The Atari 2600 is back, as the historic video game brand just announced a revamped version of the ‘70s console. While companies like RetroN and AtGames already offer a way to play classics like Missile Command and Yars Revenge, this recreated system is compatible with original cartridges and vastly more authentic than other imitations.
Released way back in 1977, the original Atari 2600 is pretty iconic. Sure, it’s not as beloved as the Nintendo Entertainment System, and you might struggle using an original console with a modern gaming TV in 2023. Nevertheless, it’s an important piece of gaming history, and if you’re itching to play some retro games from your childhood, the company’s brand new version looks like it’ll provide an authentic experience.
Dubbed the Atari 2600+, the reimagined console is a joint venture between the brand and PLAION, the company that operates developer Deep Silver. The new version is substantially smaller than the original, but it’s still wearing the same woodgrain front panel, top ridges, and metal switches. Round the back of the also looks surprisingly similar, but its nine-pin joystick ports are now accompanied by HDMI output rather than an old RF connector. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not impossible to tune in a retro system to even the newest of TVs, and I still do it to this day, but it’d take HDMI over staticky temperamental image quality any day of the week.
Other shiny new Atari 2600+ features included a widescreen mode (just in case you can’t stand 4:3 letterboxing) and a glowing front logo, but one of the most useful changes relates to its cartridge slot. While it’ll enable you to play both 2600 and 7800 carts, the slot has been enlarged slightly to prevent any sticking, meaning you won’t have to wrestle with it when swapping games.
It’s worth noting that the 2600+ isn’t the first modern Atari-compatible system to feature an original cartridge slot, as the Hyperkin RetroN 77 can also run original games. However, while I’ll need to get my hands on one to pass judgement on its build quality and gaming performance, the 2600+ certainly looks the part compared to other third party devices.
As for cost, the Atari 2600+ will set you back $129.99, which feels a tad pricey for a console that exclusively runs old games. That said, the package contains a 10-in-1 multi-cart and a CX40+ Joystick that’s seemingly identical to the original, so you won’t have to pick up any additional add-ons to dive into your favorite old games.
That’s not to say you can’t spend more money if you want to, as you can actually pick up physical copies of Mr Run and Jump Man and my personal favorite arcade game, Berzerk. There’s even another multicart that comes bundled with paddle controllers, so if you want to sink a bunch of cash on retro shenanigans, Atari is happy to provide.
This isn’t Atari’s first attempt to create a retro-themed console for the modern age, as it previously released a VCS device that’s more like a gaming PC than an old console. With that in mind, it’s nice to see the company focus on providing access to its legacy rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, but I do have a few reservations in relation to the technology involved.
According to Atari 2600+ specs on the official product page, the console wields a Rockchip 3128 SOC microprocessor, 256MB DDR3 RAM, and 256MB eMMC storage. However, the company’s choice of chip suggests we’re looking at standard emulation rather than FPGA, the same tech used within devices like the Analogue Pocket. That’s not necessarily a deal breaker, but I’ll need to take it for a spin to test whether it produces the same results as my original 2600.
As a side note, if you're nerdy about authentic retro mech, Atari also recently started making arcade PCBs again, just in case you're looking for premium decor for your gaming space.