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The Atari 5200: Why bother?


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#26 wood_jl OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012 7:24 PM

Forgive me for having a dissenting opinion.


There's very little brought to the table with the 5200. HUGE hunk of a console with TROUBLESOME, EXPENSIVE controllers. That's the non-subjective part. Now the subjective part: (I said subjective, people; please "get it" that I did) TERRIBLE controllers! The non-centering stick lends itself POORLY to games like Pacman, which was a pack-in title, for crying out loud!

If the controllers didn't suck, then not only would it not have a huge (and clearly demonstrable) reputation as for such, but pages like this wouldn't exist......

http://www.best-elec...ca.com/5200.htm

Clearly such pages DO exist, and if you'll spend a little time, you'll see that......

Upgraded Best Electronics Atari CX52 Joystick with New Lifetime Gold Metal Dot Silicone Pads and Gold Flex Circuit $38 + Gold Surcharge (Out right buy, No Exchange / Core required)
We have a Flat rate shipping charge for US / Domestic shipped Atari CX52 reconditioned Joysticks. $11.15 Priority Mail plus $2.35 Insurance for 1 or 2 CX52 Joysticks.


I understand that you can rebuild your own with parts from the website (you can spend the time and add them up by looking at that very page) but the fact remains that not everybody is going to be willing/able to dive into something as complex (for a game controller, no less) as the 5200 controller. This is no 2600 or 8-bit joystick. Not everyone is going to want to box up "cores" and mail them in. The simple operation is just "get me some joysticks that aren't pieces of shit, that do work" and such is the price for a pair: $38 + $38 + $11.15 + $2.35 + "gold surcharge" (whatever that is). So that's $89.50 so far, and we don't know what the "gold surcharge" is. Somebody call and find out!!

So now, for nearly $100, we have 2 working controllers. We haven't even begun to purchase the system yet. There isn't a 5200 in the wild that has controllers that work anymore. I distinctly remember the Atari dealer in 1985 couldn't keep 5200 controllers and parts in stock. So you KNOW when you get a 5200, you're going to have to do SOMETHING to fix the controllers. That's the biggest problem with the system.

Now, we're almost to the $100 mark, and we haven't even purchased the system or any games. If you do get a system, you'll be stuck with RF output. If you were lucky (nobody's selling new ones right now) you could get a $45 (or more) composite/s-video mod.

Or get an Atari 8-bit computer, use cheap/ubiquitous 2600 joysticks, and plug in composite video. Plug in a peripheral emulator (SIO2SD, Sdrive, SIO2PC) and unlock an entire world of games that are one torrent mouse-click away, that aren't even possible on the 5200. I know people like the 5200 and and will justify it, but it would be fun to see what I have said disproved. I agree with the title of the thread, and have provided at least some justification.

edit: furthermore, check Fandal's site and see 5200 games that have been converted over to 400/800/XL/XE

edit again: and there's no fabulous A8 Donkey Kong on 5200 so that bags it for me already....


edit #3: Surcharge is $5/controller so for a pair, right at the $century mark Now price an A8 computer and 2600 joysticks.

Edited by wood_jl, Mon Feb 13, 2012 7:29 PM.


#27 Mirage OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012 7:36 PM

Well, James, look at it like this. There are several great titles on the 5200 that take advantage of the analog controllers in such a way that they would not at all be the same without them. Primarily Space Dungeon and Robotron. Say you spend the $100 on the Gold controllers, then say you pick up a 5200 with some games off CL including those 2 for $50 (it happens), for a hypothetical situation just to make a point. Now you have $75 each into 2 awesome games. Lots of people spend a lot more than that on much crappier games.

But my real point would be that your argument seems to hinge on how much a setup would cost. I think that's a separate issue. Unless someone gets real lucky, yeah, the 5200 is an expensive system to obtain. But I don't think that should have a thing to do with deciding whether it's a good system or not.

Unless the unique appeal that the 5200 has is really important to a person, like it is for me, then an A8 is really the better (and certainly cheaper for a gamer downloading content), absolutely. I'd recommend an A8 over a 5200 to most people, actually. Doesn't mean it's not a great system though!

#28 AtariLeaf ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:00 PM

I can play Robotron on my 800XL with two Wico sticks and it plays fantastic. I can't see how using the clumsy 5200 POS controllers could possibly do a BETTER job of controlling the action.
Most have already voiced the reasons the 5200 is a waste of money and space and why the A8's are much better alternatives so I won't pile on. Sorry, I don't care for it, never have and never will.

I also prefer the tiny XL/XE carts over the massive 5200 carts, which are clearly trying to compensate for something. :P

#29 Mirage OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:02 PM

I can play Robotron on my 800XL with two Wico sticks and it plays fantastic. I can't see how using the clumsy 5200 POS controllers could possibly do a BETTER job of controlling the action.
Most have already voiced the reasons the 5200 is a waste of money and space and why the A8's are much better alternatives so I won't pile on. Sorry, I don't care for it, never have and never will.

I also prefer the tiny XL/XE carts over the massive 5200 carts, which are clearly trying to compensate for something. :P


Yeah, that's cool, to each their own! Like I said, the appeal that the 5200 has that is different from the A8 just won't be seen by some, and that's fine.

Again, I agree that if I could only have one, or could only recommend one or the other to someone, it would be the A8 over the 5200. BUT... and here's the big BUT... I can have both. So I will enjoy both. Because they aren't exactly the same.

Edited by Mirage, Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:02 PM.


#30 AtariLeaf ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:11 PM

If I ever find a 5200 I might pick it up for display purposes only because I'm not spending any money to refurb controllers that I can't stand using in the first place. Side buttons have always been a big no no for me (same reason I hate 7800 proline sticks)

Yes it is to each their own and I won't disparage anyone who likes or enjoys it. I just could never and can never understand the appeal of choosing it over the cooler looking (I think) 800XL and its much wider range of gaming possibilities.

#31 Chris++ OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:29 PM

...the cooler looking (I think) 800XL and its much wider range of gaming possibilities.

Do I sense another possible Closer Look film? :D :thumbsup:

#32 Bryan OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:59 PM

I don't see any reason to pit the 5200 against the A8 because they really are different configurations of the same machine. So if you like chocolate cake, there's no reason not to like chocolate cupcakes too. That also means you don't have to own both to be a fan of the technology they employ.

That doesn't mean I think the 5200 was a well executed strategy on Atari's part...

#33 Ransom OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:59 PM

Now, we're almost to the $100 mark, and we haven't even purchased the system or any games. If you do get a system, you'll be stuck with RF output. If you were lucky (nobody's selling new ones right now) you could get a $45 (or more) composite/s-video mod.


And if you're like me, you'll also spend a few bucks on some plastic polish to get the console back to looking shiny and new, plus a $50 (or whatever it was) for a diagnostics cart so you can make sure it's working perfectly. And then you'll over-spend on buying games that are in boxes that are in near-perfect condition. And then you'll buy a second 5200 console "just in case." And two NIB trak-balls. And, even though you like the 5200 controllers, you'll also buy a Wico controller with a y-adapter just in case you ever need it.

Which is just to say that, yes, it's an expensive system and it can be very expensive if you're obsessive. But it's still one of the best consoles to play. :P

#34 Curious Sofa OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012 9:31 PM

Ack, Ransom hit me right between the eyes. I have a second 5200 "just in case", grrr. I hate being pegged!

I also wanted to mention that wood_jl's scenario is exaggerated highly; I don't see why on earth you would need to get two of the Best electronics controllers; if you get one, you can use another that say doesn't have a working start button, etc. I play Space Dungeon precisely that way. My total cost for one controller with shipping from Best was $45 if I remember right, a couple of years ago. $45 < $100. :) By far. Just don't go scaring people too quickly.

And also, I can't really say why precisely, but I (and likely a lot of others) am a console guy. I had a Vic 20 and a C64 back in the day, but I have NO interest in an 800, just none. Thus, 5200. Lots of stuff out for the 5200 that never came out for 2600 or 7800, or came out in better form for 5200.

I'm not saying everyone has to love it, I'm just saying that we who love it aren't completely out of our minds (necessarily). It's not like being a Cubs fan, or something, or being one of those people that loves something because its many flaws somehow endear it to the owner (IMO Volkswagen owners like my Dad, but that's off topic!). The 5200 isn't everyone's cup of tea, but a reasonable argument can and has been made that it rocks. I don't know which of my Atari consoles I'd keep if I could only keep one, but the 5200 would definitely be a strong contender versus the 2600 and 7800. That says a lot, IMHO.

#35 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012 9:34 PM

Yeah, Ransom pretty much has me pegged, too. I've got two NIB Trak-Ball controllers and a few extra 5200 consoles for spare parts, and I'm planning on getting a second pair of Best joysticks so I can have a full set of four. And don't forget dust covers for the console and Trak-Balls, and a set of box protectors to show off my nicest game boxes ...

I look at it this way: even with "all the fixins" and an SD cartridge, a good 5200 system is still cheaper and more enjoyable in the long run than a PlayStation 3 with a handful of new games. Many of the games in the 5200 library are timeless classics, and because I've got enough spare hardware to keep the consoles and controllers in good shape, I know I'll still be using them many years from now.

#36 DracIsBack OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012 10:31 PM

I had one of these as a kid, but we got it right before the nintendo came out, then all my friends had NES, and I was the kid with the shitty system that no one wanted to play. Maybe it's long lost pent up anger from dealing with that... :)


You need to get ADVENTURE II to help you work through your issues ...

#37 atari5200dude82 OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012 10:35 PM

I like the 5200 system. I think the controllers are more comfortable than the colecovision. The 5200 and the A8 are both nice and unique systems in there own way. I enjoy countermeasure and space dungeon, which is not on the A8.

#38 Cebus Capucinis OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012 10:36 PM

....all that poor solder and plastic.....

#39 theloon OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012 11:29 PM

I have a 5200 and even Adventure II. It stays (barely fitting) in a drawer. It's too big. The joysticks suck. Forget about finding an RF connection in my abode.

The clincher is that there are systems from that era with comparable graphics. It can stay stuffed in my drawers.

That all might change if someone restarts development on 5200BAS. I can dream can't I?

#40 AtariLeaf ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012 5:26 AM


...the cooler looking (I think) 800XL and its much wider range of gaming possibilities.

Do I sense another possible Closer Look film? :D :thumbsup:


LOL, perhaps :D

#41 AtariLeaf ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012 5:37 AM

I like the 5200 system. I think the controllers are more comfortable than the colecovision. The 5200 and the A8 are both nice and unique systems in there own way. I enjoy countermeasure and space dungeon, which is not on the A8.


All the controllers from that era of systems were horrible - Intellivision, 5200, CV, 7800 - it seemed the "more is better" and "bigger is better" mindsets took over. I can't find any of them ergonomically comfortable, but at least for the CV and 7800 there are cheap alternatives. I've got a europad and a couple modded NES pads for the 7800 and a modded Genesis pad for the CV and even then, if they're one button only games, a standard 2600 stick works great. From what I hear, the only 5200 controller options are rare and very pricey.

And I just don't have the room for a 5200 - my gaming shelves wouldn't take the heft of a 5200 since it isn't on a load bearing wall :grin:

#42 LynxVGL OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012 6:44 AM

I almost bit and picked up a 5200 for my collection this year. I was an Atari 8bit computer fan as a kid, and wanted to get new hardware to play some of my favorites (Star Raiders, Fractalus, Ballblazer to name a few). After doing the research on the system, I decided to pass precisely because of the controller upkeep/maintenance/replacement issues. My original Colecovision still is pounding away, and I've never had to replace my controllers. So now for those great 8bit Atari games I'm searching for an XEGS or XL model.

I totally respect modern 5200 owners, for their dedication to keep their systems up and running. I just don't have that kind of time to tinker with my consoles to keep them up and running.

#43 Mirage OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012 6:54 AM

I totally respect modern 5200 owners, for their dedication to keep their systems up and running. I just don't have that kind of time to tinker with my consoles to keep them up and running.


I don't think it really takes any tinkering or time once the controllers are rebuilt or replaced and the TrakBall is calibrated (assuming it even needs calibration). Still, point taken, it's more high-maintenance than many other retro consoles. To make a comparison to car collecting, a 5200 is more like an old British sports car as compared with an old American muscle car, which would be like a 2600 that just can't be killed.

#44 sdamon OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012 9:30 AM

I'll agree that for a newcomer to the Atari 8-bit line, a 800/XL/XE/XEGS would be the simpler, cheaper option over the 5200. I've felt that for years, being a LONG time fan of the computer line. And I'll also agree that the original 5200 controllers are really far from ideal, and that even the Best Electronics "gold" option isn't going to fix some of the worst problems with them (non-self centering stick, side-mounted fire buttons) (As a side note, the tin-foil trick works nearly as well at the B.E. "gold" option, and is much cheaper.) But like many hobbies, sometimes you don't want the simpler, cheaper option Sometimes you want something black, huge, stylish, and shiny, instead of something merely functional looking. Sometimes you want to have a reasonable chance of owning ALL of the original games made for a system. Sometimes you want a large, solid-feeling cartridge with art, instead of a small, plain cart with just text. Sometimes you may want to even to deal with the challenge of finding a control system that works well for you, knowing full well that the stock solution isn't going to cut it.

In short, the Atari 5200 is a system for the enthusiast, the collector, the Atari fanatic.

Edited by sdamon, Tue Feb 14, 2012 9:31 AM.


#45 Ransom OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012 10:02 AM

In short, the Atari 5200 is a system for the enthusiast, the collector, the Atari fanatic.


Very well said.

#46 jetset OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012 10:38 AM

PLENTY of reasons to own a 5200 if you own an 800.
Realsports Baseball* (best classic era bball game)
Countermeasure*
Space Dungeon*
Blueprint *
Gremlins*
Meteorites*
Vanguard*
I know there's a few I'm missing...Homebrews...Koffi? Adventure II ?

Then there's the trakball. The 5200's version is much more durable, much more accurate than any I know of available for the 400/800.
Centipede and Missile Command are MILES better with the 5200 trakball, and even to a lesser degree Galaxian.

Robotron? Playing without a coupler option is insane. It's not even the same game having to fire the same direction you are shooting in!

Then there's games like Defender. The 5200 sticks are PERFECTLY designed for such a game. Try playing in the higher waves and trying to reach for the keyboard to smart bomb or hyperspace, then jump back to the action after having looked away for even a second...see if you aren't dead.

Controllers? Sorry...Only on a few games does just a small amount of practice not allow you to play the game. And really in as much as many games are not suited for free-roaming sticks, plenty are not enjoyable using a stiff, inflexible one. The controller issue goes both ways.

There's also the issue of backwards compatibility (yeah it's a non-issue, but somehow the 5200 is CONSTANTLY berated because it supposedly isn't). With an adapter you can play 2600 games on your 5200. No such option on the 400/800 line that I'm aware of.

All this is not to compare or say the 5200 is better, but there's plenty of reasons to have a 5200 even if you already have a 400/800.

Bottom line is if you are into classic games there are plenty of reasons to own a 5200. From a console standpoint it's the second best of the era behind the king, the 2600.

To say otherwise is your prerogative, and a pretty ignorant one at that. Most of the negativity surrounding the 5200 stems from the controllers. If you aren't at least decent enough to handle an advanced controller and practice and learn on the handful that are a little difficult, your loss.

THE BROTHERHOOD bids you adieu!

#47 Cafeman OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012 10:39 AM


In short, the Atari 5200 is a system for the enthusiast, the collector, the Atari fanatic.


Very well said.


Agreed. If a person sees too much hassle in owning and maintaining a 5200 w/controllers, then feel free to stay away and use the A8 line.

*opens back door to 5200, pulls out analog stick, plugs in, plays analog missile command. smiles. *

Then there's games like Defender. The 5200 sticks are PERFECTLY designed for such a game. Try playing in the higher waves and trying to reach for the keyboard to smart bomb or hyperspace, then jump back to the action after having looked away for even a second...see if you aren't dead.


This is very true and I sometimes forget it. 5200 had Pause, Reset, Start and all those buttons right there on the stick. No more leaning forward to hit reset on a console or hit a key / spacebar on the keyboard. It was all there , right in your hands.

Edited by Cafeman, Tue Feb 14, 2012 11:05 AM.


#48 Mirage OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012 10:48 AM

THE BROTHERHOOD bids you adieu!


Join together my new brother.

#49 AtariLeaf ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012 5:11 PM

Sometimes you want something black, huge, stylish, and shiny


Posted Image

#50 AlvinKarpis OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Feb 14, 2012 5:35 PM

I have a back up 5200 as well

I use my two port to play and I keep my four port in the orignal box

At least I have one of each different kind of 5200




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