Atari VCS at 40: The 10 Best Games
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The Atari VCS, later relaunched as the Atari 2600 was home to some magnificent games GamesMaster Magazine / Contributor

The Atari VCS, first released 40 years ago, was home to a host of brilliant games that still resonate today

The Atari VCS, first released 40 years ago, was home to a host of brilliant games that still resonate today

The Atari VCS turns 40 this year and though the hastily-built E.T. has become one of the its most infamous games, the wood-panelled system was also home to a host of innovative titles, including the very first third-party-produced games. Four of Atari's best designers left to form Activision and make some of the best games on the hardware, paving the way for the third-party design studios that would follow.  

While its leading role in the Great North American Video Game Crash of 1983 is a matter of history, the Atari VCS ("Video Computer System") – glamorously renamed the 2600 after the the unit's part number "CX2600" – was relaunched in 1986 and enjoyed another six years of life before it was discontinued in early 1992 after 25 glorious years and 30 million units sold. So profound was its influence on gamers and game makers alike that homebrew games are still being made for it today.

Today the classic games we've listed below are playable via archive.org as well as emulators like Stella (named after the original VCS prototype from 1973), and in the form of the "plug and play" Atari Flashback and Flashback 2 remakes, which are consoles with a number of games built in, rather than on cartridges. There are still a bunch of original 2600's in circulation as well, though you can't have mine.