Codex Gamicus

Star Wars is an arcade game produced by Atari Inc. and released in 1983. The game is a first person space combat simulator, simulating the attack on the Death Star from the final act of the feature film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The game is composed of 3D color vector graphics.


The player assumes the role of Luke Skywalker ("Red Five"), as he pilots an X-wing fighter from a first-person perspective. Unlike other arcade games of similar nature, the player does not have to destroy every enemy in order to advance through the game; he must simply survive as his fighter flies through the level, which most often means he must avoid or destroy the shots that enemies fire. Each hit on his craft takes away one shield (of the six he started out with), and if he runs out of shields and takes another hit, the game ends.

The player's ultimate goal is to destroy the Death Star through three attack phases.

In the first phase of the game, the player begins in outer space above the Death Star. He must engage in a dog fight with Darth Vader and enemy TIE fighters.

In the second phase (occurring beginning with the second wave), the player reaches the Death Star's surface as laser turrets on towers rise to confront the player. If the player manages to destroy all of the towers, he will receive a sizeable point bonus.

In the final scenario, the player finds himself speeding through the trench of the Death Star, avoiding obstacles and blasting gun turrets until, finally firing a proton torpedo at the correct time for a direct hit on the exhaust port target. What follows, if the player is successful, is the Death Star exploding in a multitude of different colors, plus the awarding of one bonus shield (on factory settings). If the player manages to destroy the Death Star without firing at anything but the exhaust port, he will receive a sizeable point bonus for "using the force." Then it is on to do battle again. Each successive Death Star run greatly increases the difficulty; TIE Fighters shoot more often, there are more Laser towers and batteries in the second round, and there are many more obstacles and laser fire during the trench run. Unlike the movie, where the units shoot beams similar to lasers, the enemy units in this game shoot projectiles resembling fireballs, in order to give the player a chance to destroy the fired shots.

Arcade details[]

The game features several digitized samples of voices from the movie, including Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, James Earl Jones as Darth Vader, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, the mechanized beeps of R2-D2, and the growls of Chewbacca.

The game is available as a standard upright or a sit-down cockpit version, both of which are elaborately decorated. The controls consist of a yoke control (similar to a steering wheel - twisting left and right gives combined roll and yaw; twisting forwards and backwards with the side control gives pitch) with four buttons - two trigger style and two in position to be pressed by the thumbs - each of which fired a laser positioned on the four leading edges of the X-Wings.


  • The game was developed during the Golden Age of Arcade Games and is considered the #4 most popular game of all time according to Killer List of Video Games
  • This game can be converted into the Empire Strikes Back arcade game via a conversion kit.
  • After the TIE fighter waves, when flying towards the Death Star, the yellow grid lines on the Death Star spell out either "MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU" on odd-numbered waves or names of some of the developers on even numbered waves.
  • In 1984 Robert Mruczek scored 300 million points (a world record to this day) in 49 hours of gameplay, and in 2005, Brandon Erickson set a world endurance record of 54 hours on a single credit (with a score of 283 million).[1] The score counter of this game "turns over" at 100 million points.
  • Because of the fact that a number of skilled players could play indefinitely on the factory settings, it was decided to put the machines on a harder setting for the annual Twin Galaxies International Scoreboard/Guinness Book Masters Tournament, where the player would have six initial shields but NO bonus shields, and thus the game would be a test of skill rather than endurance. In the 1986 Tournament, David Palmer scored 31,660,614 points on that setting (in approx. 7 hours), a score which was subsequently published in the Guinness Book of World Records and which remains the world record to this day.[2]


The game was ported first by Parker Brothers in 1983 and 1984 to numerous 8-bit consoles and computers. These include the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, the Atari 8-bit family, ColecoVision and Commodore 64. It was designed for the arcade by Mike Hally. The home console version for the ColecoVision was designed by Wendell Brown.[citation needed]

The same game was ported again, in 1987 and 1988, utilizing more advanced graphics and sound capabilities of 16-bit systems of the era. Versions appeared for the Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Acorn Electron, BBC Micro and Enterprise 64; the game was also ported again for the Atari 8-bit family and Commodore 64. All ports were developed by UK-based Vektor Grafix (the Atari 8-bit version by Zeppelin Games being an exception) and were published in Europe by Domark. That same year Brøderbund acquired the rights to develop Star Wars games from Lucasfilm. Brøderbund published the Apple II, Apple Macintosh, Commodore 64 and MS-DOS versions of the arcade game in North America in 1988.

Amiga and Atari ST versions are very similar to the arcade original. They allow the ability to use mouse control and feature digitized sound effects. The Macintosh version contains sampled speech from the films, but has no in-game music other than a monophonic theme during the "attract" mode.

This game, along with [[Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back] and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, was also included as an unlockable extra in the GameCube game Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike. In the United States and some European countries, customers could get the GameCube version of this game for free when they pre-ordered Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike.

A fan-based remake of this game which is similar in gameplay was released on the Vectrex in 1999 by John Dondzila called "Star Fire Spirits" as part of his "Vecmania" cartridge set.


The MS/PC-DOS, Amiga, Atari ST, and Commodore 64/128 versions by Broderbund Software were reviewed in 1989 in Dragon #145 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 3 out of 5 stars.[3]

Arcade Specifications[]

Arcade Specifications
Physical Specifications
Cabinet Upright and cockpit
Technical Specifications
Buttons 1 Button
Display Vector
Input Yoke (analog, 4-way)


  1. Yale Alumni Magazine: Arts & Culture
  2. 1987 Guinness Book of World Records
  3. Lesser, Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk (May 1989). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (145): 44–53. 

External Links[]

Template:Star Wars