For this sports-themed issue of Old School Gamer, we’re going back to the basics: five early and essential games for the Atari 2600 and five for the Intellivision, the two most popular systems of the pre-NES era.

These highly influential titles, which paved the way for more sophisticated offerings, sold well and are still easy to find today, so you should be able to purchase them for around a buck or two apiece—a little more for Indy 500 since you’ll need a driving controller.

ATARI 2600

Basketball – Atari, 1978

With its forced 3D perspective and rela- tively convincing court, Basketball still makes for a nice game of classic roundball (actually, the ball is square) on the VCS. Beginning with a jump ball at center court, the game lets you challenge the computer or friend to a simple game of full-court one-on-one. Although there are no dunks, gamers can shoot, jump, steal, and rebound, and the arc and length of each shot depend on how high or low the player is holding the ball when the shot button is released. The sound effects are meager, but the game has nice graphics, good player animation, and smart computer A.I. (the opposing player gets in your face during close games). Basketball was designed by Alan Miller, who would go on to work for Activision.

Boxing – Activision, 1980

Viewed from an overhead perspective, this intense, thumb-numbing game features two odd-looking pugilists (one solid white, one solid black) pummeling one another with long jabs (worth one point apiece) and close power punches (worth two points apiece). A round of play is actually an entire game, and rounds are only two minutes long. Since the game is so physically taxing, this is a good thing. A clock at the top of the screen runs down the seconds, but if a player reaches 100 points, the other boxer gets knocked out and the game automatically ends. Unlike the graphically superior Rocky Super Action Boxing for the ColecoVision, the boxers in this game can maneuver around the entire ring.

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Brett Weiss Brett Weiss (11 Posts)

A full-time freelance writer, Brett Weiss is the author of the Classic Home Video Games series, The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987, Encyclopedia of KISS, and various other books, including the forthcoming The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 1 (A–M). He’s had articles published in numerous magazines and newspapers, including the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Game Informer, Classic Gamer Magazine, Video Game Trader, Video Game Collector, Filmfax, Fangoria, and AntiqueWeek, among others.  Check him out at www.brettweisswords.com