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The Zaxxon defence system must be destroyed in this isometric-viewed shoot 'em up. The game has three stages, first taking you through Asteroid City, which is heavily protected by aircraft, guns and missiles. Many barriers are alarmed, leaving you with limited space to progress through, and fire must constantly be dodged.

Stage two is a space shoot out against hordes of enemy aircraft - those you failed to destroy in the first part of the task. Complete this and you reach the final battle with Zaxxon, the game looping with increased difficulty if you can survive the first time. There are three distinct skill levels, while controls involve using forward to dive and back to climb, in the manner of flight simulation.


Zaxxon Atari 8-bit Dead
Zaxxon Arcade Deep space duel
Zaxxon Atari 8-bit Lower down, with something in range
Zaxxon Commodore 64 Zaxxon himself!

Promo Images

Zaxxon Screenshot
Zaxxon Screenshot


Alternate Titles

  • "ザクソン" -- Japanese spelling

Part of the Following Groups

User Reviews

A popular game back in the 2600 hey-day Atari 2600 MagFram (43)
A damn fine game. PC Booter Tomer Gabel (4643)
Pioneer in isometric perspective... ColecoVision Gustavo Henrique dos Santos (113)

Critic Reviews

Electronic Fun with Computers & Games Apple II Dec, 1983 4 out of 4 100
Info Commodore 64 Sep, 1984 5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars 100
The Video Game Critic Atari 8-bit May 27, 2004 A- 91
Retro Game Reviews ColecoVision Jun 28, 2015 9 Stars9 Stars9 Stars9 Stars9 Stars9 Stars9 Stars9 Stars9 Stars9 Stars 90 (UK) Arcade Oct 26, 2007 8 out of 10 80
Defunct Games ColecoVision May 06, 2015 B- 67
Tilt ZX Spectrum Oct, 1985 4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars 67
The Video Game Critic Atari 2600 May 04, 2003 C- 42
Nintendo Life Wii Mar 05, 2010 4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars 40
The Atari Times Atari 2600 Aug 09, 2002 19 out of 100 19


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Cancelled ports

  • Advertisements by U.S. Gold for upcoming Amstrad CPC conversions also included Zaxxon, but no such port was released.
  • The German magazine Telematch mentioned a Ti-99/4A version in their Zaxxon review in issue 04/1983. According to their own accord in issue 07/1983, they saw a prototype, but it was cancelled because of license issues between Datasoft and Texas Instruments.

Commodore 64 licensing

Synapse's C64 license deal for Zaxxon was actually the result of a dodgy scheme set up by one of SEGA's own lawyers, Robert Crane. It involved setting up his own company called Universal Licensing, which managed to get the Zaxxon license, despite not being able to manufacture disks or pay licensing fees. One of his friends, Brian Depew, posed as Universal's general counsel, while Crane was using a pseudonym during the process of sublicensing the game to Synapse. He was actually writing to himself from Universal to SEGA. He also set up a deal later that granted Hesware the rights for Super Zaxxon. Eventually, the whole thing was discovered and a settlement agreement reached.
    Sources: The case is described in Lawyers on Trial: Understanding Ethical Misconduct by Richard L. Abel. A shorter summary can also be found in the Entertainment Law Reporter, April 1991 issue.

Commodore 64 versions

There are two different, official ports of Zaxxon for the Commodore 64. Sega released the game on cartridge and Synapse Software released it on disk and cassette. Of the two, most people tend to agree that the Synapse version is superior. While the cartridge version's graphics are somewhat more faithful to the arcade original, the gameplay and sound aren't as polished as the Synapse version.


John Garcia was actually in management at Datasoft when Zaxxon was written.

Telematch charts

In issue 06/1983 of the German magazine Telematch, the non-existing Ti-99/4A version of Zaxxon reached number one of the Readers' Choice charts. The responsible employee was fired. More information about the Ti-99/4A version under "cancelled ports".


The curious moniker "Zaxxon" is derived, circuitously, from "isometric axonometric projection", its early 2.5D perspective which it is credited with being the first game to use.


  • TeleMatch
    • Issue 04/1984 – #2 Video Game of the Year 1983 (Readers' Vote)
  • Zzap!
    • May 1985 (Issue 1) - #54 'It's the Zzap! 64 Top 64!'
Information also contributed by John Romero
Contributed to by Charly2.0 (252967), PCGamer77 (3233), RKL (5736), Sciere (717245), Kabushi (256621), Martin Smith (75155), Pseudo_Intellectual (63340), Servo (57364), Tomer Gabel (4643) and L. Curtis Boyle (750)