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History Lesson: The best games on Atari ST

Also known as 'the one that wasn't the Amiga'

So, what did Atari get up to in those hazy years between the '80s video game crash and its Jaguar console 'comeback'?

Refocused on the computer business, that's what.

Atari had been at it since the '70s, but with a post-crash lifeline from ex-Commodore top nob Jack Tramiel, it was time to up its game to 16-bit.


Atari's older computers never really made a dent over here as we had our Speccies, C64s, BBCs and CPCs, thanks. But Jack - who sadly passed in April 2012 - saw an evolutionary gap and charged.

The first Atari 520ST was out by 1985, less than a year in production, pinging the earlobes of those sceptical over Atari's future. It even got a headstart on its lifelong rival, the Amiga.

In raw gaming horsepower, the ST (standing for 'Sixteen/Thirty-two', referring to its 16-bit external bus and 32-bit internals) was never the Amiga's equal. But it was earlier, cheaper, a cheeky shade faster and shared most of the gravy when the real 16-bit software started to flow.

Also chipping in to its legacy were two MIDI ports and sequencer support, inspiring a generation of musicians and piggybacking airtime through acts like Tangerine Dream, 808 State and iconic French noodler Jean Michel Jarre.

A steady stream of new models (including 1040ST versions) with more memory and add-ons kept the ST up and swinging. But by the time it stepped aside for the 32-bit TT and Falcon, the PC and Mac already had the computer market cuffed to a radiator; by 1993, Atari's computing days were done.

Seeking solace in the flighty embrace of consoles and betting the farm on Jaguar didn't go so well, and the business ended up being sold and resold. But it's safe to say the ST earned its place - both in the Atari timeline and the 16-bit wars that kept us entertained as the cosy '80s evolved into the new and scary '90s.

The best things in life are ST

Although it will forever remain in the Amiga's shadow, there was still a hefty selection of brilliant games available for the Atari ST.

If you want to track down the very best of what it had to offer, you could do a lot worse than getting hold of these eight beauties.