on the Atari 2600, Atari 7800, ColecoVision, and Intellivision video game consoles. But then.....nothing!
For many years it remained a mystery why it was never released, but thanks to AtariProtos we now know the answer. In an interview with game designer Larry Gelberg he explained:
"I had this artistic vision of the purity of the hang-glider controls - forward dives and speeds you up, back climbs and slows you down, and catching thermals every now and then maintained your altitude. The marketing weasels either didn't get it or just didn't like it. They tried time and time again to get me to put in a mode where you just go in the direction where you point the joystick. But I was young and arrogant and refused, and they ultimately killed the game. Sorry, everyone."A prototype cartridge surfaced in the early 2000s and is now available to play online...
3. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin
Written by Tom Loughry in 1981, this game was published by Mattel in 1983 on both the Intellivision video game console and the Mattel Aquarius computer system. Following their releases, Mattel Electronics commissioned an Atari 2600 version which was developed by Synth Corporation in Chicago. Two Synth software developers, Michael Bengtson and Neal Reynolds, wrote the game to conform to the play of the Intellivision version. While the game was completed, it was not released before Mattel Electronics closed their doors.
4. Released into arcades in June 1984, Atari thought I, Robot would be a huge hit. The arcade machine came with two games. The first is I, Robot, a multi-directional shooter that has the player assume the role of "Unhappy Interface Robot #1984", a servant bot that rebels against Big Brother. The second game, Doodle City, is a drawing tool that lasts for three minutes.
I, Robot was the first commercially produced video game to use filled 3-D polygon graphics with flat shading, as well as being the first video game to feature camera-control options. It had a lot going for it, and should have been a arcade classic, but upon release it received a poor reception and was a financial flop.
Approximately only 750–1500 arcade console units of the game were created, and for a long time a rumor persisted that Atari shipped 500 of the unsold units to Japan with instructions to dump them into the ocean at the halfway point! Atari employee Rusty Dawe dispelled this rumor as a "total myth" in a 2009 interview.
However, what is true is that after the arcade machines did not sell Atari cancelled the release of the 2600 version.
5. The Last Starfighter
Atari acquired the rights to make a game based on the movie The Last Starfighter, and had a 2600 version ready by the time the film arrived in July 1984, but due to their collapsing video game market they cancelled the release.
However you may have played The Last Starfighter without actually realising it.
When the 2600 was relaunched in 1986 Atari dusted down the finished game for release, only problem was that the The Last Starfighter license had expired. So they simply renamed the game, took out any references to the movie, and released Solaris...
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