Missile Command is a 1980 arcade game developed and published by
Atari, Inc. and licensed to
Sega for European release. It was designed
by Dave Theurer, who also designed Atari's vector graphics game
Tempest from the same year. The 1981
Atari 2600 port of Missile
Command by Rob Fulop sold over 2.5 million copies and became the
third most popular cartridge for the system.
7 World records
7.1 Marathon settings
7.2 Tournament settings
8 In popular culture
10 See also
12 External links
The player's six cities are being attacked by an endless hail of
ballistic missiles, some of which split like multiple independently
targetable reentry vehicles. New weapons are introduced in later
levels: smart bombs that can evade a less-than-perfectly targeted
missile, and bomber planes and satellites that fly across the screen
launching missiles of their own. As a regional commander of three
anti-missile batteries, the player must defend six cities in their
zone from being destroyed.
The game is played by moving a crosshair across the sky background via
a trackball and pressing one of three buttons to launch a
counter-missile from the appropriate battery. Counter-missiles explode
upon reaching the crosshair, leaving a fireball that persists for
several seconds and destroys any enemy missiles that enter it. There
are three batteries, each with ten missiles; a missile battery becomes
useless when all its missiles are fired, or if the battery is
destroyed by enemy fire. The missiles of the central battery fly to
their targets at much greater speed; only these missiles can
effectively kill a smart bomb at a distance.
The game is staged as a series of levels of increasing difficulty;
each level contains a set number of incoming enemy weapons. The
weapons attack the six cities, as well as the missile batteries; being
struck by an enemy weapon results in destruction of the city or
missile battery. Enemy weapons are only able to destroy three cities
during one level. A level ends when all enemy weaponry is destroyed or
reaches its target. A player who runs out of missiles no longer has
control over the remainder of the level. At the conclusion of a level,
the player receives bonus points for any remaining cities (50 points
times scoring level, 1 to 6) or unused missiles (5 points times
scoring level, 1 to 6). Between levels missile batteries are rebuilt
and replenished; destroyed cities are rebuilt only at set point levels
(usually every 10,000 or 12,000 points).
The game inevitably ends when all six cities are destroyed, unless the
player manages to score enough points to earn a bonus city before the
end of the level. Like most early arcade games, there is no way to
"win" the game; the game just keeps going with ever-faster and more
prolific incoming missiles. The game, then, is just a contest in
seeing how long the player can survive. On conclusion of the game, the
screen displays "The End", rather than "Game Over", signifying that
"[i]n the end, all is lost. There is no winner." This conclusion is
skipped, however, if the player makes the high score list and the game
prompts the player to enter his/her initials.
The game features an interesting bug: once a score of 810,000 is
reached, a large number of cities are awarded (176 cities plus the
continuing accrual of bonus cities) and it is possible to carry on
playing for several hours. At some later stage the speed of missiles
increases greatly for a few screens. On the 255th and 256th yellow
screens, known as the 0x stages, the scoring increases by 256 times
the base value. For good players these two 0x stages could earn over a
million points. This enabled them to reach a score of approximately
2,800,000 (although only six-digit scores were shown, so it would
display 800,000) and at this point the accelerated rate would suddenly
cease and the game would restart at its original (slow) speed and
return to the first stage, but with the score and any saved cities
retained. In this way it was possible to play this game for hours on
When the game was originally designed, the six cities were meant to
represent six cities in California: Eureka, San Francisco, San Luis
Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
While programming Missile Command, the programmer, Dave Theurer,
suffered from nightmares of these cities being destroyed by a nuclear
See also: Culture during the Cold War
Missile Command is considered one of the great classic video games
from the Golden Age of Arcade Games. The game is also interesting in
its manifestation of the Cold War's effects on popular culture, in
that the game features an implementation of National Missile Defense
and parallels real life nuclear war.
In 1983 Softline readers named
Missile Command for the
computers eighth on the magazine's Top Thirty list of
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Missile Command for the
Missile Command for the Xbox 360
Missile Command was ported to the
Atari 2600 in 1981. The game's
instruction manual describes a war between two planets: Zardon (the
defending player) and Krytol. The original arcade game contains no
reference to these worlds. On level 13, if the player uses all of his
or her missiles without scoring any points, at the end of the game the
city on the right will turn into "RF" — the initials of the
programmer Rob Fulop. This Easter egg is originally documented in
Atari Age (Volume 1, Issue 2) in a letter to the editor by Joseph
Nickischer, and is the second one publicly acknowledged by Atari.
Missile Command was released for the
Atari 8-bit family
Atari 8-bit family in 1981 and an
identical version for the
Atari 5200 in 1982. The same
port was later used in the 1987
Atari XEGS as a built-in game that
boots up if there isn't a cartridge or keyboard in the console.
In the 1990s,
Missile Command was ported to the
Atari Lynx and Game
Boy. It was released as part of the original
Microsoft Arcade for the
PC in 1993. It was also included in some compilations on Sega
Arcade Smash Hits
Arcade Smash Hits on Master System,
Arcade Classics on Game
Boy Retails 4 Published by Nintendo,
Arcade Classics on
Game Gear and
Arcade Classics on Genesis.
An updated version called
Missile Command 3D was released for the
Atari Jaguar in 1995. It contains three versions of the game: Classic
(a straight port of the arcade game), 3D (graphically upgraded and
with a rotating viewpoint), and Virtual. It is the only game that
works with the virtual reality helmet from Virtuality.[citation
Hasbro Interactive released a 3D remake of
Missile Command for
Microsoft Windows and PlayStation in 1999.
Missile Command has also been included in compilations such as Atari
Arcade Hits 1,
Atari Anniversary Edition and Atari: 80 Classic Games
Missile Command was released via
Xbox Live Arcade
Xbox Live Arcade for the
Xbox 360 on
July 4, 2007. It adds high-definition graphics.
On September 23, 2008,
Missile Command was released for the iPhone and
iPod touch for US$5. It includes two gameplay modes ("Ultra" and
In late 1980, a two-player sequel
Missile Command 2 was field tested
but never released although at least one prototype appeared in an
arcade in Santa Clara, California. This game was similar to the
original except that each player had their own set of cities and
missile batteries and the players could cooperate to save each other's
cities from the onslaught.
In 1981, an enhancement kit was made by
General Computer Corp. to
Missile Command into Super Missile Attack. This made the game
even harder, and added a
UFO to the player's enemies.
Atari released a game called Liberator, which was seen by some
as being a sequel to
Missile Command with the situation essentially
reversed; in Liberator, the player is the one attacking planetary
bases from orbit.
Atari developed a prototype of an arcade game called Arcade
Classics for their 20th anniversary. The game included Missile Command
2 and Super Centipede (an updated version of the original Centipede).
John Braden recorded two different stories for Kid Stuff Records
detailing the peaceful world of Zardon and the invasion of the
Krytolians. The 12" album tells the broader story, beginning with an
emergency meeting in which the Zardonian public learns of the threat
for the first time. It has two songs, a title track and "Zardon
Commanders". The 7" tells a smaller, more specific story.
The 2015 role-playing game
Fallout 4 has a game called Atomic Command,
a parody of
Missile Command that has the player protecting famous
landmarks from missiles.
Two types of world record are monitored for the arcade version of
Missile Command: Marathon settings and Tournament settings. Both
settings allow the player to start with six cities. Marathon settings
give the player additional bonus cities, allowing seasoned players to
play the game, in theory, indefinitely. In tournament mode, no bonus
cities are awarded at any point in the game; the game ends when all
six cities are destroyed.
In 1981, Floridian Jody Bowles played a
Missile Command arcade game
for 30 hours at The Filling Station Eatery in Pensacola. Bowles racked
up 41,399,845 points with only one quarter using Marathon Settings,
besting the previous known record, according to
Atari spokesman Mike
Fournell. The record was broken when Victor Ali of the USA scored
80,364,995 points in 1982. It is believed[by whom?] that Ali played
the game continuously for 56 hours.
Beginning on March 15, 2013 Victor Sandberg of Sweden surpassed all
previous records live on Twitch with a final score of 81,796,035
points after 56 hours of play.
On December 27, 2013, Sandberg started a new world record attempt
which ended after 71 hours and 41 minutes on December 30, culminating
in a score of 103,809,990 on level 10,432, 10 points short of getting
an additional 176 cities (see 'gameplay' above).
On March 9, 2006, Tony Temple, a UK-based gamer, set a world record
Missile Command in Tournament mode confirmed by Twin Galaxies. His
score of 1,967,830 points beat the record previously held by US gamer
Roy Shildt for more than 20 years. Shildt maintains that he played
using slightly different settings to Temple, even though the
particular setting he refers to would not have been monitored at the
time he set his record; this according to the official Guinness
manuals from that era. Temple's record was recognized by the Official
Video Game & Pinball Book of World Records and was listed in the
2007 Guinness Book of Records, as well as the Guinness Gamers Edition
Book 2008. Tony Temple has subsequently increased his world record on
two occasions, culminating in a score of 4,472,570 verified on 9
September 2010. This score took 2 hours 57 minutes, and represents the
first officially verified time that a player has passed the highest
level at wave 256 on
Missile Command under tournament settings, the
game difficulty starts over at level 1 again.
His nearest rival, Jeffrey Blair, posted a score of 1,874,925 also in
In popular culture
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references to popular culture. Please reorganize this content to
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Missile Command was referenced in the 1980 episode "Call Girl" of the
TV sitcom Barney Miller, which featured a young detective who was
hooked on the game.
The award-winning documentary High Score (2006) follows William
Portland, Oregon gamer, on his quest to beat the Missile
Command high score record for Marathon settings.
In the 2008 episode "Chuck Versus Tom Sawyer" of the
NBC show Chuck, a
weapons satellite access code is hidden in the (fictitious) kill
Missile Command by its programmer.
In the 1982 movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Missile Command's "The
End" screen is used to help illustrate the film's ending.
Missile Command was played by John Connor in the 1991 movie Terminator
2: Judgment Day.
Action from the game is seen during the opening sequence of the Cold
War television drama The Americans.
"Atomic Command," a variant of Missile Command, is playable on the
Pip-Boy interface in the
Fallout 4 video game and on the iOS Pip-Boy
app, published by Bethesda Softworks LLC. The graphics of the game
have been modified to fit within the fictional mid-20th-century
post-apocalyptic culture of the Fallout series, but the game's
mechanics remain nearly identical to Missile Command
In February 2010,
Atari announced that it was talking with several
studios to find one that would turn
Missile Command into a movie.
On January 11, 2011, 20th Century Fox announced that it had acquired
the rights to bring
Missile Command to film. In May 2016, It was
announced that Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films has closed a deal to partner
Atari to produce and finance both Centipede and Missile
Video games portal
History of video games
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List of arcade video games
^ a b c "The Giant List of Classic Game Programmers".
^ Weiss, Brett Alan. "
Missile Command - Overview - allgame". Allgame.
Retrieved 2 March 2014.
^ Buchanan, Levi (August 26, 2008). "Top 10 Best-Selling
^ a b "The Creation of
Missile Command and the haunting of its
creator, Dave Theurer". polygon.com. 2013-08-15. Retrieved
^ Blue Wizard Is About To Die!, Pg. 140, Seth Flynn Barkan,
^ Extra Credits: Narrative Mechanics
^ Weiss, Brett Alan. "
Missile Command - Review". AllGame. Archived
from the original on November 14, 2014. Retrieved August 18,
^ "The Most Popular
Atari Program Ever". Softline. March 1983.
p. 44. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
^ "Next Wave:
Missile Command 3D". Electronic Gaming Monthly.
No. 78. Sendai Publishing. January 1996. p. 132.
^ Man Plays Video Game 30 Hours To Win Record With One Quarter. Ocala
Star-Banner. 4 May 1981.
^ a b DiskborsteMC's
^ "Call Girl". Barney Miller. Season 7. Episode 6. December 18,
^ "High Score". Highscoremovie.com. Archived from the original on
April 11, 2016.
Chuck Versus Tom Sawyer
Chuck Versus Tom Sawyer Season Episode Guide on". Tv.com. Retrieved
^ "Atari's Missile Command, a potential Hollywood franchise". Los
Angeles Times. 2010-02-18. Retrieved 2010-06-26.
^ "24 Frames".
Los Angeles Times.
^ Graser, Marc (2011-01-11). "
Atari arms 'Missile Command' for
^ Fleming, Jr, Mike (May 12, 2016). "
Atari Classic Arcade Games
Missile Command Headed For Big Screen".
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Missile Command.
Missile Command at the Killer List of Videogames
Missile Command at the Arcade History database
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