The year is 1983. The place? A stretch of desert near Roswell. A convoy of trucks makes its way through a ring of private security, dumps thousands of boxes of small electronic devices, then turns back the way it came. In the dusty mirror, the last driver to leave catches a glimpse of a bulldozer ploughing over the pit of boxes. The site was later sealed with concrete. What lay beneath would remain hidden for thirty years, not resurfacing until April 26th, 2014…
It sounds like something from a science fiction film. And in fact, that’s not too far off. Many of the mysterious boxes were in fact copies of videogame developer Atari’s notorious (in some circles) 1982 flop, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, based on the beloved Spielberg film. Widely considered the worst game ever commercially released, millions of cartridges were manufactured, but most were never sold and, of those that were, a significant proportion were returned for a refund.
The game’s commercial failure is said to have contributed to the decline of Atari—prompting this burial of unsold games and hardware—and even a slump in the U.S. videogame industry as a whole. However, the sheer poor quality of the E.T. videogame has earned it fame (or at least infamy) unmatched by any other title resting in that landfill, excavated just this week.
If you would like to experience the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial videogame first-hand—and that’s a big “if”—you can play it online, courtesy of The Internet Archive.