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Top 10 Atari 2600 Racing Games

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By Kieren Hawken

Over the years I have always been a huge fan of racing games. In fact one of the very first video games I can ever remember playing was the sit down version of Pole Position in an arcade on holiday at Butlins in Margate.

My journey continued when I got Sinclair ZX Spectrum for Christmas and the seminal Chequered Flag became one of the first games I purchased. Not long after an Atari 2600 arrived in home too and, of course, Pole Position became one of my first cartridges having loved the game so much in the arcades. I soon realised that I had a real affinity for the genre and I started to actively seek new racing to play in both the arcades and at home.

These days the Forza series has undoubtedly become my favourite franchise and biggest reason I chose the Xbox One as my current gen console. But even as I enjoy these titles that almost look like real life I still can’t but think of all the fun I had with those early racing games on the Atari 2600. So I thought it was high time to share my thoughts with the unwashed masses and countdown my Top Ten racing games for the ever popular Atari 2600.

10 – Indy 500

One of the very earliest titles released for the Atari 2600, Indy 500 is in fact nothing more than a conversion of Atari’s own vintage Sprint 2 coin-op with added colour (the arcade game was black and white!).

This game is perhaps most famous for coming complete with the VCS Driving Controllers, which are much like the paddles but allow for continuous 360 degree turning. Sadly Atari never released anymore games that were compatible with them and they just became another underutilised and expensive accessory. It’s a shame because this game proves that they work really and could have been used for all sorts of different titles on the system including one that appears later on this list.

As well as racing around a basic rendition of the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway this game also adds variations where you are awarded points for crashing into things and mode based on that old playground favourite tag too. Nowadays Indy 500 game looks incredibly dated but get together with a friend and it’s surprising just how much fun you can still have with it!

9 – Motocross Racer

Xonox’s Motocross Racer is a really interesting title for the Atari 2600 where you have to ride your motorbike through three distinct stages in the shortest time possible

As you race the clock goes up and penalty time is added for each crash. The first stage sees you racing through the desert where you have to avoid rocks, cacti and some freakishly large scorpions. The second stage has you trying to drive your bike up a hill and is viewed from an isometric perspective. There is nothing to avoid here other than the sides of the track and you can’t build up any kind speed at all. On the last level you are racing along the beach avoiding freakishly large remote control cars and what look like tiny beach huts.

Graphically the game is very good and the sound is also pretty decent. Motocross Racer certainly isn’t one of the Atari 2600’s best known racing games but it’s definitely one of the most original and offers something a bit different to everything else.

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