Ranking The Best Atari 5200 Games Ever Developed

A selection of Atari cases on the Retro Dodo background

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The Atari 2600 might have ruled the roost in the early 80s, but we’re here to make sure that the best Atari 5200 games are remembered by gamers for many years to come!

As many readers already know, Atari had a bit of a mixed career when it came to releasing home consoles. The cabinet kings looked set to dominate the market when the 2600 released, but sadly, sales figures on their later consoles told a very different story.

Like the Game Boy Micro and the Sega CD, the Atari 5200 remains an example of a console outshined by a predecessor and not given the attention it deserved.

Still, the 5200 has a few diamonds in its collection that players should definitely check out before heading to the big ‘Game Over’ sign in the sky.

Check out the 20 best Atari 5200 games for the console, along with a few choice facts that will whet your retro gaming appetite!

1. Rescue on Fractalus! (1985)

Rescue on Fractalus! game case
Credit: Atari

Rescue on Fractalus! is officially the best Atari 5200 game of all time, using all the might of Lucasfilm Games to make an exceptional title!

It has those early Star Wars game feels to it, combined with green, monstrous aliens who try to eat you at every turn.

Rescue on Fractalus! gameplay
Credit: Atari

Fun fact for any gaming nerds out there; the game uses fractal technology in order to make the many mountains you see on each level, hence the planet name ‘Fractalus’.

Gameplay takes place within the cockpit of the Valkyrie ship either flying thought the terrain defeating enemies or rescuing other pilots. Missions can take place at night or in the day, so using the ships internal readouts is a must when visibility is impaired.

If you’re a space lover or fancy exploring life on other planets, then I won’t need to sell this game to you. It’s a fantastic title and one of my favourite ever retro Atari games!

2. Miner 2049er (1983)

Miner 2049er game case

Minet 2049er is up next, pairing Donkey Kong-style level design with a bit of 20th century ‘Gold Rush’ action starring Bounty Bob!

Unlike Donkey Kong, Miner 2049er features ten levels compared to DK’s four, giving players way more action for their buck.

Speaking of bucks, this game was one of the most expensive for the console, dropping at $49.95 back in the early 80s, which is close to $135.00 in todays money!

I reckon we’ll need some of that Gold Rush gold to pay for the game itself!

Miner 2049er gameplay
Credit: Atari/8-Bit-Central

Players take Bounty Bob through each of Nuclear Ned’s mines in search of Yukon Yohan. The games developers obviously had a thing for alliterations!

Every inch of flooring in each of the mines must be coloured in by Bob walking over it to complete the level. That might sound easy, but when you’ve got nuclear-mutant animals flying at your head, then it quickly becomes a dangerous mission!

Encounter matter transporters and jet-speeders as you battle your way through each level. It’s one of my favourite Atari games and a definite go-to title for gamers new to the console.

3. Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator (1982)

Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator Atari 5200
Credit: Atari

Sega knocked it out of the park with Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator, the third-best game made for the Atari 5200!

This combat simulator combined a 2D display with a 3D perspective for an immersive game style that both Trekkies and shooting game fans alike lapped up.

Players control the Starship Enterprise as they take down Klingon war ships (that’s war, not wor this time). It’s the ultimate sci-fi experience and a game that requires brain power as well as blasting everything in sight.

Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator Atari 5200 gameplay
Credit:Atari/Old Games DOwnload

The key to success comes from knowing how to man the Starship Enterprise correctly. Effectively raising shields and manning torpedos is just as important as knowing when and where to warp to.

And let’s not forget the synthesised voice work in this game. Thos futuristic lines really make you feel like you’re up there with Spok, Kirk, and the crew.

Like Pole Position, Star Trek is a game that would have definitely made me buy this console back in the day. Why they didn’t make this game to launch with the 5200 I will never understand!

4. Mario Bros. (1983)

Mario Bros. game case Atari 5200

This next title hardly needs any introduction.

Many Mario games over the years have included this classic arcade game as an extra playable mode, keeping this classic title from the golden age of gaming alive and kicking with younger gamers.

Mario Bros was developed by the mighty Shigeru Miyamoto and Gameboy developer Gunpei Yokoi.

Talk about a super duo!

Mario and Luigi both feature in this title, kicking ass and knocking back crabs and koopas in the mean sewers of New York.

Mario Bros. Atari 5200 gameplay
Credit: Atari/Atariage

Ok, so admittedly it’s not Super Mario 64, but games like Super Mario Sunshine or Super Mario Odyssey wouldn’t even exist without this classic POW-smashing adventure.

Whether you play single-player or two-player, clearing screens while listening to that iconic music really takes you back to a simpler time. See where the POW block was first used and use it to your advantage in this coin-collecting, enemy-stomping game.

Honestly, this title is Mario at his best and is one of those rare games that has lasted last the test of time. It features in all of our best retro console games lists for a reason, and it will forever be one of the most influential titles ever made!

5. Centipede (1982)

Centipede game case
Credit: Atari

This fixed-shooting title is one of the most influential and successful games from the golden age of gaming. It’s one of those title that can eat up hours in the blink of an eye and a great game to kick back with after a long day in the office.

It’s been released many times for multiple consoles over the years and spawned more clone games than you can shake a stick at.

Centipede gameplay
Credit: Atari/Atariage

Players must take down a centipede moving across their screen using a bug blaster. It’s a little bit like Snake meets Space Invaders, two games that I spent hours playing on when I was younger.

When a centipede is hit, pieces will break off and turn into a mushroom, blocking certain routes and making it harder for players to take them out!

Fleas, Scorpions, and Spiders all wreak havoc across the screen in their own way too. It’s a serious bug invasion!

It won’t revolutionise your life, but as the levels get harder, you’ll find it harder and harder to put down! Trust me, you needs this game in your collection.

6. Pitfall II: Lost Caverns (1984)

Pitfall II: Lost Caverns game case

Pitfall II is an other example of a game that went on to become a Sega arcade game after it was released on the Atari 2600. If you’ve played the original title, then there’s no WAY that you won’t enjoy the new features in the sequel.

Pitfall Harry is back, looking as pixelated as ever. Now, as well as running and swinging from vines, he can move up and down levels, swim through rivers, and float on balloons!

Pitfall II: Lost Caverns gameplay
Credit: youtube

The Lost Caverns was one of the last and most impressive titles on the Atari 2600, making it a must have title for 5200 owners. Thanks to a Display Processor Chip inside the cartridge itself, gamers experienced a glossy arcade game with textured scenery and stunning levels from the comfort of their sofas.

Hard to believe that this was stunning now, isn’t it? Still, this was the real deal back in the 80s!

27 levels feature in the game, as do two new characters. Lost Caverns saw the arrival of Quickclaw, Harry’s pet mountain lion who is a humongous coward, and his adventurous niece, Rhonda!

7. Pole Position (1982)

Pole Position game case Atari 5200
Credit: Atari

You might remember reading about Pole Position in our list of the greatest Atari 2600 titles, and the 5200 version features all of the same action and pixellated thrills as its predecessor.

Pole Position has often been cited as one of the most influential racing games of all time. It’s fair to say that titles like Mario Kart or Combat Cars wouldn’t have ever existed without it, and the scenery was pretty damn good for an early computer game too!

Pole Position Atari 5200 gameplay

The main difference between the 2600 and 5200 verisions is the graphics. The game looks less like it was made on Mario Paint and features vibrant colour schemes and clearly defined tracks.

This is one of the titles that would make me buy a 5200; the game is simple racing fun with no bells and whistles attached, and it just works!

The scaling sprites and unbelievably realistic driving experience made this game an instant hit with gamers the globe over, and players still roar around these tracks to this very day,

Before you can race in a GP, you have to complete a time trial, getting a time between 57 and 120 seconds. Ace the qualifying lap, and you get to compete in the main event!

8. Beam Rider (1983)

Beam Rider game case 5200

What a classic! Beamrider was always going to feature in this list because it’s such an addictive game to play!

Beamrider was originally made for the Intellivision and ported to the 2600 soon afterwards. The 5200 version doesn’t differ that much (same story as always) but is still a beauty to play.

A large alien shield has surrounded the Earth (cue impressive music). Piloting the Beamrider, players must take out the alien craft that are protecting the shield using torpedos and a short-range laser.

It’s the closest I’ll ever get to being a space pilot!

Beam Rider gameplay
Credit: Atari/PixelatedArcade

The game has a feel of Tron: Deadly Discs, mainly because it’s played on a grid and has hordes of enemies that never stop trying to kill you.

After destroying 15 ships, players got the chance to take on a bigger ship for extra points. Save those torpedos for the bosses, otherwise, you’re going to miss out on that all-important high score.

Atari offered patches to certain players who reached a high score back in the day. Ok, so some people win millions of dollars now for coming first in video game rankings, but a patch is still pretty cool!

9. Vanguard (1983)

vanguard game case Atari 5200
Credit: Atari

Vanguard takes the Number 9 spot in our list! The console certainly wasn’t short of space shooters, but I liked this game because it had an early Star Wars feel to it, especially with those crafts that look like flipped-over Tie-Fighters!

The game features a forced scrolling screen that may move horizontally or vertically, so pilots need to keep their joystick hand steady if they want to avoid crashing into cavern walls.

vanguard gameplay 5200
Credit: Atari/youtube

Players control the ships guns via four buttons underneath the joystick, allowing for laser fire in four directions. It’s practically the Millennium Falcon!

Unlike games such as Scramble where fuel continually runs out until you plummet from the skies, players take on more fuel every time an enemy is destroyed.

The game plot is pretty wild too. Some lad called ‘The Gond’, which is a pretty odd name to choose, has been raiding lots of colonies, and people are getting sick of it.

The player must travel through different zones inside an asteroid including the Mountain Zone, Styx Zone, and the City of Mystery in order to bump off ‘ol Gondilocks and save the day.

It could be an RPG title with a storyline like that!

10. Congo Bongo (1983)

congo bongo atari 5200
Credit: Atari

This next Sega offering gets a bit of a bad rap, but I think Congo Bongo is a great game and thoroughly deserves to be in this list.

Why? Well, it’s a bit like Jungle Hunt, Donkey Kong, and Frogger all mixed into one. Players control an unnamed explorer that in my mind looks exactly like the dude from Jungle Hunt too.

Coincidence? Probably not!

congo bongo gameplay
Credit: Atari/YouTube

Our intrepid explored is trying to chase down a gorilla named Bongo. And, as you might have guessed, the game takes place in the Congo.

Avoid falling coconuts and stampeding animals as you make your way through the game’s levels. Players must jump over man-eating (probably) fish and dodge hippos, monkeys, and rhinos as they make their way towards Bongo.

And at the end of the game, the explorer sets the Gorilla’s foot on fire, and the whole thing starts again with increased difficulty.

Should I be calling animal welfare right about now…?

11. Mr Do’s Castle (1983)

Mr Do's Castle game case
Credit: Atari

Those of you that have played the original Mr Do arcade game might be interested to know that this was never meant to be a Mr Do game at all! It was supposed to be called ‘Knights VS Unicorns’ but Universal decided that Mr Do was popular and thought ‘why not make it look like a sequel?’.

I guess you can’t argue with that logic!

Mr Do's Castle gameplay
Credit: Atari/Youtube

The game has a feel of Donkey Kong about it, what with the climbing up and down ladders and levels, though there is a lot more going on in Mr Do’s Castle than you might think!

Players control a clown named Mr Do, who must battle with a bunch of unicorn-looking monsters. Wielding a hammer, players smash monsters and flip staircases in a bid to collect all of the cherries on multiple platforms.

It’s like Pac-Man on acid!

Magic Shields, Keys, and Donkey Kong Country-style collectible letters make an appearance in this game, giving gamers lots to be thinking about. If you like to be kept on your toes, then this is the title for you!

12. Choplifter (1982)

Choplifter game case atari 5200
Credit: Atari

In most cases, the games in our list appeared in arcades before making their debut on home consoles. Choplifter breaks the pattern, becoming one of the first and few games to be ported to arcade cabinets after home console success.

That’s a fact that you can tell your mates over zoom the next time someone suggests a quiz!

Choplifter atari 5200 gameplay
Credit: Atari/8-Bit Central

Choplifter sees players attempting to save prisoners of war in a helicopter. Players amass points by successfully rescuing hostages and fighting off enemy fighters and tanks.

Landing on a hostage will kill them (quite obviously really), so players will need to time their descents perfectly. There are 64 hostages on each stage, and the helicopter can only carry 16 at a time.

I guess it’s a case of picking your favourite captives first?

Watch out when the guards are alerted; fire can come from all angles, making retreating just as dangerous as attacking!

13. Ms Pac-Man (1983)

Ms Pac-Man game case
Credit: Atari

Up next on our list is the ultimate gaming femme-fatale and woman of the year 1981, Ms Pac Man.

The game itself was widely heralded as being better than the original Pac-Man title. It has extra features that make gameplay even more exciting, and the inclusion of a female title character was pretty rare at the time!

Ms Pac-Man is, in fact, one of the first female video game protagonists, and she’s since gone on to become a major cult figure in the retro gaming world.

Ms Pac-Man gameplay atari 5200
Credit: Atari/Youtube

So what differences did Ms Pac Man have over the original game? Well, there are more warp tunnels in levels, and the ghosts move in different patterns. The walls are also made from solid colours, giving the levels a more ‘filled out’ feel.

Instead of folding up like an origami crane after coming in contact with a ghost, Ms Pac-Man ‘swoons and falls’ over. Twinned with the red bow, the little yellow circle developed a much more substantial personality.

Oh, and the orange ghost is called Sue instead of Clyde… don’t forget that one!

14. Missile Command (1982)

Missile Command game case Atari 5200
Credit: Atari

Like Defender, Missile Command sees players trying to protect a planet, or in this case cities, from an impending attack. It’s the second Sega title in our list and was a huge success for the Atari 2600, selling a whopping 2.5 million copies!

War is waging between two planets: Zardon, controlled by the player, and Krytol.

As the player, you must protect six cities from being blown to smithereens by an endless barrage of missiles that just keep on coming and coming!

Think you’re up to the job?

Missile Command gameplay
Credit: Atari/youtube

Missile Command is yet another game accredited as being one of the most important titles from the ‘golden age of gaming’.

The aim of the game is to attack everything that is trying to attack you. Weapons fire from all angles, and some even spit into cluster bombs to try and throw you off!

Each new level becomes increasingly harder with new weapons to defend against. Can you successfully command three guns while keeping you cool against bomber planes and destructive satellites?

15. Defender (1981)

defender game case atari 5200
Credit: Atari

Defender is another space shooter and one of the most popular shooting titles for the console. It’s also one of the best selling arcade titles of all time, selling over 55,000 units!

Yes, Defender has certainly cemented it’s place as one of the most important games in the ‘golden age of gaming’, giving birth to the horizontal shooting genre and wowing excited gamers all at the same time!

If that doesn’t merit its inclusion in this list, then I don’t know what does!

Defender gameplay Atari 5200
Credit: Atari/Youtube

Defender remains one of the toughest computer games in the world. Not only do you have to worry about protecting the planet from aliens, but any astronauts that get abducted will also come back to fight you as mutants!

Players start off with three lives, though they can obtain more after racking up a certain amount of points. Get hit or crash, and you lose a life.

16. Zaxxon (1982)

Zaxxon game case
Credit: Atari

Zaxxon is a little rare gem on second-hand gaming sites, but it’s totally worth it if you can get hold of a copy.

But what is Zaxxon? Well, this is the first Sega developed game that appears in our list, and it takes the form of an isometric space shooter.

It uses axonometric projection, hence the ‘axxon’ part of the name. I can only assume the Z is for zapping stuff…

Zaxxon gameplay
Credit: Atari/Youtube

As opposed to simply being a top-down game or a 2D side-scroller, Zaxxon gives the impression of there being three dimensions. And while the graphics are super simple, it’s still a really fun game to play.

The objective? Shoot everything in sight and try not to die. It’s a tried and tested method and one that doesn’t take too much thinking about, which makes it a winner in our book!

It’s hardly Rogue Squadron, but it’ll do for us!

17. Super Breakout (1982)

Super Breakout game case
Credit: Atari

If you decided to skip past all of the tasty facts at the beginning of this article, then you won’t know that Super Breakout shipped with the Atari 5200.

It’s the sequel to the Atari arcade game Breakout, and gave users the chance to experience all of the same magic while sitting in their pyjamas.

Super breakout game play Atari 5200
Credit: Atari/Youtube

Super Breakout came out at for the Atari 2600 at the same time as the arcade game in 1978, though the home console version released in colour as opposed to black and white.

It had already been out for four years when it came packaged with the Atari 5200, making it a new release that wasn’t new at all!

Up to two players can alternate while playing, bouncing balls into coloured blocks with multiple paddles. Losing the ball loses a life, so try to keep it bouncing and literally keep your eye on the ball!

18. Berzerk (1982)

Bezerk game case
Credit: Atari

With voice acting for those true arcade thrills, Berzerk was an immersive shooting game that put players in the very centre of the action.

As with all of the best arcade games, Berzerk is a maze clearing game. This maze, however, is crawling with armoured robots, which makes it a little trickier to navigate… and to stay alive, come to think of it!

bezerk gameplay

There are 1,064 mazes to explore in this game. Players control a green stick man while firing lasers at robots of varying colours depending on the level difficulty.

The game’s antagonist is a bouncy ball called Otto who constantly hunts down Signor stick man. He’s one of the first invincible enemies to make an appearance in the second-generation console gaming catalogue and speeds up every time players destroy a robot.

And let’s not forget the voice synthesiser; some of those lines are classic! “Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert!”

19. Qix (1981)

Qix game case cover art
Credit: Atari

Next up on our list of the best Atari 5200 games is Qix, a Taito puzzle game developed by a married couple in America.

The game works by closing off areas of the screen using rectangles while Qix, a lively little stick thing dances around.

game play Qix Atari 5200
Credit: Atari

By moving the marker, gamers aim to cover at least 65% of the playing field in shapes, drawn using ‘Stix’. If Qix touches an unconnected Stix, then you lose a life.

There are two different speeds, each portrayed by a different colour. Rectangles drawn at slower speeds garner more points, but is the risk of losing a life worth it?

This game might sound a little dull to some, but it was released for pretty much every console under the sun at the time including the DMG and NES. Once you get the hang of it, it’s very fun!

20. Wizard Of Wor (1980)

Wizard of Wor game case
Credit: Atari

Wizard of Wor is a writer’s worst nightmare; my keyboard keeps changing it to War every time!

This Bally Midway arcade port marks the first of many maze titles in our list of the best Atari 5200 games. Up to two players team up to shoot monsters, ghosts, and ghoulies in a variety of different mazes.

Work together or shoot your mate in the back when he or she isn’t looking (we won’t judge). Clear the monsters, and you clear the level. It’s that simple!

wizard of wor gameplay
Credit: Atari/Atariage

Wizards Of Wor really plays on the quirky misspelling. Some enemies that players must face include a Burwor, a Garwor, and a Thorwor, and gamers control different coloured ‘Worriors’.

I’ve written wor so many times now I’m worried it’s going to stick! See, I did it again!

In all seriousness, this is a cracking game to play. The enemies and levels prove a real challenge, and it should have come with an addictive rating of 100.

The original cartridge even came with a cash prize for the first person to complete the game. Ok, so it’s not a Fortnite championship, but it’s still cool!

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