aka: Earth Attack
Moby ID: 140
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Description official descriptions

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.


  • ディフェンダー - Japanese spelling

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Credits (Arcade version)

6 People



Average score: 72% (based on 26 ratings)


Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 144 ratings with 3 reviews)

A classic

The Good
Defender was a popular game that hit the arcades in 1981, and its success led to it receiving many home ports. The VIC-20 version of the game remains faithful to the original coin-op even with the limited hardware. It was published by Atarisoft who released the game on cartridge only. Before the game begins, you see an attractive title screen with a number of options below, allowing you to play a one- or two-player game and adjust the difficulty setting. This screen is accompanied by a nice futuristic sound, and if it is idle for a few seconds, then a short attract mode is shown.

You control a ship negotiating a landscape littered with five types of aliens, and there is a radar above which you need to constantly keep an eye on. The most common alien you’ll encounter are the “Landers”. These try to abduct any humanoids on the planet’s surface. The best strategy is not to zoom through the landscape in case you happen to run into any mines left behind by “Bombers”. There are also “Baiters”, UFOs that lock onto your location at a blinding speed and fire repeatedly. The most dangerous alien are the “Pods”; when destroyed, they release “Swarmers” that are capable of tracking you through space with the sole purpose of destroying you. It is easy to tell which alien is which, even with the low resolution.

The sound effects are excellent. I like the warning the humanoids give off; it sounds like a bird tweeting. Graphically, everything is as close to the arcade version as possible, including the explosions that occur after you come into contact with an alien. I like the appearance of the status bar and how it is laid out. Like games that were released at the same time, the scrolling is a bit choppy, but this is tolerable. The controls are basic; the standard four directions used for movement, and a single fire button to make a kill.

The Bad
I couldn’t find anything bad about this game.

The Bottom Line
A classic that remains to this day, Defender is one of the very few games where it always pays to keep an eye on certain parts of the screen. What's great about the game is that it was released around the time when a simple objective was important. In this case, you are trying to rescue humanoids on a planet's surface while blasting away at aliens. Its success warranted a sequel that added new features to the mix.

VIC-20 · by Katakis | カタキス (43091) · 2021

The Apple II version of Defender had none of the appeal of the arcade game.

The Good
There is not much to like about the Apple II version of Defender. At least all of the enemy ships were included.

The Bad
The graphics and sound were terrible and not even close to the arcade version. The animation was choppy and sometimes it was difficult to tell what you were shooting at or why you had just died. I felt like I was piloting a flying school bus with missiles rather than a sleek fighter spaceship.

The Bottom Line
Defender is a fast-paced side-scrolling action shoot-em-up where you must defend the men on the planet from capture by a bunch of deadly aliens. Unfortunately, the Apple II version does not live up to the reputation of this arcade classic.

Apple II · by Droog (460) · 2008

A great game from the Atari era.

The Good
I like that its graphics were so much better than other games at the time. The gameplay and sound is phenomenal.

The Bad
I didn't like that the explosions weren't better and that you couldn't upgrade your weapon.

The Bottom Line
An amazing game from the Atari era with wonderful sound and amazing graphics for its time. If you like space shooters, then you'll love Defender.

Atari 5200 · by Dark Lord (31) · 2005


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, Nélio, PCGamer77, Pseudo_Intellectual and FatherJack


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Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history! If your contribution is approved, you will earn points and be credited as a contributor.

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Trixter.

TI-99/4A added by Corn Popper. Atari 2600, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, Intellivision added by PCGamer77. Xbox 360 added by chirinea. Browser added by HelloMrKearns. Dedicated handheld, Adventure Vision added by OmegaPC777. Atari 5200 added by RKL. Macintosh added by Kabushi. Atari 8-bit added by Martin Smith. Arcade added by Pseudo_Intellectual. Antstream added by lights out party. Apple II, VIC-20 added by Servo.

Additional contributors: Guy Chapman, Nélio, LepricahnsGold, Patrick Bregger, Starbuck the Third, FatherJack, Bart Smith.

Game added May 26, 1999. Last modified April 3, 2024.