Using ones imagination – Atari 2600 game box art.

Considering the limited resources of most home computers and consoles of the 70’s and early 80’s box art played a very important role sparking  the imagination of a potential purchasers rather than having rely on iffy looking block pixel screenshots – which, in the case of the Atari 2600, didn’t look to hot.

Video game collectors will seek out a games based purely on the box art itself rather than the game and although I don’t consider myself to be an actual collector have many that I’ve brought or would like  purely for this reason. For the majority though I’m happy to peruse the internet on a wide choice of online resources or lose myself in the extensive games library when visiting/working at the Retro Computer Museum. Some of my favourites are from Atari’s inhouse 2600 vcs titles which  feature such wonderfully rich covers  and looking back now, are chock full of retro gaming eye candy.

Chaps doing interesting things with huge futuristic computer consoles are simply awesomel..period. If I could have any computer it would have to be the one from the cover ofAtari’s Basic Programming cartridge. Look at it, it’s so cool and futuristic with all those funky looking buttons. I bet it’s a bugger to find the USB ports. I’d even wear the space age jumpsuit 🙂

Continuing with the computer theme, here’s the popular cover from Missile Command and  is one  I regularly use as a wallpaper on my iPad. Whilst the missile commander is busy defending is home turf and  enjoying wearing that  head gear, I’ve always wondered what the girl next to him might be saying. Probably something like ‘Hon, I know you’re a tad busy but the cat’s just been sick on the kitchen floor and it needs cleaning up’…well, she might be.

More super cool giant console stations with Atari’s ‘Surround’. Not a game i’m familiar with  but loving the 70’s style block pixels  in the background and around the two players which brings this picture alive. I can just hear the random ‘computer beeps’ when I look at this one.


..and ending the console desk theme with Space War. Space invader shooter games on the Atari had some great covers and this one prevails a great sense of excitement as the advancing enemy begin their attack whilst outside, spacemen run for cover (or probably bounce around flapping wildly) and the staff at mission control prepare to fire their defences at the request of the rather dapper fellow in the jumpsuit with flared shoulder pads…or was called into the office at short notice and was moments ago having a wild time at the local space-roller disco..probably.



Everyone has played Defender either at the arcades or on any number of consoles and computers but despite a rather good ‘Buck Rogers’ style box art  for Atari’s first attempt at a  Defender port, the game simple sucked. So, with Defender II, the box art had to be something special in an attempt to entice gamers to take another look. For me, they pulled it off really well and it certainly pulled me in with  depiction of those those simple green alien pixels abducting pixel stick figures replaced with something straight out a Sci-Fi movie blockbuster. Thankfully, this time around  the game rocked too!

More space theatre favorites –



Early Atari cover art for popular board games and sports titles had this unique style of their own and if anyone could shed any light on the artist(s) who created them would be greatly appreciated.


There just isn’t enough Cannonball’ing in the Olympic games for my liking and think it would make an excellent addition to this years event…maybe with bonus points for making it across the Thames river? If they do decide to go for it then they should do so on the proviso that they use Atari’s cover art for their promotional material. Great cover, great moustache!

This cover and the one for Blackjack are two of my favourite examples of crap games with great covers. Don’t you just want to order a Martini…shaken, but not stirred of course.

Here’s another great style that Atari opted to use with  game covers and see’s a whole host of scenes crammed together to stir the imagination, intrigue and excitement.

My favorite will always be Missile Command, but Codebreaker isn’t far behind…wooo, the suspense!


Got a favorite you’d like to share?

For an extensive look at many more Atari covers, head on over to Atari Age.


4 responses to “Using ones imagination – Atari 2600 game box art.

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