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30 Years Later, Microsoft Recovers Buried E.T. Atari Cartridges

The first of possibly thousands of Atari E.T. games was recovered from the depths of an old Alamogordo, N.M. landfill, after 31 years of bizarre mythology. Xbox Entertainment Studios and Lightbox Entertainment teamed up to film a documentary specifically based on the fidelity of the urban legend, and at 12:45 MDT today, the truth was unveiled in front of hundreds of onlookers surrounding the landfill.

For those unfamiliar with the E.T. folklore, it all began over 30 years ago after the Atari E.T. game was released and saw a huge decline in sales due to it’s horrible quality after being rushed to the market. Got to love those licensed games, right? The tale concludes with the remaining millions of E.T. Atari games disappearing, many believing them to have been pitched into a random landfill in New Mexico. Many would have scowled at this story or simply laughed it off as it seems highly unlikely if it were last week, but not after today.

Lots of Atari packaging had been unveiled prior to the discovery of the E.T. cartridge, including several cases for the game Centipede. The game was actually in very good condition for having been lodged underground for three decades. Microsoft Studios’ Jeff Rubenstein and Major Nelson took to twitter with their excitement about epic find:

The Atari E.T. game has been regarded as one of the worst video games in history and the model example for what licensed movie games should try to avoid becoming. But even so, this awful game has brought us the most exciting bit of gaming history thus far this year, and that in itself is worth cracking a smiling over.

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  1. elle says:

    this was my favorite game.
    i played it all the time and got ET home.

  2. John T says:

    Yeah, the Indiana Jones game was horrible. I honestly can’t think of a good reason why anyone would want to go to the expense and effort it has taken to dig this stuff up.

  3. Bob Clark says:

    I hated this damn game as a kid! Every time…. I’d get stuck in that pit and couldn’t get out.

  4. Brian says:

    I think I first read about this in Antic magazine, back in the early 80s, and then, again, in Boot magazine in the early 90s. Both publications reported as fact. It’s old new. The only thing that makes this noteworthy is the modern day efforts to exhume a game most remember as being one of the all time worst.

  5. Chris domingo says:

    Et was as bad as many of the 2600 games. Indiana. Jones was on the same level. Or we could it play custars revenge. Porn on an 8 bit system. Oh those were the days

  6. BridYYC says:

    The reason there was centipede was that, in addition to ET being massively over produced, this was also essentially the end of Atari. They supposedly dumped a lot of excess inventory, some 2600 systems included.

  7. Jeremy P says:

    I cant believe no one posted this!

  8. WilHiteWarrior says:

    This is proof that microsoft is pure evil. They intentionally dug up an abomination meant to be sealed away for all time. They unleashed its evil back unto the world.

  9. Ed says:

    I had it when I was 12. I remember beating it.
    It wasn’t THAT bad. It certainly wasn’t the worst game for the 2600. (Or Video Computer System before they gave it numbers)

  10. There is footage from 1983 of a steam roller crushing the games before they put them in to the landfill. If there is not footage there is photos and newspaper stories from then when it went down.
    why are you calling this folklore when it was reported in the news back then and you can find it in any good libraries news paper archives.

  11. Nate Plamondon says:

    I’m not sure why the author kept referring to the burial of the E.T. games as an “urban legend” and made the whole ordeal seem like Microsoft made sone sort of huge discovery as if nobody knew where the Atari landfill really was. It is pretty much common knowledge that can be easily found with a Google search. In fact, about 10 years ago when G4 was still a video game-only channel (remember the original G4?) they had a commercial segment all about 4 guys going out into the desert to find and play E.T. just to see if it really was the worst game ever made. After digging up over 30 copies and playing them all, they came to a unanimous conclusion that, yes, E.T. is a terrible and completely unplayable game.

  12. MasterBlaster says:

    I wouldn’t say it was an urban legend. There was video footage of them dumping them in a Video game documentary on Netflix, The game was programmed by one guy in less than a month and pushed out. And yes, it was a horrible, horrible game. Before ET you could return games that sucked and swap for a different one.

  13. Steve says:

    Seriously? They wasted time & money looking for a bunch of discarded Atari games? Glad I don’t invest in their stock!

  14. Jason says:

    It was bad but so was the raiders of the lost ark game, could never figure that game out.

  15. Hosfac says:

    This game was a work of art compared to Shaq-Fu.

  16. Zach says:

    E.T. wasn’t that bad. It’s become popular to bash it however.

  17. Kavey says:

    Now they have a good solid source for the Windows 9 kernel

  18. Teacher Dave says:

    @ erin fiorini – Stay in school kid because that was the most off-base and moronic comment ever!

  19. John says:

    I still own my Atari 2600. 50 games plus are still in the box next to my plasma tv…lol…God .nothin like et and breakout on a big tv…lmao
    I played my asteroids for hours and flipped 7 times before I got bored again…lol…Beer and Asteroids…Love it!

  20. Brad Kazarian says:

    I find it hard to believe this game is any worse than Robocop for the (original) Xbox.

  21. Shawn says:

    I actually had quite a blast playing the ET

  22. prisoner223 says:




  23. Fred S says:

    Indiana Jones was the worst game of them all hands down.

  24. Jamie says:

    Someone in my family bought it, because I found it in our garage (used as a playroom at one point) some years ago. I assume it was later thrown out.

  25. Keri says:

    Not only do I still have that game I even played it months ago. Seriously it’s sitting on my dresser next to my Atari system right now. I still can’t best it lol

  26. Mike says:

    My mother probably made some of those old games they found in the landfill, she used to work in the Atari factory in El Paso. I used to get all the games before they were sold to the general public.

  27. Johnny says:

    I used to have this game. I recall my brother and I playing that game. Those were the few good days we had. We don’t talk anymore. Haven’t seen each other in many years.

  28. Anon says:

    I say bury Superman 64. That game is much worse.

  29. Tell says:

    Tell that asshole criticizing the writers passive voice to actively burn in hell!

  30. Mushroom says:

    Okay, why is there a Centipede cartridge in the landfill? That was one of the better titles and by no means ‘oversaturated’ like E.T. was.

    Also, I still have my Atari, bought one for my sister per a promise, and have hundreds of titles — and only bought E.T. earlier this year (I had it back in the day) because I didn’t think it was that bad a game, just getting out of those damn pits (and constantly falling back into them) was annoying.

  31. Waldo Zimblatt says:

    Where’s the second part of the story? Where they bury them all again?

  32. Terry says:

    Man, that game was terrible. All I can remember was falling into a pit that you could never escape from.

  33. Ira says:

    You can play an online version of it here…


  34. Fresh says:

    I have played hundreds of games worse than ET…it’s such BS. The game wasn’t that bad, about as fun as most Atari games. I actually read the manual and knew how to play it and could win it. It was like Superman or some other titles where you had to do a set bunch of things to win the game. Sick of media making up these false things, the game isn’t really that bad.

  35. Robert says:

    I’m sad to say I still own my original copy of E.T. For the 2600. That game is AWFUL!!!!

  36. Kit says:

    I actually used to play the ET. I could manage to get ET back home.

  37. Aaron says:

    I had this game, and it was in truth completely broken. There was no real motive made clear, even after reading the manual (remember those?), and worse was that you were constantly chased and had a constantly depleting life meter. And to top it all off, there was this pit you would always fall into and never be able to properly raise yourself out of to get back to the main game because of how buggy it was.

    Also, as an addendum to this urban legend, the video game crash of the ’80s was partially attributed to this disaster of a game, as well as a slew of other Activision titles that were just rushed to market (wait for it)… garbage.

  38. jm5150 says:

    how do i get my hands on one of these buried treasures?

  39. SwanGore says:

    Huh… reminds me of an X-Play episode!

  40. G Smith says:

    I remember this game clearly. I thought it was pretty awesome. you could go around as et and do a few things to help him get back home. most of the game the button was used to stretch his neck and it would make a wierd farting sound. haha. that game rocked to a 9 year old in the 80s.

  41. E.W. Storch says:

    Still have my functioning 2600 and the E.T. game. My brother and I were never able to figure it out.

  42. Amy says:

    My sister and I had it on our Atari WAY back when. I think my mother may still have it somewhere.

  43. erin fiorini says:

    interesting story, but the author needs to write in the active voice more, not passive.

  44. Kevin Caliendo says:

    Who has played that game? Bury them deeper next time!