Atari 2600's Long-Lost Tarzan Game Swings In 40 Years Later To Challenge Pitfall

Screenshot of Tarzan for the Atari 2600.
Some four decades ago, developers of the game Tarzan for the ColeVision console were ready to release a version for the Atari 2600, but it never saw the light of day. Why? Crummy timing, for the most part—the infamous video game crash of 1983 upended the industry for a spell, and games like Tarzan fell by the wayside. Until now, that is.

It's still not released in cartridge form, but thanks to the joint efforts of a collector who goes by Rob "AtariSpot", who bought a working copy from an ex-ColecoVision employee a couple of years ago, and Thomas Jentzsch, an Atari homebrew programmer, the long lost game in Atari 2600 form is now preserved as a ROM file at Additionally, there's a modified version that can run on emulators or flash carts. Here's a few minutes of gameplay footage...

As chronicled by the Video Game History Foundation, the original Tarzan game was announced for ColecoVision at the 1983 Winter Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Following the debut on ColecoVision, the plan was to release a port for the Atari 2600 not long after. However, it was ultimately cancelled, even though development on the port was finished.

The port was one of several gaming casualties of the era. Part of what makes Tarzan stands out, however, is not only was it a finished product, but it was a bit of a technical feat. Developers had to get creative with more complex games for the Atari 2600, some of which used a method called "bank switching" to sidestep the console's hardware limitations—the Atari 2600 was limited to seeing 4 kilobytes of memory at any given moment, but as the name implies, bank switching allowed the console to switch from one 4KB bank to another as needed.

Tarzan for the Atari 2600 is a 12KB game. It doesn't possess the same graphical fidelity of the ColecoVision version and it's missing some gameplay aspects, but it's still an impressive (for the time period) achievement and a fairly large title (even on the easiest difficulty setting) with more to do and more elements than many games of the era.

From this author's vantage point, it looks a little like a cross between Pitfall and Jungle Hunt, with a tinge of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's a shame that it never released to retail on the Atari 2600 back in the day, but hey, better later than never.

The Video Game History Foundation gets into the weeds of Tarzan's original development and the preservation 40 years later, which is worth a read. And if you want to check it out for yourself, you can find the ROM at There's also a discussion at the AtariAge forum, where Jentzsch is active.