aka: Choplifter
Moby ID: 8127
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Choplifter! is a side-scrolling action/arcade game that puts the player in command of an attack chopper. The mission: Go behind enemy lines and rescue up to 64 hostages. However, the chopper can only carry 16 passengers at a time, so several rescue attempts must be made to rescue everyone. Be careful, though, because tanks and enemy aircraft will try to stop you - and they won't stop shooting while the rescuing of hostages is going on.

Originally released for Apple II home computers, Choplifter! was later ported to the arcades in a rare instance of a home version receiving a later arcade release.

However while the basic gameplay stayed the same, alterations to the original version were made.

  • The game now consists of four different levels. The original's desert level has been redesigned, and three new settings (sea, caves and city rooftops) have been added.
  • Each level contains only a total of 24 hostages to rescue. The player has to rescue at least 20 hostages to complete a level. Also, the chopper can now only carry 8 passengers at a time.
  • A fuel system was added. A unit of fuel gets refilled for each hostage returned safely.
  • A scoring system was added.
  • New stationary ground-to-air missiles enemy units have been added.

The Famicom and Sega Master System versions are based on this Arcade version. The Sega Master System has six levels (three of the levels repeating just with different backgrounds; no city rooftops level), gets rid of the fuel system, and requires 40 out of the 48 hostages to be rescued to complete a level (the chopper can now carry 16 passengers just like in the original version).


  • チョップリフター - Japanese spelling

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Credits (Apple II version)

Created by
Cover Art Illustrator



Average score: 78% (based on 23 ratings)


Average score: 3.5 out of 5 (based on 113 ratings with 6 reviews)

Your average version of Choplifter!, but with some nice touches

The Good
Choplifter! is an addictive action game by Broderbund Software, the same company responsible for a dozen Carmen Sandiego games. Some people argue that Dan Gorlin, the programmer of the game, was influenced by the Iranian Hostage Crisis a year earlier where Iranians took Americans hostage inside an US embassy. The programmer himself denies this, and understandably so. While there are indeed hostages, they are not US diplomats, and they are hidden away in cottages that need to be emptied, all the while dealing with enemies such as tank

I first played Choplifter! on the Apple II at school, and we were awarded a game if we were good little boys and girls. The game was later ported to other systems, with varying degrees of success. The VIC-20 version was published by Creative Software, who were also responsible for publishing other addictive Brøderbund titles such as Apple Panic and Serpentine.

I think Creative did a great job at this conversion, and they have added some nice touches to the game. You don't have to bomb cottages first, then set your chopper down so that they can get on board. You just set it down and they will come out straight away. Having played other versions of the game, I didn't know this so I spent a bit of time figuring this out. I like the warning sound the game makes just seconds before a jet appears on screen. There is actually an enemy unique to this version: what looks like a grenade with a propeller following you wherever you go. This enemy adds challenge to the game, and the only way you can get past it is to destroy it.

I was impressed by the visuals, starting from the title screen where a bubble writes each character on the screen, and when you press the fire button, a 3D object forms the circle and text inside the circle appears. During the game, the enemies are well designed and have good animations, especially the explosions. Unlike other conversions, everything is in one color. The way you can press [Return] to change the color of the sprites/text is pretty neat, and you can hold down the key if you want to enjoy a light show. Personally, I like everything white, since it is easy on your eyes.

The sound effects are quite basic, but this is how games were like back in the day. There is no fancy background music like in future versions of the game. The majority of sound effects come from your own chopper. I also like the high beep it produces when an hostage gets on board the chopper.

Choplifter! is the type of game that can be replayed, to see if you can get more hostages than you did in the last game you played. I managed to rescue 57 hostages. There are actually 64 hostages in total, so there is always room for improvement.

The Bad
The only thing missing from the game is the ending. If you manage to rescue all 64 hostages, the title screen appears again. Some type of “Congratulations” would not have hurt.

The Bottom Line
Choplifter! was a huge hit at the time that it spawned numerous sequels and unofficial clones for systems that never had an official conversion. The VIC-20 version, along with the Commodre 64 and Apple II versions, is what I like to call The First Editions. These versions were developed in the early Eighties and had quite basic gameplay. Strangely unlike most computer games, this one was later converted to arcade, which in turn, was converted to the next-gen systems. These versions had nice background music and fantastic backdrops.

There is no definite version of the game, and whatever system you had back in the Eighties, you can be sure that Choplifter! was available for it.

VIC-20 · by Katakis | カタキス (43087) · 2015

Choplifter is a very well done hostage rescue game

The Good
The graphics and animation were extremely detailed for 1982. The hostages would run and wave as your helicopter passed by them, the flag at your base fluttered in the breeze, and everything was well drawn and colorful.

The gameplay was even better than the graphics. You controlled a rescue helicopter. One joystick button fired your cannons and the other switched the facing of your helicopter. Unlike other helicopter games, you could actually fly backwards or sideways if needed. Rescuing hostages was no easy feat. It was very easy to accidentally crush the hostages as you landed, shoot them while trying to kill tanks, get hit by the roving tanks before you took off, or get killed by missiles from the planes in the sky at the higher levels. Even more frustrating was filling your helicopter up and accidentally crash-landing at your base, losing the helipcopter and all hostages inside. Scoring in the game was simply done: the game kept count of the number of hostages rescued and number of hostages killed. It was nearly impossible to successfully rescue all 64 hostages. Even once you got good at the game, 48 rescued was a great score. (My best ever was 56 and I played this game to death)

The Bad
There is nothing not to like about this game.

The Bottom Line
In Choplifter, you have to pilot your helicopter across the border into hostile territory to rescue 16 hostages held in prison camps per level. Opposing you are enemy tanks, which shoot at the escaped hostages and your helicopter when it is on the ground, jet fighter patrols which shoot deadly missiles at you, and on the later levels, flying mines that home in on your position for the kill.

Apple II · by Droog (460) · 2003

Excellent port from Sega

The Good
Dan Gorlin's game, Choplifter, was the king of search-and-rescue games, and it even sold more copies than the VisiCalc spreadsheet program. It first appeared on all computers and consoles, such as Apple ][, Commodore 64, ColecoVision, and Atari 5200/7800, but later, the game was eventually ported over to the NES and the Sega Master System. It was the latter port that appealed to me.

Choplifter was appropriately named because you control a helicopter that must use its missiles to blow up prisons and rescue hostages, and to do this, you land near the prison and stay there until all the hostages are on board. You then take off again and transport them safely back to the camp. Doing this is a difficult process as you also must also avoid being shot at by fighter jets and other enemy aircraft.

And while you are on the ground rescuing these hostages, a tank will appear and will do its best to bomb you and the hostages. To makes matters worse, the tank will not follow you but will hang around the prison until it makes sure that every hostage is killed. When you decide to bomb the tank, you have to proceed with caution, knowing when you can do it. You see, if you decide to bomb when the hostages are running around, you are likely to kill that hostage, so you need to make sure that there aren't any hostages around. (40 hostages must be transported back to camp to proceed to the next round.) I did not worry about this, since I did my best to rescue the most hostages that were inside a prison, knowing that if they die, then that's their fault.

The first versions of Choplifter were boring to play, the graphics were basically the same, as well as the gameplay. Sega managed to change all that when they decided to bring out their own version. Sega's version, by the way, is excellent. You see, this version consists of six rounds and features rich environments, such as the desert and sea. The animations are quite nice, especially the little bit of animation where your chopper is shot down and you parachute to the ground and burn up when you make contact.

The sound in the SMS version is also very good. There are three pieces of music in the game, but the last piece, that plays on rounds three and six, is worth listening to. The sound is greatly enhanced with the built-in FM chipset that comes with the second model of the SMS and is a big plus for all those who have managed to own this model.

The Bad
The game gets rather difficult as you proceed through the round.

The Bottom Line
The SMS version is excellent than its other counterparts. If you are disappointed that the original game was boring when you played it a few times, then I suggest having a go at the SMS version.

Rating: *

SEGA Master System · by Katakis | カタキス (43087) · 2005

[ View all 6 player reviews ]


1001 Video Games

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

Arcade version

After Choplifter! was released for the Apple II, it was not only ported to numerous other computer and console systems, but also converted by Sega into a coin-op arcade game. This makes Choplifter! one of the few 1980s games to start on a home system and later appear in arcades, instead of the other way around. According to Dan Gorlin he did not really have anything to do with this version as Sega created their own design and artwork for the game. He was nevertheless impressed with the result although would have preferred an analogue controller.

[Source: Retro Gamer Magazine, Load 51]

Cancelled PC version

Game creator Dan Gorlin began work on a PC version of Choplifter! during the 1990s, but says it was never completed due to "industry problems."

[Source: Retro Gamer Magazine, Load 51]


Choplifter! began as a 3D game in early development, but was later converted into a 2D side-scroller when creator Dan Gorlin realized the limitations of contemporary hardware.

[Source: Retro Gamer Magazine, Load 51]


Game creator Dan Gorlin cites both the Iranian hostage crisis and the arcade game Defender as major influences on Choplifter!'s design.

[Source: Retro Gamer Magazine, Load 51]


Choplifter designer Dan Gorlin on the surprising influence of his game on the industry:

A lot of professionals in the game business now tell me that Choplifter was big influence on them. It kinda freaks me out; like inventing dynamite or something.

(From the book *High Score!* by Rusel DeMaria and Johnny L. Wilson, p.125.)


While they both spawned strings of sequels to lead series of their own, Choplifter and Lode Runner can be considered to share not just human sprite animation, but a "game world" along with Will Wright's Raid on Bungeling Bay, all three games (all published by Brøderbund) eventually featuring the militaristic denizens of the Bungeling Empire as the primary antagonists.

Information also contributed by Garcia and Pseudo_Intellectual


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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 PCGamer77.

SG-1000 added by djindio. Arcade added by Michael Cassidy. Sharp X1, PC-6001, SMC-777 added by Infernos. Apple II added by KnockStump. Coleco Adam added by Hipolito Pichardo. Atari 5200, Atari 7800 added by RKL. Atari 8-bit added by Martin Smith. PC-88, FM-7 added by Terok Nor. VIC-20, Thomson TO added by Игги Друге. MSX added by koffiepad.

Additional contributors: Freeman, formercontrib, Patrick Bregger, FatherJack, 64er.

Game added January 8, 2003. Last modified May 5, 2024.