Though the Atari 2600's limited memory meant it couldn't compete on a level playing field with arcade machines, Atari's corporate overlords still tried to bring popular arcade games into living rooms. The results were occasionally successful, like Berzerk or Frogger, but more often, they were disastrous, like the 2600 ports of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. The 2600 was always at its best when talented game developers found inspiration in the hardware's limitation, and gave 2600 owners unique or offbeat games that made the most of those 8 bits. Gopher was one of those games: fast-paced, simple, and fun.
Gameplay: You're a farmer, but not a very good one. Your harvest this year is three carrots, because your nemesis, a greedy little gopher, has been grabbing them for himself. When these three are gone, so is your farm. So grab your shovel and defend your crops!
The gopher digs lots of holes and attempts to steal your carrots. You've got two options to stop him: Fill in his holes before he runs across the garden, or bonk the little creep with your shovel whenever his head comes above the surface. Don't think about it too long, though. He moves quickly, and stopping him is a lot harderand more funthan it sounds.
When you lose a carrot, don't panic! A friendly duck will occasionally drop a seed on you (though to be honest, it looks an awful lot like he's taking a dump). If you catch it, you can plant it, and a new fully grown carrot will instantly appear, like magic.
Could be mistaken for: A Bizarro-world version of Oink! or Kaboom!
Kids today might not like it because: While it's fun to bonk the gopher, you really want to whack his little head right off, but the designers left this obvious and legitimate use of the shovel out of the game.
Kids today might like it because: It's the closest they'll ever get to being Carl Spackler in Caddyshack.
Enduring contribution to gaming history: Nothing comes to mind.
Wil Wheaton is the author of Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot. He's currently planting a garden of his own.
Image courtesy of Atariage.com.