The Jaguar is the last console ever released by Atari and was marketed as the world’s first 64-bit game system. However, the Jaguar was powered by 32-bit processors. So why did Atari’s marketing department put so much emphasis on the 64-bit angle?
Well, it features a 64-bit bus for the blitter (a coprocessor tasked with moving bitmaps and images). And the Jaguar even got some early 3D games, years before the N64 or PS1. However, it wasn’t really a 3D console because many of these games struggled to play at decent framerates (and looked janky).
With a rather limited catalog of 50 games, you have to be careful while choosing what to play. And that’s why I’m here today- to tell you about the top 30 Atari Jaguar games that you must play. The games on my list have been selected after considering various qualifying factors such as graphics, popularity, innovation, etc.
After the Jaguar was released, Atari designed a CD-ROM attachment that slotted into its cartridge slot. The cartridges themselves looked very different from SNES/ Genesis cartridges. You had this handle-like appendage on the top, which made each Jaguar cartridge look like the top of a Japanese temple.
Plus, the console itself is sleek and stylish. It has a low-profile, curved shape that’s reminiscent of a sports car with all the red accents and angular vents. But enough about the console itself, let’s take a look at its games, shall we?
Without a doubt, the best game on Atari Jaguar. Wolfenstein 3D is possibly the best shooter of the early 90s, next only to DOOM. I mean, what other game lets you kill mecha Hitler in a fortified Nazi dungeon that’s also filled with cyborg super soldiers and zombie dogs?
While Wolfenstein 3D might not be the first FPS game ever (that honor goes to MIDI Maze), it’s certainly the most influential one. Thanks to games such as Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, we got GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64. If you choose to play this game today via emulation, there are tons of fan-made mods that add new levels and skins.
What’s unique about this version of Doom? For starters, it wasn’t published by id Software. Instead, Atari took it upon themselves to publish this next-generation shooter.
Maps look different from the PC version, and there are no “episodes”. Instead, the entire game is one continuous event without any dialogue sections. Another massive change (a downgrade in my opinion) is the lack of music during gameplay (the main menu and loading screens still have music).
If you love retro games and intrested in Atari Games as well than you must check out my other list Top 60 All-time Atari 2600, 5200, 7800 Games That You Must Play
Despite the name, this isn’t a racing game with flying cars. Instead, it’s a shooter with military hovercrafts that roam within open-ended levels while destroying enemy vehicles and buildings. At the start of each level, you’re given a mission briefing.
There are a total of 32 stages connected by teleportation gates. And you will occasionally face bosses who have increased health/ damage along with special attacks. Your vehicle is equipped with autocannons, shotguns, and smoke launchers for defense.
Rayman is an interesting game because it was released right on the edge of our transition from 2D to 3D consoles. Just a few years later, PlayStation users would get games such as Crash Bandicoot and Ape Escape. So, why did Rayman sell so many copies even during the late 90s?
Well, it’s got an interesting, quirky, and fun main character. Combine that with high-quality graphics (for the time), and you have an experience that’s nothing like the old 2D platformers. Plus, Rayman can use a bunch of special powers that make gameplay feel much more dynamic than something like Mario.
If you love retro games and are interested in SNES Games as well then you must check out my other list Top 50 All-Time SNES (Super Nintendo) Games That You Must Play
Back in the 2D era, we had side-scrolling and vertically-scrolling shooters. There were also top-down shooters, which gave you a wide overview of the battlefield and access to various weapons.
But Tempest 2000 is very different from any other shooter of its era due to how fast the game plays. There is no wide-open map or scrolling background. Instead, you’re put into a tube with lanes that are filled with enemies.
And your spacecraft can switch between lanes in the blink of an eye. The game also has an excellent soundtrack. Occasionally, you get powerups and unique enemy types to diversify the action.
Alien vs Predator
Hey, do you remember that Alien vs. Predator movie we got back in the early 2000s? It wasn’t exactly a box-office hit, but I quite liked the action sequences in that movie. Anyways, the movie itself was inspired by a comic book series that came out in 1989.
Plus, I believe the creators of that movie also played this game which was developed based on characters from the comic book. You can play as the Predator, Alien, or a random Colonial Marine. Each character has a different play style, with access to unique weapons.
If you love retro games and are interested in GBA Games as well then you must check out my other list Top 50 All-Time GBA (Gameboy Advance) Games That You Must Play
This game is about squads of worms taking out each other with all sorts of weapons ranging from mortars and bazookas to flamethrowers. In Worms, you control a team, and the objective is to annihilate your enemy using all available means.
The levels in this game are randomized, although they tend to follow some sort of basic template (Martian hellscape, skyline, beach, junkyard). Combat is turn-based, with ballistic trajectories for certain weapons (similar to Scorched Earth).
Towers II: Plight of the Stargazer
Atari originally released their Falcon PC’s first Towers game (Lord Bannif’s Deceit). It was a fairly well-received RPG, loved by both critics and gamers for making several innovative game design choices. Towers II builds on these concepts, resulting in one of the best console RPGs of the early 90s.
The gameplay is similar to Ultima Underworld, with large, open-ended dungeons populated with enemies and treasures. Towers II plays from the first-person view and uses pre-rendered 3D sprites. You can interact with NPCs and objects in your environment through menu options on the HUD.
It’s the future, and everyone has colonized space to fulfill their needs for expansion and resources. From these efforts, seven leading civilizations have emerged that constantly fight against each other for control of territories.
Each of these seven civilizations has chosen one of their best fighter pilots to engage in combat within the BattleSphere, which is a special zone reserved for arena-style combat between fighters in their spaceships. Each of the seven races has three spaceship types. Depending on which one you choose, you’ll receive various bonuses and special moves.
Before talking about the SE (special edition), let’s take a look at the original Protector. This game is a horizontally-scrolling space shooter released for the Jaguar in 1999. It’s one of the best-looking 2D games ever created, thanks to its beautiful backgrounds and highly detailed sprites.
You fly low to the ground in your fighter aircraft while trying to save humans on a space colony from being abducted by aliens. Your main goal is to blow up as many enemy aircraft as possible while saving people. The SE version adds new levels, enemy types, and landscapes (along with some tweaks to the combat system).
If you’ve ever played a BattleTech/ MechWarrior game, you’ll immediately get an idea of what this game is all about. In a way, it’s similar to the urban levels of BattleTech, in which you pilot giant mechs around a city.
However, the story is very basic, and mech designs are quite unremarkable. Despite those shortcomings, the game stands out from other Atari Jaguar titles due to its use of real 3D graphics (not prerendered sprites).
This game was originally released as an arcade shooter by Midway in 1981. You might know Midway from some of their other famous products such as Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, etc. Gorf stands for “Galactic Orbiting Robot Force” and is one of the first games to use synthetic speech for dialogue.
Gorf takes heavy inspiration from previous shooters like Galaxian and Space Invaders (two out of its five levels are based on the aforementioned games). The major difference between Gorf and something like Space Invaders is the fact that your character can move in all directions (not just along a fixed horizontal axis).
From a technical/ game development standpoint, Highlander is one of the most impressive action-adventure games to release on Jaguar. It uses prerendered 3D levels with polygonal characters (as well as high-quality FMV cutscenes). Highlander is set in a post-apocalyptic world where your hero is on a mission to save the Dundee clan from a maniacal cult of goons who enslave innocent people.
Black Ice\White Noise
The game I’m referring to as Black Ice\White Noise was never released on Jaguar. It started out as one of the most ambitious projects ever, slated to have a pseudo-3D cyberpunk world with multiple cities. If this game were to release as planned, it would have been like playing GTA III… 5 years before GTA III.
Developmental issues and mismanagement caused multiple delays, eventually leading to Atari canceling the project. At one point, this game was even going to get a movie adaptation (clearly, that didn’t work out either). You can still see gameplay footage from what little was developed of the game and get an idea of how awesome the finished product could have been.
Not to be confused with “Super Breakout” which is another famous Atari game. Super Burnout is a racing game in which you ride Grand Prix bikes on exotic race tracks. Locations include the USA, Brazil, Hungary, Germany, etc.
The gameplay is smooth and visually satisfying, thanks to pre-rendered 3D sprites that also scale depending on the distance. Super Burnout feels fast and exciting, mainly due to its good framerate and graphical effects. Your bike doesn’t take damage upon crashing, but it will spill engine oil which can cause tires to spin out.
The Jaguar was supposed to be a revolutionary home video game console, which is why Atari had planned so many cool accessories for it. One of those was the “Pro Controller” which added extra face buttons along with a couple of shoulder buttons. Most games don’t take advantage of the extra buttons or triggers, but Ruiner Pinball does.
You can use the triggers to shake up the board. Ruiner Pinball has two different board designs, each with a unique theme and backstory. You also get different objectives and game mechanics depending on the chosen table.
NBA Jam: Tournament Edition
Back in the 90s, this was THE go-to game for basketball and NBA fans due to its realistic gameplay and graphics. In fact, Midway used digitized photos of actual players for its character sprites. And the animations were really smooth too.
Tournament Edition adds a special “Tournament Mode” on top of the regular two v two modes. You also get Tim Kitzrow (legendary voice actor for various sports games) as your in-game announcer. New player characteristics are incorporated into the gameplay, and substitutions are allowed during matches.
Missile Command 3D
It’s like the original Missile Command, except this time you get 3D graphics. And interestingly, this is one of the few games to ship with built-in support for Atari’s proposed Virtual Reality accessory. Which sadly never got released due to underperforming sales figures of the Jaguar.
But is the game any fun? Absolutely, if you loved the original, you’re going to love this one too. It doesn’t do anything revolutionary but feels more exciting and intuitive thanks to the 3D graphics (plus, there are now multiple planets with larger individual levels).
Cannon Fodder is a mix of strategy and shooting action, with some satirical parody of big military establishments mixed in. Cannon Fodder is pretty unique in that your troops kill enemies with just one shot, and the same applies to them. Hence, you have to be very careful with your movements (especially when everyone has automatic weapons).
Sometimes, the enemies will be moving around in armored vehicles or helicopters. You also have to watch out for missile launchers and grenades that affect a large area. Certain buildings act as barracks, constantly producing enemy troops (you can destroy these with explosives).
Flashback: The Quest for Identity
The game is one of the earliest cinematic story-driven science fiction games. Flashback is a game about body-morphing aliens who are trying to replace humans. Conrad, the protagonist, records a message for himself detailing the situation and what needs to be done.
But the aliens get to him and wipe out his memory, which causes Conrad to flee. If you find your old tape recording, it tells you where to go next. Along the way, you’re attacked by both humans and aliens.
Prior to the release of this game, its developer, Seibu Kaihatsu, had designed a shooter called Dynamite Duke, which failed to meet sales expectations. Hence the original arcade cabinets for Raiden were designed with cheaper hardware. Despite this fact, it became extremely popular due to its innovative graphics and sound design.
The game is set in a futuristic timeline, where aliens have invaded Earth. You’re part of a 2-man crew operating special fighter aircraft equipped with lasers and bombs. The Jaguar version doesn’t look as good as its arcade cousin but is still quite fun.
Iron Soldier 2
Remember the innovative true 3D mecha action game Iron Soldier? Well, here’s the sequel with even more giant robot action. Controls and mission layouts are similar, but you can choose from a larger range of weaponry before getting inserted into combat.
If you have the cartridge version, there is no gameplay music (presumably due to memory restrictions). The difficulty is higher increased compared to Iron Soldier 1, and robot models (as well as environmental details) have been improved.
Unlike most traditional shooters or action-platformers, your character isn’t very good at his job. Lester is a scientist accidentally trapped in another world due to an accidental experiment. And now, Lester must evade getting captured by the alien race (while also hiding from wild creatures).
At the start, you can’t do much other than jump and run. Eventually, you get your hands on a laser pistol, and one of the alien natives starts helping you. There is no HUD, tutorial, or mission map- you’re going to figure everything out as you play.
Nintendo kickstarted the whole Kart racing genre with Mario Kart, and everyone from Sega to Atari was trying to come up with their own version. Atari Karts is similar in theme to Mario Kart but has different priorities. Battle and time trial mechanics are absent, allowing for a more casualized driving experience.
You unlock new challenges by completing a set amount of races across multiple tracks. There’s a Miracle Race event in which you go up against a boss character. Who, if defeated, is unlocked along with his vehicle as a playable character.
About three years before this game’s release in 1997, Atari had released another product with the exact same name and similar gameplay for their ST computer. This is a remake and one of the last games ever to be developed for Jaguar before it was discontinued. Zero 5 is a shooter with several gameplay modes.
You have free-form missions where your fighter can move in any direction and use a wide range of weaponry. There are also on-rail segments in which you move along a fixed path, pivoting to shoot your gun turret at charging enemies. A super high-speed mode is also available in which you fly your fighter inside the enemy mothership, within extremely tight spaces.
Sometime in the near future, a giant asteroid will strike Earth and renders most of its surface uninhabitable. After several volcanoes, ice ages, and tsunamis, humanity manages to claw back from the jaws of extinction. And during the same time, a race of primordial superhuman warriors emerge from the planet’s crust, forming their own clans.
Humans worship these beings as all-powerful deities. Rival creatures fight each other to protect their turf and take over new areas. It all culminates in Mortal Kombat-style fights within an arena to see who’s the toughest.
The game is a sequel to Zool, with the same platforming gameplay. It has a couple of new characters and storylines, with more detailed levels and hidden secrets. You can play as Zool or Zooz, and both are equipped with different types of weaponry and attacks.
Zooz is the female counterpart to Zool, and she wields a whip for close-quarters combat. Zool uses projectiles and can destroy different parts of the map compared to Zooz, allowing both to take unique routes through the same levels.
Evolution: Dino Dudes
This is a game with many names. On Amiga, it’s called The Humans. The Lynx version is called “Dino-Olympics”.
No matter which version of the game you play, gameplay and story remain unchanged. You try to control a group of prehistoric cavemen, maneuvering them across several levels that are filled with traps and enemies. Some of these enemies are dinosaurs who can be killed.
Power Drive Rally
Possibly one of the earliest racing games on any console that focused exclusively on rallying. Most racers of that time were about tarmac racing and Grand Prix stuff (or street racing). Power Drive Rally features officially licensed vehicles from Vauxhall, Fiat, BMC, Renault, and Toyota.
The top-down perspective lets you get a better view of upcoming turns and bumps. One of the cool things about tracks in this game is that they have their own unique weather status, which affects handling dynamics.
An early 3D shooter in which you fly a fighter aircraft on various planets while collecting pods and shooting down enemies. The aircraft can’t be upgraded, but you’ll get powerups along the way that boost defense and offense. Along with you for the ride is Skylar- an artificial intelligence system that warns you if you fly too recklessly.
Atari’s swansong console was meant to compete with Nintendo’s SNES and Sega’s Genesis. However, something went really wrong because the Jaguar was discontinued in 1996. That’s three years after release, with a small game library comprised of just 50 games.
Clearly, people weren’t very interested in this console. The fault lay with Atari’s game library- most of the 50 games released for Jaguar were mediocre at best. The console was notoriously hard for developers to work with, and many couldn’t leverage its full potential.
Atari’s marketing campaign is also to blame for depicting the Jaguar as something it was not. This console wasn’t “next-gen”, but it was an excellent rival to SNES and Genesis. However, it was also released 3 to 4 years after the SNES and Genesis.
Too little, too late is the best phrase to describe Atari’s Jaguar. They had an excellent run with the Atari 2600, which was revolutionary for its time in the late 1970s. But the Jaguar was just not good enough, especially when people knew that the N64 and PS1 were just around the corner.
Then, there’s the controller, which was notorious for being clunky with a weird phone-style number pad attached to the bottom. The D-pad felt stiff and shallow, which didn’t help in shooter games. However, some games like Iron Soldier did make good use of the number pad.