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7800 vs. XEGS: which would you prefer?

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I know, I know, another dumb Versus Thread. :P But hear me out:

For Christmas I got myself some carts for both systems, and this week I set them both up in my game room to play around with them. And it got me thinking: both the Atari 7800 and XEGS were supposed to be answers to the NES and SMS, but in a way they also sort of competed with each other. And while the "7800 vs. NES vs. SMS" horse has been beaten into pulpy wet dog food by now, it made me wonder which of the two Atari systems I would have wanted or preferred if I was getting a new system in '87-89 and for some hypothetical reason Nintendo and Sega (or even something like a Commodore 64) were off the table.

I can't really say which I'd have preferred at the time because I would have been only 2-4 years old in 1987-89 (FWIW when I was 5-6, I loved both the NES and C64), and even now it would be tough for me to pick just one, but I tried to break it down into what IMO are each systems' pros and cons:

Atari 7800 Pros:
-Better graphics
-2600 compatibility
-Unique, exclusive, or otherwise current titles began to appear after a few years
-Better pack-in game

Atari 7800 Cons:
-Small library
-Not enough new/contemporary titles (too many rehashes of old games)
-2600 sound

Atari XEGS Pros:
-Expandable into XE computer system (flexibility)
-400/800/XL compatibility (huge library)
-POKEY sound
-More pack-in games

Atari XEGS Cons:
-No truly exclusive games (all games also run on XL/XE computers)
-Almost zero new/contemporary titles (all the games are old, and with few exceptions, are not even updated versions like the 7800's retreads)
-Single-button controller

(Note: most of the cons for either system may be non-issues if you're a small child, haven't played too many videogames yet, or otherwise don't have much frame of reference.)

So, if you were back in the late '80s and you were looking at the 7800 and XEGS in the store, which would you go with?

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I think for me it probably would have been the 7800. I think the newer games with more functionality (two button functions) and the backwards compatibility with the 2600 would have done it for me. I was/is a 2600 fan.

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If I had to choose only one, it would be the XEGS. Despite more limited visuals, it's pretty hard to ignore the computer side of the equation and the vastly larger overall library. While I think the two button thing on the 7800 is a plus, the fact that they were married to substandard controllers really negates that for me.

 

And while I wouldn't necessarily consider it a plus, the XEGS did have a pack-in light gun as well. It was actually a pretty substantial overall value relatively speaking.

 

Perhaps if the 7800 had some truly must-play exclusives, I could give it points for getting "fresher" games, but there's not really a lot there to tip the balance in any way for me.

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7800... on top of some great regular releases, don't forget about the incredible homebrews!

 

Already knew the XEGS was a dinosaur at launch, but at least the 7800 is a little less so. :lol:

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...don't forget about the incredible homebrews!

In the late '80s?! :-o

 

:P

 

So, if you were back in the late '80s and you were looking at the 7800 and XEGS in the store, which would you go with?

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Back in the day, I know exactly which one I would have gone for: the 7800.

 

Reasons:

1. I had the 2600. My step-brother had the 5200. The 7800 would have been the next logical choice.

2. I had no idea the XEGS existed.

 

These days? Well, it might be more of a tossup.

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XEGS would be my vote also, then and now, for all the reasons Bill stated. The 7800's two-button controllers could have worked with the XEGS in two-button mode if the software supported it, but even on the 7800 they were only supported by some of the games, and the 7800's library (excluding 2600 games) is pretty small to begin with. Plus, as Bill said, neither the CX-78 joysticks nor the joypads are especially good controllers; the XEGS, on the other hand, gave you many more controller choices (the Wico sticks, the Epyx 500XJ, the TAC-2, the Competition Pro, etc), all of which are more pleasant to use even though they're limited to one button.

 

The 7800 can do some things graphically that the XEGS cannot, but the XEGS has it beat in just about every other category (more RAM, much better sound, more expandability, native composite output, etc). When you look at the size and variety and overall quality of the 400/800 computer game library, the XEGS is a much better value. That's especially true now that we have mass storage solutions like the SIO2SD and the MyIDE cartridge, which make those games easier to use than ever.

 

I think I still have a good sense of what I would have liked or disliked as a kid, and I will admit that I would have been tempted by the 7800 in the late 80s because it was unknown to me at that time. But I had already been playing games on the Atari 800 for years, so once I learned what the 7800 and XEGS were, I'm pretty certain I still would have chosen the XEGS.

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In the late '80s?! :-o :P

Oh, *only* talking about late 80's, my bad ...yeah, would have still gone with the 7800 between the two. Would have been attracted to the greater potential of the machine.

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They both have great versions of Joust.

 

Back then as a kid, Id have been suckered into "Video games", and the 7800 certainly is more "gamey". If I was an adult back then, I'd have likely grabbed the XE.

 

As it actually happened, I received an XE in place of a NES one year as a kid. It took me a long time to get over that.

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As it actually happened, I received an XE in place of a NES one year as a kid. It took me a long time to get over that.

Was it any consolation that the XE had Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, and Donkey Kong Jr.? :-D

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Was it any consolation that the XE had Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, and Donkey Kong Jr.? :-D

Absolutely NONE! I was a good kid though, I think, and I hid my disappointment pretty well, and hey, it was NEW video games....I only had a 2600 until then.

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Back in the day, I know exactly which one I would have gone for: the 7800.

 

Reasons:

1. I had the 2600. My step-brother had the 5200. The 7800 would have been the next logical choice.

2. I had no idea the XEGS existed.

 

These days? Well, it might be more of a tossup.

 

 

Same with me. I don't think I knew Atari had made any computers until the late 90s when the internet came around. For that fact I didn't hardly even know they made the 5200 and 7800. I knew about the 5200 in the late 80s or early 90s but that was only because my cousin had one. But I don't think I knew about the 7800 until later. Maybe also not until the internet came around. I guess that goes to show you that Atari marketing really was sub-par.

Edited by briwayjones
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Well back in the 80's I had an an atari 2600, but I drooled of the Atari XEGS even when I had an NES. I thought it looked super cool more than anything! Funny things I don't recall ever thinking to myself saying I want that when looking at the 7800.

 

As just an overall game machine the the 7800 would have probably been better a game machine.

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At the time I'd have preferred a 7800, because it was the newest and had better graphics, and when you're in the midst of a console generation, you're still thinking about what the future might bring to that system. The XEGS probably seemed like kind of a dead end, although I don't remember that well how I thought about it at the time. I know I never even considered buying one or asking anyone for one as a gift, though. I probably thought it was the last gasp of the 8 bit line, with no future.

 

Now, though, if I had to choose one I'd probably prefer an XEGS assuming I didn't already have an Atari 8 bit (which I do). Overall the XEGS has a better library, even if you count the 7800's compatibility with the 2600. I just don't think most 2600 games have aged very well, and most 7800-exclusive games aren't great either. The 8 bit computer games have aged better.

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Absolutely NONE! I was a good kid though, I think, and I hid my disappointment pretty well, and hey, it was NEW video games....I only had a 2600 until then.

Haha, that sucks. I know Bug Hunt would have been pretty cold comfort if I was hoping for Duck Hunt. :) (And FWIW Mario Bros. is one of the best games for the XEGS!)

 

On a sort of related note, in the late '90s I wanted a Nintendo 64 but couldn't get one. I had a Game Boy Color, though, so I got some games like Turok 2 and NFL Blitz that were ported down from the N64. And although they were clearly not even in the same ballpark, it was still cool to have "N64 games" even in some vastly stripped-down form. :-D

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Well back in the 80's I had an an atari 2600, but I drooled of the Atari XEGS even when I had an NES. I thought it looked super cool more than anything! Funny things I don't recall ever thinking to myself saying I want that when looking at the 7800.

 

As just an overall game machine the the 7800 would have probably been better a game machine.

I was in a similar situation however I owed a SMS (which I chose over the NES). I remember seeing the XEGS at Children's Palace (now there is a place that doesn't exist anymore). I too drooled over the idea of a video game system that was also a computer. I remember playing on my cousin's 800XL just a few years earlier and wanted to be able to play some of the same games. Never did get an XEGS back in the day (I was only allowed one game system at that time), but I did end up with one around 2000 and it is my favorite Atari 8-bit computer. The SMS came out first, but if I didn't have the SMS when I did, I would have picked the XEGS (even over the NES).

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XEGS Expandability ...at what cost? There were many other, more capable computers by 1988.

 

7800 all the way. Arcade ports, backwards compatible with 2600, cheap.

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Let's see...in 1988 I was in college and using an Apple //c, AppleWorks, and an ImageWriter. I didn't own any videogame system and didn't want one (the last one I'd owned was the 5200, which I got rid of in favor of a 400, which I got rid of in favor of a 1200XL, which I got rid of in favor of the Apple //c).

 

If I had to choose either the 7800 or the XEGS at the time, I probably would have chosen the XEGS so I could play Star Raiders again. I missed that game a lot.

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I'd go with the 7800 but only slightly. When I compare the arcade ports on each system like Asteroids, Joust, Dig Dug, etc, the 7800 to me plays and looks slightly to vastly better. Asteroids is a good example. The 7800 version may be my favorite port whereas the 8-bit port is mediocre at best. And my favorite 7800 game - Food Fight - is a choppy horrible mess on the XEGS.

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Lots of interesting responses so far. The results are much closer than I anticipated, as well.

Thinking about how I would answer this, the closest I can do is take my 5-year old self and move him back a year or two to put me in that ~1988 timeframe. As a 5-year-old, I had only seen a few games and certainly couldn't appreciate any technological differences between different systems.

So my choice, in all honesty, probably would have had nothing at all to do with the pros and cons of the systems themselves. I loved old airplanes and Snoopy the World War I flying ace and The Flying Tigers (starring John Wayne; I'd watch the VHS tape every time I went to my grandpa's house) and books about early aircraft. I was even mesmerized by the ceiling fan section at Menard's (a regional hardware/home improvement store in WI) as they reminded me of airplane propellers. So, I think I would have gone with the XEGS simply for Blue Max. The 7800 didn't really have anything like it (Desert Falcon came the closest but it wasn't airplanes), and its flight-sim games like F-18, Super Huey, and Ace of Aces would have been way over my head.

(In my actual life, Blue Max on the Commodore is one of the first games I remember ever playing, and it hooked me.)

Today, I think the 7800 and XEGS complement each other pretty beautifully. I'm glad I don't have to choose one over the other. :-D But if I did, I might have to go with the 7800, if for no other reason than to complete the 2600-5200-7800 trilogy. It has pretty good ports of Commando, Ikari Warriors, and Xenophobe, and I have a 400, 800, 600XL, and 800XL. So, yeah. :P

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I owned an 800XL with disk drive through the late 80s, and I know that system has some spectacular games, so I would assume much the same with the XEGS.

 

On the other hand, I think the 7800 has somewhat better graphics, and some unique games - especially with all the new homebrews.

 

I think if I had to choose, I'd get a 7800.

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I grew up on 800xl, and loved the thing.

I loved it so much, for a few years straight, I was asking Santa for a shiny new 7800 out of the christmas catalog, because folks kept the same old catalog around every year. It wasn't just at the top of my xmas list, it WAS my list. They didn't get me one, but as an adult do now see why.

 

Little Reaperman clearly felt the 7800 was a huge upgrade. 'Dem graffix' were really smoking and it had hot new games like Double Dragon that I wanted but couldn't play on my A8. Little reaperman never heard the system in action, and he really had no idea how constricting the concept of 'game console' was compared to what he was used to.

 

Big Reaperman feels the exact opposite about those systems, since the XE sounds better, has FAR more controller options, has way more complex/varied game playstyles, video quality was on a different planet, and it boasted library more than double the size of all the mainstream 8-bit consoles combined which were generally...*ahem* "free."

Edited by Reaperman
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From the perspective of someone in the late 80's when these systems were current I would have gone with the 7800. It had better graphics therefore had the potential to have the same kind of new games that were becoming popular at the time on the NES and Master System. Platformers like Super Mario and Alex Kidd, action adventure games like Zelda and Golvellius, and RPGs like Final Fantasy and Phantasy Star. Those were the sort of games that most gamers wanted in the late 80's and the Atari 7800 had more potential to deliver them than the XEGS.

 

Of course now in 2017 we have the benefit of hindsight and know all the games that both the 7800 and XEGS ended up getting, and we know that the 7800 never lived up to the potential that buyers in the 80's were probably hoping for. That doesn't make it a a bad system though, as long as you're a fan of arcade games. The 7800 did fall woefully short in the platformer, action adventure, and RPG departments but it did have one of the best libraries of 8-bit home console ports of arcade games back then; and it still does to this day.

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At that time, I owned 2600, C64, and SMS. I likely would have gone for the XEGS since I favored my C64 then.

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