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 -
This was the technological showcase of the launch titles, and a damn good flight combat game.
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!
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.
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.
Every portable needs a great puzzle game and this was an early one on Lynx.
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.
3d corridor shooting.
First-person Breakout style action.
Vehicular combat goodness in a pre-Twisted Metal world.
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. http://ca.ign.com/articles/2008/04/09/atari-lynx-buyers-guide