Picking the best Atari 7800 games is no easy task, especially as this console was the first backwards compatible unit on the market.
Many of the games for the system are updated ports of 2600 games, and while they are are much improved versions, they don’t feel like new games for a new console.
In many respects, people could think of the Atari 7800 as the third-generation, upgraded version of the 2600 console, though it did have some great titles that only launched for the 7800 and bypassed its predecessors.
Alas, due to poor marketing and a delayed launch, the Atari 7800 joins the Atari 5200, the Dreamcast, the Intellivision, and other ‘could have been’ consoles in the great game shop in the sky.
Still, the 7800 remains my favourite Atari console to date and games still look great on it. Join me as we take a trip through yesteryear and check out the 25 best Atari 7800 games for this classic console!
N.B & Troll Disclaimer – As many Atari 2600 games work with the 7800, there are so many titles to choose from. I have tried to include mainly 7800 titles with a few of my favourite revamped 2600 titles thrown in for good measure. Space Invaders and Mario Bros are not included as they always get a shot in the limelight. If you want to learn more about these games, check out our other Atari console articles once
you’ve finished reading.
Cosmi Corporation and their tongue-twister-titled Super Huey UH-IX take the 25th spot in our list of the best Atari 7800 games of all time!
Atari ported a version to the 7800 in 1988, three years after the game released on the Commodore 64.
The game boasts a similar cockpit interface as Rescue on Fractalus, one of the best Atari 5200 games, though the gameplay is nowhere near as exciting.
For a helicopter simulator fanatic, Super Huey is the bee’s knees. It’s a small slice of perfection revolving around 8-bit rescues, pixelated combat, and intrepid adventures.
For everyone else, this game may probably prove a little dull. It doesn’t have Rogue Squadron-esque twists and turns, but helicopter lovers will surely be thrilled by it.
Perhaps, like me, you might find that you end up loving it and enjoy just aimlessly scouting around for things to do. It’s an easy game to play and great for killing time.
Beef Drop is the first unlicensed game in this list of the best Atari 7800 games. It’s a home-brew port of BurgerTime, the popular Atari 2600 title, with better graphics and a crisper feel.
This port started life as an April fools joke, though copies soon appeared on the Atari Age website back in 2006. Now, 7800 fans can enjoy Burger Time in this new form while making the most of console’s power.
The premise of the game is still the same as the original title. Players control Chef Peter Pepper while trying to build a series of burgers. The wicked Mr Pickle, Mr Hot Dog, and Mr Egg act as antagonists, trying to stop Peter in his culinary crusade.
This would make a good children’s book!
BurgerTime, or Beef Drop in this case has a similar feel to Mario’s Cement Factory crossed with Mario and Yoshi, the DMG ‘egg-cellent’ game. Walking over ingredients causes them to fall, completing burgers and knocking out enemies at the same time.
Golf isn’t one of my favourite past-times, though there’s something about Mean 18 that I find very addictive.
The colours of the courses and the style of play both make for a very interesting game that, dare I say it, could be the mother of all golfing titles.
Mean 18 remains the first golfing title to be played from the players perspective. That’s right, folks, it all happened here first on the Atari 7800…
… along with the other consoles the game ported to..!
It’s also the first golf game to have a level creator, allowing players to build their own courses to individual specifications.
Mean 18 has a true golf feel to it, and the three-click system to set power and swing is still used on many golfing games today.
The game boasts different difficulty levels, each with varying characteristics such as shorter tees, better control, and automatic club choice. It’s the perfect game to play through the Covid-19 pandemic if your local golf course has closed down!
Any readers currently thinking that Basketball isn’t tough enough will love Basketbrawl. This title is a no-holds-barred version of one of my favourite sports, crossing NBA Jam with Streets of Rage.
Instead of playing fair like the title at Number 4 in our list, players punch, kick, and use pretty much any means necessary to win.
I’m just thankful that this doesn’t happen in real life!
Basketbrawl came out in 1990, making it one of the last games for the 7800. Ok, it’s not the world’s most revolutionary title and awards tend to stay well clear of it, but I love it all the same.
Why? Well, it’s an odd concept that is fun to play. The multiplayer is great, and cheating usually gets the best results.
It might not be as classically renowned as NBA Jam T.E, but It’s one of the best sport games on the 7800, and that’s a fact!
Scrapyard Dog takes the 21st spot in this list of the best Atari 7800 games of all time!
This is another game that appeared late in the console’s life. It ported to The Atari Lynx in 1991 with a whopping 33 levels compared to the 7800’s 17 stages, though the game is still one of my favourites for the home console offering.
Players control Louie as he wanders through different stages while searching for his dog, Scraps. Mr Big kidnapped Scraps, and it’s up to Louie to get him back.
Mice wearing sunglasses, a dilapidated urban world, and some of the most difficult jumps known to man. Scrapyard Dog might look cutesy and simple, but it’s jam-packed full of surprises and makes for a compelling title.
If side-scrollers install excitement in any Retro Dodo readers out there (lets face it, of course they do), then add Louie and Scraps to your collection.
Next up in our list of the best Atari 7800 games is Karateka, one of the earliest fighting games released.
The Atari 7800 port dropped in 1988, though the game originally released for the Apple II after one guy worked on it at Uni. He probably should have been studying, though we’re glad he didn’t!
Karateka sees gamers trying to rescue Princess Mariko from a terrible castle. The means of rescue; fighting Akuma’s guards with kick-ass karate action!
The game feels like a fighting/beat-em-up hybrid title, with side-scrolling adventure elements and obstacles to overcome.
I’ve got time to tell you two weird things about this game before we move on. The first is that Princess Mariko can kill the player with one hit if gamers approach her while still in fighting mode. Some way of saying thanks, right!
The second is that the original Apple II floppy disk had a copy of the game upside down on the other side. The only purpose of this was to annoy help-desk clerks who would have to direct gamers to take out their disks and turn them around.
Ikari Warriors is often credited as one of the best Atari 7800 games by Atari fans the world over. It’s one of the last titles released for both the 2600 and the 7800, the latter boasting better graphics but the same sound quality.
SNK made many awesome games during this time period, but Ikari Warriors remains the first successful US title released by the company.
Players control two commandos who must reach the village of Ikari. It’s a forward-scrolling shooter that looks and plays well, making it a must have for 7800 fans.
SNK history buffs may know Colonel Ralf Jones and Lieutenant Clark Still from the King of Fighters series. Some might even know them as Paul and Vince. Whatever you call them, these two warriors know no fear.
Wielding a machine gun in the right hand and grenades in the left, Ralf and Clark continually move up the screen fighting enemies as they make their way towards Ikari.
The 7800 rotary joystick allows characters to move in eight directions, letting gamers thoroughly explore areas. Don’t dally too long though or the game will force you onwards!
I’ve always considered myself to be a bit of a Kung Fu Master, though I don’t think I could keep up with Thomas in this game!
Kung Fu Master first dropped in 1984, though the Atari port arrived 5 years later. And you know, the game looks pretty good!
Sure, the enemies all move like pixelated zombies, but this beat-em-up title plays well and has a nice multiplayer mode for those arcade feels.
Gamers take Kung Fu Master Thomas through a series of levels inside the Devils Temple. The aim is to rescue his girlfriend Sylvia from Mr. X, a ruthless crime lord.
Again, I love this game as it feels like Streets of Rage crossed with Ninja Gaiden. Punch and kick Grippers and Knife Throwers while moving through the Temple, avoiding snakes and dragons while searching for poor Sylvia.
Weirdly, this game is based on the Jackie Chan film Meals on Wheels, though bares no resemblance to it whatsoever outside of Japan. A French film based on Kung Fu Master came out a year before the Atari 7800 port too!
Tower Toppler takes the 17th spot in our best Atari 7800 games list!
Some people may know this game as Nebulus, but Tower Toppler is the same thing. What is it with the Atari using different names all the time?
Anyway, Tower Toppler is a nice little puzzler that sees players controlling a small frog. It looks like a cross between Kermit and QBert, and its mission is to destroy underwater towers.
Instead of placing bombs at the base of the tower which would be more effective, our hopping-mad friend must climb towers to place bombs at the top.
One of the most notable features of Tower Toppler is that when the frog moves from left to right, the tower moves with him. Each building is cylindrical, and ‘ol frog face always stays in the centre of the screen rather than disappearing around the back of the tower.
That’s big for 1987, and critics went ape for it.
The frog even has its own underwater ship that guns down fish. What a game; eat that James Pond!
Next up is Klax, a game the looks as though it resembles Guitar Hero. In actual fact, Klax is so similar to Tetris that Atari became embroiled in a legal battle.
Nevertheless, it’s a nice take on the classic block-matching game that I love. Instead of shapes falling down the screen, coloured pieces fall off a conveyer belt. Arranging them in patterns or rows causes them to disappear.
… Ok, so it’s still like Tetris no matter how I explain it.
Still, it’s incredibly addictive once the blocks start falling. Players choose where cubes land or whether to push them back up the conveyer belt. A ‘Klax’ is a line of 5 blocks, and Klaxes win points on the scoreboard!
It’s seen tonnes of ports during its lifetime including for the Atari Lynx and the Game Boy Color. Still, it’s one of the best puzzlers for the 7800 and a surefire hit for rainy afternoons.
Alien Brigade takes the 15th spot on our ultimate list of the best Atari 7800 games.
Despite being a kind of ‘last hurrah’ for the failing console, Atari made more of an effort with marketing Alien Brigade than many of the other titles in their back catalogue. It dropped in 1990, two years before the console snuffed it.
Alien Brigade is a first-person scrolling shooter that sees players kicking Alien-ass while trying to stop them from possessing the bodies of fallen soldiers.
Arguably the best way of playing Alien Brigade is with an Atari Light gun, though it works just fine with the joystick too. The game itself is 144k, making it one of the largest titles on the console.
With four difficulty levels, the game’s five levels can be played again and again, adding to the replayability factor.
The mountaintop battle at the end is the stuff of retro gaming legend. I don’t want to say much more for fear of spoiling the plot, but I urge every reader to try this game!
I know what everyone is thinking; Ninja Golf? How could that possibly work?
Well, it certainly makes golf a lot more exciting, I can tell you!
Imagine Crazy Golf where the dragon by the last hole comes to life and Ninjas are continually trying to kill you. That’s basically Ninja Golf in a nutshell.
Honestly, this game probably features way further back up most people’s lists (or not on it at all), but the concept is so insane that I can’t help but love it.
Aim your club, hit the ball, and then swap to side-scrolling mode as players tackle ninjas, birds, giant mutant frogs, gophers, more ninjas, sharks and dragons. Enemies differ depending on the course, though fighting in some form is guaranteed on every hole.
Fighting and golf; it’s like Basketbrawl with Ninjas, which instantly makes it better. The graphics are nice, the gameplay is weird but fun, and I can guarantee that it will make you laugh!
Pac-Man is a timeless classic, but Ms Pac-Man still brings in the big bucks with it comes to classic memorabilia and arcade cabinet collectors.
Everyone knows how Pac-Man works by now. Little yellow circle eating dots and avoiding ghosts; you know the score.
The graphics in Ms Pac-Man looked better, especially with the emphasis on her bow and eyes making the character seem more real. She was the first female lead in a computer game too which is very cool.
Ms Pac-Man remains a huge cult figure to this day, and the game is still one of my favourites, largely down to the subtle differences to the original.
With more warp tunnels in levels and ghosts that move in different formations, Ms Pac-Man provides an updated take on the original classic.
Instead of creasing into pieces like an extra on Paper Mario, Ms Pac-Man ‘swoons’ before toppling over gracefully, a little like a lady in an old cowboy movie might.
The levels look more vibrant and filled out, and the orange ghost has been renamed Sue instead of Clyde, giving Ms Pac-Man a run-for-her-money for the next ‘Woman of the Year’ competition.
Fatal Run takes the 12th spot on this list of the best Atari 7800 games ever made!
Imagine Pole Position II in an apocalyptic world; that’s Fatal Run alright!
This title made history as being the first 32k game released for the 2600 and ended up being the most expensive title for the 7800 back in the day, costing double the price of other games.
But what is it all about? Well, players must deliver a radiation vaccine to survivors after the Earth collides with a comet. It’s 2089, and evil villains are trying to stop the vaccine from being distributed so that they can rule the planet.
Sounds a little like the Covid-19 situation at the minute!
Its basically a racing game with some road rage added in, but I love the storyline as I’m a huge sci-fi nerd. The title screen is epic, and the graphics on the 7800 are far superior to the 2600 offering. If you’re bored of Super Mario Kart and want something with a little more ‘oomph’, then give this a try.
Super Skateboardin’ might not be as well regarded as the Tony Hawks Pro Skater series, but it was as gnarly as the 7800 was going to get back in the day.
The genius mind behind ‘Pitfall’ worked on this offering on the 7800. David Crane, along with his company Absolute Entertainment, made a version for both the 2600 and the 7800. While the original, titled only as Skateboardin’, revolves around tricks, the 7800 offering is a more arcade-based title with an unusual plot line.
As the last worker in a factory at the end of the working day, gamers grab their board and move around all the different rooms, turning off electrics.
Air ducts provide shortcuts between rooms, though you have to be on the ball to remember which doors lead to which floors etc. Jump to reach lights and speed around the factory closing everything down.
The game has a time limit which keeps players on their toes. It’s not like you’ll fall asleep while playing, however. The game looks nice and the play is super engaging, keeping gamers coming back for more and more time and time again.
Choplifter takes the Number 10 position on our list of the best Atari 7800 games ever made! It holds the impressive accolade of being one of the few titles to be ported to arcade cabinets due to its unprecedented home console success instead of the other way around.
If that doesn’t make it one of the best Atari 7800 games, then I don’t know what does!
For fans of the Atari 5200, this game is essentially the same with major graphics updates. The people no longer look like little sticks, mountains appear in the background, and the helicopter is more defined.
Still, I better explain what is is for anyone coming to Atari consoles for the first time. Choplifter sees players embarking on a mission to rescue prisoners of war. Piloting a helicopter, gamers garner points by successfully extracting hostages. They also gain points by avoiding and defeating enemies.
Each stage has 64 hostages, but the conundrum is that the helicopter can only carry 16 in one go. Players must think on their feet and try to save all the hostages, but don’t make it apparent that you’re saving your favourite ones first!
Time descents perfectly to avoid squashing captives, and watch out for enemy fire. Guards can attack from every angle, and sometimes running away can be more dangerous than a head on battle!
Next up is Impossible Mission, a game that has no links to Mission Impossible despite both games being about a secret agent sneaking into a secret enemy base.
Our unnamed daredevil spy must stop the villainous Dr Elvin Atombender from tinkering around with government computers and stealing information relating to national security.
While fighting robots on various platforms, players must gather pieces of Atombender’s passcode to infiltrate his command room and put a stop to the madness.
The secret lair obviously has a lot of underground lifts that must be navigated; it wouldn’t be a secret lair without them!
To make navigating a weird stronghold and dodging robotic soldiers even worse, the player only has 6 hours to find all the pieces of the password. 36 puzzle pieces must be found, each one forming a group of 4 to spell out a 9 letter password.
It’s way trickier than it sounds, especially when hovering electrobots are trying to fry your brains to mush. If you like puzzler and stealth games, then this one is a no brainer (especially if yours has been fried to mush).
Rampage is one of those titles that seems to have been around forever. It dropped in 1988 and eventually inspired a film with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson 30 years later!
The aim of the game; destroy everything in sight. It’s a little like the scenes in Power Rangers when Rita Repunzel’s enlarged cronies destroy everything in their path, except this time points are awarded.
Regain health by eating chicken or soldiers, flatten cities, and fight everything that isn’t you in order to stay alive.
The three main characters are all humans transformed into giant beasts. George is a giant gorilla who changed after eating a scientific vitamin. Lizzie becomes a Godzilla-style dinosaur after falling in a radioactive lake, and Ralph eats a food additive before transforming into a humongous werewolf.
Tanks, boats, police cars, helicopters; everything must be destroyed. Collectibles such as money and food stashed behind windows aid players in their rampage across North America.
It’s not the most thought-provoking game of all time, but that’s why I like it. Rampage is complete carnage from start to finish, making it the prefect 7800 title to blow off some steam with.
Plus, who wouldn’t want to play a game with their mates where one character can eat the other!
Next up on our list of the best Atari 7800 games is Donkey Kong JR. The tables have turned; Mario has captured Donkey Kong, and it’s up to Donkey Kong Jr to save his Dad and defeat ol Mazza/Jumpman.
Donkey Kong and Mario normally appear side by side these days, and this is the only Nintendo game where Mario is perceived as a villain.
Still, after the stresses he went through in the original Donkey Kong arcade game, I can’t really blame him for wanting to lock DK up!
There are only four stages to play through, but each stage provides a classic slice of retro gaming brilliance. This game was loved by EVERYONE back in the 80s, and I mean everyone.
DK Jr swings between vines instead of climbing ladders. The premise is basically the same as the original just in a jungle setting.
When each stage ends, players return to the beginning to start all over again on a harder difficulty setting. It keeps on going until a kill screen after level 22; how many of you have got that far?
Double Dragon was a cracking game for the 7800, bringing all the fun and hype of the arcade into living rooms with stunning graphics to boot.
Considered by many as the unofficial successor to Renegade, Double Dragon is a beat-em-up title of epic proportions. Two player co-op, stealing weapons, and teaming up to lay the smackdown on bad guys. Yep, it’s the stuff beat-em-up dreams are made of.
Streets of Rage wouldn’t come out for another two years, and many consider Double Dragon to be the game that sparked the idea for the classic title. Indeed, many beat-em-ups wouldn’t even exist today without this pioneering classic.
Players control one of two fighters as (you guessed it) they try to save a girlfriend from the clutches of a gang. People must really have been worried about gangs stealing their girls back in the 80s!
Avoid whips and golden-gun-style machine guns while elbow striking and kicking bad guys into the dirt. The layout and premise are simple, which makes the game even more enjoyable and easy to play.
Looking remarkably similar to Space Invaders, Galaga provides Atari 7800 fans with space-age arcade action that is impossible to put down.
This space shooter sees players piloting a singular space fighter ship while protecting earth from the Galaga army. The premise is simple; stop the aliens or die trying.
Unlike Space Invaders, enemies can pull players up with a tractor beam. If gamers can salvage the stolen ship by defeating a Boss Galaga, a dual fighter is created providing extra firepower.
Galaga remains one of the most influential titles from the golden age of gaming, and the 7800 port is a joy to play. It’s colourful, it’s smooth, and, dare I say it, a little more sophisticated than Space Invaders.
Boss Galagas take two hits, so make sure to keep your wits about you when tackling those evil cretins. With enemies changing patterns and morphing into different ships, there’s never a dull moment to be had while playing Galaga.
Just pray that you don’t come up against a Galaxian Flagship… yikes!
It’s hard to ever imagine EA as being in financial difficulty, but it happened, and One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird helped to get them out of it.
The game was in instant success, even if it did come about while the developer was trying to come up with the concept for the wildly popular Madden series. That’s what Bob Ross would call a ‘happy little accident’!
Basketball superstars Julius Erving and Larry Bird appear in the game, as the title suggests. Rather than using a full court set-up like in NBA Jam T.E, this game focuses on a half court approach. It’s one-on-one basketball at its finest and makes for serious competitive play!
Just because it’s one-on-one doesn’t mean that the game is easy, however. Penalties are still awarded for fouls, and if anything, toning aggressive play down is the key to winning.
Somebody should have told the makers of Basketbrawl this fact, though they probably wouldn’t have listened.
Some hard shots can even break the backboard behind the basket. Dr J and Larry Bird don’t know their own strength!
This game is superb to play alongside a friend, though squaring up against the computer is just as fun if you want to go it alone. At one time, this was the most talked about sports game of the year. Dr J and Larry received $25,000 each to appear in the title, though I reckon it would have been a heck of a lot more today!
Pole Position II takes the 3rd spot on this list of the best Atari 7800 games!
It’s amazing how much clearer Pole Position II is compared to the original Pole Position game on the 2600 and 5200. The tracks are defined, the mountains look real, and the cars actually look like cars!
Now that the cars have different colour schemes, they are much easier to see and follow, making the game even more enjoyable to play.
Other changes include three new levels, debris flying from explosions rather than just stray pixels, and extra scenery around the tracks such as billboards.
Apart from these changes, the game is virtually the same. Still, this is the best version by far and a real winner for the 7800. Atari made the right move including this as a pack-in launch title!
Up next is Centipede, another fixed shooter that made waves during the golden age of arcade gaming.
Centipede features on so many different consoles that it’s hard to keep count, and it remains a firm favourite throughout the Atari home console family.
This version is pretty much identical to the 2600 and 5200 offerings, though the graphics enhancements make it a little easier to follow.
I said I was going to throw some of my favourite 2600 ports in here along the way, and Centipede has to make every Atari list, right?
So how does Centipede work? Well, gamers move to destroy a centipede scuttling across their screen using a weapon called the ‘bug blaster’. Think Galaga meets Snake; that’s the general theme of the game.
Whenever bug blaster fire hits the centipede, pieces fly off and turn into mushrooms. This creates barriers that may either stop the centipede from going a certain way or stop blaster fire from touching the squirming blighter!
Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough, spiders and scorpions pop by from time to time to make things worse for gamers. It’s a bug-menagerie out there!
This game makes me shout in rage whenever I die, so you know it must be addictive as hell. Trust me, it’s a classic title that needs to be in every Atari collection. They even included it in their Mini Cabinet, showcased in our list of the best mini consoles!
Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Xevious, the best of the best Atari 7800 games!
Xevious, as well as being one of those games that’s hard to pronounce, is another influential title in the shoot-em-up genre. This forward-scrolling blaster title sees players controlling a starship named the Solvalou.
Could this game sound any more mysterious and intriguing if it tried?
While piloting the Solvalou, gamers use forward facing blasters for zapping enemies out of the sky and bombs to destroy enemies on the ground. Bombs can be aimed too for maximum damage.
Other notable enemies include the Andor Genesis mothership and Zakatos. It’s all very Star-Warsy without using any of the characters or areas, though the general vibe is definitely there!
With 16 stages to work through and the opportunity to restart once every level is finished, Xevious is a game that players have no problem coming back to again and again. It looks nice too, with large areas to explore and textured scenery.
It even boasts the condor Nazca lines design too which is a nice touch!
I love Xevious because it isn’t just a shoot-em-up. It’s an immersive adventure that requires tactical thinking as well as explorative foraging. Honestly, it’s the best native 7800 game for the system, and I hope you enjoy it!
When Was The Atari 7800 Released?
Atari announced the consoles release date as 1984, though the 7800 ended up being delayed for two years while the company sold. That should have been a sign that things would soon be going downhill.
How Many Nintendo Atari 7800 Consoles Sold?
1 million Atari 7800 consoles sold during 1986 – 1982
That might sound like a lot for an old console, but bear in mind that the Atari 2600 sold 30 million units. The problem with the 5200 and the 7800 was that they just didn’t offer enough to interest gamers in upgrading.
How Many Atari 7800 Games Are There?
The Atari 7800 supports 59 officially licensed games and 32 unlicensed games, giving a total of 91 games.
Compare that to the 1546 Wii games on offer, and it seems like a bit of a flop!
Which Games Launched With The Atari 7800?
13 games launched with the Atari 7800; Dig Dug, Galaga, Pole Position II, Ms Pac-Man, and Xevious.
Only a few of these games were new, with many appearing on previous Atari consoles.
Can The Atari 7800 Play 2600 Games?
Yes, the Atari 7800 is compatible with almost all of the 2600’s library of 400 titles. It’s one of the first backwards compatible consoles!
What Are The Best Atari 7800 Games?
Xevious, Centipede, and Pole Position II take Gold, Silver, and Bronze respectively.
This is a list of 25 of the Best Atari 7800 games that I’ve played throughout my life. Of course, I have my favourites, and some of the 91 games are better than others. Hopefully, this will give you some inspiration for improving your own 7800 collection.
How Do I Buy Nintendo Atari 7800 Games?
Th best Atari 7800 games are now second-hand after the product’s discontinuation in 1992. Still, sealed copies from the late 80s/early 90s still circulate on eBay at the hands of serious collectors.
Any readers wishing to purchase the games mentioned in this list can do so by clicking hyperlinks, pictures, or buttons in each section. Remember, always check seller feedback before making a purchase.
Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 31 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.