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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.


Zork: The Great Underground Empire DOS The Thief is a tough opponent but definitely not unbeatable.
Zork: The Great Underground Empire Macintosh Game start
Zork: The Great Underground Empire Commodore 64 Entered the house and in the kitchen
Zork: The Great Underground Empire PC-98 ...and you can even see it graphically!

Promo Images

Zork: The Great Underground Empire Magazine Advertisement Pages 104-105

Alternate Titles

  • "Zork: The Great Underground Empire - Part I" -- Alternative Apple II media title
  • "ZORK I: The Great Underground Empire " -- In-game title (1983 edition)
  • "Zork I: The Great Underground Empire" -- Re-release title
  • "Zork I: Le Grand Empire des Ténèbres" -- Canadian (French) title
  • "Zork I" -- Renamed title (after second and third Zork games were released)
  • "Zork" -- Personal Software published name
  • "Zork" -- Title of the original TRS-80 release

Part of the Following Groups

User Reviews

Old is Gold DOS Sam Vulcan (18)
For Adventure Games who want to go back to the very beginning of it all Commodore 64 Pumbaz (252)
Great game, my favourite text-only, text adventure DOS Andrew Fisher (707)
Zork?!? Zork What? Zork you too, pal. DOS rs2000 (15)
It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue. DOS vedder (51029)
The most eclectic and interesting of the series DOS Colin Rowsell (45)
A great introduction to interactive fiction. DOS Mirrorshades2k (282)
You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a great game here. DOS Steelysama (106)
The one that stated it all for Infocom DOS Tony Van (2855)
But there's no such thing as a grue Macintosh Katakis | カタキス (41931)

Critic Reviews

Adventure Classic Gaming DOS May 10, 1998 5 out of 5 100
Adventure Classic Gaming DOS May 10, 1998 5 out of 5 100
Zzap! Commodore 64 Aug, 1985 92 out of 100 92
CU Amiga Amiga Feb, 1991 86 out of 100 86
PC Player (Germany) DOS Aug, 1994 78 out of 100 78
Electronic Fun with Computers & Games Atari 8-bit Jul, 1983 3 out of 4 75
Amiga Computing Amiga Jul, 1988 64 out of 100 64
SPAG DOS Dec 13, 1997 6.1 out of 10 61
PC Magazine PC Booter Dec, 1982 Unscored Unscored
Computer Gaming World (CGW) Apple II Mar, 1983 Unscored Unscored


Topic # Posts Last Post
Be honest about Zork 13 Indra was here (20891)
Oct 23, 2007
You are likely to be eaten ... 5 xroox (3959)
Sep 16, 2007


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 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, Pseudo_Intellectual, Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe and FatherJack

Related Web Sites

Contributed to by Brian Hirt (10028), Trypticon (11040), Slik (942), Riemann80 (19614), Droog (522), Kabushi (256021), Pseudo_Intellectual (63272), Terok Nor (30414), Игги Друге (46331), LepricahnsGold (142504), vedder (51029) and Belboz (6580)