Atari VCS/2600 Updates

Five years ago, I wrote up my last blog post covering my Atari VCS/2600 collection. At the time, I had been collecting for the system for a bit over 15 years and had amassed a nice-sized collection of systems and games. I had begun my journey to collect every Activision-developed title and declared that I must find a way to own my personal holy grail for the system, Halloween. So what have I accomplished since then?

Everything that I’ve added to my Atari 2600 collection since May 2017.

For starters, I added several more Activision titles to my collection, but not nearly as many as I could have. The following games have been added since May of 2017.

  • Barnstorming
  • Boxing
  • H.E.R.O.
  • Ice Hockey
  • Megamania
  • Pitfall II
  • Sky Jinks
A pretty darn cool game.

Out of these additions, the game that stands out for a couple reasons, is H.E.R.O. For starters, this title was released in March of 1984, making it one of the latest Activision releases for the Atari VCS/2600. By ’84, developers had four or five years of experience developing for this console and its hardware limitations, mastering the ability to make the most out of what they were given. H.E.R.O.’s gameplay is a testament to that and has quickly become one of my absolute favorite games for the system. It was also a good investment and has quickly risen (game + manual) to my second most valuable Atari 2600 title. Anytime you can combine collectibility with stellar gameplay, you know you have a game that will retain its value.

Having only added seven new Activision games in five years means I still have quite a few left to collect in order to complete this sub-series. 23 more titles to be exact. At this rate, I will be in my 70s before I complete this task, so I better get on it.

The other major wish list item I wrote about in my 2017 post, was Halloween. Five years ago, I was lamenting how the combination of price (over $100 for a loose cart) combined with scarcity has prevented me from owning this piece of odd-ball gaming history. Flash-forward to 2022 and we’ve now seen two of the three films in the latest Halloween trilogy find success, with the third and final installment set for release in the fall. This has catapulted the Halloween movie franchise back into favor for the majority of the public, making anything tangential to the franchise a hot commodity. Combine that with inflated prices for all retro games since the Covid-19 pandemic, and you now have a cartridge that is now out of my reach.

Since my last Atari post, a whopping 11 authentic copies of Halloween have been sold on eBay, an average of only two a year. Prices were somewhat reasonable (a debatable statement) in 2017-2019, with loose carts typically in the $200-300 range. The most recent authentic copy sold in April of 2022, went for $400, which is more than I’m willing to pay. I might need to wait until the franchise begins to fade from the public consciousness if this even occurs, once the final movie in the new trilogy comes and goes or I might need to wait until most of the owners of the existing carts begin to sell off their copies to fund their retirements.

What other pop-culture favorites could I add to my collection since the search for Halloween wasn’t successful? How about another highly influential 1970s horror film that kicked off a lucrative franchise? That’s right, I added a copy of Alien with manual to my collection shortly after my 2017 post. I love Ridley Scott’s 1979 film, so it was an obvious choice to include a copy in my collection without breaking the bank.

I also added copies of two games that represented my favorite 1980s toy series – GI Joe: Cobra Strike and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Neither game is expensive as I’m sure they sold in much greater quantities than a horror-movie-based game made by an obscure third-party developer/publisher. Beyond these two games, I also added copies of the following:

  • Qbert
  • Midnight Magic
  • Fire Fighter
  • Ghost Manor/Spike’s Peak double-ender
Yep, this is the old school VCS console box I was looking for.

The last item I added to my collection since May 2017 that I wanted to talk about was the addition of an empty Atari VCS console box. I love owning the console boxes for a few reasons, but primarily because they are wonderful snapshots of the era the consoles were marketed and sold in. I love seeing what photos, games, and promotional slogans console manufacturers used to market and sell their systems and the boxes are the easiest way to place myself back in the time they were on store shelves. I remember seeing them and eyeing them with a mix of wonder and envy for all my friends and cousins that had an Atari VCS when I did not. I also wanted to ensure that if I was going to own an Atari console box, it would be the VCS version, not the re-branded 2600 or Jr. box. Not that I wouldn’t like to have those boxes as well, but if I was to have only one, it would be the original design from the late 70s. I love that I now own one, even if I never did when it was released initially because it’s a time capsule from an era I vaguely remember in real-time but also somehow shaped my love for retro gaming.

The most basic of screenshots that were available at the time. Helps they were practically the only game in town.

So where do I go from here? I guess I keep plugging away at my Activision list, seek out solid sequels like Defender II and Frogger II, add fun arcade ports like Up n Down and Bump n Jump and keep plugging away at the pop-culture and film-related titles like Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and of course, Halloween. The night he comes to my home will be a night I’ll never forget.

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