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Defender put players in charge of a ship sent to protect mankind from wave after wave of attacking alien forces.

Armed with smart bombs and the ability to use hyperspace to move quickly around the planet, the player ship must fight against Bombers, Pods, Swarmers, Baiters, and Landers - that can capture the humanoids and transform them into deadly and relentless Mutants. Fail to save the humanoids from freefall or Mutant transformation, and the planet is destroyed.


Defender Xbox 360 Classic mode graphics.
Defender Arcade Title screen
Defender Atari 5200 Title screen and game options
Defender TI-99/4A Attack wave complete

Alternate Titles

  • "Earth Attack" -- Zellers title

Part of the Following Groups

User Reviews

A great game from the Atari era. Atari 5200 Dark Lord (46)
The Apple II version of Defender had none of the appeal of the arcade game. Apple II Droog (460)

Critic Reviews

All Game Guide Arcade 1998 5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars 100
The Video Game Critic ColecoVision Mar 30, 2003 A- 91
Game Freaks 365 Atari 2600 2004 8.3 out of 10 83
neXGam ColecoVision Jul 27, 2012 8.3 out of 10 83 Commodore 64 Mar, 2007 8 out of 10 80
The Atari Times Atari 2600 Sep 02, 2002 80 out of 100 80 (UK) Arcade Oct 25, 2007 8 out of 10 80
neXGam Atari 2600 Nov 08, 2014 6.3 out of 10 63
Atari HQ Atari 2600 2001 6 out of 10 60
GamesRadar Xbox 360 Dec 21, 2006 6 out of 10 60


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1001 Video Games

The Arcade version of Defender appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Arcade success

The original Defender arcade was slow to become a hit when it was released as many thought it was too difficult due to its control configuration of five buttons and a joystick. It ultimately gained many fans and remained popular throughout the 1980s. Defender has been described in Gamasutra as "quite possibly, the hardest significant game there is".

Board game

In 1983, Entex adapted this video game into a board game.


Atari's 2600 release of Defender included the comic book Atari Force #1. Here is that comic at


Game creator Eugene Jarvis cites Space Invaders and Asteroids as major influences on the design of Defender.

[Source: Retro Gamer Magazine, Load 55]


Eugene Jarvis, creator of both Defender and its sequel Stargate, says that although the gameplay and coding of Stargate is more refined, he prefers the relative simplicity of the original Defender.

[Source: Retro Gamer Magazine, Load 55]

References to the game

  • Defender a song inspired by it on the full-length Pac-Man Fever album - The Defender.
  • In the 1983 episode Smaller Than Life from the TV series Magnum P.I., a kid is seen playing Defender on an Atari 800.

Information also contributed by LepricahnsGold, NĂ©lio, PCGamer77, Pseudo_Intellectual and FatherJack

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Contributed to by Corn Popper (69555), Trixter (8711), PCGamer77 (3008), chirinea (35989), RKL (5606), Martin Smith (63029), Pseudo_Intellectual (45149) and Servo (55746)