By Mark Nobes

This list of the worst Atari VCS/2600 games is not in any particular order of crapness, but there are some real stinkers here! If you were one of the unlucky ones who bought or received one of these games for your Atari 2600, then you can, at least, now sit back and have a good old laugh about the disappointment you experienced several decades ago - or maybe you are still seething?
Feast your eyes on games so terrible, they make E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial look like a masterpiece!

Sneak 'N Peek

Firstly, you are going to laugh your socks off at the "new improved graphics" in this video clip of the game. Really? I dread to think what the previous version of the game looked like!
Basically, Sneak 'N Peek is an electronic version of the classic hide and seek game. Now, I remember hide and seek being a whole lot of fun when I was a kid in the 70s, but this Atari 2600 version by Vidtec (from 1982) has stripped away all of the fun. Instead, we have one of the dullest and weirdest games you're ever likely to see. 
So let's talk about the graphics, if you can call them that! The characters in the game are actually named Sneak and Peek, and they look like they've spent too much time at Chernobyl. They're weird looking dudes, for sure, and I've never seen a person with an arm growing out of their stomach. Not only that, but their arms do not move and are constantly in an outstretched position. 
The background graphics are even worse, and in each room there is just one piece of basic furniture, such as a bed or a sofa, which, in a game of hide and seek, doesn't leave you with many options for hiding. Indeed, it doesn't take Einstein to work out where you're hiding in a room containing only a sofa! Now, I like a minimalist layout in my house, but this is taking it to the extreme. No tables, chairs, plants, pictures or any kind of decor.
Your weird mutant character also doesn't crouch or lie down, he simply walks through the furniture and disappears, because the programmer couldn't be bothered to create another animation.
The player also has the option to climb through the window, except, he doesn't open the window, he simply slides under the outer wall of the house. You can actually hide underneath the house, if you can be bothered to summon up the energy to go there, or simply go outside and walk off the edge of the screen and never return - you can actually disappear off the right side of the screen if you find exactly the right position!
The game is simply an abomination. Terrible graphics, non existent animations, and yawn-inducing gameplay.
Sneak N' Peek Atari 2600 Gameplay Screenshot

The state of the art graphics

Star Fox

Firstly, I want to make it clear that this game has nothing to do with the Nintendo Star Fox franchise, which started in 1993. This is an earlier budget title from Mythicon from 1983, and it's pretty dire!
Your mission is to recover crystals from the ocean surface while destroying enemy drones in the process. It plays like a very bad version of Defender, and the side scrolling is almost non existent. 
The graphics are very basic, with the crystal gem being a simple flashing pixel, which is pretty hard to spot, and it goes in the opposite direction to which you are flying, to give the impression of sideways scrolling.
A big problem I have with this game is the fact that when you enter the orange zone at the bottom of the screen to grab a crystal, you can no longer move left or right, which means you have to be in exactly the right position to grab it, which is extremely difficult and quickly becomes tedious.
Whilst your space craft looks okay(ish), the enemies are pretty basic black blobs and there really hasn't been a great deal of thought or design work put into them.  
There is also a persistent and irritating buzzing noise in the background, which makes your Atari sound like it has an electrical fault. Other sound effects are adequate, at least.
Overall, the game is just a big disappointment. It's extremely repetitive and just lacks any kind of variety whatsoever. Just continuously flying around dealing with one enemy at a time is tedious, and the rapid movements of both your starship and the enemy craft make it very difficult to play - it's just no fun at all! 
Mythicon Star Fox, Orange Game Cartridge Box for Atari 2600

The box art is the most exciting aspect of the game!


Okay, so Pac-Man on the Atari 2600 was an infamously bad game, and you can read about that one near the bottom of the 80s Computer Games page. But what do you get when you combine Pac-Man with Donkey Kong?

Another amazingly crap game, that's what!

Not only is Pac Kong nauseatingly dull, but it's also virtually impossible to play, thanks to
 flickering bats moving awkwardly around the screen - at least, I think they're bats? Trying to judge where they will appear is almost impossible, making the game a total nightmare to play.
At first glance, the game doesn't seem too bad, we have levels and ladders, but where are Mario and Kong? Well, there is a stick guy wearing a cap and, I guess, Kong is the strange bat-like creature at the top of the screen - that's definitely not an ape! 
Just a few minutes playing this game and you almost want to give up the will to live, let alone reach the top of the screen!

Home Run (Baseball)

Home Run was actually an early baseball game published and developed by Atari themselves. The first problem here is with the primitive looking graphics and a very basic layout. Okay, so basic graphics on a 2600 is nothing new, but these are basic to the extreme!
So maybe the gameplay will save the day? Unfortunately not! The rules of baseball appear to have been torn to shreds, with no players covering the bases, no catcher and no umpire! It's just very awkward to play and no fun whatsoever. It certainly doesn't feel like an action sports game of any kind, least of all, baseball!
Home Run - Atari 2600 screenshot


This is, quite possibly, the worst fighting game of all time. In fact, it can barely call itself a game it's so dire! Apparently, this was designed by a black belt Karate expert called Joseph Amelio - really?
The game's only accolade is that it is the first ever one-on-one martial arts video game.
The player takes control of a purple fighter on the right and must fight the CPU's green fighter on the left - this alone feels the wrong way around. However, there is a 2 player mode allowing you to play against a friend, although it really isn't worth the effort of inviting them to your house to play it!
So what makes the game so bad? Well, it's the lousy control system. You find yourself repeatedly pressing the joystick button hoping to land a blow with a high kick, which is just so hit and miss, and the lack of moves makes this game extremely boring to play.
If you do manage to win a fight (which is virtually impossible), the game simply restarts with another fight, which plays in exactly the same way as the previous one. It's just an incredibly dull game with no incentive to want to carry on playing. Oh, and the bandy-legged fighters just look ridiculous! 
Karate game screenshot from Atari 2600


Double Dragon is a beat 'em up that was released on just about every computer and console during 1987 and 1988, including versions for the Atari 2600 and 7800 by Activision. The ZX Spectrum and NES versions highly regarded, but the C64, Sega Mega Drive and Atari console versions were not so well received.
The player is in control of the martial arts expert Billy Lee, or his twin brother, Jimmy, and the ultimate goal is to rescue Marian. However, the player must fight their way through the Black Warriors Gang to reach her.
Now, Activision has a good reputation for producing high quality games, but when you watch the video clip, you will see this is definitely not the case with Double Dragon, sadly. The playability is pretty dire with terrible collision detection, and the sound effect of hitting your opponent activates when you're no where near your opponent. The range of the player's punch is too limited and the difficulty level is just off the scale.
Given the machine's limitations, nobody was expecting the 2600 port to resemble the arcade version, but they could have made a much better job of the gameplay, which is repetitive and excessively difficult - the AI is so badly programmed it's almost unplayable!
Double Dragon by Activision. Atari 2600 game box


So here we have yet another terrible martial arts game. Chuck Norris Super Kicks (which was later sold as Kung Fu Super Kicks) was released in 1983 by Xonox for the Atari 2600, Colecovision, Commodore VIC-20 and C64. Apart from the graphics, sound and gameplay, this game is brilliant!

Seriously, though, the controls are clumsy and there is a complete lack of a decent storyline. Your goal is to reach a monastery within six minutes to rescue a famous leader. The problem here is that finding the correct path to take is pure trial and error, and completely random, which makes for a frustrating game, especially when you find a blockage at the end of the path, forcing you to go backwards and lose more time. This isn't really based on skill, just luck! If i wanted to play a game of luck, then I'd have chosen Play Your Cards Right.
Another frustration is that walking on grass causes the timer to rundown at an accelerated speed, which is a pretty ridiculous idea in a fighting game, and the hit detection isn't particularly great.
When the player encounters an enemy, another screen appears where a fight scene takes place. Unfortunately, the fighting just isn't great (although admittedly better than the Karate game on here), and there are a variety of moves you can perform, at least. However, performing a fighting move causes the player to stop moving, making it hard to judge the correct position to deal a blow.
Then we have the very frustrating boss level. Here, your enemies can perform a stealth move, disappearing and reappearing just about anywhere on the screen, which requires more luck than judgement to avoid them.
Ultimately, instead of an exciting Chuck Norris fighting game that tests your skills, we have a very mediocre game of chance, part of which involves walking along a pathway trying to avoid grass! 
Okay, so this is probably the best game on this page (best of a bad bunch), which isn't saying much and, apparently, the C64 version is even worse than this one - blimey!
So there you have it, my pick of the worst Atari 2600 games ever. I hope you enjoyed reading it and had fun watching the videos.
Atari 2600 cartridge for Chuck Norris Super Kicks