A History of Gaming Platforms: Atari 8-bit Computers

Gamasutra continues to explore the history of older gaming platforms, this time bringing us an in-depth look at the various models of Atari 8-bit computers. Some of our more veteran visitors might remember an ambitious RPG called Alternate Reality: The City:

As a follow-up to his impressive side-scrolling shooter from 1983, The Tail of Beta Lyrae, Philip Price’s RPG Alternate Reality: The City (1985) probably took better overall advantage of the performance capabilities of the Atari 8-bits than any game before or since, with as many as 63 colors on-screen at once and synchronized sound.

With a strong arcade catalog and an established development and publishing system, Atari itself released many important titles. Besides a large cache of productivity and educational software, Atari came through with arcade translations and a few original titles. Although not quite as well supported as the Apple II or Commodore 64, the Atari computers were targeted by most of the same software publishers. Many of the industry’s top games either originated on Atari’s system or were ported later.

Standout titles include Atari’s beloved space combat simulation, Star Raiders (1980); Synapse’s multiscreen magic-based action game, Necromancer (1982), underground helicopter action game, Fort Apocalypse (1982) and animated cartoon platformer, Alley Cat (1983); First Star Software’s attractive arcade shooter, Astro Chase (1982); Datasoft’s licensed action platformers, including Bruce Lee (1984), Conan (1984), Zorro (1985) and The Goonies (1986), as well as Philip Price’s technical masterpiece, role-playing game Alternate Reality: The City (1985); and Lucasfilm’s adventure shooter featuring fractal geometry-based landscapes, Rescue on Fractalus (1984).

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