The 11 Weirdest Atari 2600 Games

In an industry where a fat plumber can become a cultural icon, it’s no wonder that in video games, weird is normal. However nutty they get, these oddities were never as strange as the ones for the Atari 2600.

Two kids playing Atari games on a console TV
Lifewire / Chloe Giroux 

Ironically the most bizarre of these came out around the crash of the video game industry, causing most of them to go unnoticed in the rubble of a once great gaming console. Take a look weirdest Games you'll ever see, all for the Atari 2600.

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The A-Team

The A-Team screenshot
What We Like
  • Takes just a few minutes to win.

  • Cool rocket animation.

What We Don't Like
  • Mr. T looks unrecognizable.

  • The soundtrack is incomplete.

From Howard Scott Warshaw, the man who brought you Atari 2600 classics such as "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Yars' Revenge," and "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," comes a game that was just too darn weird to release.

Based on the high-octane television series, you play as Mr. T's floating disembodied head and "Pity the Fool" who tries to make any nuclear warheads! Unlike the show where no one ever dies, the goal here is to kill the A-Teams arch-rival Colonel Decker, who has for some reason decided to turn traitor to the U.S. and is supervising the construction of a nuke. The game was built but canceled before its release. A few prototype cartridges leaked to the fan community, making this a much sought-after cult classic.

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Chase the Chuck Wagon

Chase the Chuck Wagon screenshot
What We Like
  • Varied level designs.

  • Serviceable graphics.

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive and hard to find.

  • Sparse soundtrack.

Nothing goes together better than video games and kibble, so it was only inevitable that the first and only video game about dog food was inspired by those classic 80s Chuck Wagon commercials. You control a dog dodging flying bones, deadly tumbleweeds, and his sinister owner, all while racing through a series of mazes to reach a giant Chuck Wagon. Once there you get to grub and gain points. The only way to get this rarity was to send in proof-of-purchases from Check Wagon brand dog chow.

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Alien screenshot
What We Like
  • More enjoyable than the Atari port of "Pac-Man."

  • Fun bonus rounds.

What We Don't Like
  • Game map doesn't feel like you're in space.

  • Xenomorphs look pretty rough.

In space, no one can hear you go "waka-waka-waka-CHOMP". The 1979 big-budget Ridley Scott motion picture made its video game debut as this cheap Pac-Man rip-off. The ghost monsters have been substituted with the insect-like Aliens, and pellets replaced with Alien eggs. Stomping through a maze filled with Alien eggs you must crush them all as you avoid multiple Alien baddies. With no power pellets in sight, you are now equipped with a flamethrower.

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Pepsi Invaders aka Coke Wins!

Pepsi Invaders screenshot
What We Like
  • If you like Space Invaders, you'll like Pepsi Invaders.

  • Funny animations.

What We Don't Like
  • Not a Space Invaders fan? This game won’t change your mind.

  • Nothing original beyond the graphics.

An in-joke parody game commissioned by the Coca-Cola Company as a gift to employees and to take potshots at the competition. A reskinned version of Space Invaders, the player ship is shaped like a can with wings and fires at invading letters that spell out Pepsi. Players get a bonus for hitting the Pepsi logo mothership. The game was never intended to sell with only 125 cartridges manufactured.

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Sneak 'n Peek

Sneak 'n Peek box


What We Like
  • Innovative concept.

  • Surprisingly detailed graphics.

What We Don't Like
  • Don't need an Atari to play hide and seek in real life.

The first and only virtual hide 'n seek game designed for kids too lazy to play in real life. Not intended for latchkey kids who have no one else to play with, Sneak 'n Peak requires two players. The game does feature some innovative approaches, like having the 2nd player or "Seeker" put his controller down and physically leave the room so he can't see the TV and watch where the "hider" creeps off to. With only three different screens, there aren’t many places for anyone to hide.

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Tooth Protectors

Tooth Protectors game box

 Johnson & Johnson

What We Like
  • Promotes dental hygiene.

  • Clever character designs and animations.

What We Don't Like
  • Stiff movement controls.

  • Gets relentlessly difficult after the first few levels.

Deflect tooth-rotting food particles from injuring your precious pearly whites in this advergame available only by mailing in proof-of-purchases from Crest toothpaste. On a platform of teeth, you hold a shield of fluoride protection and stop those perfect choppers from getting damaged by the sinister Snack Attacker. If more than three of his cavity causing crusties gets by you, it's time to bring in the big guns: a giant toothbrush and dental floss.

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Kool-Aid Man

Kool-Aid Man video game advertisement


What We Like
  • Animation of Kool-Aid Man on the opening screen is epic.

  • Bright, colorful graphics.

What We Don't Like
  • Unclear rules and objective.

  • Pool water doesn't replenish between levels.

A perfect match for Tooth Protectors. While one teaches kids how to take care of their teeth, Kool-Aid Man encourages rotting them! In the 80s General Foods Corps marketing team turned the wall-smashing Kool-Aid Man into a pop-culture icon, with his pitcher puss appearing on toys, t-shirts, comic books and, with enough Kool-Aid points, an Atari 2600 game!

You play as Kool-Aid man while your archrivals, the Thirsties, infest his summer pool party. Not only are these dried up pests buzzing around the yard, but they're drinking up all the pool water. When the Thirsties take a swig from your swimming hole, you've got to offer up your refreshing liquid innards. A pretty fun game if you can find it.

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Communist Mutants From Space

Communist Mutants From Space game ad

 Starpath corp.

What We Like
  • Inventive backstory.

  • Various gameplay modes improve on the standard space shooter formula.

What We Don't Like
  • Real life anti-Russia Cold War propaganda.

  • Disappointing lack of communist imagery.

This Space Invaders rip-off is mainly weird for its name and enemies political affiliation. Like Space Invaders, you play a horizontally scrolling ship blasting away at an invading enemy fleet of slowly descending aliens. What makes this game unique are that the aliens are all commie, threatening democracy across the universe! Once you shoot an enemy ship down, the mothership drops an egg with a new "comrade" hatched to take its place. Progressing to the next level requires you blow up the egg spurting mothership, and reject the teachings of Karl Marx.

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I Want My Mommy

I Want My Mommy game box


What We Like
  • Adorable cover art.

  • Contains less violence than most other Atari games.

What We Don't Like
  • May be boring for some players.

  • Doesn't provide a whole lot of excitement.

In a game specifically designed for tots ages eight and under, players control a little teddy bear crybaby who has woken up from a nightmare and needs his mommy's big hug to make the bad dreams go away. In a design that looks suspiciously like the Popeye game, Teddy must climb up a series of platforms connected by "stardust ladders" and avoid Dream Demons who aim to kill the baby bear. Teddy's only defenses against these hell spawns are heart kisses Mommy throws to Teddy. This game teaches youngsters everything they'll need to know about life: Demons, Death, Killing, Magic and having to fight in order to receive a mother's love.

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Revenge of The Beefsteak Tomatoes

Revenge of The Beefsteak Tomatoes game box

20th Century Fox

What We Like
  • Superb musical score.

  • Multiple difficulty settings.

What We Don't Like
  • Having infinite lives with instant respawning negates the game's inherent challenge.

In a concept"inspired" by the cult classic film Attack of the Killer Tomatoes; as a professional tomato sprayer you must trap the revolting produce by building a wall and sealing them in behind it, but don't think the tomatoes are gonna take that kind of ketchup! They'll toss at you exploding tomato bombs and attack from above with flying Beefsteak Tomatoes.

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Journey Escape

Journey Escape game ad

 Data Age

What We Like
  • Inventive and humorous concept.

  • The few notes of Journey's music heard in the game sound great.

What We Don't Like
  • If not for the title screen, you wouldn't know the game is about Journey.

  • The manager looks like Kool-Aid Man.

A game starring the hottest rock bands of the 80s...Journey! Now, don't get ahead of yourself and think nobodies like you will actually get to play band members, instead you lead the exciting life of one of their roadies. You're put to work getting them safely from the concert to their spaceship, the Scarab Escape Vehicle. Protect them from crazed groupies, crooked promoters and tabloid photographers, but more important than the band members, you've gotta keep their concert money safe! What a hero!

The game features only part of a Journey song (Don't Stop Believin'). The rest of the music is an original score (not by Journey). Could this game be the turning point that caused the band to break up only two years later?

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