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Zork: The Great Underground Empire

aka: ZORK I: The Great Underground Empire , Zork, Zork, Zork I, Zork I: Le Grand Empire des Ténèbres, Zork I: The Great Underground Empire, Zork: The Great Underground Empire - Part I

Description official descriptions

Zork: The Great Underground Empire is a classic text adventure game. The player begins as an "adventurer" standing near a white house in a nice forest, but soon descends into the Great Underground Empire, where most of the game takes place. The player's quest is to collect the Nineteen Treasures of Zork.

As was typical for adventure games of its era, Zork does not use graphics. Instead, it communicates with the player via text, and the player interacts with the game by typing commands, such as "examine mailbox" or "take torch". For movement, the player types in geographical directions (such as "north" or "east" - or just "n" and "e"), and can check what items are being carried with the "inventory" command (or just "i").

The game was adapted from a larger mainframe version from the late 1970s, and is one of the first examples of its genre.

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Credits (TRS-80 version)

Quality Assurance
Cover Artwork



Subject User Date
Be honest about Zork Brian Shapiro 2023-04-03 08:06:55
You are likely to be eaten ... DJP Mom (11318) 2007-09-16 19:31:49


1001 Video Games

Zork I appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Covermount release

In the December 2001 Issue of PC Gamer, the original Zork trilogy was shipped on the CD included with the magazine.


Zork was born on the mainframes of MIT in 1977, and saw its first commercial release on the TRS-80, under the Personal Software (releasers of VisiCalc) label in 1979. The title was a nonsense word used by the creators to label works in progress. Infocom was founded by these creators, Marc Blank, Dave Lebling, Tim Anderson and Bruce Daniels, to create Zork II.

Freeware release

As part of the release of Zork: Nemesis, Activision released Zork I as freeware on their website. (As of 2001, the links to download the game at activision.com are dead, but the game is available at numerous fan sites.)

Game Boy port

One bedroom programmer actually ported the game to the Game Boy of all things, using the basic code of the Sinclair Spectrum version, as both systems were powered the Z80 processor. Inputting words involved cycling the cursor through one letter at a time, similarly to inputting initial for high scores on a joystick. Surely the ultimate case of "right game, wrong format".

German version

Infocom started to translate this game into German, but found it rather difficult to re-program the parser. Therefore, only a German beta version exists.

Hello, Sailor

The well-recognized Infocom phrase "Hello, Sailor!" got its start here. Type it in, and you'll get the response "Nothing happens here." Type it in almost any room in any Infocom game, and you'll get the same response. This may be one of the oldest Infocom red herrings around.


You can find out how many leaves are in the pile of leaves covering the grate in the clearing by typing "count leaves". Strangely enough, it only takes 1 turn to count all the leaves. The actual number of leaves in the pile is 69,105. It's an hex/octal inside joke for programmers.


  • There is a location in the game called "Aragain Falls." Spell ARAGAIN backwards, and you'll see something more familiar.
  • Typing in "xyzzy" and "plugh" (magic words from an earlier text adventure game), the game comes back with: "A hollow voice says 'Fool.' "

References to the game


The first commercial release of Zork I (for the TRS-80, distributed by Personal Software) was simply called Zork. The game disk was packaged in a plastic bag with a large manual showing an adventurer outfitted in barbarian guard attacking the troll, with the white house in the background. Such early versions are quite difficult to come by and are highly prized by collectors.


(From The New Zork Times Vol.3 No.2 Spring 1984)

Some statistics about Zork:

  • Number of rooms: 110 Number of different ways to die: 28 Number of words in vocabulary: 698 Number of takeable objects: *59 (The raft is actually three different takeable objects: inflated, uninflated, and punctured)

Zork User's Group

The demand for Zork maps, tips and, eventually, memorabilia for game enthusiasts and veterans, led Mike Dornbrook (Infocom's first product tester, hired to debug Zork -- later better known for leading Harmonix) to establish a service that provided (in the beginning, personalised, type-written) hints and maps to would-be adventurers of the Great Underground Empire.

In September 1981, the organization was formalised as the Zork User's Group (run out of his parents' Milwaukee basement), and their product line expanded to include buttons, bumper stickers, posters, t-shirts and a Zorkian newsletter... as well as their most permanent contribution to the Infocom legacy, InvisiClues hintbooks. In July 1983 -- by which time their mailing list had grown from 700 to over 14,000 -- it was folded back into Infocom, Dornbrook hired on again by Infocom, this time as Product Manager in the Department of Consumer Marketing.


  • Computer Gaming World
    • November 1992 (Issue #100) – Introduced into the Hall of Fame
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) - #13 on the “150 Best Games of All Time” list
    • March 2001 (200th anniversary issue) - #9 Best Game of All Time (Readers' Vote)
  • Game Informer
    • August 2001 (Issue #100) - #70 in the "Top 100 Games of All Time" poll
    • October 2004 (Issue #138) - one of the "Top 25 Most Influential Games of All Time".
  • GameSpy
    • 2001 – #39 Top Game of All Time

Information also contributed by Adam Baratz, Belboz, Big John WV, Chris Martin, Chris Mikesell, Droog, Martin Smith, Mirrorshades2k, Mo, Nélio; [PCGamer77](http://www.mobygames.com/user/sheet/userSheetId,1717/), [Pseudo_Intellectual](http://www.mobygames.com/user/sheet/userSheetId,49363/), [Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe](http://www.mobygames.com/user/sheet/userSheetId,631/) and [FatherJack](http://www.mobygames.com/user/sheet/userSheetId,244870/)

Related Games

Zork: The Undiscovered Underground
Released 1997 on Commodore 64, Macintosh, Windows
Zork III: The Dungeon Master
Released 1982 on DOS, 1983 on PC Booter, 1986 on Amiga...
The Zork Legacy Collection
Released 1996 on DOS, 1997 on Windows
Zork Trilogy
Released 1987 on DOS, Amiga, Atari ST...
Return to Zork
Released 1993 on DOS, 1996 on PlayStation, Windows...
Zork Classics: Interactive Fiction
Released 2000 on Windows
Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz
Released 1982 on PC Booter, DOS, 1986 on Amiga...
Zork: Grand Inquisitor
Released 1997 on Windows, 2001 on Macintosh
Zork Nemesis: The Forbidden Lands
Released 1996 on DOS, Windows, Macintosh

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Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 50


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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Brian Hirt.

Commodore 128 added by Trypticon. TRS-80 CoCo added by Slik. PC-98 added by Riemann80. Apple II added by Droog. CP/M, Atari 8-bit, TRS-80 added by Kabushi. Browser, Mainframe added by Pseudo_Intellectual. Amiga, Macintosh, Commodore 16, Plus/4 added by Terok Nor. Tatung Einstein, Amstrad PCW added by Игги Друге. Amstrad CPC added by LepricahnsGold. PC-8000 added by vedder. Commodore 64, Atari ST added by Belboz.

Additional contributors: Dietmar Uschkoreit, Ummagumma, Tony Van, Jeanne, Pseudo_Intellectual, Maw, Nélio, mo , Ivan Napreenko, formercontrib, c64fan, Patrick Bregger, FatherJack, Joe Pranevich.

Game added March 1st, 1999. Last modified April 7th, 2023.