The Atari 7800 is a much maligned console. Released far too late to compete with the mighty NES so it had no chance. This wasn't necessarily because of hardware limitations - but more because of the games released with it which were in the main ports of 80's arcade games which sadly just didn't cut it in the era of Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda.
It actually did OK for a short while but long term the lack of contemporary games finished it off. For collectors its a very interesting console though because of the small and collectable official library, its ability to play 2600 games, and a thriving homebrew scene. I'm only going to talk about official 7800 releases here - specifically my favourites:
Asteroids. This great old game comes built into the PAL console. I reviewed this back in the old AA site days and here's link to that:
Suffice to say that I think it's still the best home, non-emulated, version of this game. It has nice raster graphics showing rotating asteroids , responsive controls and some rather nice 2 player options.
Joust. Just a great version of this classic. Spot on controls and graphics that are really close to the arcade. Its bare bones but does offer the 2 player simultaneous mode which is where this game really shines because of the different scenarios it throws at you from level to level forcing you to change your attitude toward your competitor/partner.
Centipede. Again - an excellent straight up port of an excellent old shmup with - again - some 2 player options for simultaneous play. I would have loved to have experienced these games in the home during the mid-to-late-80s - they would have been extremely impressive and would have made Atari a really tough proposition for Nintendo.
Food Fight. Not too many platforms offer this game. I'm certainly not aware of any other console versions. Gameplay is a bit like Robotron in that its a shmup taking place in an enclosed arena. You have to make your way to an ice cream cone while avoiding holes and food-throwing enemies. You move to piles of food which give you ammo allowing you to fire back so there's a bit if thought with this game as you have to plan a way across the screen. An excellent game and this game graphically is a step up from the others here. It also has an "action replay" feature that replays a snippet of gameplay occasionally. I think it happens when you have a particularly close call during a level.
A really nice game to finish on but to make up for my brevity I'm making this post an audio-visual extravaganza (for me anyhow!!). Here's a link to a little YouTube video of these games I made by capturing footage from my actual PAL console. Enjoy.
DavyK - nice reviews, just a few issues with the intro. The 7800 wasn't released late compared to the NES, it was actually re-launched in January of '86. The NES had only had a test marketing (according to January CES press it was poorly recieved) in New York and had yet to test market in LA. Also in the US, it was number two in sales behind the NES and before the Master System according to internal sales figures and Sega's published US sales figures.
yeah - sorry I wasn't that clear. Just wanted to make the point it was more or less a contemporary of the NES even though it was ready for a few years before the NES was on the horizon. I wonder what would have happened if it had had the earlier release and developers had got behind it. We'll never know...
Understand your point about it being a contemporary and certainly agree. I wasn't talking about it being ready a few years earlier though - I was more addressing (for information sake) the often repeated misconception that the 7800 was brought out again in response to the NES or that the NES had a big lead at that point. Jack was actively starting the process to bring it back that past August of '84. Mike Katz actually began licensing efforts that October/November when he came officially on board.
I always found it interesting that the press at the time of the June '86 CES were treating all three (NES, 7800 and the yet to be launched SMS) as equals in the market and a "possible" sign the market was reviving.
As for earlier, they may have still had issues. Remember that Nintendo was still locking up developers via the Famicom, and by '84-'85 most of the hot arcade and home titles were coming out of Japan. Even Atari Inc. was starting to rely on NAMCO and other companies more for coin titles that they published under their own name.
I'm alwasy suprised to see people pick the games from the arcades. Especially with the great amount of non arcade titles back in those days. I was never a huge fan of Desert Falcon, but it was a neat rip off of Zaxon (and other than the Neo Geo one, there where not many of those) i can agree its not a top 5 game, but it might be a top 5 of the 7800 only games (well it was on other atari systems, but I beleive the 7800 version was first).
I would add Crossbow, alwasy a favorite in the arcades (ok i was ripping the sellection of arcade games, but if we are doing them :) ) The 7800 did this pretty dang well.
And Dark Chambers...
I did like the list :) and neat to see some 7800 love.. I never knew it did as well as it did, i always considered it a flop, but it sounds like it did alright for atari (this post made me read up on it a bit).
A shame it is not possible to just grab some more abundant 7800 NTSC carts and stick them in a PAL 7800 like one can do with the 2600. I only have a couple of 7800 PAL games but love them.