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'Atari 50' sets a high bar for the company's historic anniversary

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Atari

I’ve never really connected with Atari as a brand. My first game consoles were Sega and Nintendo, and Atari games looked absolutely primitive in comparison. Over the years, I gained an appreciation for the company’s role in launching the medium, but still did not really give much thought to those games.

These games have been released, and re-released, and re-re-released countless times. But for Atari’s 50th anniversary, developer Digital Eclipse has put together what is certainly the most definitive collection of Atari games ever compiled. It’s called… simply, Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration. Atari 50 has a hundred or so games, but what is really impressive is how they are presented. Instead of having just a menu of games to flip through, you’re given a timeline. It’s divided into several eras of Atari’s output, and it gives context to the games in the collection. Design documents, box art, flyers, manuals, it’s all there, presented in superb quality. And additionally, there are dozens of video interviews with former Atari personnel to give first-hand accounts of the creation of these games.

So instead of just picking “Breakout” or “Asteroids”, you see what came before and after and follow the design lineage. It’s less like a collection of old video games and more like walking through a well-curated museum. It’s not all positive, either, as it includes interviews about the company’s reputation for drug use, as well as their share of responsibility for the video game crash of the 80s.

Others have referred to this as a Criterion Collection-style release, and I absolutely agree. This sets a high bar for such a historic anniversary. The ball is in your court, Nintendo.

Samuel McConnell is a games enthusiast who has been playing games in one form or another since 1991. He was born in northern Maine but quickly transplanted to Wichita.