Atari Ultra Tank (1978)

Ultra Tank History and Gameplay

Designed by Steve Bristow and developed by Lyle Rains, Tank (Kee Games, 1974) was the original tank combat video game. Each player has a birdseye view of a maze and drives a tank while avoiding mines and shooting at each other. This combat style differentiated the game in a world of pong and driving video games. It was a hit that spurred multiple sequels: Tank II, Tank 8, a bootleg Tankers, and ultimately Ultra Tank in 1978.

To keep earning money on location, operators hacked the original Tank circuit board enhancing the play. Ultra Tank incorporated these hacks into switchable options. In this writer’s opinion, the options are not very compelling as most times a player will select the same barricades, visible tanks, and guided missiles. Additionally, primitive AI made 1-player play possible by battling a “Robot” tank. Unfortunately, the robot is rather dumb and not too hard to beat.

Ultra Tank cabinet

Collector’s Take

As a collector, this game is well worth owning. Imbued in the archetypal Atari aesthetic, this uniquely shaped cab is a striking piece. Essentially Ultra Tank is the arcade version of the extremely popular Combat, but with improved sound, graphics and controls. Its gameplay is instantly recognizable to retro video game enthusiasts and anyone who grew up with an Atari 2600. Finding this bronze age gem could prove to be difficult as this version of Tank is extremely rare.

I obtained this cabinet years ago from another collector in trade, giving up a Vectorbeam Speed Freak to get this and an Elimination, the original version of Quadra Pong. How could I resist getting both the first and last Kee Game? Considering its age, the cabinet, bezel and control panel are in excellent shape. My buddy fixed the board and I capped the monitor.

Video Demos

Two different videos demos included. The first is edited creatively, while the second is shot straight.

Coming out almost four years after the original Tank arcade game, it seemed like the public had its fill of tank games when Ultra Tank was introduced. At this point Kee Games had been fully absorbed by Atari and the game was released by Kee Games in name only. So, let’s hear it for Ultra Tank, the last Kee Game and the last in the Tank series.

Ultra Tank control panel
Ultra Tank control panel

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