Atari 8-bit (800XL)
First released in 1979, the Atari 8-bit series was one amongst many computers of that day that also included more famous names such as the Apple II and Commodore 64.
Though very equal to those machines, and in some cases superior, it suffered greatly through a lack of software (no Impossible Mission!?!?) or poor ports/translations, especially compared with the C64. Seemed that both machines were extremely capable but their graphics and audio capabilities were different enough to make identical ports difficult to say the least.
One thing that did not help the machine’s future was Atari’s management towards the end through not knowing how to market their systems (ie. Lynx) or squandering good market share via bad business decisions (ie. Atari ST).
Games of note:
Rescue on Fractalus!
One of the first games from LucasFilm Games (to become LucasArts) takes a slightly different approach to a space flight game… you play a rescue ship saving stranded pilots. However the execution was brilliant… using fractal terrain, the game provided the most realistic landscapes ever seen at the time. Coupled with the occasional fights and scares this was a sign of things to come from George’s little software company.One of the unfortunate footnotes to this game was that it was pirated and released to the public before the game was officially released, due to LucasFilm Games sending Atari and unprotected disc. The pirated version was released as “Behind Jaggi Lines”.
A 3D space combat simulator considered to be the inspiration for future games such as Wing Commander and X-Wing. It was surprisingly complex for its time and graphically unique. A 2600 port was created that pales in comparison and even a 16-bit (Atari ST) version failed to better it.
The screenshot to this game does not do it justice… this game was FAST! Basically a variant of Battlezone, the game required the player to drive through the environment and destroy your enemies whilst dodging their own weapons fire. The speed of the game was what made this work so well and made it stand out.
Mercenary: Escape From Targ
A 3D adventure on a massive scale. You crash land on Targ and from the outset have to choose sides (or not) in a local conflict, trying to get what you need to escape the planet. Impressive to watch and full of silly jokes (try shooting the Commodore or Atari signs!).
Admittedly, three of the games were also on other systems but at the time they did play best on the Atari and were good advertisements for its capabilities.