Released in 1982, the Atari 5200 SuperSystem, more commonly known as the Atari 5200, was Ataris follow up to their hugely successful 2600 console. It’s main competitor was the ColecoVision, which was released a few months before it. When the 5200 was released Atari rebranded the Atari Video Computer System (Atari VCS) as the Atari 2600.
The 5200 was a much larger console than its predecessor. The hardware was based on Ataris 400 and 800 personal home computers however it was not possible to play games from the console on the 400/800 range (and vice versa).
The original design was quite slick looking although it was much larger than pretty much every other console available at the time. At the top of the console was the cartridge slot and a pointless storage area to store game cartridges. At the front were 4 controller ports (most consoles at the time only had two).
It was criticised for having a really strange power system. The external power supply didn’t plug into the system itself. Instead, it was inserted into a strange TV switch box. A game cable which was wrapped around the base of the console connected to the switch box too and then the RF cable connected to the television. This peculiar setup wasn’t popular with gamers.
Atari decided to replace the iconic one button joystick from the 2600. The new controllers had a 12 digit keypad on the front, mimicking controllers from systems such as the Mattel Intellivision and ColecoVision.
The controller also had an analogue joystick and 2 buttons at either side of the controller. At the top of the controller was a start, pause and reset button; a first for any gaming controller.
Unfortunately, the controller was incredibly unreliable. The analogue joystick in particular didn’t centre properly which made some games difficult to play. The controllers used a different port than the 2600 which meant that joysticks from the 2600 couldn’t be used on the 5200. A huge range of 3rd party controllers were sold for the 5200 because of how unpopular the bundled controllers were.
Atari also released an additional controller for the system; the infamous Atari 5200 Pro-Line Trak-Ball. This massive controller has a large track-ball in the centre and is regarded by many people as one of the best controllers ever released.
Although the 5200 managed to sell over a million units, it was not a popular machine and is a system most retro gamers avoid like the plague. A major complaint was the inability to play any Atari 2600 games on the machine, something which the ColecoVision could do using an adaptor.
Due to the volume of complaints, Atari issued a redesign of the 5200 in 1983. The redesign had no TV switch box so users could plug the power supply directly into the system. For some strange reason, 4 controller ports were reduced to 2. The new redesign did however allow Atari 2600 games to be played, albeit via an adaptor called the Atari VCS Cartridge Adaptor. This adaptor didn’t work with the original 5200 design though, which was a bit of a slap in the face to the people who purchased the original system.
Although there were some great games released for the 5200, it didn’t do well commercially. Not only was it competing with other 2nd generation consoles, it was also competing with its predecessor (the Atari 2600), which was still being heavily marketed towards gamers. Finally, in 1984, Atari announced that it would no longer be supporting the 5200.
The 5200 used a MOS 6502C CPU, which was clocked at a speed of 1.79 MHz. It had 32kb of ROM and 16kb of RAM, which was quite a lot compared to other systems available in 1982.
Games could display up to 256 colours on a resolution of 320×192 pixels. 4 channels of sound were available, powered by the POKEY chip.
The Activision Decathlon (Activision)
Astro Chase (Parker Brothers)
Ballblazer (Atari/Lucasfilm Games)
Blue Print (CBS Electronics)
Bounty Bob Strikes Back (Big Five Software)
Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom (Sega)
Congo Bongo (Sega)
Dig Dug (Atari)
The Dreadnaught Factor (Activision)
Frogger (Parker Brothers)
Frogger II: Threeedeep! (Parker Brothers)
Gorf (CBS Electronics)
Gyruss (Parker Brothers)
James Bond 007 (Parker Brothers)
Jungle Hunt (Atari)
K-Razy Shootout (CBS Electronics)
Keystone Kapers (Activision)
Mario Bros. (Atari)
Meteorites (Electra Concepts)
Miner 2049er (Big Five Software)
Missile Command (Atari)
Montezuma’s Revenge (Parker Brothers)
Moon Patrol (Atari)
Mountain King (CBS Electronics)
Mr. Do!’s Castle (Parker Brothers)
Ms. Pac-Man (Atari)
Pitfall II: Lost Caverns (Activision)
Pole Position (Atari)
Popeye (Parker Brothers)
Q*bert (Parker Brothers)
Quest for Quintana Roo (Sunrise)
Realsports Baseball (Atari)
Realsports Football (Atari)
Realsports Soccer (Atari)
Realsports Tennis (Atari)
Rescue on Fractalus! (Atari/Lucasfilm Games)
River Raid (Activision)
Robotron: 2084 (Atari)
Space Dungeon (Atari)
Space Invaders (Atari)
Space Shuttle (Activision)
Star Raiders (Atari)
Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator (Sega)
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Death Star Battle (Parker Brothers)
Star Wars: The Arcade Game (Parker Brothers)
Super Breakout (Atari)
Super Cobra (Parker Brothers)
Wizard of Wor (CBS Electronics)
Zone Ranger (Activision)
An 80s commercial promoting the Atari 5200 SuperSystem.
The Angry Video Game Nerd gives his verdict on the 5200.
A good review of the 5200.
A revoew of the Atari 5200 game controller.
A review of Galaxian on the 5200.
Ms. Pac-Man on the 5200.