A GIF of Elliot's animated walking sprite from the Atati game.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Ah, the so called "worst game of all time". So bad that there are [count] copies of the game dumped in a desert in New Mexico. But I say that's [count] copies of a wonderful game wasting away. E.T. is one of the best games for the Atari 2600! It has complex game mechanics and multiple characters, and really isn't too hard to understand if you just read the dang manual (or this site! :p). Full disclosure, I've never actually watched E.T. before. As a kid, I was so overly sensitive to movies that my parents had to turn it off half way through because I was crying so much. I should actually watch it one of these days. But I think the tears I've shed playing this game more than make up for the tears I would have shed watching the movie.

How to Play


You play as E.T., an alien dropped off on planet Earth with no way to return to his home planet. In order to get back home, E.T. must search for the three telephone parts hidden in wells. However, Earth is inhabited by dangerous creatures known as humans who put forward their best efforts to prevent his escape. E.T.'s only solace is a small human named Elliott, the only inhabitant of this strange world who shows kindness to him. By finding the telephone parts and evading the menacing humans, E.T. will be able to phone home and make his escape.

Joystick Controls

Joystick Move E.T. across the screen.
Button (press) Start the game
Use power specified at the top of the screen.
Button (hold) Run across the screen. (consumes more energy)

Console Controls (Settings)

Game Reset Switch End the game and reset to the title screen.
Game Select Switch Cycle between options of what NPCs appear in the game:
Game 1All humans are present in the game.
Game 2Elliott and the FBI agent are present, but not the scientist.
Game 3Only Elliott is present in the game.
Left Difficulty Switch Select whether the rescue ship can be called and land while Elliott is on the screen:
Position AElliott cannot be present for the ship to land.
Position BElliott can be present while the ship is called and lands.
Right Difficulty Switch Select the movement speed of the humans:
Position AThe humans move at a faster speed.
Position BThe humans move at a slower speed.
TV Type Switch This switch is ignored. The game will appear in color or black and white depening on your television.


E.T.'s adventure takes place on a cubical world made up of six sites that you can freely move through. The top and bottom of the cube are the forest and town sites respectively, while the remaining four sides of the cube consist of fields dotted with wells containing the telephone pieces.

While in a well site, you must move north to go to the forest site. Because all four well sites lead into the forest site and all directions that you can exit forest site lead back to the well sites, moving from a well site to the forest site can place you on any side of the screen. Be prepared to suddenly change the direction you are inputting on the joystick when entering or exiting the forest site, especially if you are being chased by the Scientist or the FBI Agent. This info all applies to the town site as well.


E.T. starts the game with 9999 energy. His energy count is displayed at the bottom lf the screen. As he walks around, his energy will deplete. The controller button can be held to run, which depletes a higher amount of energy. Falling into a well depletes 269 energy, in addition to the energy it takes to levitate out of the well. Running out of energy results in a game over.

Restoring Energy

Energy can be restored in two ways:

Power Zones

Each site is filled with various power zones. There is no visual indication of the size or location of these zones on the screen. However, you can tell if you are standing in a zone when a blue power zone indicator appears at the top of the screen. Each power zone indicator corresponds to a different zone:

Find phone piece zone Appears only in well zones. Flashes a dot over the well
Send humans back zone TODO
Eat Candy zone TODO
Call Elliott zone TODO
Move to a new site zone TODO
Call ship zone TODO
Landing zone TODO
Levitate zone TODO
Revive zone TODO


For more information, read the game's official manual.


Elliot's game sprite Elliott Helps E.T.
The Scientist's game sprite Scientist Takes E.T. to the town. Do not waste energy resisting.
The FBI Agent's game sprite FBI Agent Scourge of the Earth. Avoid at all costs. Wastes taxpayer dollars to steal E.T.'s telephone parts and his candy.


Turns out the earth isnt flat or round, its a cube. Click on the images to enlarge.

The forest area of the game. The background is filled with light and dark green diagonal 
                       lines/spots representing trees. The area is open and E.T. can walk freely throughly it. Forest Site The starting and ending location of E.T.'s grand adventure. The Landing zone will always be located on this site.
Two large, oval-shaped, vertically oriented wells appear near the left and right of the screen.
                      In between them are two small, oval-shaped, horizontally oriented wells that appear on top of
                      each other. Well Site A The landscapes of these four sites are dotted with deep wells that E.T. can search to find telephone parts. Candy (represented as small green dots) can also be found on the ground in these zones.
Four medum-sized, oval-shaped, horizontally oriented wells appear in a square grid. Well Site B
Four wells appear in a square grid layout. The top left well resembles the shape of
                       a less-than symbol, while the top right resembles a greater-than symbol. The bottom
                       two wells are very small oval-shaped, horizontally oriented wells. Well Site C
Three horizontal rows of wells appear on top of each other. The top and bottom rows
                     each contain three medium-sized, oval-shaped, horizontally oriented wells. The
                     leftmost and rightmost wells in these rows clip through the edge of the screen, so only
                     half of those wells are visible. The center row contains two medium-sized, oval-shaped,
                     horizontally oriented wells that are aligned with the empty space between the wells in
                     the top and bottom rows. Well Site D
The town area of the game. The background is bright blue and has potrays the facade of three
                       equally sized white monocolor buildings. The area is open and E.T. can walk freely throughly
                       it. The FBI building is located on the top left of the screen, while the Science Institute is
                       located on the top right. These two identically looking buildings consist of stairs on the
                       left and right leading up to a slightly raised floor. Three tall columns extend from the floor,
                       supporting the horizontal roof. Elliot's house is located in the center of the bottom half of
                       the screen. It appears as a standard silhouette of a house with four windows arranged in a
                       square grid. Town Site Washington, D.C. The FBI building (top left), Institute of Science (top right), and Elliott's home (bottom center) are located here.