Atari Lynx [OT] - Dig Your Claws In

Released in 1989, The Atari Lynx certainly didn’t have the huge success of its rival, the Nintendo Game Boy.

And there are a bunch reasons one could cite. It lacked major advertising, had a high price tag, the Atari name was associated with a bygone era, it sucked batteries like crazy, it didn’t have game with the type of mainstream appeal Tetris did, etc…

Still, it was an impressive piece of hardware (developed at Epyx by RJ Mical and Dave Needle of Commodore Amiga fame) and home to several quality games.

  • It was the first true colour handheld system with interchangeable cartridges.
  • It had arcade-like hardware sprite scaling prior to any TV console.
  • It had a backlit screen that was sharper than the Game Gear’s despite coming out first.
  • It had a screen/controls that were “flippable” so games could be designed for horizontal and vertical screen configurations.

Hey, that’s Toby Maguire in a Lynx commercial.

1991 saw the release of a more compact Lynx model.

What I loved about the Lynx is that in some ways it offered a more unique experience than the Game Boy and Game Gear despite having less third-party support. The games on Nintendo and Sega’s portable looked and felt very similar to what was on their 8-bit consoles. The Lynx’s smooth 3d arcade ports and original titles were filling a void that console gaming currently wasn’t.

Back in the day, I kept expecting Atari to drop dead and buy the Lynx dirt cheap so I ended up getting a Game Boy and Game Gear first. I suppose that didn’t help support the Lynx but I bought a great bundle deal at EB in 1994. It was a model 2 Lynx with Shadow of the Beast, Pit Fighter, Checkered Flag, and Pinball Jam included. I still have the same unit working great all these years later.

Here are 20 cool games. They look better in motion on a real system with scanlines given the resolution but you get the idea somewhat -

[b\Blue Lightning[/b]
This was the technological showcase of the launch titles, and a damn good flight combat game.


S.T.U.N. Runner

Road Blasters

Between S.T.U.N. Runner, Roadblasters, and Hydra, the Lynx kicked ass for racing shooters.

This was much closer to the arcade experience than the NES and Genesis Toki games.

It is the Nineties and there is time for… Klax!

Battlezone 2000
This was based on the 1980 arcade classic but strangely including a much more modern game that was hidden inside instead of being advertised/accessible directly.

Gates of Zendocon
I always loved the Defender-style laser in this. This shooter had a huge amount of content for its time. Thankfully it had password saves.

California Games
Fitting for the system’s Epyx roots, California Games was the original pack in title.

Originally conceived as an Impossible Mission follow up, this was an action-adventure where you move into the background and foreground. Given the rarity of games like this in 3d, it stood out on the market.


Chip’s Challenge
Every portable needs a great puzzle game and this was an early one on Lynx.


Ninja Gaiden
Like Rygar, this was the closest you could get to having the arcade version at home as the NES versions took different paths.

Arguably more of a sequel than a port of the arcade game.

XY Bots
3d corridor shooting.

Robo Squash
First-person Breakout style action.

Battle Wheels
Vehicular combat goodness in a pre-Twisted Metal world.

Cyber Virus
Released in 2001, this commercial homebrew first-person shooter managed to live up to the quality expected from classic Lynx games.

Inspired by Air Zonk and classic 16-bit era games from Irem and Treasure, this was another quality shooter to come out of the homebrew scene of the 2000s.

The IGN Buyer’s Guide by Travis Fahs goes into more detail on great Lynx games.

1 Like

Wow, there was a port of Raiden on the Lynx with TATE?

Edit: Watching some videos on YouTube, it was an unlicensed and unfinished version and also has no music. Still really interesting there was a portable, TATE’able shmup long before the Wonderswan and decades before the Switch.

I think Raiden originally was going to be published as a first-party game licensed from Seibu but after the system died they sold the rights of that version to Telegames. But yeah, it doesn’t seem like it was completely finished.

I have two Atari Lynx systems and 43 complete boxed games. I bought the second revision when it first came out. Some of my favorite games are Blue Lightning, Checkered Flag, Awesome Golf, California Games, Malibu Bikini Volleyball, Tournament Cyberball, Hydra, Xybots, Electrocop, Rampart, Warbirds, Dracula: The Undead, Battlewheels, Cybervirus, Rygar, Desert Strike and Steel Talons. I actually like most of the games I have for the system, as the system had a really high ratio of quality games, with very few really bad games.

If you were a fan of Atari Games arcade games back in the early 90’s, this was like a dream system, as Atari Corp. and Atari Games still have a fairly close relationship back then.

I need to get back into the Lynx, as the last few games I’ve bought for it I haven’t even played. I also missed the limited release of Eye of the Beholder. :neutral_face:

Playing multiplayer games on the Lynx such as Warbirds, Checkered Flag, Gauntlet III and Battlewheels was amazing back in the day and it worked flawlessly.

Atari really should have worked on a sequel to the Lynx and ditched the Panther/Jaguar project.

Wyvern Tales, a JRPG style game, is about to get a release on the Lynx here in the next few weeks.

Thanks for the heads up, not a lot of info on it, but looks interesting enough.

Cool, thanks for highlighting this. Just signed up for an email when it’s ready for purchase.

I recently brought my Lynx out of a decade+ of storage and the thing is still alive and kicking. Amazing. Glad it’s done better than all those Turbo Express units.

I came across a really cheap, unopened box copy of Chip’s Challenge - which for some stupid reason I never got back when the console was new. It’s still incredibly fun and addicting:

Bonus picture since I took my Lynx out for the first time in years. Love this case. My collection is pretty meager (I shifted to Game Boy not long after I got the Lynx) but I may look for some more games if I can find them reasonably priced.

Very cool. I loved playing that game on early windows. Probably Windows 95.

Chips Challenge was boss as fuck. Me and a few other kids played it on the school computer before class like every day. Don’t even know who else played it at other times in the day but we had a pad of paper that we left there with the passwords to each level we got to written on it.