Atari had its finger directly on the pulse of pop culture in the mid-1970s.
In 1975, the pioneering video game company released Shark JAWS, obviously inspired by a certain 1975 summer movie blockbuster. A year later, at the height of Evel Knievel mania, Atari unveiled Stunt Cycle, a motorcycle jumping arcade game that bore more than a passing resemblance to Knievel’s bus-clearing exploits.
In the game, your danger-seeking stunt rider started at the top of three levels, racing across the screen as you cranked up the throttle on your handlebar controls.
With a little bit of juice, the stunt cyclist would even do a wheelie – but fancy showmanship wasn’t going to clear those buses at the bottom of the screen.
As you moved the stuntman off the screen on one level, he appeared on the next lower platform, winding his way down to the ramp at the bottom of the screen. On this lowest level, a line of parked buses stood between you and stuntman immortality.
If your speed was right (a brake was provided if you thought you were going too fast), the motorcyclist would launch from one ramp and land safely on the other, soaking up the cheers of the crowd.
If your instincts were off, however, the poor little stuntman would overshoot his mark or crash land on the roof of a bus!
After one jump was cleared, your cyclist moved on to the next, adding a bus each time.
Only the most skilled players managed to equal Knievel’s famous 1975 King’s Island jump, clearing 14 Greyhound buses – but then, if everyone could jump like Evel Knievel, it wouldn’t seem dangerous any more.
Unfortunately for Atari, Knievel decided to retire after a 1976 crash, and Stunt Cycle failed to soar as high as its inspiration.