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Star Wars: The Arcade Game - The Atari Times

Star Wars: The Arcade Game

The force is with... yeah, we know.
by Gregory D. George

February 18, 2014
Years ago when Star Wars was still considered good (and not watered down by the horrible prequels) the only way to get your Star Wars fix in video game form was to play Star Wars the arcade game by Atari. I remember playing that game in the sit-down cabinet as well as the stand-up model.

The control was one of the most unique I had ever seen being a hybrid between a steering-wheel and a dual-joystick. You would tilt upwards, downwards, turn left or right and the cursor would go exactly where you pointed. If you released it, the cursor would return to the center. I would get into it so much that I would bob my head up and down when flying over the trench catwalks. My step mother asked, "Does that help?"

So naturally, I wanted that game to come to my home. And I wanted the Atari 8-bit version since it looked so much better than the 2600 one. So imagine my disappointment when I received the 2600 version for my birthday! But what the heck, I'll play it anyway. And guess what? It turned out to be a pretty okay game after all.


The 2600 version of the game is definitely fun, but it's muted experience compared with the arcade. The arcade is big, loud, bombastic, and exciting! This one feels a bit neutered. Not quite as fast or amazing as the original. No scary flybys of the TIE Fighters. The fireballs come at you much slower and the towers appear in the same pattern every time. So, it's okay, but it doesn't "feel" like the arcade.


The graphics give you a tease of the original vector 3d game. The X-Wing is rendered fairly nicely, even though there are only two S-Foils (wings) showing. The nose doesn't look much like the arcade at all. The TIE Fighters are simple sprites and the fireballs don't get very big.

Naturally, the biggest difference between this version and the arcade is a sense of "depth." The TIE Fighters don't fly past you like in the arcade. They just zip around out in the distance shooting fireballs at you. The Death Star doesn't zoom in like in the arcade, the next level just appears. But, I guess that's the best the 2600 could do back then.

The tower level is a bit better than the TIE Fighter level. It looks like the towers are flying right towards you. But one thing missing here are the ground targets.

The trench level is probably the best. The catwalks appear in all their flickery glory and the fireballs come at you from every direction. The final explosion of the Death Star isn't as spectacular as the arcade - It's just a tiny explosion in the distance. Still, it's a worthy goal to strive for!


Sounds are... lacking. You got the shooting sound, the "when you get hit" sound, the sound a fireball makes as it's fired at you, the explosion sound, and a brief theme music sound. That's basically it. Yes, it was too much to ask to have the voice-overs in this version.


The 2600 version relies on the joystick controller. And unlike the special arcade controller, if you let go, it does not return to the center. So you will have a hard time getting around the screen quickly.

Sometimes it feels sluggish, as if you're having to "drag" the cursor around the screen. Unfortunately, that can be a critical problem if you are getting attacked left and right!

Final Thoughts

Despite it's shortcomings, Star Wars: The Arcade Game is a pretty decent effort on the 2600. Seriously, did you think it was going to match the arcade version? Of course not. It's still a fun game if you give it a chance. And since it was my only way of playing the game at home (before emulation) it almost made me feel like I had brought the arcade cabinet to my house.

Well, without the voice and steering controller anyway.

Star Wars: The Arcade Game

(c) Parker Brothers

A long time ago... Has new meaning today, doesn't it?!
These guys keep their distance.
Always wondered why shooting the tops of towers helped.
It's "sort" of 3D...
Star Wars: The Arcade Game
System: 2600
Publisher: Parker Brothers
Genre: Shooter
Graphics Score: 45%
Sound & Music Score: 60%
Gameplay Score: 65%
Control Score: 45%

Final Score: 70%

Reader Comments for Star Wars: The Arcade Game

Star Wars by BloodR on 2014-02-22 18:35:43
Yeah you have hit the nail on the head. A worthy game but no cigar. Also you are so right about the sequels tarnishing the image of the original Star Wars.
Star Wars Arcade by Jeeshman on 2016-11-30 22:44:50
I played the hell out of this when it came out, and this review is exactly correct. Not bad, but not great either. Still, at the time it was basically the only way to play Star Wars on the 800.
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