Star Wars Aracade is a vector graphics-based video game released by Atari in 1983. Additional versions were released for home consoles (albeit with inferior graphics). The game plays a minor role in Ready Player One, serving as the inspiration for the arcade museum planet of Archaide.
The planet’s only surface feature was a web of glowing green dots similar to the ground lights on an airport runway. They were spaced evenly across the globe in a perfect grid, so that, from orbit, Archaide resembled the vector graphic Death Star from Atari’s 1983 Star Wars arcade game.
The stand-up arcade machine placed the player in the role of Luke Skywalker in his assault on the Death Star in the original movie. The basic game starts with the player going up against waves of TIE Fighters. After defeating them, the player advances to the surface of the Death Star, blasting towers and anti-starfighter batteries. Finally, the player descends into the trench itself, avoiding or destroying barriers before attempting to blow up the Death Star itself.
The game then repeats with progressively more difficult waves of enemies and adds new mechanics, like a strafing run across the surface to take out gun emplacements and towers.
Ah, Star Wars Arcade. I never passed up a chance to play the game, even though I was never very good at it. It’s the first Star Wars game I played that felt like Star Wars – it may have been vector graphic-based (and thus primitive by today’s standards) but it captured the feel of the trench run perfectly.
The graphics themselves were actually pretty great, both then and now. The game fits the retrofuture feel of Star Wars, and while the game itself is on rails – there’s a scene progression that you can’t avoid – that too works here. Of course, you’re going to attack TIE fighters. Of course, you’re going to do the trench run. Of course, you’re going to try and blow up the Death Star.
That’s what heroes do.
The lack of inverted controls on the emulator I used caused me the most headaches. After years of playing X-Wing, Wing Commander, and other flying games with a joystick, it’s hard for me to play “normally”. I’m sure I can double my score if I can figure out how to invert the controls, but until then, I’ll enjoy the pale green glow of the retro arcade.
The Ready Player One Replay is an ongoing exploration of the games that inspired the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Love it or hate it, there’s value in revisiting our geeky roots.
- My High Score: 60,013
Star Wars Arcade Resources
Where to Play
- Star Wars (1983 video game)
- Museum of the Game: Star Wars
- Wookipedia: Star Wars: The Arcade Game
- Green Man Gaming: Remembering the Star Wars 1983 Arcade Game
- A Richard Wood Text Adventure: A Star Wars Video Game Retrospective – Episode 4: “Star Wars” Arcade (1983)
- Sega Wants To Bring Star Wars Arcade To Nintendo Switch
Featured Image Meta
A screenshot of the Death Star from Star Wars Arcade. Hat tip to Richard Wood for the image.