Published by Parker Brothers in 1982 The Empire Strikes Back on the Atari 2600 was the first officially-licensed Star Wars game ever released, and it depicts the AT-AT ‘walker’ attack on the rebel base on Hoth, with you playing as Luke Skywalker in a snowspeeder.
The aim of the game is to hold the off the walkers, so that they are prevented from blowing up the power generator, for as long as possible*.
You can destroy a walker by repeatedly shooting it in the head or torso, and as a walker is damaged it changes colour. You can also destroy a walker by shooting a small flashing spot (the “droid hatch”) on its hull that appears randomly during play.
Each walker requires 48 hits to destroy, and the walkers do fire back at you, and the snowspeeder changes colour to indicate damage levels as well. You can land your damaged speeder back at the rebel base to repair it, and if the player survives for twenty minutes without getting shot the speeder is granted “The Power of the Force“, which makes it flash and become invulnerable for twenty seconds.
The Empire Strikes Back was written by Rex Bradford and was a big commercial success, coming second only to Frogger as 1982‘s best-selling video game. That said, it’s very primitive by today’s standards and would probably get laughed at by Star Wars fans now.
* = From what I understand, it’s not actually possible to stop The Empire entirely as they just keep on sending out more walkers until you are eventually killed. Which is a bit unfair, but then this is a very early video game and things were different back in 1982. Also: considering that you’re essentially doing the same thing over and over again in this game, how long could you actually go for, without getting bored first?