Task: Play Star Raiders on Your Atari 8-Bit Computer
Needed: Start Raiders cartridge, disk, or ROM
Time: 15-30 mins
Star Raiders was released in 1979 along with the Atari 400 and 800 computers. It was a huge success and the demos in the stores drove numerous 400s and 800s off the shelves. It had very impressive 3D graphics for the time and people were blown away by the space scenes. It is important to remember that Star Wars was in theaters in 1977, and Star Trek had been out on TV a decade before. So, everyone was primed for space battle in 3D on the Atari.
The goal of the game is to destroy as many enemy ships as possible. To do this, you navigate a two-dimensional grid where each cell is a sector with enemies in it. Each sector has a base that can be protected by killing the nearby enemies. Navigation has the additional complexity of space objects that must be avoided to prevent damage to your ship. It is a really fun game, although it can be tedious at times. There is a good deal of info about the game on Wikipedia. The instructions for the game can be found here.
The ROM for Star Raiders is available for download. This can be loaded into Altirra emulator to play on a PC or onto a flash drive device such as the Atarimax Maxflash cartridge for play on original hardware. You can find loose Star Raiders cartridges on eBay for around $5 or $10. They are very common.
I never had a Star Raiders cartridge for whatever reason, but do remember playing a rented/pirated version of it. If you have never played it, it is worth trying out because of its history and impact on the sales of the Atari 8-bit computers. Definitely a major part of Atari history!
An interesting bit of trivia is that the Atari 400 was originally planned to be an arcade machine to replace the 2600. As such, the plans did not call for a keyboard. It is my understanding that they added a keyboard specifically so people could play Star Raiders.
The source code for Star Raiders is available thanks to Kevin Savetz.