The ColecoVision arrived in August 1982, and would immediately not just rival Atari’s long-established 2600, but would outclass it. Atari shortly after released their Atari 5200 system, which was technically better than 2600, but did not keep up with ColecoVision’s sales as well as often delivered versions of games that looked inferior to ColecoVision’s ports.
Perhaps the ColecoVision is underappreciated these days, with most of the nostalgia tending to head more Atari’s way, but this list of best ColecoVision games will show you that this boxy-looking console with odd controllers, actually had a lot going for it.
Frogger is a classic game that has a huge amount of retro heritage attached to it and remains popular even today. In Frogger, you take control of a frog and have to cross busy roads and rivers full of floating logs.
Despite its simple premise, you are faced with many obstacles and challenges. There are several ways to die, including getting run over by cars, falling off moving logs as well as being eaten by alligators – It’s a dangerous world for a frog to be living in!
Frogger is the kind of game that requires quick reflexes and a clear strategy to keep up with the increasing difficulty as you progress through levels.
The ColecoVision conversion of Frogger is definitely one of the best ColecoVision games and is also considered one of the best conversions of Frogger on any system at the time.
The ColecoVision console boasted several popular arcade game ports and the 1984 ColecoVision version of BurgerTime translates wonderfully resulting in one of the best ColcoVision games you can play. In this game, you control Chef Pepper, who must navigate through a series of mazes while assembling giant hamburgers.
The challenge comes from the baddies, which are rather amusingly in the form of sausages, pickles, and eggs that relentlessly pursue you whilst you are trying to make your burger.
To create the ultimate burger, you must collect all the necessary ingredients and drop them onto the trays below. Chef Pepper steps on each ingredient to make it fall down to the lower levels and enemies can be dealt with using pepper or squishing them by dropping giant ingredients on them.
BurgerTime is a deceptively simplistic game, but like all arcade classics of the time, requires quick wits and strategic thinking to progress. Despite this, it is highly addictive, making it a must-play for retro gaming enthusiasts.
It’s 1983 and Popeye’s on the ColecoVision ready to win Olive Oyl’s heart in this charming little platformer. Olive runs around at the top of the screen tossing hearts your way, and it’s up to you to catch them before they hit the ground. Watch out, though! Bluto’s on the prowl and he’s looking to ruin your day.
As the game progresses, the levels become more challenging, and Popeye must collect a higher number of items. However, it’s not that easy!
Brutus, Popeye’s nemesis, is also on the screen, continuously trying to catch him. If Popeye consumes a can of spinach, he can temporarily knock Brutus out. Otherwise, Brutus will knock Popeye out.
You must also be aware of the various flying objects on the screen, such as bottles and birds, as they will cost you a life if you get hit.
Popeye is an excellent arcade conversion and translates all the charm of the original arcade as well as the Popeye characters.
Spy Hunter is another classic arcade conversion released for the ColecoVision in 1984. This adrenaline-fueled driving action game boasts an overhead point of view that puts you in the driver’s seat of a high-speed car equipped with machine guns to take on a horde of enemies on the road. But don’t let the thrill of the chase get the best of you – avoid shooting any innocent bystanders!
Eemy cars will stop at nothing to prevent you from reaching your destination. You also come across weapons vans during your game, which grants you access to a second weapon for your vehicle, such as a smoke screen, oil slick, or missiles.
The road also splits at various points, providing you with the option to drive into a boathouse and transfer from your car to a boat!
As you progress through the game, the seasons change, with winter presenting the risk of icy conditions on the road.
Spy Hunter is action-packed and one of the best ColecoVision games around, another fantastic arcade conversion.
This is a bit of an odd one, as Pac-Man actually never received a commercial release on the ColecoVision as such. But this version of Pac-Man is a rock-solid conversion of one of the best Atari 2600 games, and no doubt would have troubled Atari had it been released on a competing system.
You won’t need much of an overview of Pac-Man as a game I suspect, but the ColecoVision version represents the game far better than the Atari 2600 original console release.
Atarisoft developed a version of Pac-Man that was not officially released for the ColecoVision, but it’s interesting to look back at this now using emulation and it really does demonstrate how much more capable the ColecoVision was than 2600, but was more on par with the Atari 5200.
A great anecdote relating to Pac-Man and ColecoVision is that Atari ran a commercial that suggests the 5200 version of PacMan is better than the ColecoVision, but then proceeds to show the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man (which the ColecoVision could run thanks to an expansion module).
Q*Bert bounced on to ColecoVision in 1983 and immediately became a hugely popular title.
QBert is a game that offers simple and fun gameplay: hop around a pyramid of cubes, change colours, avoid enemies, and accumulate points. For those of us who grew up in the 80s, Qbert was a beloved sight in arcades, and with its release on the ColecoVision, it became possible to enjoy the game from the comfort of your own home!
While you attempt to change the colors of the pyramid’s tiles, you must also navigate around various creatures that wander around the board. These creatures include Coily the snake, Slick and Sam, and falling balls, all of which are trying their darndest to get in your way!
Q*Bert is pretty much great on any system, but ColecoVision owns it and was one of the best-looking versions of the game back when it was first released.
In 1938, Mr. Do! was released for ColecoVision. Mr. Do! is a circus clown being chased around by little dinosaurs known as ‘creeps’, navigating by digging your way through each level to collect all of the cherries that are strewn around.
Mr. Do! on the face of it has a lot in common with Dig Dug, mainly the digging through levels and dropping objects onto enemies to squash them, but the key difference is that Mr. Do! is all about the cherries, whereas Dig Dug just wants to mainly blow up his enemies!
Mr. Do has a couple of ways to defend himself. He can push apples to crush enemies, or he can throw his trusty power ball at them. If you manage to destroy the alpha monster carrying a letter in the word “EXTRA,” you’ll pick up an extra life.
Mr. Do! is timeless and is still as much fun today as it was when first released. Fully deserved of taking pride of place in this best ColecoVision games list.
Galaxian is a 1983 port of the famous arcade game for the ColecoVision, and in Galaxian, you’re not just any old space hero, you’re the hero that’s stuck at the bottom of the screen!
Galaxian may seem like a Space Invaders clone, but it brings much more than just add more colour to this newly established, but hugely popular genre.
The format is immediately familiar, which sees you positioned at the bottom of the screen, facing an array of aliens at the top who move left and right, trying to avoid your efforts to blast them into the next galaxy.
Aliens are divided into four types: Drones, Emissaries, Hornets, and Commanders. Destroying the higher-ranking aliens that are further up the screen will award more points. In addition to the aliens shooting back at you, enemies in Galaxian also perform dive bombs, trying not only to distract but also smash into you.
If you manage to clear a wave, you better get ready for the next one because they’re always coming!
Zaxxon is a classic Sega arcade game launched in 1982 for the ColecoVision, where you’re tasked with destroying the Zaxxon defense system in this awesome isometric-viewed shoot ’em up!
The game has three stages, first taking you through Asteroid City, which is heavily protected by aircraft, guns, and missiles. Many barriers are alarmed, leaving you with limited space to progress through, and fire must constantly be dodged.
If you can survive, you’ll finally reach the epic final battle with Zaxxon. And if you think that’s it, think again – the game will loop with even more challenging levels if you’re up for it! With three distinct skill levels, you’ll be using your piloting skills to the max – dive forward and climb back in this crazy flight simulation.
Get ready for some heart-pumping action in Zaxxon!
Donkey Kong Jr.
The Donkey Kong games are famous for not just being great arcade games, but also it’s when Mario made his first appearance, not as the hero, but indeed the enemy!
The 1983 release of Donkey Kong Jr. sees Mario showing his true colours again by reprising his role as the bad guy, this time by kidnapping Donkey Kong, so it’s now up to Donkey Kong Jr, to rescue his Dad and stop the apparently evil moustached plumber!
To save his father, Junior has to climb vines, jump on springboards, ride conveyors, and avoid electric fields.
Mario sends out Snapjaws, purple birds, and electric sparks to stop Junior, but he’s not afraid to fight back with fruit. The more foes you hit in a row with one piece of fruit, the more bonus points you rack up.
Just don’t let Junior fall too far or land in the water, or it’s game over!
For me, the ColecoVision is the unsung hero of the era, delivering excellent arcade ports again and again.
It’s clear to see from this superb list of best ColecoVision games that if you wanted near arcade experiences in the home, the ColecoVision delivered. Whilst Atari started the home video gaming phenomenon with the 2600 and its interchangeable game cartridge system, ColecoVision refined and improved with a technically superior console and was helped by deals struck with game publishers.
The standout titles for me are Donkey Kong Jr. and Galaxian, these are in my view just as good as the arcade versions in terms of gameplay and have so much replay value, standing the test of time, even to this day.
A lifelong avid gamer and computing enthusiast, Matt has decades of Retro Gaming experience. Now over 40 years old, Matt now even considers himself retro, but fortunately, nobody has developed a Matt emulator (not yet at least!).