The Atari 2600 was originally released in the United States on September 11, 1977 for $199 [adjusted for inflation: $854.55 in 2020], and it would go on to sell more than 30 million units word wide.
Naturally with the success of this console there was a large quantity of games being developed for the Atari 2600 by Atari, Activision, SNK, and many other developers that are still developing / publishing games today.
However, over the years I have found that for every good game you find on the Atari 2600 there is typically 10-20 more that are absolutely not worth your time, and this is due primarily to the fact that Atari had not implemented any type of quality control for games that were published for the Atari 2600. The result of this is a glut of games that were either poorly designed, incomplete, and in general not fun to play.
Ultimately this lack of quality control resulted in a loss of public interest in the Atari 2600, and ultimately it would lead to the collapse of the video game market in the United States until the launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System.
The end result of this crash was a loss of relevancy for the Atari 2600, but despite this many developers / publishers would continue to develop games for the Atari 2600. In fact to this day there is still a dedicated community that is creating a variety of games that can all be played on the original Atari 2600.
Why should I collect for the Atari 2600?
The main reason to collect for the Atari 2600 is to gain a better appreciation for what video games were like during a time in which the gaming industry was still trying to figure out how to make fun and interesting games.
How should I play Atari 2600 Games?
There are a number of ways to play games for the Atari 2600, but the best way would be to either purchase an original Atari 2600, Atari 2600 Jr, Atari 7800 [can play both Atari 2600 and 7800 games], or the Retron 77 [a clone console by Hyperkin].
Which games should I start with?
Here is a quick list of some of the games that I would recommend for anyone that is interested in playing games on the Atari 2600.
Dig Dug [Arcade]
Pole Position [Racing]
Pong [Table Tennis]
River Raid [Vertical Shooter]
Super Breakout [Arcade]
How much should I pay for games?
One of the best things about collecting for the Atari 2600 is the cost because once you have purchased your Atari 2600 you will be able to find a variety of great games for around $10.
How do I know if I will like a game before I buy it?
Due to the number of awful games available on the Atari 2600 you should always check YouTube / Google prior to buying any game. This will give you an idea of what a game looks like, and it will save you from the disappointment of buying E.T.