Codex Gamicus

Sheriff (シェリフ?) is an arcade game by Nintendo R&D1 in 1979. Some sources[1][2][3] claim that Ikegami Tsushinki also did design work on Sheriff. It is the first original game by Nintendo and is one of the earliest Western-style video games ever developed. The player controls a county sheriff who must defend the town from bandits.


File:Sheriff arcade.png

Screenshot of Sheriff.

Sheriff has unique controls for shooting and moving around the screen. The shooting joystick consists of a switch that can be pointed into eight different directions. The player must indicate a direction, then press the switch in order to shoot. The movement joystick is also set so that a considerable time delay exists before the new direction takes effect on screen. These controls allow the sheriff to walk in one direction while shooting in another.

The entire screen is part of the game field, except for the score indication on the top of the screen. 16 bandits surround the outer rim, marked by a dotted barricade. Bullets from either the sheriff or the bandits can destroy these barriers, and they can function as defensive walls or aiming obstacles for the player. Unbreakable bricks also exist on the midpoint of each side of the screen, and display the current level number.

The basic action taken by the enemy bandits is to walk around the outer rim while firing bullets at the sheriff, but they will sometimes enter into the central area, along with a change in game music. The sheriff must avoid touching the bandits, dodge bullets, and shoot all 16 bandits to complete each level.


A remake of the original titled Sheriff 2 was released in 1979, but few changes were made other than the addition of color graphics and minor changes in bonus scoring. The game was also duplicated by Exidy in 1980 and released as Bandido, but it is unclear whether this was an officially licensed release.

The game was originally released in two formats; an upright cabinet and a cocktail (tabletop) version. These versions also made their way into Europe and Asia via imports. In the UK, Sheriff was licensed for production and distribution by Bell-Fruit Manufacturing in an upright cabinet. Bell-Fruit's core product range at the time was fruit/slot machines. Sheriff (and later Puckman) marked the company's first, and short lived, diversification into the market of video games as licensee, so the cabinet design for this territory differed considerably from that of the Japanese version. Although it featured the same marquee and bezel design, it shared many properties more commonly associated with slot machines (e.g. no side art or cabinet decals). However, the game's title in this region remained unchanged as Sheriff.

The game title appears in the staff credits sequence on the Game Boy Camera software, and as a collectable trophy in Super Smash Bros. Melee.


Many players were unable to cope with the 8-way joystick of the original game, leading to its relative unpopularity. The sequel, Sheriff 2 was released in 1979, with the characters changed to cute animals, and a greatly simplified control system. The 8-way joystick used for shooting was replaced with a normal button, so the sheriff can only shoot in the direction he is facing. Another game pattern was also added, where the bandits enter into the central area, but run straight through the top half instead of chasing the sheriff. The player can gain bonus points if he manages to shoot all of the bandits while they are running through the central area. However, Sheriff 2 was not distributed widely enough to gain any sort of following.

The game was left forgotten for over two decades after the two arcade releases, but was reanimated in WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$!, released for the Game Boy Advance in 2003. In WarioWare, Sheriff was included as both a microgame and as a minigame (Wario's Sheriff). Standard controls apply to the microgame version, but in the minigame version, the L/R buttons can make the sheriff face in the opposite direction without moving. The time delay for moving the sheriff was removed, and the sheriff's walking speed is greatly increased from the original. When the player's points double after completing a certain amount of levels, the sheriff also gains extra lives, lowering the game's difficulty considerably.


  1. [1]
  2. ドンキーコング裁判についてちょこっと考えてみる Thinking a bit about Donkey Kong, accessed 2009-02-01
  3. It started from Pong (それは『ポン』から始まった : アーケードTVゲームの成り立ち sore wa pon kara hajimatta: ākēdo terebi gēmu no naritachi?), Masumi Akagi (赤木真澄 Akagi Masumi?), Amusement Tsūshinsha (アミューズメント通信社 Amyūzumento Tsūshinsha?), 2005, ISBN 4-9902512-0-2.

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