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Missile Command (Atari 2600, 1981) - CX2638

Missile Command (Atari 2600, 1981) - CX2638

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"Missile Command" is a classic arcade video game developed by Atari, Inc., and later adapted for the Atari 2600 console. The home version was released in 1981 and became one of the most popular titles for the system.

Overview of the Game

Developer: Atari, Inc.

Platform: Atari 2600

Release Year: 1981

Genre: Action, Shooter


In "Missile Command," the player is tasked with defending six cities from an endless barrage of ballistic missiles, aircraft, and satellites. Using a limited number of anti-missile interceptors, players must strategically target and destroy incoming threats before they can obliterate the cities.

Key Features:

  • Three Bases: The player controls three missile bases, each positioned at the bottom of the screen.
  • Missile Interception: Players aim and fire interceptors to destroy incoming missiles, which split and spread across the screen.
  • Increasing Difficulty: Each level, or wave, introduces faster and more numerous threats, making the game progressively harder.
  • Limited Ammunition: Players have a finite number of interceptors per wave, requiring careful and strategic use.
  • Score System: Points are awarded for each enemy missile destroyed and for each surviving city at the end of a wave.

Differences from the Arcade Version

The Atari 2600 version of "Missile Command" had to adapt to the home console's hardware limitations, resulting in some changes from the original arcade version:

  • Graphics: The visuals are less detailed, with simpler graphics and fewer colors.
  • Controls: The arcade version used a trackball for precise aiming, while the Atari 2600 version uses a joystick, which can be less accurate.
  • Sound: The sound effects are simpler due to the Atari 2600's limited audio capabilities.
  • Game Mechanics: Some aspects of gameplay, such as the number of incoming missiles and the speed of the game, were adjusted to fit the console's performance.


"Missile Command" for the Atari 2600 is remembered as a significant and influential title in the history of video games. It showcased the potential of the Atari 2600 for bringing arcade experiences into the home and remains a beloved classic for its intense, strategic gameplay and iconic status among early video games. Its themes of defense and survival resonated with players during the Cold War era, adding a layer of real-world relevance to its appeal.

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