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13 Special Gifts Atari Has Given the Gaming World

1. The most iconic system ever made. Full stop.

To this day, the Atari 2600 remains the longest-selling game system in history. During its 13+ year life-cycle, the beloved console perfected the swappable cartridge system, created the third-party developer industry, and was the model for less-is-more design in gaming that is unrivaled to this day. Just look at the difference between a PS4 controller and the Atari joystick. Then think about everything you could do with the latter. Nuff' said.

2. A way to play arcade hits at home. In a sense.

Everything looks beautiful in hindsight, except for the Atari 2600 ports of Space Invaders and Pac-Man. Not to get too technical with you, but they looked like ass. Of course, that’s not even remotely the point. You were at home, perhaps in your underwear, playing these arcade essentials over and over again without quarters, smoke filling up your lungs, thugs taking your lunch money, or other well-established hazards of the arcade. For those of us who could suspend disbelief in terms of graphical excellence, it was magic.

3. The game that toppled Space Invaders

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When Taito brought Space Invaders to American shores in 1979, it looked like a never stopping runaway freight train that printed money - and, evidently, mixed metaphors! Atari said hold my vector graphics and next thing you know, Asteroids firmly planted the Japanese phenom into the #2 slot in terms of hearts and minds and quarters dropped.

4. The glory that is Paperboy

Paperboy - when it came to innovative arcade cabinet design, Atari took chances, man. Who else but Atari would create a game centered around delivering newspapers in the worst neighborhood on earth while riding your ten-speed in the first place, let alone go that extra mile and build a damn bike handlebar and braking system into the cabinet. Genius!

5. Oh, you know, just the entire third party game developer business.

Yes, that’s right! Without Atari’s industry-defining relationship with Activision, you might not have GTA, COD, or any other acronym that didn’t come from Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo. And here’s a dirty little secret nobody likes to talk about in polite company: the Activision games blew the Atari cartridges out of the pixel-drawn water. (Kaboom, Pitfall, Stampede...still fun to play each and every one of them)

6. Game box art that still reigns supreme.

The artwork that graces the covers of the core Atari-made 2600 games are so damn good they belong in a museum. Did they represent the game inside the box in any way shape or form? Oh hell no. Bait and switch? It’s called using your imagination, people! And in the days before 2,000-word critical reviews of every Candy Crush clone under the sun existed, those images were how we shaped our thoughts about a game. Atari game box art WAS THE INTERNET! So good they even made a coffee table book about it.

7. The logo. THE LOGO!

Bow down, Nike swoosh. Step aside, Apple...apple. You are in the presence of logo greatness.

8. The greatest gaming myth of all time...that turned out to be true!

Atari is so cool. Even their massive misfires are awesome. Take the story of E.T.: The Video Game for example. A hotly anticipated game that turned out to be so bad, many consider it responsible for crashing the entire games industry in 1983. But that’s not the best part by a longshot. Legend had it, this abomination before our Speilberg-lord needed to be done away within the most dramatic way possible: burying all unsold copies of it in the Nevada desert like some kind of disloyal member of the mafia. Now the kicker...that story is totally true! They even made a movie about it, Atari: Game Over, which we can’t recommend highly enough.

9. A dedication to game consoles named after cats

The Atari Lynx and Jaguar systems are...not great. One was portable and the other ahead of its time in terms of graphics and processing power, but although these consoles had some good games, both were stuck in the middle of popularity cycles that belonged to other companies. Still, we love the concept of how they were named. One can only imagine a future that sported the Atari Clouded Leopard or the portable Meerkat system.

10. The most immersive Star Wars game ever (sorry, Battlefront II)

Oh the vector-y goodness of it all. From the moment you sat down (!) in the Star Wars arcade cabinet and took control of your X-wing fighter, you were Luke Skywalker. Long before EA would replicate the storming of the beaches of Normandy in Call of Duty, this 1983 classic was putting your right there alongside R2D2, Wedge and the disembodied voice of Sir Alec Guiness as you blew up the damn Death Star.

11. The Atari Hotel

This is a thing that’s happening! It’s like they went deep inside our dreams and turned them into reality. The Atari Hotels are opening in major cities around the country soon, including...wait for it: Las Vegas! Is it going to be the latest in VR experiences? Classic Atari games in the elevators? Both these things? We’re not sure what it’s going to be, we know it’s going to be cool as hell.

12. The very first Easter egg in gaming history

It’s amazing the things that impressed us back in the day. Finding the damn grey dot and taking it to the catacombs and doing all that other stuff in just the right sequence...all for what? To reveal the name of the game’s creator Warren Robinett? Wait a minute. That actually was amazing! And yes, it actually was the very first hidden Easter egg to appear in the video game. Another first brought to you by the good folks at Atari.

13. The systems that left a million fooled parents in their wake.

“No, mom, I totally could use this for school” is a refrain as old as tech itself, and is still used today to convince well-intentioned parents to buy that $2,800 gaming laptop or expensive mechanical keyboard. But Atari perfected this lovable scam with the Atari 400 and 800 “computers.” Yes, they had keyboards. And yes, you hooked them up to a monitor. But come on, as soon as you were alone in your room, you were throwing down some games, not learning how to code in BASIC like your egg-head neighbor Billy Gates. Meh, I wonder what happened to that loser.

Do you have an Atari story? OK, do your parents have an Atari story? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

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