The Atari 2600 Football Games: A Blast to the Past

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Do you ever get nostalgic for old consoles? You know, like the Atari 2600.  Developed by Atari, the Atari 2600, or the Atari VCS, made microprocessor-based hardware and ROM cartridge-stored games popular. What’s more, the Atari company itself was the first one to really set the ground for a more large-scale gaming community

Atari 2600 was pretty famous back in the day and even earned itself a spot in the National Toy Hall of Fame. On top of that, some of the best football games ever made it to the Atari 2600 console. In light of that, we’ve decided to take a trip down memory lane to reminisce on the old Atari 2600 football games. 

The Atari 2600 Football


How many Atari 2600 Football Games were there?

There were 2 Atari 2600 football games: Atari Football, also known as Football, and RealSports Football.

Atari Football

The Atari Football video game came out in 1978, first for arcades, and then for the Atari 2600 console. The console version of the game included two teams made up of green and white players. Much like in the real sport, the four-player teams faced off against each other. 

Just like everything else, cool technology had to find its start somewhere. So, even if the arcade version of the Atari Football team, made up of X’s and O’s chasing after each other, is a little dated by today’s standard, it was extremely cool back in the day. 

The first game option allowed the player to select a formation before each play. Then, the player can control their movements by using the joystick controller. For the next option, the player could only choose formations while the game was carried out according to the pre-selected plan. Lastly, the third option was very similar to the second one, except the player could kick and punt whenever.

Why was Football so popular on Atari consoles?

We could easily associate the start of sports gaming with the history of football gaming. In order to do that, we’ll need to go back to the 70s and 80s. 

As consoles and various computer games industries gained speed in the 1970s, developing better and better football titles became a priority. It may come as a surprise that not even baseball, America’s favorite pastime, didn’t gain as much attention as football. 

Interestingly, the reason why football was held in such good graces is quite simple. If you remember correctly, the National Football League (NFL) started gaining popularity at the start of the video game era. Pete Rozelle and Monday Night Football’s efforts definitely helped the NFL gain traction, and public support as well.

This in turn led to one thing. Once the Asari 2600 console came out with a range of video games, there was only one thing on everyone’s mind – football. The rest is pretty much history, and the Atari 2600 Football games speak for themselves. 

Real Sports Football: The best Sports Videogame (of 1984)

RealSports Football for the Atari 2600 was released in 1982. Soon enough, the Atari 5200 and the Atari 8-bit family came out in 1983. Furthermore, the Atari 2600 football game also earned a Certificate of Merit for ‘1984 Best Sports Videogame’ at the fifth annual Arkie Awards. 

Each game in RealSports Football lasts for 15 minutes. You play on the standard 100-yard football field. Both sides have five players. The offense team has a quarterback, a center, two guards, and a quarterback. The player, or you, in this case, control the person with the ball. The defense team has two cornerbacks, two defensive linemen, and one linebacker, under the player’s control. 

Players can’t go out of bounds or fumble the footballs. Additionally, there’s no penalties in this Atari football game. A single touchdown will automatically score you 7 points. However, you’ll find there’s no kicking to earn extra points. 

Why Atari 2600 Football Games spark so much nostalgia

This year’s Super Bowl definitely has us feeling some type of way about football. So, you can understand why we’re nostalgic about Atari 2600 Football and the joy it brought to a lot of fans. In fact, old-school Atari games are still being emulated to this day, despite the fact that they’re approaching their fourth decade (oh, how the time flies!).

Having in mind that the video game industry and the NFL grew in popularity at the same time, it’s no surprise that football was in high demand in terms of sports video games. 

All in all, Atari 2600 gave us plenty of solid sports games, but Atari Football and RealSports Football hold a special place in our hearts. The first Atari 2600 football game may be a little bit old school, but it’s definitely addictive. On the other hand, the RealSports Football Atari football game definitely earned its place amongst the best sports video games of 1984. 

What Atari games did for us is pave the way for sports games other than Ping Pong to hit our consoles, and that’s why we can feel some inherent dose of appreciation towards games such as Atari Football and pick them up here and there, even though they’re no longer our go-to.

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