My dad was an Atari fanboy. Even before I was old enough to know I was only supposed to like one system, he was already attempting to train me up by defending the Atari brand nearly as viciously as any Xbox or Playstation troll today. Later, when I was much older, he admitted that buying us a Nintendo was almost a betrayal, especially with a perfectly good Atari 7800 available on the market.

It wasn’t actually until sometime in the early nineties that he managed to bring an Atari home. He might have loved the Atari brand, but the money wasn’t there before. By then, Atari was already fading into a beloved memory, allowing him to score a fairly huge stack of games for a very low price. We played those games for countless hours, often choosing them over the much more popular NES. One of the games that we invested some serious time into was E.T.

No, it wasn’t our favorite game for the system. We were never huge fans of the E.T. movie, and the game came with zero indication of what we were supposed to do. Still, my brother and I would still hunker down to try to help E.T. between our long bouts of Joust or M.U.L.E.

That’s why I was immensely surprised when I saw that E.T. was rated by nearly every major gaming publication as “The Worst Game Ever!” That it was the cause of Atari’s demise. That it ended up shaming the company so much that Atari allegedly buried millions of unsold copies in the Alamogordo dump.

The last point is actually why I’m writing this post. My wife and I just watched “Atari: Game Over” on Netflix, a fascinating documentary that got me thinking that maybe it was drug use in the office, not one crappy game, that let to Atari’s fall. Or maybe it was the drugs that made it so successful for so long.

Anyway, something that’s bothered me every time I’ve seen clips and videos of E.T. on Atari was that it had little resemblance to the game I remember from my youth. I remember top notch graphics (compared to other Atari games). I remember running through a forest, collecting things that vaguely resembled, um, objects. And I remember collecting them all until E.T. screamed, in a distorted voice that haunted my nightmares for years, “E.T. Phone Home!”

Most of all, I can’t recall a single one of those pits that gave E.T. such a bad rap.

Nostalgia’s a funny thing, though, and plenty of games that I idolized in my youth have turned out to be pieces of crap on modern day replays. I chalked E.T. up to my faulty memory, because how many different E.T. games could Atari have gone on to make after their first fiasco, right?

After nearly an hour of Google searches, I found a surprising answer. It’s two. They made two additional E.T. games after shooting themselves in the foot with the hastily made Atari 2600 mess.

The first is the hilariously odd German version called “E.T. Go Come.” I haven’t played it, but the box cover says it all:


Including that drug use was alive and well at Atari Germany

The second is the Atari 8-bit version I remember called “E.T. Phone Home!” (Really big nerds probably realized my mistake the second I mentioned M.U.L.E., which only came out for the Atari Home Computer Systems and not the game consoles). It was an okay game for the time. Not that I’d say you should go out of your way to play it. Unlike M.U.L.E., which my friends and I would play with four controllers a decade and a half after its original release.

Funny story, most of the games I remember from my youth were actually pirated, too, thanks to, I realize now, the Happy Drive. Though E.T. was legit. We really bought that one. Used.

What’s the point of all of this? Nothing, really. Just that there’s multiple versions of E.T., and at least one of them isn’t the worst game ever made.

I’ll leave you with the sound from “E.T. Phone Home!” that made me afraid to play video games by myself for most of my childhood:

Yes, E.T. Phone Home, indeed! He knows where YOUR home is, too! And he’s there, in your closet, patiently waiting until you fall asleep so he can feast on your blood!