The Game: As the pilot of a lone space cruiser, you must try to clear the spaceways of a swarm of free-floating asteroids, but the job isn’t easy – Newton’s laws of motion must be obeyed, even by asteroids. When you blow a big rock into little chunks, those chunks go zipping off in opposite directions with the speed and force imparted by the amount of energy you used to dispel them. To that screenful of bite-sized chunks o’ death, add an unpredictable hyperspace escape mechanism and a pesky UFO that likes to pop in and shoot at you, and you’re between several large rocks and a hard place. (Atari, 1979)
Memories: Easily the most “physics-correct” space video game ever made, Asteroids was also one of the coolest. It was equally fun to play it real safe or, as in the example animation seen below, to just go nuts and live on the edge.
Atari later created a sequel, Asteroids Deluxe, which replaced hyperspace with a shield you could raise to deflect the impact of an imminent collision (though your shield would have to recharge immediately thereafter, leaving you in the lurch).
Asteroids was the second truly great arcade adaptation for the Atari 2600, coming soon after the faithful rendition of Space Invaders. Despite the usual rough translation from vector graphics to raster, Asteroids fared very well in its home version. Another game of note was UFO!, the Odyssey 2 version of Asteroids, which was actually closer to Asteroids Deluxe than the original.