Codex Gamicus

Centipede is a shooter arcade game released in 1980 by Atari. Two key designers were Ed Logg and Dona Bailey. It was also one of the first arcade games to have a female player base. The game became very popular throughout the 80's and spawned the sequel Millipede.


Shoot the Centipede to win.

The player controls a gnome shaped head character on the bottom of the screen using a trackball. The player uses the button to fire at a huge centipede at the top of the screen that is moving left and right. Mushrooms cover the level and when the centipede hits one it descends one level and continues and the mushrooms take four shots to be destroyed. More mushrooms are created when the centipede is hit by a projectile. When the centipede is shot in the middle segments it splits in two. Both pieces act on their own. Once the centipede reaches the bottom of the screen where the player is it will move back in forth in front of the player. A new segment is added to the centipede in the time it is at the bottom of the screen. Each time a centipede is completely destroyed a new one forms at the top of the screen and the head segment is faster each time and the new centipede is smaller than the last. Smaller enemies include fleas who leave mushrooms behind when less than five enemies are on the screen each time. Spiders walk toward the player to do harm. The scorpions can poison mushrooms and when the centipede hits a poison mushroom it runs straight into the player's direction.


  • Centipede- the main enemy is a huge centipede which is divided into segments. If a segment in-between the end and front most segments is destroyed, the one behind that eliminated segment splits off into a new, but smaller centipede. Aim for the head to destroy the entire body. Centipedes travel in straight, scanning horizontal lines. When making contact with a mushroom or the side of the screen, they briefly turn one row down and move in the opposite direction.
  • Spiders- They jump about the playing field in erratic patterns within the player's mobility zone, making them dangerous.
  • Fleas- can make mushrooms when less than five enemies are on the screen in the player's mobility zone.
  • Scorpions- can make mushrooms poisonous and cause problems when a centipede runs into one of these mushrooms.


During play:

  • Centipede—10 points per body segment, 100 points per head segment
  • Spider—300, 600, or 900 points, depending on proximity to the creature
  • Flea—200 points
  • Scorpion—1000 points

When the player loses a life:

  • Damaged mushroom—5 points
  • Poisoned mushroom—5 points


Centipede logo.

Centipede was followed by Millipede in 1982, a somewhat less successful arcade game. In 1992, Atari Games developed a prototype of an arcade game called Arcade Classics for their 20th anniversary. It included Missile Command 2 and Super Centipede.

In 1998, Hasbro-owned Atari released a new version of the game for the PC, PlayStation, and Dreamcast. This version looks and plays very differently to the original game, with free movement around the map, 3D graphics, and a campaign which can be played in single-player or multiplayer mode. The original version of Centipede is available in this version, albeit with slightly updated graphics.