The best classic console collections for iOS

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The console wars of today aren’t a whole lot different from those of the early ’80s. We argued over the systems—Atari, Intellivision or Colecovision—but what it really came down to was owning the best one your parents could afford, and making sure you chose your friends based on which system they owned.

Everyone and his uncle had the Atari, my family had an Intellivision, and one of the neighbors I normally didn’t like (because he tackled you in football by kneeing your junk) became a best friend when necessary because he had the Colecovision and that oddly addictive Smurfs game.

These days, I can pick my friends more wisely (who’s willing to let me borrow his snow blower and/or move the pinball machine to the basement). This is due in part to the firm belief that no one needs more than five friends at any given point in his life, and in part to the great number of classic console game collections that app developers put at our fingertips. I’ve owned and played through many of them, and here are the three I return to most often.

Activision Anthology

This is the latest I’ve added, and it’s a great collection of Activision and Imagic games for the Atari 2600. Your free download comes with Kaboom!, and you get a total of 45 games if you pay only $6.99. Although you’re not likely to play all (or even most of them), $6.99’s a good price. You can also buy individual packs of 11 games for $2.99, but basic math skills will tell you that $7.00 for the package is the best deal.

Activision Anthology

For the money, you get multiple control methods (virtual d-pad, tilt and touch), iCade support, and faithful versions of some of the best games made for the Atari 2600. The novelty will wear off quickly on most, as I explained in my Activision Anthology review, but fans of classic games will likely return to a few of these more often than you’d expect.

Product [Activision Anthology]

Atari’s Greatest Hits

This one goes beyond the 2600 to include many of the classic (and not-so-classic) Atari arcade cabinets, as well, making it the most diverse collection of the bunch. It’s also the biggest, offering a whopping 100 games for only $9.99 (at press time). You can also buy packs of games at $0.99 each, but again, get them all in one shot and just retire to the den for the day.

Atari's Greatest Hits

Once more, many of the games will wear off on you after a single play. But the games that support Bluetooth multiplayer will keep you entertained if you know someone else with app. Plus, Atari’s Greatest Hits supports the Atari Arcade controller; it’s a bit like the iCade, but connects to your iPad via the dock, not Bluetooth.

Product [Atari’s Greatest Hits]

VH1 Classic Presents: Intellivision for iPad

Unlike in real life, Intellivision for iPad is the cheapest of the bunch at only $2.99. Just like in real life, however, it has the smallest number of games. You only get Astrosmash, Chip Shot Golf, Night Stalker, Thin Ice, Thunder Castle and Skiing. It’s a diverse set, but if your favorites aren’t on there, you’ll be disappointed to know you can’t add more. It’s also the only collection of the bunch that isn’t a universal app. The iPhone / iPod touch version gives you Astrosmash for free, and you can buy the others for $0.99 each.

Night Stalker for Intellivision

But the Intellivision games do have some staying power that their Atari counterparts lacked, so you’re likely to get more mileage out of each game in this collection. There comes a point in Night Stalker and Astrosmash where you get so good that it takes forever for the game to become challenging (despite the sometimes wonky method of attempting those Intellivision keypad controls on a touchscreen device), but that’s the way it was in real life. Chip Shot Golf, on the other hand, remains a challenging and fun golf sim to this day.

VH1 Classic Presents: Intellivision isn’t as robust as it should be, but its hit/miss ratio on the games offered evens the score against the others.

Product [VH1 Classic Presents: Intellivision for iPad]

That there should keep you busy for a while. And maybe by the time you finally finish Pitfall, Colecovision and Odyssey 2 collections will be available, as well. Maybe even Microvision! Those were the hardest friends to find, after all.

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