Star Raiders

aka: ST Star Raiders
Atari 8-bit Specs [ all ]
See Also
Buy on Atari 2600
Buy on Atari 5200
$4.75 used at Amazon
$14.99 used, $37.00 new at eBay
Buy on Windows
Buy on Xbox 360
(prices updated 9/29 9:14 AM )

Description official descriptions

As the pilot of an interstellar starship, your mission is to destroy all enemy spacecraft on the galactic chart and prevent them from destroying your starbases. There are three different types of fighters roaming throughout the galaxy; cruisers, fighters, and basestars. With the help of your galactic map, you can find the sectors of the galaxy where these fighters are located and then warp there to destroy them. When all of the fighters in a sector are destroyed, you can warp to a new location for the next battle. Be sure to keep an eye on your starship's energy level; warping to new locations, being hit by enemy fire, or colliding with an asteroid will drain your energy. If you completely run out of energy, your starship will be destroyed, however you can warp back to a starbase to refuel at any time. Returning to a starbase will also repair other types of damage your starship can receive, such as faulty engines, loss of your shields, and faulty photon torpedoes. When all of the enemy ships have been destroyed, you win the game and receive a rank.

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Credits (Atari 8-bit version)

Cover Artwork (US)



Average score: 73% (based on 11 ratings)


Average score: 3.3 out of 5 (based on 64 ratings with 4 reviews)

Quite simply, The best first-person space combat game of it's time.

The Good
Star Raiders burst onto the scene in 1982, and for this young eleven-year-old it was the answer to a dream. Fantastic sci-fi movies such as STAR WARS and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA had fired the imagination with vivid images of fighters blasting at one another in deep space, but until Star Raiders (and it's more primitive Activision counterpart StarMaster) space combat simulations were limited to glorified shooting galleries (STAR FIRE, TAIL GUNNER), 2-dimensional enemies-at-the-top-you-at-the-bottom games (GALAGA, PHOENIX), and games in which the user could shoot anything on screen, but the movement of the ship was as tightly controlled as a railroad engine (STAR WARS).

Into this morass came Star Raiders, which allowed for the first time a budding pilot to fly literally anywhere in the game universe. Further, it used a pseudo-3D flight model in which "Up", "Down", "Above", "Behind" all had meaning. In no other game at the time was it possible for one enemy fighter to distract you while another came up behind and blindsided you with a weapon. The feeling of freedom and of being in an honest-to-goodness spacecraft was unbelievable.

In addition, the game provided a number of other advanced features which would make it the most advanced space combat sim until the advent of ELITE in the late 80s/early nineties. Among them:

-- Individual ship components which could be damaged or destroyed. -- Control of multiple ship systems including shields, two computers, a sublight throttle and a hyperdrive. -- Tracking of ship movement within the local "sector" and in the larger "galaxy" in real-time. -- Strategic considerations, and the ability to destroy your own starbases to prevent the enemy gaining advantage from them. -- An advanced HUD indicating position of targets not in your immediate vicinity. -- "Guided" weapons (after a weapon was fired, moving the joystick would also change the course of the weapon, allowing one to "steer" it into distant targets). -- Different types of enemies with different capabilities and different attack profiles. -- Detailed energy management, each action having a corresponding cost in fuel, requiring careful management and planning. -- The presence of starbases (and utility tugs), which had to be defended and docked with.

All in all, an astonishing game, not only for the incredible level of detail and gameplay, but also that it was unequalled for nearly seven years.

The Bad
Even today, but especially for its time, it was a complex game. The Atari 5200 I played it on provided a 12-key phone touchpad with the joystick and Star Raiders used all 12 buttons, many of them mapped to more than one function. A failure of any of the keys meant that the game was unplayable. The interface was also somewhat difficult, as there were a number of things that had to be done very quickly on entering an enemy-occupied sector and all of it on the keypad.

It was also a game that could not be played without reading the instruction manual. This was the age before in-game tutorials; if you simply plugged it in and started flying, you would accomplish nothing and run out of gas. Even with the manual, some tasks such as docking with a starbase to replenish were non-trivial exercises that took practice to get right.

For an average person that had no interest in space, these difficulties may have made the game unplayable; for an eleven-year-old space enthusiast, they were nitpicks barely worthy of mention.

The Bottom Line
An excellent space-combat game -- still playable, even today.

Atari 5200 · by Brian Pendell (17) · 2004

Visually dull, but fantastic and challenging gameplay

The Good
Given the limitations of early consoles like the 5200, Star Raiders was a pretty amazing game for its time that included quite a bit of detail and was still incredibly fun to play. Your goal is pretty much to destroy any enemies in the galaxy that you can find before they destroy your own starbases. The groups of enemies show up on your galactic chart, and attempt to surround and destroy your starbases so you'll need to complete your mission fast (especially on later levels). Whether you were looking at the galactic chart, flying through hyperspace, or in a battle all of the enemies were always on the move. Overall there is a large amount of freedom in the game to go where you want, when you want. You could (attempt) to leave battles if you were losing to go get your ship repaired, attack whichever cluster of enemies you wanted, or even visit empty space if you felt like it. Played from a first person point of view (impressive and uncommon on a 5200), you had the ability to control numerous aspects of your starship like shields, weapons, scanner, hyperdrive, and more. Really an astonishing array of actions; luckily the 5200 joystick actually worked quite well for this, even the often criticized analog stick didn't provide any obstacles to playing the game. An overlay was included for the 12 button keypad which controlled most functions. Having these right on the joystick (and labeled clearly) was nice, especially when compared with other platforms where the computer keyboard or a separate keypad was used which I found too distracting. Another nice touch is the various types of damages your starship could sustain; these actually affected your display or flying abilities until you could dock with a starbase and repair them (docking with a damaged engine was particularly challenging). There aren't many sounds in the game, but the ones that are there are decent.

The Bad
The gameplay was complex to learn; without the instruction manual, you would pretty much be completely lost. Even after learning the game, some operations always seemed to be overly difficult, such as docking with starbases. After playing many times, I still screwed that up on a regular basis. Visually the game wasn't terribly exciting. Graphics are blocky, the sprites are all single color without much detail, and the game speed slows down when too many explosions are on screen. You can't expect too much from a 3D game in 1982 though, and it doesn't distract from the gameplay much so it's not too big a deal (even if it's not pretty, everything you need to see is on screen and clear enough).

The Bottom Line
If you can get past the challenge in learning the game, it's a lot of fun to play even if it isn't the best looking game on the 5200. The increasingly challenging missions you'll need to complete in order to obtain higher rankings provide plenty of replay value, I spent many hours with this one!

Atari 5200 · by Servo (57056) · 2004

Mindblowing for its time!

The Good
For a game released in the late 70s, this is an absolutely mindblowing piece of work, particularly for something that fits into an 8K ROM cartridge! It has also stood the test of time very well.

The graphics were impressive for the time, and given the technical limitations of the hardware on which it runs, are still impressive today. The framerate is incredible, only when there are explosions on screen do you get a chance to take a breath, the rest of the time everything is moving so fast you really have to keep your wits about you.

The sound also suits this title well, and while there isn't that much to hear, what there is suits the mood perfectly. There is no music, but that wouldn't suit the serious tone of this title. What there is is what is needed - the sound of your photon torpedos firing, the sound of your ion drive pushing you through space, the sound of your hyperdrive warping you to a new sector for yet more frantic action, the sound of alarms going off as you enter a sector containing enemy craft, and of course, the satisfying sound of an enemy craft exploding!

I love how everything happens in real time - you snooze, you will lose, from the moment you start the game the Zylon craft are on the attack, trying to sorround and then destroy your precious star bases, which it is your task to defend.

The tactical element is fantastic too - do you risk disabling your shields when you think you won't need them to conserve energy? How will you attack the enemy Zylon craft?

The Bad
There is very little I don't like about this game. About the only room for improvement as far as I am concerned was the difficulty curve - choose NOVICE and it's far too easy, yet PILOT, WARRIOR & COMMANDER are much tougher and even those who can easily complete a NOVICE mission will probably struggle to get better then a ROOKIE rating in any skill level higher then novice - if they finish at all!

The Bottom Line
The original and best 3D space shooter, defend your star bases, destroy the invading zylon attack fleet, and do it quickly, because the clock is ticking!

Atari 8-bit · by TroyW (17) · 2009

[ View all 4 player reviews ]



Star Raiders was one of the absolutely first titles for Atari's 400/800 line of computer. It was in fact programmed by one of the chip designers as a side project, and he never received any royalties for his work.


The Atari 2600 version of Star Raiders was packaged with the Atari Video Touch Pad. Here is a picture of the Video Touch Pad at It also came with a comic book of Atari Force #3. Here is that comic at

Information also contributed by Игги Друге

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Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 9317


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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Servo.

Atari 5200 added by RKL. Xbox 360, Windows added by Alaka. Atari 8-bit added by Terok Nor.

Additional contributors: Belboz, Alaka, LepricahnsGold.

Game added June 4th, 2003. Last modified August 17th, 2023.