Space Invaders, Atari 2600.
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Space Invaders is probably the game most responsible for popularizing video arcade games. Pong may have invented the genre and there were certainly other video games before Space Invaders but without Space Invaders, it’s questionable whether arcades would have spread across the world and became as popular as they did.
Space Invaders was introduced in 1978. Though it’s hard to imagine, the Atari 2600 (or Atari VCS as it was originally called) predated that game by about a year. It’s no surprise that Space Invaders found its way to that system eventually. It wasn’t until 1980 but Space Invaders became the first licensed arcade game to appear on the Atari 2600. It is also responsible for quadrupling the sales of that system. Space Invaders became the first game on the 2600 to sell a million units and sold over 2 million in its first year. It truly was the first killer app for a video game system.
What is somewhat surprising however is that there really weren’t many licensed versions of Space Invaders to appear on home systems at that time. Other than the Atari 2600, Space Invaders also found its way to other Atari systems including the Atari 5200 and Atari 8-bit computers. However, other popular home computers and video game consoles of the time did not have an official Space Invaders. There were, however, numerous clones including TI Invaders for the TI-99/4A and an unlicensed but very accurate port done in BASIC for the Commodore PET and Commodore 64 among many others. Later systems like the Super Nintendo would eventually get ports but not until it was already a retro classic. If you want to play the very fist licensed arcade game, the first killer app for a video game console and the first game to sell 1 million copies, then Space Invaders for the Atari 2600 is your game. Of course, it’s worth playing for other reasons. It’s still a great and very challenging game. As simple as the Atari 2600 is, Space Invaders is not a complex game and the Atari 2600 does a good job with it. This is certainly a game every Atari 2600 owner should own and it is cheap and plentiful so there’s no excuse not to pick it up if you don’t already have it.
This ad for the Atari 2600 and Atari 5200 versions of Galaxian is from the August/September 1983 issue of Video Games Player. For more info on the Atari 2600 version of Galaxian, see this post. For the Atari 5200 version, see this post.