February 5, 2023

A collecting guide for the new Atari 2600 owner! Learn about the hardware variations, how to connect to your TV, controller types and also some rockin’ game recommendations for day 1.

Games Shown:
Pitfall II
River Raid
Pac-Man Jr
Space Rocks

Video Transcript:
Metal Jesus: Metal Jesus here, and I am back with the Immortal John Hancock.

John: Glad to be here. Today, we’re showcasing a buyer’s guide for new 2600 owners. Plus, we’re going to showcase the 10 essential games that any new person should have for their 2600.

Metal Jesus: Let’s take a look.

So the point of this video is to help new collectors who are looking to get into the Atari 2600. And maybe you are in a pawn shop, at a thrift store, maybe you’re at a garage sale, and you’re like, “What do I need to know to get into collecting?” So we’re going to start with the hardware.

John: Absolutely. And first off, we have the 6 Switch.

Metal Jesus: That’s right.

John: Yes.

Metal Jesus: So one of the interesting things about the Atari is that these games are so old that they did not have menus in them. It’s a very primitive time, right?

John: Absolutely.

Metal Jesus: And so when the Atari came out, it’s important to know that this is your menu essentially right here, which is cool, some of the things I like about the Atari.

So you have your power. You have your TV type. You have color and black and white, because at the time, of course, there was a lot of black and white televisions.

John: And if you’re rich, you had color.

Metal Jesus: Exactly. And then you have difficulty switches here for both of the players, which is interesting. But this is the important one here, the Game Select.

John: Absolutely.

Metal Jesus: One of the really fun things about Atari games is that a lot of times, it would come with multiple versions of it, right?

John: For example, Combat, the packing game for the 2600 had 27 different types of games built in. And to get to the different types, you would have to select on the system, the game select.

Metal Jesus: And what’s really cool about that is that these game types, especially in Combat, were varied. You had…

John: Tanks…

Metal Jesus: That’s right.

John: You had planes, biplanes, jets, invisible walls, bounce, pong, ping-pong, and the list goes on and on. Great drinking game, by the way.

Metal Jesus: Dude, still fun today. And it’s amazing how much variety they got out of just Combat on Atari. I remember as a kid, we played it for months.

John: I teach college, and I brought a 2600 in, and I showed Combat to my students, and they loved it.

It [inaudible 00:02:27]

Metal Jesus: That warms my heart. That warms my heart.

John: Yes, right here.

Metal Jesus: Okay, so this is the 6 Switch version of this. But there’s other models, right?

John: Yes, there’s a 4 Switch. And some other things, they have a 2600 Jr, which is a smaller, compact version of the system. They had an all-black version, also known as the Vader, which is short for Darth Vader because it was all black.

Metal Jesus: Oh yeah! It was so cool-looking.

John: And then there’s the Heavy Sixer. And the reason why the Heavy Sixer…It has a different front. It’s a little bit more curved. And it was heavier. It had, I think, more lead…

Metal Jesus: More shielding, essentially.

John: More shielding, yeah.

Metal Jesus: Yeah, that’s right. And so, yeah, if you ever run across a Heavy Sixer, for one, if it’s a reasonable price, you should definitely pick it up because they are quite collectible. This is of course not that. But you can get them. This is in great shape. I got it at a garage sale. I paid $10 for it, which seemed like a really good deal. But it had been sitting in her car for years.

John: Wow.

Metal Jesus: Years and years and years, and I was very happy to take it and add it to mine. So let’s talk about connecting it.

John: That’s a big thing. A lot of people would get a 2600 and then it’s like, it’s not working on my TV. The one thing you’ve got to remember, this thing is so old is that you do not use the AV selection on your TV. You have to go to channel 3 or 4.

Metal Jesus: Right.

John: And also you have to correspond that with your channel select on your system.

Metal Jesus: Right. There has been times where that’s tripped me up, where I’ve hooked it up. And I didn’t know how this stuff works. And I’m like “Why is there no signal?” Well, it’s either not right on here, or my television isn’t right.

John: Absolutely. Then you have this connection, which you cannot plug directly into your TV. You have to have an additional device.

Metal Jesus: Right.

John: Back in the day, there was these. They look a lot different, an RF switch. And you have to make sure that the little lever is to game. You plug that into here. And then plug this into your cable port on your television.

Metal Jesus: Or me, because my TV in our bedroom was so crappy, at the time, we didn’t have it. So we had to hook these, just screw them in, right? It was…

John: Old school.

Metal Jesus: Old school. But you don’t necessarily have to use an RF switch. It’s interesting because if you go to Fry’s, you can get this little adapter essentially.

John: Female or male adapter, coaxial adapter.

Metal Jesus: Which is like $2 a part or something like that.

John: Yeah, it’s really cheap. And actually, I recommend that because by using that small part versus this, you are going to have the best signal possible.

Metal Jesus: Yeah, that’s a good point because often these things start to fail, or they get crusty. You sit there, and you have to go back and forth a bit.

But the other thing too I would also mention is that if you’re serious about Atari, you might as well go ahead and just invest in an old school television.

John: Yes, I recommend using an old school television. You can find them typically at thrift stores or yard sales. And it doesn’t have to be a large TV. You can get a smaller one, which might be good if you’re limited on space.

Metal Jesus: Yeah. And it’ll look fantastic. It’ll look like 1977. That’s awesome.

John: All right. The controllers.

Metal Jesus: The controllers. One of my favorite things about the Atari, because it’s so iconic, so here they’re bundled together here. But here’s the iconic Atari controller.

John: Yep, and you simply have your directional movement with that and one action button.

Metal Jesus: I know. It’s brilliant.

John: The other thing that’s good to now is that if you do not have these controllers with your system, you can use a Sega Genesis controller and use that as a backup because it has the same connection, using the middle, I do believe, the B button, for action.

Metal Jesus: Actually, that’s a good point is that there are an awful lot of these kind of controllers out there, not just Atari, but like the [inaubible00:06:14] of Commodore 64. You reminded me is that Commodore 64 had the same exact same input. So you might get computer joysticks that are the clicky ones from Epyx, things like that.

John: Those are awesome. Or the Wico, the Wico controller, yup.

Metal Jesus: Absolutely. But this isn’t the only one.

John: Correct. Atari actually had two official controller types. The other one was the paddle controllers, and those were used for games like Breakout, Super Breakout, Warlords, and Night Driver.

Metal Jesus: Night Driver, yep, I remember that.

John: Yeah, and so there were several good plane games that you could use the paddle controllers with. And they’re worth picking up. They’re recommended.

Metal Jesus: Yeah, especially the games you mentioned. They’re classics. And there was enough of them to justify that kind of controller.

John: Absolutely.

Metal Jesus: So, that’s the hardware.

John: Next up, we have essential 10 Games that any new 2600 collector must have in their collection to begin with.

Metal Jesus: That’s right. Each one of these games we think, you know what, if you’re going to jump into the Atari, you just can’t go wrong.

John: That’s right. First up, Joust.

Metal Jesus: Yes. Based on the arcade game.

John: [inaudible 00:07;20].

Metal Jesus: That was a 80s classic.

John: One thing great about the 2600 is even though the graphics were simple, this represents everything that was great about the arcade. Two-player, you can play with your person, your second player, or you can screw them and get them killed.

Metal Jesus: And it emulated that flight physics really well. I’m doing the ostrich.

John: Yeah. What’s great about a lot of these recommendations is that they’re cheap. This game is cheap.

Metal Jesus: Absolutely. Next for me, well, let’s see here, I’m going to go here, Pitfall II. Here’s the thing, do I pick Pitfall or Pitfall II?

John: Pitfall II.

Metal Jesus: Okay. But here’s the thing is that Pitfall, when it first came out, was revolutionary. It was one of the first platformers, and it was amazing. I remember the day that I brought that cartridge home. So I didn’t think it could be topped. But Pitfall II is amazing for an Atari 2600 game.

John: Absolutely. It had so many things that were complex. It wasn’t a single screen. It had an ending too, didn’t it?

Metal Jesus: Yeah, and it’s a massive cavern. The map on it is really astounding. So I think this is a really impressive game. It’s still fun today. It’s challenging, a total blast.

John: Next up, another pick of mine, is Millipede. And Millipede, I think, is better than Centipede. Centipede was simplistic. Millipede is like you add ADHD to centipede, and you get millipede.

Metal Jesus: Okay.

John: And it’s action-packed. It’s fast. It has, again, all the mechanics that the arcade had. And it’s pretty inexpensive.

Metal Jesus: All right, for me, I’m going big. I’m sticking with Activision. I’m a big fan of Activision. That is a game I still love to play, even to this day. And that is River Raid. So this is the box. This is the cartridge. Oh my God! So first of all, it is one of the best vertical shooters ever made. It’s really different too because since you’re flying down this…it’s like a valley, or what would you call it?

John: You go along a river line, I think.

Metal Jesus: Yeah, and so you basically can’t touch the walls on either side, which is so different than most of these games. It’s challenging, but it’s so much fun. AtariAge every year does a contest where they try to get high scores of the different forum players, and every year I compete. I’ve never beat it, but I am determined. I love this game.

John: Next up for me and, hands down, one of the best paddle games is Warlords. Now, it’s important to know that you need two sets of paddles. Now, paddles come in pairs. But essentially, what you’re doing is you’re guarding your castle against other players, and you’re trying to break through their castle walls with your square ball of cannon, whatever it is.

Metal Jesus: It’s a cool variation of Breakout essentially. But it’s an awesome couch co-op multiplayer game.

John: Yup, and it’s cheap, a dollar. You can find this a dollar, a couple of bucks, all the time.

Metal Jesus: Yep, so good. Okay, so next up, I’m going to pick this one, even though you brought this one over. But this…

John: My favorite game.

Metal Jesus: Once you said Berzerk, I was like, “Oh, dude, I remember playing Berzerk as a kid,” probably drove my parents crazy because this was a great arcade game. But to be able to play this at home in my bedroom, sitting on the floor, it was awesome. And it’s super fun. You wouldn’t call it endless runner. But essentially, it’s these randomized rooms. And you are trying to just survive as long as possible. Shot the robots, they’re trying to shoot you. You’re trying to avoid, what is it, evil Otto?

John: Yes, Evil Otto.

Metal Jesus: Just a really great Atari game. It defined the system back in the day.

John: Another thing about this is this goes back to the game select on the system. And there’s different multiple difficulties. And so there’s some really challenging difficulties you can play for people that got used to playing the game and getting really good. Game setting 9, I think, game select 9 is the challenging one.

Metal Jesus: That’s impressive.

John: Yeah. All right. My pick. So there’s Pac-Man and there’s Ms Pac-Man. But there’s also Jr Pac-Man, Pac-Man Jr.

Metal Jesus: Right.

John: And this was a later release on the system. And even though the graphics aren’t good, the game play is really challenging. And it’s my favorite type of maze-style game on the system.

Metal Jesus: Now, it’s worth noting too that there’s a bit of history with Pac-Man on the Atari. Back then, Pac-Man was huge. And I remember vividly being really excited when the original Pac-Man got released on the Atari, and it was utter crap.

John: Yeah, it just wasn’t…Bulky[SP] graphics, Pac-man…

Metal Jesus: Flickery, he did bonk, bonk, bonk, and he didn’t turn and stuff. The reason I bring that up is because as disappointing as that was, you could tell that they didn’t give up because they made Miss Pac-Man, which actually as pretty decent.

John: Really good. And in Pac-Man Junior or Junior Pac-Man was even more challenging playing it. For a lot of tournaments that we’ve done in previous Portland Retro Gaming Expos, way back when, we used this card because it was so challenging.

Metal Jesus: All right, so next one will be no surprise to anybody because you saw it in the intro and you see it in every into of my video. And that is because it’s one of my all time favorite games, all time, I’ve hyped it enough. It is H.E.R.O., Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operations, on the Atari 2600. So the reason why this is important to me is because it’s the first game I became really passionate about. You know how people are really passionate about Super Mario Brothers or the Legend or Zelda or whatever? This was my first passion and obsession with the game.

I’m still really good at this game because I played it to death. It’s just a fantastic game. It’s a late release game. I think it came out in ’83 or something like that. And it’s really impressive for the Atari. It has, I think, 19 or 20 levels. They’re challenging. You really have to memorize. You have to deal with the physics.

I have multiple copies of this game because I never want to be without it.

John: I think I also want to say that Activision was a big third party company. And one of the very first…wasn’t the very first, but was the very first successful third-party company. So anything that Activision did on the 2600 is going to be decent.

Metal Jesus: Yeah, it’s true. Honestly, we could have done an entire video just based on Activision games because there are so many. Although, I’ve picked what? Two or three.

John: Yeah. All right, we have to nominate this. This gets special discussion because there is a thing called Homebrews. And Homebrews are games that have been programmed recently or within the last couple of years, and people go out of their way to put them on physical cartridge. Well, there’s a whole website that supports this type of programming. And it’s AtariAge for the 2600. And there’s an amazing, amazing library of Homebrew games that were made withing the last decade or two.

And his gets special consideration because it’s Space Rocks. If you noticed that the font looks like Asteroids, you’re absolutely correct. This takes the original Asteroids on the 2600 and blows it out of the water. It’s amazing.

Metal Jesus: Yeah, so when Asteroids first came out on the Atari 2600, it was a really awesome game. I played it an awful lot back as a kid. But it wasn’t exactly like the arcade. The asteroids didn’t move in like the randomized way as the standard arcade machine, which was fine. Again, it was a lot of fun. There’s also a lot of flicker in the original one. This game is the definitive version of that arcade on Atari. It’s amazing.

John: Control options, I think there’s a paddle option. There’s graphic options. You can even have it look like the vector style graphics of the arcade. It’s amazing.

Metal Jesus: This is a must-own for anybody who’s serious about Atari.

John: Absolutely.

Metal Jesus: And then finally is a game you picked. So I got to admit, though, I don’t know much about this game. I played Demon Attack and some of those other games by Imagic. Tell me about Atlantis.

John: Okay, Imagic is my favorite game company for third-party companies. And so Imagic essentially is…There’s a ship coming across the top of the level. And it’s blasting your city. And you have to defend your city from this alien. And if it gets too close to the bottom, it zaps your city or cracks a glass.

And one thing I like about this is just the graphics are great. It’s good game play. And I just remember playing this game hours upon hours because it was one of only three Atari games I had at my cousin’s house. There was Combat, Atlantis, and Demon Attack. And so I got really good at one of those three games. And this is the game I preferred.

Metal Jesus: All right, well, that is our buying guide for the Atari 2600. But you know what? There are so may great games that came out on the Atari. I feel like there’s a couple out there that we might have missed. I don’t know, I don’t know.

You know what? We’d love to know what you guys think. What would you recommend to the new Atari collector. Please post down the comments below. We’d love to hear it. All right, dude. Thanks for coming on and helping with this.

John: I love it.

Metal Jesus: Awesome having you in the channel.

John: I love being here.

Metal Jesus: All right, thanks for watching my channel. Thank you for subscribing, and take care.

If you enjoyed this video, I happen to have a couple other Atari 2600 videos on my channel. So definitely check out the Hidden Gem series, located up in the corner.