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Flashback 8 Gold is Atari fans' SNES Classic alternative

The latest Atari 2600 retro console from AtGames offers dozens of Atari 2600 games in a box with HDMI output and wireless controllers.

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John P. Falcone is the senior director of commerce content at CNET, where he coordinates coverage of the site's buying recommendations alongside the CNET Advice team (where he previously headed the consumer electronics reviews section). He's been a CNET editor since 2003.
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John Falcone
4 min read

Nintendo's 2016 NES Classic brought retro gaming nostalgia to a fever pitch, but it wasn't the first affordable box to offer plug-and-play old school video games . AtGames has been cranking out mini game consoles full of nostalgic titles like Sonic the Hedgehog, Centipede and Pitfall for the past few years. And now the company is refreshing its Atari and Sega models for 2017.

Due in September -- not coincidentally, the same month Nintendo's mini-SNES Classic hits -- the Atari Flashback 8 Gold packages several dozen Atari 2600 games from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Pricing has yet to be confirmed, but AtGames' website lists it as $79.99. (Official UK and Australia availability and compatibility are unknown, but that price translates to about £61 and AU$102.)

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Atari Flashback 8 Gold
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Atari Flashback 8 Gold

As the name suggests, the Flashback 8 is hardly the first box to round up a bunch of old titles from gaming's past. But the new model ups the ante on features compared to previous Atari game collections:  

  • 120 built-in games: The Flashback 8 Gold includes such 2600 1970s mainstays as Adventure, Combat, Night Driver and Space War, as well as later games like Haunted House, Yars' Revenge and the Swordquest series. It also includes several original Activision titles, including Pitfall, Kaboom, Chopper Command, H.E.R.O. and River Raid. Alas, unlike the AtGames latest Sega box, the Atari version will not accept vintage cartridges -- you're limited to the built-in games. (Full disclosure: Many of these titles are already available on earlier Flashback consoles.)
  • 720p HDMI video output: Previous AtGames consoles were restricted to old-fashioned RCA composite video. The Flashback 8 Gold (and the new Sega console) take a page from Nintendo's book and offer HDMI connectors. While the games will still have primitive graphics by today's standards, this at least offers easy one-cable connection to modern HDTVs. (Weirdly, the HDMI port appears to be on the left-hand side of the console -- see the promotional video embedded below.)
  • Pause, save and rewind support: In another feature seen earlier on the NES Classic, the Flashback 8 Gold will offer pause and resume and same game slots -- a welcome respite if you need a bathroom break while racking up a new personal best on Asteroids. You can also apparently "rewind" games a few seconds. (That's good, because -- trust me -- these games may be simplistic, but they are unforgiving.)
  • Two wireless controllers included: The Flashback 8 Gold includes two wireless Atari joysticks. And these are said to incorporate true 2.4GHz radios, not the infrared versions that have frustrated Amazon reviewers of AtGames' earlier Sega collections by limiting connectivity to line-of-sight. The console also includes ports to connect wired joysticks and paddle controllers (Breakout, anyone?).  

Four versions

Note that the Flashback 8 Gold is not the "Ataribox." That unit, coming from Atari itself, is still somewhat shrouded in mystery.

And if you're saying "I've seen this Atari Flashback thing already. It's been on the shelf at my local drugstore for years," you're right -- sort of. AtGames and other licensees have been offering Atari Flashback consoles (1 through 7) for years, but they have a different selection of titles built in. (You can check out Wikipedia's summary of the whole series throughout the years for specifics.) Don't buy those older models expecting the HDMI output, wireless controllers and save-game features of the Flashback 8 Gold series profiled here.

Further confusing things is the fact that the Flashback 8 Gold is one of four similar units in the same generation from AtGames. The company will also be offering the Atari Flashback 8 Gold Activision Edition (with 130 games), the Atari Flashback 8 Classic (105 games, wired controllers, no HDMI or save games) and the Atari Portable (70 games, with rechargeable battery and built-in screen).

To muddy the waters further still, the "Activision Edition" is not the only one that offers classic Activision games. (Confused yet?) Here's how the titles are split across all four versions:

Atari Flashback 8 consoles compared

Flashback 8 GoldActivision EditionFlashback 8Atari Portable
3D Tic-Tac-Toe XXX
Adventure XXXX
Adventure II XXXX
Air Raiders XXXX
Air Sea Battle XXX
Aquaventure XXXX
Armor Ambush XXX
Asteroids XXXX
Astroblast XXXX
Atari Climber XXXX
Backgammon XXX

Basketball XXX
Beamrider XX

Black Jack XXXX
Bowling XXXX

Breakout XXXX

Canyon Bomber XXX
Centipede XXXX
Championship Soccer XXX
Chase It X

Chopper Command XX

Circus Atari XXXX
Combat XXX
Combat Two XXX
Cosmic Commuter

Crackpots XX

Crystal Castles XXXX
Dan Kitchen's Tomcat

Dark Cavern XXXX
Decathlon XX

Demons to Diamonds XXXX
Desert Falcon XXXX
Dig Dug

Dodge 'Em XXXX

Double Dunk XXXX
Dragster XX

Enduro XX

Escape It X
Fatal Run XXXX
Fishing Derby XX

Flag Capture XXX
Football XXX

Frog Pond XXXX
Frogger X
Frogs and Flies XXXX
Front Line X
Frostbite XX

Fun with Numbers XXXX

Grand Prix

Gravitar XXXX
Hangman XXXX
Haunted House XXXX
Home Run XXX
Human Cannonball XXXX
Ice Hockey

Indy 500 XXX
International Soccer XXX
Jungle Hunt X
Kaboom! XXXX
Keystone Kapers XX

Laser Blast

Maze Craze XXX
Megamania XX

Millipede XXXX
Miniature Golf XXXX
Miss It X
Missile Command XXXX
MotoRodeo XXX
Night Driver XXXX
Off The Wall XXX
Oink! XX

Outlaw XXX

Pitfall! XXXX
Plaque Attack

Polaris X
Pong (Video Olympics) XXXX
Pressure Cooker XXXX
Private Eye

Radar Lock XXXX
Realsports Baseball XXXX
Realsports Basketball XXX
Realsports Soccer XXX
Realsports Volleyball XXX
Return to Haunted House XXXX
River Raid XXXX
River Raid II

Robot Tank XX

Saboteur XXXX
Save Mary XXXX
Sea Battle XXX
Seaquest XX

Secret Quest XXXX
Shield Shifter X

Sky Diver XXX
Sky Jinks

Slot Machine XXXX
Slot Racers XXX
Solaris XXXX
Space Attack XXXX
Space Invaders X
Space Shuttle

Space War XXX
Spider Fighter

Sprintmaster XXX
Stampede XX
Star Ship XXXX
Star Strike XXXX
Starmaster XX

Steeplechase XXX
Stellar Track XXXX
Street Racer XXX
Strip Off

Submarine Commander XXXX
Super Baseball XXX
Super Breakout XXXX
Super Challenge Baseball XXX
Super Challenge Football XXX
Super Football XXX
Surround XXX
Sword Fight XXX
Swordquest: Earthworld XXXX
Swordquest: Fireworld XXXX
Swordquest: Waterworld XXXX
Tempest XXXX

Video Checkers XXXX
Video Chess XXXX
Video Pinball XXXX
Warlords XXX
Wizard XXXX

Yars' Return XXXX
Yars' Revenge XXXX

Before you buy

If you're interested in buying the Flashback 8 Gold, it all comes down to whether or not you actually like the games in question. Also keep in mind that a "classic" is in the eye of the beholder -- these games may be charming, but they pale in comparison even to the arcade versions many of us old-timers remember. 

Also note that many, if not most, of the games in these collections are available on many current consoles, PCs and mobile platforms. For instance:

We'll have a full hands-on review of the Flashback 8 Gold in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, check out our review of the original Atari Flashback 2 from 2006 if you want an idea of what to expect from the newest version. That said, the addition of HDMI output, wireless controllers, game saves and a larger library of games makes the Flashback 8 Gold sound like a nice step-up from previous versions.