Gamma Attack: $5,000 - $10,000
The only game released by company Gammation, programmed by Robert L. Esken, Jr., and seeing only a handful of cartridges produced, Gamma-Attack remains one of the rarest video games ever made. How rare you ask? There is one copy known to exist, in the hands of collector Anthony DeNardo. The eBay auction in February 2008 for Gamma-Attack was Mr. DeNardo’s copy, put up to showcase his amazing find. Though his estimated value is the one given above, he has received even larger offers for the title. In the meantime, the ROM has been released, and in 2008 Gammation unveiled GammAttack4, a re-release of the game for PC emulators. Gammation’s website is www.gammation.com
Birthday Mania: $5,000 – $7,000
Distributed by Personal Games, Birthday Mania cartridges were specially ordered cartridges with personalized title screens and spaces on the front where names could be written in. The game focused on the player blowing out birthday candles, and the game was billed as a perfect birthday gift. It didn’t really catch on, so there are very few of these out on the market.
So how rare is it? Well, there’s only a couple claimed to exist. One is supposedly in the hands of Jerry Greiner, known Atari collector and enthusiast, while another belongs to a user at AtariAge(I won’t list his name since he appears to value his privacy). Since Greiner has never actively proven his ownership, it means the one from AtariAge is the only known in existence. (Yes, that could very well make it more rare than
the NES Nintendo World Chamption Cartidges) The highest known offer for a copy of Birthday Mania was $6500.00. It wasn’t taken.
Air Raid: $1100 – $3305
This game was apparently the only release by MenAvision. The cartridge is blue, with a t-shaped handle on the end. Gameplay centers around the player attempting to protect a city by shooting down flying saucers, airplanes, and other kinds of enemies which are trying to bomb said city. To do this, the player must fly around in their own aircraft, launching missiles at enemy ships. Waves are continuous, though scores are tabulated so players can compete against themselves.
There are said to be only twelve official copies of this game remaining in the entire world. And for the record, that $3305 was paid in 2004 for the cartridge only. In June of 2009,
it was listed on eBay for just under $5,000, but did not find a bidder at that price.
See Latest Air Raid Cartridge on eBay
This title has nothing to do with the later action RPG series Atari would release. Instead, the plot follows Sir Robert Whittenbottom as he runs the gauntlet of an ancient tribe in an attempt to prove his manhood and join the tribe. The player could run around or leap over various obstacles, and could survive multiple hits before finally succumbing to wounds. The game was mail-order only from Answer Software and was not contained in a box, instead coming in a foam case.
Eli’s Ladder: $1400-$1500
Easily the rarest educational game ever made, as well as one of the rarest for the Atari 2600, primarily due to an extremely limited release. Players must answer basic math questions to help Eli climb a ladder to get back to his ship so he can fly to the moon. The game also came packed with a wall chart and motivational stickers for children, which are also difficult to find.
In this game, you must either eat the plates of pasta your mother is constantly making, or throw it to your pets. Eat too much and your stomach explodes, but don’t get rid of the plates quick enough and your table collapses. The game is also noted for having one of the most annoying sound effects of the entire Atari 2600 library. This is a black cartridge Spectravision release, but was only released through the Columbia House Record Club. It may also be worth mentioning that
a European release of the game was recently sold on eBay for about $200.
Check for Mangia on eBay
Out of Control: $265-$2139
The point of this game is to weave your ship through space buoys and pop several balloons before executing a perfect landing in a space station. There’s also a minimalist idea used for the sound and visuals. But what’s really impressive is the price tag. The game had the unfortunate problem of releasing in the middle of the video game crash of 1983, so manufactured amounts were very little, and the game didn’t sell very well, hence why it’s so difficult to find now.
River Patrol: $300-$500
Due to a very limited run for a port of an obscure arcade game, River Patrol is considered extremely rare. There’s speculation that as few as six copies may be in circulation among collectors. It is unclear why the game is so rare, though there is speculation that it has to do with the trouble engineers had programming the game to licensing problems over the arcade game, as well as its 1984 post-video game crash release date. The game also holds the distinction of being one of the few 2600 titles with music. Players must navigate a large boat down a river strewn with obstacles.
First, this title was released exclusively via mail-order by Atari. Second, it was kept in limited quantities because the play-testers hadn’t liked the game. This is what happens when you let a group of little girls test your game(seriously, that’s actually what happened). For the record, the game’s also the first Atari game to utilize voice synthesis.
The Music Machine: $140-$750
This title by Sparrow was only available through religious bookstores. That’s right, it’s a religious game for the Atari 2600, where two children must collect the Fruits of the Spirit that fall from the Music Machine in a basket, then grab a heart to move to the next level. This game was the only video game release by Sparrow, though they still exist today. A Music Machine LP was released at the same time which contained several inspirational songs which could be listened to at the same time. A sealed copy recently sold on eBay for $5250.00.
Tooth Protectors: $165-$2200
Tooth Protectors was a mail-order only release by Johnson and Johnson, though it’s never been as popular as Chase the Chuck Wagon. Then again, it also happens to be rarer than Chase the Chuck Wagon. It’s an interesting marketing tool, where you play the Tooth Protector, who must save teeth from the Snack Attack. To do this, you must knock back the crumbs that Snack Attack shoots at you. If a tooth takes too much damage, you can clean it by using your trusty Reach toothbrush, Johnson and Johnson dental floss and Act fluoride mouthwash. Seriously.
Chase the Chuck Wagon: $50-$400
This game is practically the poster child for what went wrong with the home video game market during the Golden Age. It was a mail-order release by Ralston-Purina, advertising dog food based on a popular commercial in the early 1980s. Also, it’s not as rare as certain other Atari 2600 games(AtariAge doesn’t even rank it in their top 40). Still, it’s box and manual are considerably rarer, so finding a complete copy is extremely difficult.
Karate – Ultravision release: $2500-$4000
Some of you may be shocked by this winding up on the list, because the Froggo release of this game for the Atari 2600 really isn’t rare at all. If you happen to be the proud owner of the Ultravision release of this game however, count yourself among the lucky few because both the T-case and square case Ultravision releases are considered worth these exorbitant rates. Functionally however, there really isn’t much of a difference, so owning the Froggo version will let you play the game.
Atlantis II: $700-$2000
This was a special tournament version of the Atari 2600 game Atlantis. The gameplay is much faster, the scoring system has been slightly altered from the original, and enemy ships are worth far less than the original version, where the city of Atlantis must be protected from the evil Gorgon spaceships. Copies of the cartridge were sent to the top players in the Defend Atlantis competition, primarily because there were far more than four people capable of maxing out the score in the original Atlantis. Of those receiving the cartridge, four were chosen and sent to Bermuda for the final round of the competition, where the winner won $10,000. The game looks identical to Atlantis, though a sticker with “Atlantis II” typed on it was stuck to the front of the box. It is unknown who won the competition.
Pepsi Invaders: $675-$2050
This was a revision of Space Invaders, specially designed and built for the executive level of the Coca-Cola corporation, so there are believed to have only ever been 130 of these games, at most. Instead of waves of aliens being fended off, the player must shoot invading letters that say PEPSI, as well as a flying Pepsi logo that replaced the flying saucer at the top of the screen. The game also includes a three-minute timer, so the player can’t dally about.
Xante Releases: $179-$1350 individually
Xante was a small company based out of Oklahoma which opted to sell popular games via blue rewritable cartridges. Whenever a player grew tired, they could return to a Xante kiosk and have a new game written on their cart, complete with generic label and box. Games released this way include Alien, Solar Storm, No Escape, Demon Attack, Beany Bopper, and Crypts of Chaos. There are certain Brazilian releases with the same-style cartridge, such as Spacegame, but these generally are worth the same amount, so don’t feel bad if it turns out not to be a Xante cart. It’s still worth quite a bit.
BMX Airmaster – Atari release: $300-$800
While this game is not terribly uncommon, it’s the TNT release that can be found so easily. But late in this game’s production, Atari bought the rights and produced a limited number of their own cartridges for it. Of these, fewer sold, making it difficult to find a copy of Atari’s BMX Airmaster. Don’t be fooled by the “RARE” label you see on most auction sites next to this game. Rarely is it really the rare version.
This is the original release of the game Shark Attack, put out before Apollo changed the name due to a pending lawsuit of copyright infringement for the film Jaws. Certain minor changes were also made to the game, though these aren’t really noticeable. The point of the game is to grab as many diamonds as possible without letting the shark get you. If the shark does get you, he eats you, just as he eats any diamonds he comes into contact with. The Loch Ness Monster can also be found hiding in various undersea caves, and will hunt the player down if disturbed.
Check for Lochjaw on eBay
First off, this is actually a programming tool released by CommaVid. It features a plane cartridge with a bland white label and a 100+ page manual. Magicard was not packed into a box. The cartridge was available via mail-order only, hence its rarity. Several sample programs were included in the cartridge to help give an understanding of how it worked. The cartridge worked in conjunction with the keyboard controller.
Color Bar Generator: $250-$800
The purpose of this diagnostic cartridge was to enable television owners to check the alignment and quality of their televisions. It came with fifteen different patterns, including one specifically for checking the adjustment of the color generating circuitry of the Atari 2600. Several of these patterns were simply single color screens.
ECPC Cartridges: $150-$695
These were reprogrammable cartridges released by Romox. They could be taken to Romox’s Software Centers so they could be rewritten and taken home again. Some of the games to be loaded onto them were exclusive to the Romox carts, so if found, it’s one of the only ways to play titles like Castles and Keys, Flapper, Bartender, or Topper.
Copy Cart: $100-$600
The Copy Cart was basically a blank cartridge that could have other games copied onto it. You will also need the Duplicator to handle the process, as the cart is pretty useless on its own. While there aren’t very many of these, there’s also not much of a market, hence why the price doesn’t go as high as some of these other titles. For the complete package, the cart was originally packaged with both the Duplicator and the game Dishaster, but finding all three together can be extremely tough.
Additional Games of Value
There are quite a few other rare and valuable Atari 2600 titles. If interested in finding more information, the website AtariAge.com keeps lists of rare titles and offers a forum for those interested in Atari collecting. Here’s just a few other titles that are rare, valuable, or both:
- Malagai: $320-$1150
- X-Man: $100-$350
- Spider Maze: $175-$722
- Q*Bert’s Qubes: $78-$575
- Stronghold: $175-$300
- Cakewalk: $150-$700
- Condor Attack: $180-$600
- Swordquest: Waterworld: $85-$350
- Wall Defender: $238-$450
- Video Jogger: $105-$950
- Video Reflex: $105-$950
- Z-Tack: $238-$450
- Motocross/Tomarc: $145-$350
- Assault: $238-$450
- Jogging Pad: $250-$950
- Berenstain Bears: $45-$130
- Great Escape: $238-$450
- Halloween: $130-$300
- Glib: $75-$100