Cosmic Ark

In Imagic's 1982 hit Atlantis, players were tasked with defending the titular ancient undersea city from an evil Gorgon assault. Inevitably, the Gorgons would destroy the defenses, and the last thing players saw was a small Atlantean craft flying off the top of the screen. Players who wondered where the craft went had their questions answered when Imagic released Cosmic Ark later that year.

In Cosmic Ark, the surviving Atlanteans have set their sights on the Alpha Ro star system, where they hope to pick up two of every planetary beastie to preserve the various species before the sun goes supernova.

Gameplay: The Alpha Ro star system is in a lot of trouble. As if the impending death of their sun wasn't enough, the whole system is beset with meteor showers. If you survive the meteor storm, you'll descend to the surface of a planet, where the mysterious Atlantean craft emerges and uses its tractor beam to pick up two little critters from the surface and return them to the Ark. When your Ark finally takes its deathblow, that little Atlantean shuttle flies away into the cosmos, presumably to find life in another game, coming to a Sears near you in time for the holidays.

Could be mistaken for: V, an evening with crazy uncle Eli, who tries to make everything into a biblical allegory

Kids today might not like it because: Though they spend the whole game picking up beasties, they never once get to land at Paul's Boutique.

Kids today might like it because: Discovering that the little ship from Atlantis actually survived for another game gives them some much-needed closure. Uh, until it flies off again.

Enduring contribution to gaming history: Cosmic Ark was one of the earliest console games to put players into two completely different locales for the same game, and to charge them with saving creatures instead of destroying them. It was a bestseller for Imagic, and if the Great Video-game Crash of 1983 hadn't happened, the company could have rivaled Activision.

 

Wil Wheaton is less concerned about the deep unreal.