Americana in Pixel Form: Atari’s 1976 Stunt Cycle


Stunt Cycle in all of its 1976 glory!

It’s hard to say exactly what the first arcade game I played was. In my advancing years I find many of my early memories are tied up in pop culture nostalgia from other sources than just my own memory. I have distinctive memories of playing several black and white arcade games at campground sites, beach resorts, and roller-skating rings during the 1970’s. I would have been somewhere between the age of 5-7 years during this era, and I do remember often being frustrated by either not being tall enough to reach the controls, or just not really understanding how to play any game at this age with any sort of effectiveness. There are however three titles that do stick out in my mind, I remember playing Atari/Kee’s Tank at a campsite with my older brother, I recall (attempting to) play Sprint 2 at a roller ring with my friend Steve, and above all these games I remember playing Stunt Cycle probably at that same skating ring or possibly during a family vacation.


The 70’s Bronze Age era of gaming quickly overtook older EM games, then were overtaken by Golden Age age games themselves

I couldn’t say in my single digit mind why I always found Stunt Cycle so interesting, but it just seemed so cool to me in a pre-Space Invaders and pre-Pac-Man world. The game concept centered around the exploits of a knock-off Evil Knievel motorcycle stunt driver are certainly a time capsule of 70’s pop culture goodness. The only concept that could have been more 1970’s is if Atari had decided to make a Sonny and Cher arcade game of some kind. Stunt Cycle looks cool with its less than functional fake motorcycle handlebars, Spirit of ’76 artwork, and unique three-way split playfield action on the screen.


Collecting pro tip: Own a van

Released only four years after the introduction of Pong, Stunt Cycle was still part of the infancy of arcade coin-op video games. Stunt Cycle’s hardware contains no microprocessor and only one ROM chip to store basic sprite information. The game itself is simplistic and many of the graphical elements of the game are just stickers placed on the monitor screen. Still over 45 years after its release Stunt Cycle can best be described as charming or even perhaps heartwarming to modern players. While many arcade games from the Bronze Age (1972-1978) can come across as primitive and practically unplayable, Stunt Cycle somehow holds up. It’s the great grandfather of other classics such as Nintendo’s Excitebike, or Atari Game’s Hard Drivin’, but it also still plays like some sort of fun if short indie game for your phone.


If you are interested in seeing and hearing more about the history of this cool game, check out my video below where I go into a bit more detail and give a tour of the newest game to the collection.


- Cassandra



193 views2 comments