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Uncovering the Legendary Buried Atari Games of New Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert

You may’ve heard the story: Atari was so ashamed of the horrible game they released based on the movie E.T.: The Extraterrestrial that in 1983, they buried the existing supply of cartridges at a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico. As the decades passed, the story took on the reputation of an urban legend, and no one knew how much of it was true. What we knew was that the E.T. game was considered the worst video game ever made, and was even blamed for the downfall of Atari. In the last few years, more pieces of the puzzle were uncovered. And games, too.

It wasn’t until April of 2014 that curiosity seekers and fans alike finally uncovered the truth: the urban legend arising from E.T. was at least partially real. While it was claimed that millions of cartridges were buried in the desert landfill, only about 1,300 were ever found. A former Atari manager confirmed that in total, around 728,000 copies of various games that had been deposited there in the days before the original company was split up.

But why was the E.T. game so awful? How badly did it really damage Atari? And what became of the people involved? Get the story behind the buried games at Urban Ghosts, and see pictures of the landfill where they were found.   

(Image credit: Flickr user taylorhatmaker)


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