5 Nintendo Games on the Atari 2600 – IMPLANTgames

5 Nintendo Games on the Atari 2600 – IMPLANTgames


While the original Nintendo Entertainment
System is often seen as Nintendo’s foray into the home console market, like most arcade
companies of the time, Nintendo also licensed their arcade properties to other publishers
for home console and computer releases. This means some of their most popular early
80’s arcade games were ported to the classic Atari 2600. To celebrate this amazing mash-up of Nintendo
goodness and Atari charm, on today’s episode of 5 Games I present 5 Nintendo Games on the
Atari 2600. First up is Donkey Kong, ported to the Atari
2600 by Coleco in 1982. This version of Donkey Kong is most famous
for being one of the worst. For starters it contains just two of the four
levels found in the arcade game. Next, the Donkey Kong sprite is pretty suspect,
looking more like a gingerbread man than a great ape. Lastly, the levels are simplified and as best
as I can tell, the challenge does not increase with each loop. Still, I’ve always found this version of
Donkey Kong rather enjoyable for what it is. The controls are responsive, and jumping over
enemies and climbing up ladders is a drama free experience. With decent controls, the objective of scoring
points becomes a fun time for me. The goal is to beat the level as quickly as
possible, as the point total for the level starts at 5,000 and then decreases as the
seconds go by. This creates a fun risk versus reward mechanic
that is inherently addicting, as taking more risks reward more points, but also increases
your chances of something going wrong and losing a life. While most, if not all, ports of Donkey Kong
are superior, if you’re like me and the Atari 2600 is your pre-NES console of choice,
Donkey Kong provides a decent amount of entertainment at an extremely affordable price. Next up is Sky Skipper, ported to the Atari
2600 by Parker Bros. in 1983. The original arcade game was a Japanese exclusive,
while this Atari 2600 version was a North American exclusive, and also an Atari 2600
exclusive, never seeing a release on any other platform. As best as I can figure, your goal is to bomb
an angry gorilla, which will knock him out, temporarily opening up a bunch of animal cages. During this period, you need to fly into the
cats, turtles, rabbits, and ducks to rescue them. All of this must be done before your gas tank
runs out of fuel. After rescuing all of the animals, you beat
the stage. This Atari port has 2 levels, and with each
loop, the game becomes more difficult. On the second loop, deadly clouds are added
to the playfield, and on the third loop, your plane picks up speed. All of this happens on a smooth scrolling
playfield with no flicker whatsoever. Unfortunately, I just don’t find this very
fun to play. It plays sort of like a maze game, expect
touching the wall results in death. While the controls are responsive for sure,
the whole game concept just doesn’t result in a lot of fun. As your plane doesn’t stop, and can move
diagonally, it’s all too easy to accidently crash into the walls forcing you to start
over. Additionally, as you often have to wait for
cloud patterns, the animals traps will close, forcing you to rebomb the gorilla and start
over, only their really isn’t enough fuel for a second go. The end result is a game the lacks the balance
and finesse found in better games from the era. While a neat curiosity for sure, Sky Skipper
is probably best avoided. Of course one can’t talk about Nintendo
games on the Atari without mentioning Donkey Kong Junior, ported to the 2600 by Coleco
in 1983. If I’m honest, this is not a strong title,
not even by Atari 2600 standards. The graphics are definitely below average,
and you really have to use your imagination to make this feel like a jungle. The Donkey Kong Junior sprite is especially
laughable and doesn’t really resemble, well, anything. The second and third levels also feature a
ton of flicker, which not only makes this video impossible to watch at less than 60
frames per second, but also makes all of the enemies difficult to spot when playing the
game. The gameplay is also a bit janky, and getting
yourself off the vines feels less than responsive. Once you do finally get a handle on all of
the gameplay nuances, Donkey Kong Junior. is relatively pain free, but as far as I can
tell, nothing changes with each loop, making for a fairly boring experience. And then there’s the sound of Junior climbing,
which can best be described as obnoxious. Perhaps Donkey Kong Junior was simply too
ambitious for the Atari 2600, or maybe Coleco got a little lazy with this port, but whatever
the case, I can’t recommend this one. Next up is Popeye, ported to the Atari 2600
by Parker Bros. also in 1983. This is a surprisingly competent port of the
arcade game, featuring all three stages, background music, and most of the gameplay mechanics
from the original. The main goal is to collect the trinkets Olive
Oyl is dropping from the top of the screen. After collecting one, it is tracked on the
grid in the upper left corner. Additionally, after grabbing a trinket a projectile
will come at you from the opposite side of the screen. You can either avoid it, or punch it for points. Finally, you must do all of this while avoiding
Brutus, who can jump up or down and punch Popeye, as well as shoot projectiles. This game is actually somewhat tricky at first,
as your learn all gameplay nuances, and I’d argue it’s more complex than your average
Atari game. But once you get past the initial learning
curve, Popeye is a deep and entertaining romp. I should note the set pieces in the second
stage can be tough to see, though slightly easier on a CRT, and the game features a ton
of flicker, though I never found it to hinder the on-screen items like it did in Donkey
Kong Junior. Rounding things out, the game actually gets
harder on the second loop, with faster projectiles, and I’ll mention it again, this game has
actual background music, which I find to be pretty awesome. All-in-all Popeye is a fun game, and a must-own
for the system. Last but not least is Mario Bros. ported by
Atari in, you guessed it, 1983. The goal of Mario Bros. is to hit enemies
from below, which will temporarily paralyze them. After this, you need to run into them to clear
them off the board. Once you clear all of the enemies you beat
the stage and the next one is presented. As the game wears on, the enemies become more
difficult. Sometimes needing two hits to knock them down. Other enemies jump leaving you less room to
get in a hit, and other move extremely fast. Even trickier is a fireball roaming across
the three levels, giving you an item must avoid at all costs, potentially ruining your
strategy. There is also a block at the bottom of the
screen, which will register a hit on all of the on-screen enemies, offering some extra
strategy to the gameplay. While not the best looking game on this list,
the Mario sprite is charming with a blue overalls and a blue hat, and all of the enemies feature
a couple frame of animation. The flickering is again prominent but because
all of the sprites are nice and big, it’s never an issue. It’s also worth noting a second player can
join in but I didn’t get a chance to test it. Mario Bros. is definitely a good Atari game,
and there is something inherently cool seeing an official Mario game on the system. If you can find this one for a reasonable
price, it’s definitely worth a look. So there you have it, 5 Nintendo games for
the Atari 2600.

21 comments

  1. I like this series of videos a lot. I've seen the carts for some of the games, but never actually got to play any of them as I didn't have an Atari until recently. So I'm itching to play them. I guess it's hit or miss for these ports, but when done right, they do seem to capture the feel and gameplay of the original, but with basic scaled-down visuals. Reminds me of playing Neo Geo Pocket color games like Last Blade, Neo Turf Masters, and many others and, despite the simple "chibi" style graphics have a feel very close to the originals.

    Hope to see the podcast back when you feel up to it.

  2. There is still something fascinating about Atari games, I can't really explain it waht but it probably because a lot of sentimental value is attached to it

  3. now just wait a minute! You cant just end the video and not explane the Super Mario Bros game at the end of the video. Is that a fan made game for the Atari 2600 or what? 😛

  4. Missed opportunity here:
    When you were talking about Sky Skipper, you should've said, "Sky Skipper is probably best skipped."

    Other than that, great video!

  5. When I bought Donkey Kong Junior for the Atari 2600 in 1983, I was excited but when I played it, I felt sick. The two things that I hated was that it gave no points for jumping over enemies and it gave no fruit to destroy enemies. If it had done those two things, I would've liked it better.

  6. Nice video! It's strange, I have 20 consoles (the NES being my first) and I love them all but the Atari 2600 is my favorite.

  7. A Nintendo game ported to Atari 2600 by Coleco…Since Coleco had ColecoVision back in the day, that would be like Sony porting a Nintendo game to Xbox today!

  8. Mario Bros. is best when played 2-player, especially competitively when two players try to purposely get the other player killed.

  9. Great video! .. although I am not sure I would consider Popeye a Nintendo game, seeing as how the creator of Donkey Kong originally wanted to make a Popeye game but due to copyright issues… had to create the very awesome Donkey Kong instead 🙂

  10. Flicker is largely unavoidable for anything but the simplest of 2600 games.

    While the 2600 has the same CPU used in the Apple, the C64, and the NES, it’s graphic chip only outputs single horizontal lines unlike the other systems that output single entire frames. This meant the CPU spent most of its time setting up each horizontal line as it needed to be drawn.

    The graphics chip output a background color, a blocky playfield that either repeated or was mirrored halfway through in a playfield color, 2 8-bit player sprites and 2 1-bit player missile sprites in player 1 and 2 colors, and 1 1-bit ball sprite in the playfield color. The system was designed to play pong and combat. Atari figured if they could figure out how to make more, then that’d be a bonus.

    The graphics chip designer added extra features to elongate and/or repeat sprites, which along with programming wizardry yielded effects that amazed even him. You could change graphics mid-line but the graphics draw faster than the CPU runs making such techniques limited to a few. With the limited number of sprites, alternating drawn sprites by field is often the only way of drawing more than 2 and that leads to flicker. However with the aliasing caused by CRTs as they draw, they don’t look bad. On modern LCD screens they don’t look as good and if the flicker rate is the same rate as the LCDs refresh rate, the sprite can appear solid or not at all. The applies when recording too.

    The 2600 has 2 audio channels but the available frequencies do not correspond to the chromatic scale very well— imagine a piano with many broken keys. You can still play music, but it is a challenge.

    The CPU variant, while having a 16-bit address space, was reduced to 13-bit (8k) for cost saving limiting ROMs to 4k. The RAM was on the graphics chip and limited to 128 bytes. Because the cartridge had no read/write line, it limited the cart to no RAM. Later on, some put bank switching and other circuitry in carts for extra ROM, extra RAM, and extra processing too. Look at Pitfall II for an awesome example of this.

    And if you really want to blow your mind, go look up the Atari 2600 demo scene. You’ll have a hard time believing what a 2600 can do at it’s limits.

  11. About Donkey Kong on Atari 2600. Coleco made this version as well as the Intellivision version bad on purpose to help convince gamers that the Colecovision is far superior to the Atari and Intellivision and offers the ultimate Donkey Kong experience. Also, I don't know about you but Donkey Kong on Atari is worse than Pac-Man.

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