Star Raiders

Star Raiders was a game for Atari 400/800 series of 8-bit personal computers, released in 1979. It was a videogame-like rendition of the prototypical TrekGame, with graphics and complexity that were amazing in comparison to other home computer games of its time. It is rumored that many aspects of the hardware were designed specifically to support this game. People playing StarRaiders in computer stores probably accounted for more Atari computer sales than any other part of Atari's marketing campaigns.

The object of the game was to destroy an invading space fleet and protect your starbases. The player's ship had a targeting computer, shields, hyperdrive, photon torpedoes, and other StarWars/StarTrek-style capabilities. Enemy ships looked like TIE fighters, Cylon basestars, and Cylon raiders. (The low resolution of the graphics made the latter look more like inverted V's than recognizable Cylon ships.)

While it looked and played a lot like any typical shoot-em-up, playing well required a lot of attention to energy usage and efficiency of action. At the end of the game, you were assigned a ranking based upon the amount of time it took you to destroy the enemy fleet, how much energy you used, and the difficulty level. (I fondly remember the day I attained the rank of Star Commander, Class 1.)

There have been many games similar to Star Raiders developed for other gaming systems and computers (the X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and Wing Commander games being notable), but none have matched the JeNeSaisQuoi of the original. There was also a port to the AtariTwentySixHundred?, that lacked many of the features of the Atari 400/800 original.


I remember another game called 'Elite'. I first saw it on a Acorn BbcMicro, but my brother has a (later, revamped) version of it on a NES cartridge. Does anyone know how old that is?

1986ish. I was at Acornsoft when Braben and Bell were writing it.

And then there was the sequal Frontier; without ever playing the original, I can't compare, but I spent many many hours playing it.

A few months ago, I dusted off the old Atari 1450 in my parents' basement, plugged it in, and played StarRaiders. Despite the fact that I hadn't played it in fifteen years or so, it only took a minute or so before my fingers were automatically doing the "shields down, computer off, long-range scan, hyperspace, computer on, shields up, cruising speed" dance over the keyboard. It must be MuscleMemory. It's amazing what you can remember... --KrisJohnson


CategoryGame CategoryOldSoftware

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