Atari Sports Titles – Football, Home Run, RealSports Baseball, RealSports Volleyball, Super Challenge Football, Super Football

The Atari 2600 wasn’t really known for it’s outstanding sports titles. I always remember back to that George Plimpton commercial that compared sports titles on the VCS/2600 vs. the Intellivision and how much better they looked on the Intellivision. Granted, that doesn’t mean they played significantly better or were more fun than the games on Atari but perception is key. As I wasn’t an owner of an Atari in the early 80’s my perception was that Atari sports games generally were not fun in a post NES world. For this post I decided to play all of them to find out if that was actually true.

Home Run – The most basic of basic baseball games imaginable. You can either play one on one, pitcher vs. batter or else you can add one or two outfielders to your team but it really makes no difference. You all move in unison and your pitcher is lightning quick so he can practically get to any ball by himself. The pitcher also pitches from 2nd base making it super easy to tag out baserunners trying to take 2nd on a hit. The computer generally is awful to play against since they tend to move away from balls hit towards them instead of fielding them properly. Also, if you are winning and it’s the bottom of the 9th, you still get to bat! I understand this game was probably meant to be played mano y mano but I really don’t think that would have made it any more fun. D

RealSports Baseball – Unplayable piece of shit. I couldn’t throw a strike to save my life and if you pitch a ball, the computer opponent will not swing at it. This means you will walk batter after batter after batter. Hitting isn’t much better. Every single time I swung at the ball and made contact (which was rarely), the ball went about 2 feet in front of my batter so I was easy pickings for the catcher to throw me out. This games looks so much better than Home Run but it’s gameplay is actually worse. If this is “Real” then baseball is officially the worst sport in the world. F

Football – Super primitive late 70’s sport outing from Atari similar to Home Run. You play 3 on 3 football, have 5 offensive plays to choose from (including punt) and 5 defensive plays. The field is as long as the screen on your TV so be prepared for short scoring plays. As far as I can tell, this is 2 player only and no vs. computer option exists. D+

Super Challenge Football – Ok, this is a halfway decent football game for the Atari. 5 on 5 this time and a football field that takes up more than one screen. Progress! It may feel a bit too cumbersome at first to program the actions of all 4 offensive linemen to either block (including which direction to block), go out as decoy receiver or go out as target receiver but you get the hang of it fairly quick. On defense, you similarly must program each of your 4 defensive linemen to either go for the QB, rush the offensive player directly across from him or cover the pass receiver. The game looks pretty good and once you get the hang of the gameplay mechanics, it plays well too. Biggest downside is once again, this is a 2 player only title. B-

Super Football – The best of my football titles for Atari, Super Football was a late release(1988) for the 2600 after the console rose from the dead in the wake of the NES revolution. The game rivals 10-yard Fight on the NES in playability, which isn’t saying much, and in my opinion, exceeds it. Taking a 3D approach that would become the norm once Madden became a hit for the Genesis a few years later, Super Football attempts to scale your players as the move down the field and is pretty effective at it! The game is still 5 on 5 and the Super Football manual is a must own to understand what plays you’re calling, but those are minor gripes for a very solid football game on the Atari 2600. At least there’s a computer opponent on this title. 

RealSports Volleyball – Totally serviceable (for the time) volleyball title from Atari, RealSports Volleyball offers 2 on 2 beach volleyball action for the 2600. I’ve played worse titles from much more sophisticated consoles, so at least the game isn’t broken like RealSports Baseball! The computer isn’t very good and it’s easy to figure out the bump, set, “spike” gameplay. I use quotes because you can’t really spike the ball in the manner that you may expect. Your two players move in unison with each other so make sure to utilize both players to get to the ball instead of just one, which I have a tendency to do. The game even features a sun that slowly sets in the horizon, which is a cool feature. C

Currently in my collection:

Football – game only

Home Run – game, manual

RealSports Baseball – game, manual, box

RealSports Volleyball – game, manual

Super Challenge Football – game, manual

Super Football – game, manual, box

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