Atari VCS at 40: The 10 Best Games

The Atari VCS, first released 40 years ago, was home to a host of brilliant games that still resonate today

Joust
10
Atari6/10

6. Joust

Sometimes you'd play arcade games at home and realize that – without the great graphics and fear of bankrupting your parents with your addiction – they're not really that good (I'm looking at you, Golden Axe). Joust was the opposite: a game that became better played at home.

Joust perched you on top of a flying ostrich as a futuristic knight with a lance; rival knights flapped from platform to platform and the winner of your duels was whoever was higher at the point of contact. Fly too high and you rebound off the bottom of a ledge, forcing you to maintain a consistent level with your clumsy flapping. The better you are at flying, the better you are at jousting. You can also run across the ledges, coming to a halt with a satisfying skid.

That solid physical foundation made Joust a great two-player experience. You could duel with a friend or co-operate, taking on vulture knights as well as the pterodactyl beasts that followed them, then hunting down eggs before they hatched into more foes. In the cut-throat world of the arcade pursuing high scores often meant taking out your partner as well, but with no money on the line and two friends on the living room floor you were free to work together, splitting the screen up and calling out targets. Joust made a case for the whole genre of co-op games.

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