You’ve heard the legendary tale of the landfill that Atari dumped all the unsold cartridges of E.T. into. Supposedly 3.5 million copies of the game were tossed. And when people started trekking to the dump for free games no matter how terrible it was, it was covered over in concrete. For some reason, people started to think that maybe this was just a legend even though a report of this happening was in the New York Times. Well, just last month they started excavating the site and finding all the old games.
And with that, there’s been talk of how bad E.T. really was. Polygon made a small list with games they thought might be worse so I took the Atari 2600 games on that list for a spin to see which one is the most sucky.
Adventures of Tron – It’s similar to a Donkey Kong game where you have to climb ladders to get to where you need to go. What you need to do is collect all the weird flying objects while avoiding other objects. How do you tell the good from the bad? Trial and error. The crap part of this game is that it’s a single screen that only changes color when you switch levels… Or at least as far as I got because the hit box on the collectables is garbage but it’s gigantic on the enemies — A perfect recipe for frustration. But the game made sense, and there was a score that could be used to compare to friends. Definitely not the worse of the bunch.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – Fly and shoot a never-ending raid of AT-AT walkers. It’s ice planet boring and a pain in the ass to control, but it kind of makes sense in a fucked up George Lucas kind of way.
King Kong – Take Donkey Kong and have it drawn by a 4-year-old using their off-hand. Then have that monstrosity throw what can only be described as cupcakes (with a candle) at you. When you reach the distressed maiden at the top of the building, repeat the horror again. I opted to run directly into the cupcakes when I realized that my life was Groundhog Daying… Because who wouldn’t want to run directly into a giant cupcake?
Fantastic Voyage – Fly your spaceship up some kind of rainbow road avoiding/shooting things in the way. I guess this is the titular voyage? I would never take this trip… it’s a tiny road filled with crap that is too small to shoot and to fast to avoid. The good part about this game is that the goal is pretty straight forward: fly up and shoot things. The most awful thing about this game is the noise that came out of my headphones. As you took damage/continued down the road it was like a heart monitor getting faster, and death was a loud and long flat-line tone. My ears tell me that this should be a contender for the worst of the bunch.
Raiders of the Lost Ark – I don’t think I had the right controller for this game, but I was able to play a bit. You pick up your gear (like a gun and a whip) while avoiding a snake that blended into the background. Then I would fall down a pit and lose a life. Once there, bird enemies and some evil dude that would try to kill me. Sometimes I could shoot him, other times he took my stuff. It was possible to climb out of the pit, but you’d have to lose a life falling in again if you left.
Alien – Take PacMan and make it not possible to kill the ghosts, and then take Frogger and make it impossible to move left and right. When you put that together, you get Alien. All the enemies were different colored T-Rex looking things. The whole time I was wishing the Predator would show up and end everything — the aliens, the game, me, this game journey I put myself in. Ugh.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – The reigning champion of bad. You, as E.T., can run around avoiding the government officials that moved much faster. You could make E.T.’s head lift up that would teleport him somewhere random. There were little dots around that it seemed like I was collecting and the government officials were taking away from me. Oh, and there were pits of doom all over the place that once you fell in, you’d have to extend E.T.’s head and float out of the pit. And to top all that off, there was a death timer that ticked down as you moved. Did I mention all the pits? More pits than a cherry tree. This game is still the worst of the bunch. Because Pits.
I tried to put the games in order from bad to worst, let me know if you think that there’s something worse than E.T. on the 2600, because I am willing to put myself through that pain.