You are currently viewing Grand Prix (Atari 2600)

Grand Prix (Atari 2600)


Company: Activision
Year: 1982
Platform: Atari 2600
Controller: Joystick


Start engines.

Racing cars is a sports with entries in different videogame catalogs since the early days of the videogame industry, probably due to the adrenaline ussually related to this sporting event and the eternal motivation in a race where you try to beat your rivals arriving at the goal as soon as possible. Activision, a company from which we already have written about in early entries, decides to experiment with a game of this sport in its first titles for the Atari 2600 with a different approach to other games at the time.

While it’s debatable the fact of considering the event of racing cars a sport, ussualy the videogames of this genre appeared in the same section as other sports titles, so we consider adecquate to write about these games in the blog.


Well, holes in the road. That does not happen in my hometown.

Meanwhile the majority of racing cars videogames at the time focused of a vertical viewpoint, either from behind the pilot, or a bird’s-eye view, the programmer David Crane implements a game with an horizontal focus, keeping a sort-a-kind bird’s-eye view, keeping the goal line at the far right of the screen.

The videogame has a very simple mechanic: the car accelerates while you are pressing the fire button of the joystick, don’t worry about changing gears, while releasing the button you try to brake (really, I don’t recommend that a lot) and you move the car vertically to avoid other racing cars.

At the bottom of the screen, appears a clock which indicates the time of the race, which can be considered the score, the lower the better. There are four racing circuits where all the changes are the duration of the race, the amount of cars to avoid and what the instruction manual calls oil drops which in my hometown called vile stones, which don’t stop the car, but deviate it a little which can be crucial at trying to avoid other cars.

Also there are “bridges” where the road narrows and you can only get through a very narrow passageway (these “bridges” do not appear in the first race), which is easy to see when it comes one, because rivals stop appearing by. When you crash in the forbidden zone of the bride, you completely stop, so that is the main reason to not recommending braking. According to the race, is the number of “bridges” to pass.


Being yours trully a really inept racing car pilot in videogames (and highly probably in real life), I find the game very easy to play, at the same time reasonably challenging and due to the short duration of each race, perfect to be used in coin-operating adaptations. But in a home console environment, probably it is a weakness, because every race lasts from 2 to 5 minutes. The lack of competitiveness between two human players is also a weak point in my opinion.

Just like other Activision games, the game had a patch that you can win when you met certain conditions in the game.

In this case is finishing any race below a certain limit, the following table shows the times to beat.

1Watkins Glen0:35
2Brands Hatch1:00
3Le Mans1:30


Sport Icon designed by Smashicons of FlatIcon licensed by CC 3.0 BY.

Console Icon taken from Retroarch.

Title image in datafile, and the patch one, taken from Atari Age site.

Leave a Reply