Worst Atari 2600 Games That We Will Never Forget

Worst Atari 2600 Games
By | July 19th, 2021 | Categories: Retro Gaming

Every console gets a bunch of rubbish games on them at some point and during the late 1970s, the Atari 2600 was no exception. Since the Atari 2600 is one of the most earlier consoles that introduced playing video games at home, a lot of developers were keen on experimenting on just how far they could push the home console. There were a couple of big hits such as Pitfall and Space Invaders and even some that are considered to be hidden gems because of how criminally underrated they were when first released like H.E.R.O. and Canyon Bomber.

When people think of the Atari 2600, they often reminisce some of the best games that they ever played and the real stinkers that they regretted renting out in their local video store. While their disappointment may have been immeasurable and their day ruined that time, it’s fun to look back at those kinds of titles and just have a good old laugh about them. We’re here to look at the absolute worst Atari 2600 games. After reading this, you might want to wash the bad taste that’s left in your mouth by checking out our article on the best Atari 2600 games.


The Atari 2600 was hailed for having some of the best head-to-head games that were released, but Karate sure wasn’t one of them. Not to be mistaken for the well-loved title “Kung Fu Master” (which was good and even got released over to the Nintendo Entertainment System), Karate is the result of a sad attempt to make a buck. At that time, karate and martial arts were all the rage back then. Followed by the many films of Jackie Chan doing some good ol’ kung fu on his movies, video game companies wanted to cash in on the trending market.

Made by Froggo Games, Karate is perhaps the sorriest state of a martial arts-based game that we’ve ever seen. While the controls are pretty easy to figure out, by golly was everything a mess. The character movements from the sprites don’t work. It’s as if they look like they’re suffering on the screen. Oh, and did we mention that there’s absolutely no sense of real collision detection too? This not only kills any strategic elements in the game (if there are any) but since Karate doesn’t have a life bar and simply uses a point system for how many hits a player lands, the whole fighting shindig is nonexistent.

If there’s a description that fits Karate the most, it would have to be that it takes everything that a fighting game should be and disrespectfully throws everything out of the window.


Overly blocky graphics and nails-on-chalkboard sound effects were the norms back in the late 1970s, but luckily, Superman doesn’t have those issues. Instead though, what players are met with when playing the game is the utterly confusing navigation system. Finding the way around seems to be almost impossible thanks to the screen disappearing. Games were relatively simple at that time, but come on, the sprite doesn’t even look like Superman in the first place!

The developers could have added a tinge of red and blue on the character to at least make it feel like what the players are seeing is indeed the guy with the red cape. Superman was one of the earliest licensed video games, so, understandably, the technology at the time wasn’t as great when compared to the later released games. It received quite a positive reception back then and people claiming that it’s the best Atari game that they’ve seen yet. While that may be true at that time, Superman did not age as well as they expected.


It’s impossible to talk about the worst video games in the Atari 2600 without at least giving a mention to E.T. which is arguably the most rotten of them all. First of all, the game took only five weeks in development before putting it out on the shelves. Games at that time usually took six to eight months to make, but according to Howard Scott Warshow, the programmer behind E.T., he had to finish the title for the Atari 2600 in just a matter of weeks.

Contrary to popular belief, the game sold pretty well–about 1.5 million copies to be specific, but since Atari was expecting it to instantly fly off the shelves and made 4 million copies, it ultimately led to a massive disappointment during the holiday season in 1982. Saying that E.T. singlehandedly led the entirety of the game industry into the ground is an exaggeration. Many factors were a part of the video game crash, and E.T. likely was more of a symptom than being the actual cause.

In any case, E.T. is the result of the gaming industry’s blind optimism against rising competitors and inflation. Whether or not E.T. deserves all of the flack that it’s getting is debatable, but one can’t deny that it gets most of the blame for putting the final nail into Atari’s coffin.

Final Thoughts

Some of the worst games in the Atari 2600 have the most interesting stories to tell. Examples such as E.T. are the perfect subject matter for further discussion. On the other hand, some games were just plain bad that doesn’t really need further research into like Karate. It goes to show that while there are no doubt some good games in the Atari library, there’s always the bad the comes with it. Despite this, the system was made one of the most groundbreaking advancements in video game history. Aside from the list of the worst games on the Atari 2600, the console is still very much worth diving into.

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