Codex Gamicus

NARC is a 1988 arcade game designed by Eugene Jarvis for Williams Electronics programed by George Petro. It was one of the first ultra-violent video games and a frequent target of parental criticism of the arcade game industry. The object is to arrest and kill drug offenders, confiscate their money and drugs, and defeat "Mr. Big". It was ported, not long after, to the NES and several home computer systems in 1990. In 2005, it was also updated into a brand new game for the Xbox and PS2.

Released in 1988, it was the first game in the newly restarted Williams Electronics coin op division, and features their notable use of digitized graphics (later made famous in games such as Mortal Kombat). In fact, the quality of the graphics in terms of number of colors would not be surpassed until the game Mortal Kombat II (released in 1993). The game features what in arcade terminology is termed a medium resolution monitor - higher resolution than televisions and normal arcade monitors, although often in a smaller physical size. NARC was also the very first arcade game to utilize the TI TMS34010, which is a 32-bit processor. The game was also notable for the numerous voice samples used during and between levels.


The game's main characters are Max Force and Hit Man, who have received a memo from Spencer Williams, Narcotics Opposition Chairman in Washington, DC dispatching them on Project NARC. Their mission is to apprehend Mr. Big, head of an underground drug trafficking and terrorist organization.

The player controls either Max Force or Hit Man, who are hunting down junkies, drug dealers and organized crime kingpins. Max and Hit are equipped with an automatic weapon and missile launcher. When an enemy is dispatched using the latter, they explode in a torrent of scorched and bloody body appendages. Some enemies can be arrested after they surrender and then float away with "BUSTED" over them, this is then added to a tally at the end of the level along with drugs and money confiscated from other enemies that they dropped when killed (the game actually awards more points at the end of a round for arresting enemies without killing them). The game's objective is to reach and destroy various drug dealing ringleaders.

Ports and other releases[]

Programmed by David Leitch at Sales Curve Interactive and published by Ocean Software, the versions of the game for the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC computers generally received positive reviews, including 9/10 from CRASH, 8/10 from Sinclair User and 72% from Your Sinclair. Matt Bielby of Your Sinclair called it "one of the most objectionable Speccy games I've seen in ages", and called it "repetitive" and the plot "utter nonsense. ".[1]

This 1990 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) version of NARC, published by Acclaim Entertainment and developed by Rare Ltd. was billed as "the first video game for the with a strong anti-drug message".[2] However, Nintendo forced all drug references to be removed from the actual gameplay. Despite the NES's system limitations, the game retained most of its violence and gore.

The gameplay was significantly handicapped because of the NES controller only had two buttons whereas the arcade version has four buttons. However, the ability to jump and fire missiles was preserved. In 1990, Acclaim released NARC as a handheld LCD game as well.

In 2004, the Midway Arcade Treasures 2 compilation featured a re-release of the arcade version of Narc. The game was an emulation rather than a port of the arcade game, so it was practically a carbon copy of the original. But due to some problems in emulating the game, the sound is prone to cutting out during gameplay.

2005 game[]


Box art for the 2005 game.

The 2005 home console update of the 1988 arcade hit of the same title was also developed and published by Midway Games for the Xbox and PS2. A planned Nintendo GameCube version was later cancelled. Although the update was slated to be a straight remake of the story from the arcade game, the version that was eventually released featured a totally new story. Several well-known stars are involved with the voice acting in NARC, including Michael Madsen, Bill Bellamy, and Ron Perlman. The game's soundtrack features artists such as Curtis Mayfield, Cypress Hill, Grandmaster Flash and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The update casts the player as narcotics officer Jack Forzenski and DEA agent Marcus Hill, former partners reunited who are instructed to investigate a new drug on the streets called Liquid Soul.

One of the most controversial aspects of the game is that after arresting dealers and confiscating their stock, the player can either take the confiscated items to the evidence room, or keep them for future use. This confers benefits such as improved weapons accuracy. Dealing drugs for financial benefit is also possible. However, as in real life, drug use leads to consequences such as addiction, blackouts, and loss of health and reputation points. The integration of drug use by the protagonist is in complete contrast to the anti-drug message of the original arcade game. The game's source code (engine) dates back to the three-year-old State of Emergency.[3]

A March 21, 2005 press release announced the game's shipment to retailers and emphasized that NARC was designed for an "older audience".[4] Indeed, the game was given an M rating. According to Chris Morris, "Its timing, though, couldn't be worse – and could have long-term ramifications on the industry".[5] Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich said, "These kinds of games teach kids to do the very things that in real life, we put people in jail for. Just as we don't allow kids to buy pornography or alcohol or tobacco, we shouldn't allow them to buy these games."[6] NARC was banned from Australia before it was released.[7]

Cultural influence[]

Rock group Pixies recorded a cover of the theme song from the original arcade game, originally written by game music composer Brian Schmidt, and released it as a B-Side to their 1991 single, "Planet of Sound". They titled the cover "Theme From NARC", and it consisted of frontman Black Francis singing the song title several times, while the band played the theme music.

A NARC arcade machine is being played by some of the youths in Shredder's compound in the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Max Force, Mr. Big, Spike, and Joe all appear on the animated series, The Power Team, which is part of the video game show, Video Power.

1993 - "Mr. Big" a song about selling drugs by 8 Ball & MJG on their Comin' Out Hard album was inspired by NARC's Final Boss.



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