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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 Atari 2600 The game in black and white mode
Defender Atari 2600 A game in progress
Defender Atari 2600 More enemies on their way in!
Defender Atari 2600 Title screen

Promo Images

Defender Magazine Advertisement


Alternate Titles

  • "Earth Attack" -- Zellers title
  • "ディフェンダー" -- Japanese spelling

Part of the Following Groups

User Reviews

There are no reviews for the Atari 2600 release of this game. You can use the links below to write your own review or read reviews for the other platforms of this game.

Critic Reviews

Game Freaks 365 2004 8.3 out of 10 83
Tilt Jan, 1983 5 out of 6 83
JoyStik Dec, 1982 8 out of 10 80
The Atari Times Sep 02, 2002 80 out of 100 80
8-bit Central Retro Gaming 2011 3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars 70
Oldies Rising Jun 13, 2012 13 out of 20 65
neXGam Nov 08, 2014 6.3 out of 10 63
Atari HQ 2001 6 out of 10 60
Retro Archives Mar 07, 2022 8 out of 20 40
The Video Game Critic Jul 14, 2002 D 25


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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, Nélio, PCGamer77, Pseudo_Intellectual and FatherJack

Related Web Sites

PCGamer77 (3225) added Defender (Atari 2600) on Apr 03, 2003
Other platforms contributed by Corn Popper (68945), Trixter (9115), PCGamer77 (3225), chirinea (47006), HelloMrKearns (15256), OmegaPC777 (7987), RKL (5734), Kabushi (257603), Martin Smith (78737), Pseudo_Intellectual (64350) and Servo (57355)
atari mania