Pac-Man (Atari 2600)


Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari, Sears
Series: Pac-Man series
Genres: Maze
Release date: March 16, 1982
System Atari 2600
Number of players 1-2
Input methods Atari joystick

Even though the aging (at the time) Atari 2600 wasn’t well-known for having very accurate arcade game translations for the most part, many consider their version of Pac-Man to be a huge mistake, due to many changes made with the game, as it bears very little resemblance to the arcade original at all.

Differences between versions

Pac-Man’s mouth is always moving, unlike how his mouth would not move unless he was moving. He also has eyes (unlike with the original, which he either didn’t have any or they could not be seen) and has no animation for when moving up and down, as he always faces right and left, even when moving vertically.

The ghosts always immediately pour out of their square chamber at the center of the screen, even on the early levels (which they did not all come out at once on the arcade original on the early levels). Due to being drawn one at a time, they flicker, not appearing whole, and their eyes are always moving, not facing in Pac-Man’s direction as they are chasing him. They also do not have four distinct personalities like with the arcade original.

Scoring and sounds were also changed, as well as the maze. The Escape Route (tunnel) runs from the top and bottom of the screen, rather than the sides, and Pac-Man is invincible while he is in there if he does not (visibly) touch a ghost. The dots Pac-Man eats were changed to dashes and renamed as to being “video wafers”, there are no bonus prizes that change and increase in point value, as the only bonus that Pac-Man can eat are now “vitamins”, and energizers to eat the ghosts with are now called “Power Pills”.

Also, 16 games were included on the cartridge and players earn an extra Pac-Man with the clearing of each maze, and not at only 10,000 points like on the original. (Note: the box for Pac-Man said there were only eight game variations, but each game has a variation for two players.)

There are also diffrent sound effects & no 1up music.


  • Eat video wafer–1 point
  • Eat power pill–5 points
  • Eat vitamins–100 points
  • Eat ghosts–20, 40, 80, 160 points (in succession)

Game variances

A slow or a fast-moving Pac-Man can be chosen. Variations with ghost speeds can be chosen as well, due to their ratings of having “crawl”, “walking”, “jogging” or “running” speeds, along with expert and childrens’ versions. Up to two players can play as well, and putting the Difficulty Switch in the A position cuts down the time the ghosts can stay blue and vitamins don’t appear onscreen for as long as when the Difficulty Switch is in the B position.


  • Move Pac-Man–joystick
  • Start game–button (also via the Game Reset switch or button on the Atari 2600 console)


If Pac-Man dies at the top of the Escape Route while moving down, he could end up moving straight through the center of the maze – even through walls – while still dying!


Due to hack-o-matic and the like programs, gamers with the Pac-Man ROM can disassemble it and make changes to it as they like. Most hacks are just graphical hacks, although others like the Invisible Pac-Man are hacks that actually affect gameplay in some manner.


  • Pac-Man and E. T. (another universally disliked Atari 2600 game) became the scapegoats blamed for the downfall of Atari, which both came out the same year, then the video game crash of 1983-1984 hit not long afterwards.
  • More Atari Pac-Man cartridges were produced than Atari had sold of the 2600 game unit. Atari had been hoping people would buy the system just to play their Pac-Man game.
  • Millions of E.T. and Pac-Man cartridges were buried in a landfill in Almo Gordo, New Mexico. Tons of cement were poured over it to prevent scavenging.
  • Programmer Tod Frye reportedly made a much improved 8K version (this one is only 4K in size), although supposedly Atari would not grant him a bigger budget for its release. As of late 2011, his prototype has yet to turn up, even though other Atari prototypes have been showing up here and there over the years.
  • Pac-Man’s enemies were originally known as monsters. They came out of the Monster Pen in the center of the screen on the original arcade version. Due to explaining the flickering of the enemy graphics, Atari called the monsters ghosts, which they have been known as ghosts pretty much ever since.
  • Pac-Man became the pack-in game for the Atari 2600 during some of its last years of production.
  • Pac-Man was followed by the much better versions of Ms. Pac-Man and Jr. Pac-Man, although those games are for one player only.


Atari Age Pac-Man page for links to (mostly negative) reviews, along with screenshots, instructions and links to hacks