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Asteroids – Atari 2600

Asteroids – Atari 2600

asteroids_atari2600-large-070209Platform: Atari 2600

Developer: Atari

Publisher: Atari

Release Date (NA): 1981

Genre: Shooter, Arcade

Reviewed by NerdBerry

Asteroids is a classic game from the classic era of gaming (also known as the Golden Age of Gaming) and is of the 1st generation in video gaming history. Originally released for the arcade, this game was one of the driving forces of many Arcades’ success selling over 70,000 cabinets. Kids, teens, young adults, and older adults would all become familiar with Asteroids as it was a household name by the time it saw its release on the Atari 2600 home console. In recent years, mostly all games and gaming systems released before the Nintendo Entertainment System’s 1985 North American release are considered obsolete and are widely forgotten. I can mostly agree, but I still think there’s a large amount of fun to be had with these games, especially with Asteroids.

It wasn’t until recently that I got a chance to play Asteroids on the Atari 2600, but I’m still very familiar with a large number of the classic Atari games such as Battlezone, Centipede, Asteroids, and more from an early Atari Classics compilation on Windows 95. That was my first true experience with Asteroids and I played it for hours on end racking up thousands of points (competing with my big sister for the highest points total of the day). Points are very much obsolete these days, to the point where most games don’t even incorporate points. I will admit that it does force a little more creativity from the developers. It’s tough to play a game at home just for high points. What’s my motivation?

Asteroids-arcadegameAsteroids is a shooting game where you are the space ship and you are shooting at large asteroids and some crazy UFOs that have a police siren sound. Each time you hit an asteroid, it will break off into smaller pieces until all of those little pieces are destroyed. You will have to destroy all of the little pieces and all the alien ships before advancing to the next round. This is MUCH harder than it seems. Games back in the day were stupid hard for some people and just about right for others. You have to remember that this was an arcade game first, so when it was ported to the Atari 2600, it had all of the same controls and gameplay.

The current record holder is John McAllister who broke the 28 year old record set by Scott Safran in 1982. McAllister’s score is 41,338,740 and it took him almost 60 straight hours to reach this score. Now THAT is dedication y’all. He beat Safran’s record by just over 2,000 points.

The Game… The Legend… Asteroids

So we start the game with 3 lives… ONLY THREE LIVES. Yes. The asteroids come flying at you from all different directions, and shooting them causes them to break up into smaller pieces which also go flying in all different directions. The smaller pieces generally move faster and are surprisingly harder to dodge because there are usually many more of them. Each level gets progressively harder and demands your attention and quick reflexes to survive. I love how Atari made this game and the subtle complexity of it is still somewhat beautiful in my eyes. The sheer level of ingenuity and creation is astounding. You aren’t forced to stay in one spot. You can move forwards by using your thrusters and this will certainly become your go-to move for dodging trouble. You can only shoot in one direction, and the screen is small, but the screen wraps around and if you go off screen to the left side, you’ll pop up on the right side (just like in Pac-Man). This is applicable to all directions and all objects. So you can fire off screen and it will destroy an asteroid on the other side of the screen. So, keep that in mind when you start to get a little mobile. It’s wisest to stay closer to the center than at the edges as you will have a harder time dodging something that you can’t see coming. If you’re close to the edge, you’ll never see that damn asteroid coming at you when it switches sides.

asteroids 2

Asteroids does not have a great deal of depth involved. You fly around shooting asteroids, dodging asteroids, and shooting alien UFOs. That is about as deep as it gets. But the legacy left by this game reaches far beyond that of which Atari could have ever dreamed. Much like Tetris, Asteroids has been ported (and often updated) to just about every single gaming system ever made (after Atari folded their cards in the console industry). It is still considered to be one of the founding fathers of video gaming as we know it, alongside classics such as Pong and Centipede. Its legacy will continue to spread from generation to generation. Even if kids do not play it on an Atari 2600, they will still be able to tell you what the game is thanks to the numerous ports and numerous compilations.


Overall, Asteroids is a fun one and is really hard to rate. Its impact on video gaming extends beyond just the gameplay itself. It was a one-of-a-kind game in 1979 when it hit the video arcades across the world and in 1982 when kids had the chance to bring it home for the first time. Not to mention, Atari was an American company unlike the majority of the 80’s and 90’s video game companies (namely Nintendo, Sega, Panasonic, SNK, NEC, and so forth) who were mostly all Japanese. For these reasons, I cannot rate Asteroids with any numerical value. In 1982 we could probably have given this game a score of 10 out of 10. In 1989 we probably could have given it a 7 out of 10 rating. In 2013, however, it just cannot hold up to the competition out there. If it were released today, it would receive lowly scores for its simplicity and lack of variety. But with the major impact Asteroids had on the world and on the video gaming industry, I will have to leave Asteroids as is. It is a piece of history and worthy of everyone’s respect.

Reviewed by NerdBerry

Written by Nerdberry


What’s up yall? David “Nerdberry” here! I am the founder of Nerd Bacon and the current co-owner (and CEO) along with partner David “theWatchman!” I hail from North Carolina, hence my love for all things pork! Oh, you’re not familiar with NC? Well I’m not 100% sure, but I am pretty confident that NC and VA lead the nation in pork production. I could be wrong, but even if I am, I still love bacon!

Come enjoy some bacon and games with us yall.


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