Say “ColecoVision” to a kid today and they would probably look at you as if you’re speaking another language. But if you grew up in the 80s — like I did — the name probably conjures up some of the best memories of your childhood.
For those who don’t know, the ColecoVision was one of the first home video game consoles that brought a wide range of popular arcade games into the living rooms of millions in the late 70s. While it was technically dead only 2 years later (thanks to the video game industry crashing) it has since gained a cult following, especially among those who enjoy old school gaming.
Without further ado, here’s my list of some of the best ColecoVision games ever made:
The first game on our list of the best ColecoVision games is Mr. Do! A simple and addicting maze game, Mr. Do! has a few similarities to Namco’s Dig Dug. The game stars an ambitious, shovel-wielding clown who aims to collect as many cherries as possible.
To achieve this goal, players will dig through walls and ceilings to create their own paths. However, once a path is cleared, enemy characters can also use the paths, allowing players to be tracked down with relative ease.
The Pac Maze craze that swept video games in the 80s is hard to quantify, however it is sufficient to say it had completely taken over by the time ColecoVision was released in 1982.
Namco’s Pan Man introduced the simple concept that is still a hit; run around a maze, avoid enemies, eat power pellets, earn points, and repeat ad infinitum.
Lady Bug is a Pac Man-style of games and features many of the same mechanics, but does not relegate this title to second-tier status.
Lady Bug is just as challenging as its predecessor and dazzles with unique, cheerful, and bright graphics. For added fun, players can throw power balls at their enemies or squash their rivals by pushing giant apples.
For anyone who has wanted to be Bob from Bob’s Burgers, or know what it is like to work at your local fast-food restaurant, Burger Time is the game for you.
In this arcade hit, players assemble beefy patties while avoiding food-themed enemies in a game that is a hybrid of Donkey Kong and Tetris.
Burger Time translates from the arcade to ColecoVision without missing a beat. One of the game’s main strengths is the ability to port arcade tiles to the home television. Relegated to some as an obscure arcade game, Burger Time does not get the amount of love it deserves.
Spy Hunter is the 1980s distilled into an action game where you run and gun all from your supercar. Marrying the gameplay style of a shoot-em-up with a classic Atari racer game, Spy Hunter is a simple game that does what it does exceptionally well.
Spy Hunter shows the ColecoVision’s prowess for handling fast-paced graphic and sound, bringing the quality of arcade smash hits to the home. It isn’t the deepest game, but it is immediately accessible and easy to learn, but tough to master.
Galaxian expands on the Space Invaders style of game in several meaningful ways. More colorful than other games of the era, the arcade version of Galaxian was one of the first games to feature multi-colored animated sprites.
Explosion effects and scrolling background separated this game from others of its kind, but the gameplay itself is what separates Galaxian from other games in the genere.
Enemies are more varied in both appearance and behavior, including enemies diving down in kamikaze-like maneuvers. This added element of drama prevents the gameplay from becoming repetitive. The ColecoVision version adds in more aggressive enemies and noticeably faster gameplay.
Gorf is another title that took an arcade craze and added a twist. Unlike Space Invaders where the player has to wait until a shot hits its target or leaves the screen, Gorf allows players to fire multiple shots. The catch, the first shot disappears as soon as the next shot is fired, a twist that impacts gamer’s strategies to clear the screen.
Originally intended as a tie-in game for the motion picture Star Trek, the designers realized it didn’t work after reading the script. It does explain why the starship featured in the game resembles the Enterprise.
A Mountie named Bounty Bob is the main character in Miner 2049er, and is tasked with venturing into abandoned nuclear mines in pursuit of a treacherous outlaw.
The mines are filled with radioactive creatures, and each stage has a time limit. Each section of the mine must be thoroughly inspected before Bob can proceed to the next stage, requiring a surprising amount of strategy to finish the investigations within the alloted time.
The gameplay is based around jumping mechanics, but the levels are designed to require advance planning. At first glance, it would be easy to write Mine 2049er off as a Donkey Kong knock-off, but it puts a unique twist on the genre and is a lot more fun than the goofy visuals suggest.
A classic arcade game that puts a new twist on the shoot ‘em up genre, Centipede is a classic arcade game that takes place in a garden rather than outer space. In lieu of shooting swarms of insect-like aliens, players are tasked with shooting actual insects.
As is typical with other early 80s arcade games, the gameplay revolves around moving and shooting. With highly responsive controls and lightning-fast pace, Centipede stands out.
The arcade game uses a trackball, so it may take some time to adjust to the ColecoVision’s controller. The home version does support Coleco’s Roller Controller and does a fantastic job of recreating the arcade experience.
River Raid is another top-down shooter game that puts players in control of a craft that can only move left or right along a river. By offering a lot of content in a constrained system, River Raid is impressive from a technical standpoint. Using a procedural algorithm, a phrase familiar to fans of open-world games, River Run pushes the system to use all available resources all while delivering an outstanding experience.
With bold graphics, amazing design, and challenging gameplay, Zaxxon is everything you’d want in a shooter game and then some. Not all ColecoVision games operate as arcade ports, but Zaxxon goes beyond the arcade to provide a true home console experience.
Signaling the shift to the home screen from the arcade, ColecoVision’s Zaxxon capitalizes on the deeper home experience available on home consoles without sacrificing the addictive gameplay typical of shooters.
Another title that shows the ColecoVision’s life was cut too soon, Zaxxon remains as a superlative example of the greatness achieved by this system.
Frogger is a timeless arcade game in which players guide frogs across busy freeways and hazard-filled rivers to return home. A straight-forward game taking place on a single screen may sound simple, however there are several ways to die that make Frogger a game of skill and timing.
Simple in concept, but complex to master, Frogger stands alongside other early classics like Pac Man and Donkey Kong.
Donkey Kong Jr. may play second fiddle to his famous father, but it delivers a superior gaming experience on the ColecoVision. A riff on the original game, Donkey Kong Jr. mixes up the original formula by tasking players with a variety of puzzle and action-oriented tasks.
Despite being a stand-alone game, Donkey Kong Jr. is always compared to its predecessor. Taking elements from other arcade classics found in Burger Time, Donkey Time, and Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong Jr. is the perfect combination of bright graphics, solid gameplay, and iterative design.
Flawlessly mimicking the arcade experience, Donkey Kong Jr. is a must-have title for ColecoVision, earning it the rank of the most popular game on the console.
Inspired by the 1983 movie of the same name, War Games is similar to Missile Command with a few new twists.
Set in a world where you are defending cities from attack, War Games rewards players for holding off a counter-strike. If the DEFCON level goes above a certain threshold, a counter strike is initiated, setting off a global nuclear war and resulting in the player losing.
Slower than Missile Command, War Games is just as strategic. Steeped in the Cold War era, the game embraces that era of history and gaming and wears it proudly.
While providing the quintessential arcade experience that is the hallmark of ColecoVision, Frenzy has not aged as well as other titles offered on the console.
Originally titled Berzerk in arcades, Frenzy has players shooting robots. Primitive graphics and sound design aside, the gameplay is what shines in this classic.
Best suited for indie geeks that keep Steam’s home-brew community alive, modern gamers will likely find Frenzy alienating with its archaic construction and feel.
Gamers looking for an old school challenge will find plenty to love about Frenzy, a game that never lets up in an unrelenting challenge from beginning to end just as a true quarter eating arcade game should be.
The classic title Donkey Kong introduced the gaming world to two iconic arcade legends, Mario and Donkey Kong. The antagonists you have grown to love today started with very different motives.
Mario and Donkey Kong fought against each other throughout the entire game, using a combination of side-to-side scrolling action and puzzle platform play.
As an arcade blockbuster for Nintendo that signaled the powerhouse that the brand would later become, the ColecoVision version of Donkey Kong shines as an at-home console version of an arcade classic.
Hopefully you enjoyed the best ColecoVision games and they brought back some great memories or inspired you to make some new ones with these classic games.
If we missed one of your favorite ColecoVision games, let us know in the comments below.