Centipede (video game)

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Promotional flyer, showcasing the arcade cabinets used for the title
Developer(s) Atari, Inc.
Publisher(s) Atari, Inc.
Designer(s) Ed Logg and Dona Bailey
Platform(s) Arcade, Various
Release date(s) Arcade
Atari 2600 Atari 5200 Atari 7800
Genre(s) Fixed shooter
Mode(s) Up to 2 players, alternating turns
Cabinet Upright, cocktail
CPU 1x MOS Technology 6502 @ 1.512 MHz
Sound 1x Atari POKEY @ 1.512 MHz
Display Raster, 240×256, vertical orientation, palette colors 16

Centipede is a vertically oriented shoot 'em up arcade game produced by Atari, Inc. in 1981. The game was designed by Ed Logg and Dona Bailey. The player defends against centipedes, spiders, scorpions and fleas, completing a round after eliminating the centipede that winds down the playing field.


Screenshot of Centipede's gameplay

The player is represented by a small, "somewhat humanoid head"[1] at the bottom of the screen, later depicted as a caped, elf-like character on the Atari 2600, Atari 5200 and Atari 7800 cartridge graphics (though described as being a garden gnome in the trivia section of the cell phone interpretation). The player moves the character about the bottom area of the screen with a trackball and fires laser shots at a centipede advancing from the top of the screen down through a field of mushrooms. Shooting any section of the centipede creates a mushroom; shooting one of the middle segments splits the centipede into two pieces at that point. Each piece then continues independently on its way down the board, with the first section of the rear piece becoming a new head. If the head is destroyed, the section behind it becomes the next head.

The centipede starts at the top of the screen, traveling either left or right. When it hits a mushroom or the edge of the screen, it drops one level and switches direction. Thus, more mushrooms on the screen cause the centipede to descend more rapidly. The player can destroy mushrooms by shooting them, but each takes four hits to destroy.


If the centipede reaches the bottom of the screen, it moves back and forth within the player area and one-segment "head" centipedes are periodically added. This continues until the player has eliminated both the original centipede and all heads. When all the centipede's segments are destroyed, a new centipede forms at the top of the screen. Every time a centipede is eliminated, however, the next one is one segment shorter and is accompanied by one additional, fast-moving "head" centipede.

The player is also menaced by other creatures besides the centipedes. Fleas drop vertically, leaving additional mushrooms in their path; they appear when fewer than five mushrooms are in the player movement area, though the number required increases with level of difficulty. Spiders move across the player area in a zig-zag fashion and occasionally eat some of the mushrooms. Scorpions move horizontally across the screen and poison every mushroom they touch, but these never appear in the player movement region. A centipede touching a poisoned mushroom hurtles straight down toward the player area, then returns to normal behavior upon reaching it.

A player loses a life when hit by a centipede or another enemy, such as a spider or a flea, after which any poisoned or partially damaged mushrooms revert to normal. Points are awarded for each regenerated mushroom.


Ed Logg and Dona Bailey developed Centipede for Atari.[2] Bailey was one of the few female game programmers in the industry;[3] Logg stated that the game was intended to attract women players, and Bailey said "I really like pastels ... I really wanted it to look different, to be visually arresting".[4] She and Logg succeeded in their goal; Centipede was one of the first arcade coin-operated games to have a significant female player base[5] after Pac-Man.


In 1983 Softline readers named Centipede ninth on the magazine's Top Thirty list of Atari 8-bit programs by popularity.[6] The game received the award for "1984 Best Computer Action Game" at the 5th annual Arkie Awards where the judges described it as "pack[ing] a real roundhouse punch", and suggested that some "insist that [the Centipede] Atari cartridge is the best home-arcade edition you can buy".[7]:28



Centipede was followed by Millipede in 1982, a somewhat less successful arcade game. In 1992, Atari Games developed a prototype of an arcade game called Arcade Classics for their 20th anniversary, which includes Missile Command 2 and Super Centipede with co-op 2-player mode.[8]

In 1998, Hasbro-owned Atari Interactive released a new version of the game for the PC, PlayStation, and Dreamcast. This version looks and plays very differently from the original game, with free movement around the map, 3D graphics, and a campaign which can be played in single-player or multiplayer mode. The original version of Centipede is available in this version, with slightly updated graphics.

In 2011, Centipede: Infestation was released.


Home systems[edit]

The "Centipede" cartridge for Atari 8-bit computers (1982).

Centipede, like many other Atari arcade games, was ported to Atari's own systems, such as the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, and Atari 800. A prototype was created for the Atari Lynx but never released.[citation needed] Atari's Atarisoft also created versions for other consoles like the ColecoVision and home computers of the era, for example the Apple II and Commodore 64. There was also a Sega Genesis game called Arcade Classics including this game as one in three, a Game Gear game under the same title, and a Master System compilation titled Arcade Smash Hits.

Centipede was also released for the Microsoft Windows 3.x, in 1993 as part of the Microsoft Arcade; in the Arcade Classics series for Game Boy by Nintendo and Accolade in 1995 (while a different Game Boy Color port was published by Majesco and released in 1998); in 1999 as part of Arcade's Great Hits: The Atari Collection 1 for Sega's Saturn and Sony's PlayStation, in a remake containing the original for Sony's PlayStation, Sega's Dreamcast, and Microsoft Windows 9x in 2000; in 2003 as part of Atari: 80 Classic Games in One!. Atari Anniversary Edition Redux, released in 2001, also contained game within the collection, again for Sony's PlayStation, Sega's Dreamcast, and Microsoft Windows 9x.[citation needed]

Centipede has also been made available for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 (in both arcade and Atari 2600 versions) as part of Atari Anthology in 2004. The Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Portable's Atari Arcade Classics version was bundled with the sequel Millipede, which included an "evolution mode", featuring high-definition graphics and special effects like motion blur, trails, and particle-based explosions.[9] Centipede was released via Xbox Live Arcade for the Xbox 360 on May 2, 2007.

On March 24, 2010 Centipede was released as an arcade game in the Game Room for the Xbox 360. The Atari 2600 version was later released in August 2010 for Game Room.

Centipede is often included in handheld TV games that have become popular in recent years.

Other platforms[edit]

Glu Mobile released a licensed cellular phone version of Centipede that includes the original game as well as updated gameplay, skins, and modes.[10] In later 2008, Atari released the game via Apple's App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

An official shockwave version was also released.[11][12]


Arcade clones[edit]

Home system clones[edit]

Board game[edit]

In 1983, Milton Bradley released a board game based on the video game. The board game pits two players against each other in a race to be the first person to the opponent's home base with a centipede. Each player can utilize a blaster, as well as a scorpion and spider, to slow the opposing centipede's advance.

Slot Machine[edit]

In 2013, IGT released Centipede Arcade Slots to Casinos featuring a playable bonus minigame reminiscent of the original arcade game where the player fights the centipede and scorpions to achieve bonus credits and multipliers.

Competitive arena[edit]

Donald Hayes of Windham, USA, scored a world record 7,111,111 points under tournament rules on the arcade version of Centipede on Sunday, November 5, 2000.[26][27]

The world record marathon score on the arcade version of Centipede was 16,389,547 points by Jim Schneider of the USA on June 11, 2004.[26][28]

In other media[edit]

In 1989, a deadpan narration describing the original game appeared on side 2 of Negativland's third cassette release, The Weatherman (SSTC902), which consisted of clips from the live Over the Edge radio show sometime between 1982 and 1984. The narrator may be Ed Logg.[29]

Centipede appears in the film Pixels.[30] In the film, Centipede (along with various other arcade games of its era) is used as footage of Earth's culture for a time capsule that was launched into space in hopes of making peace with extraterrestrial life. However, the aliens mistook the footage as a declaration of war. In Centipede's case, it was likely because they saw the various arthropods as themselves and the player as Earth. Using light energy pixels, (in the form of voxels to fit the 3-D reality), the centipede, spiders and mushrooms were brought to life. The various arthropods are shown attacking a park in London with the military having difficulty shooting the head, forcing the lead protagonists to fight Centipede themselves. One centipede succeeds in escaping to the city, but is defeated after it is distracted by an exercise video.


  1. ^ "Centipede Operation, Maintenance, and Service Manual". Sunnyvale, California: Atari, Inc. 1981. p. 13. TM-182 
  2. ^ Ortutay, Barbara (June 30, 2012). "Dona Bailey, a rare female programmer in Atari’s early days, recalls birth of ‘Centipede’". VancouverDesi.com. Associated Press / DesiWireFeed. Retrieved July 15, 2012. 
  3. ^ Burnham, Van (2001). Supercade: a visual history of the videogame age 1971-1984. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. p. 220. ISBN 0-262-02492-6. 
  4. ^ Krueger, Anne (March 1983). "Welcome to the Club". Video Games. p. 51. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  5. ^ Kent, Steven (2001). from Pong to Pokémon and beyond: The Ultimate History of Video Games: the story behind the craze that touched our lives and changed the world. Roseville, California: Prima Publishing. pp. 160–162. ISBN 0-7615-3643-4. 
  6. ^ "The Most Popular Atari Program Ever". Softline. March 1983. p. 44. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  7. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (February 1984). "Arcade Alley: The 1984 Arcade Awards, Part II". Video (Reese Communications) 7 (11): 28–29. ISSN 0147-8907. 
  8. ^ "Arcade Classics Videogame by Atari Games (1992) - The International Arcade Museum and the KLOV". Arcade-museum.com. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ "glu games - Centipede". Web.archive.org. 2007-10-06. Archived from the original on 2007-10-06. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  11. ^ "Centipede - Shockwave". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  12. ^ Calculator programmers made an unofficial version that can be loaded onto the TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus graphing calculators.
  13. ^ "Jackler Videogame by Konami (1982) - The International Arcade Museum and the KLOV". Arcade-museum.com. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  14. ^ Classic Game Room reviews COLECOVISION ROLLER CONTROLLER (YouTube) (YouTube). Lord Karnage. 2008. Event occurs at 4:45. Retrieved April 2, 2014. 
  15. ^ "War Of The Bugs Videogame by Food and Fun Corp./Armenia Ltd. (1981) - The International Arcade Museum and the KLOV". Arcade-museum.com. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  16. ^ http://www.lemon64.com/?mainurl=http%3A//www.lemon64.com/games/list.php%3Fpublisher%3DAlligata+Software
  17. ^ a b "Home Computer Games: TRS-80 Color Computer Games". Atarimagazines.com. 2008-04-25. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  18. ^ "Caterpillar (Dave Edson)". Nitros9.lcurtisboyle.com. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  19. ^ "Centi-Bug for ZX Spectrum". MobyGames. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  20. ^ "Champ Centiped-em for DOS". MobyGames. 2005-11-13. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  21. ^ "COMPUTE!'s Gazette Index, page 1". Atarimagazines.com. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  22. ^ "Katerpillar Attack". Nitros9.lcurtisboyle.com. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  23. ^ "Dragon Software Library". Dragon-it.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  24. ^ "Megapede". Nitros9.lcurtisboyle.com. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  25. ^ "VIC-20 Cartridge Software Reviews". Zimmers.net. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  26. ^ a b "Guinness World Records 2008 - Gamer's Edition", page 240
  27. ^ "Welcome to Twin Galaxies". Twingalaxies.com. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  28. ^ "Welcome to Twin Galaxies". Twingalaxies.com. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  29. ^ Negativland, The Weatherman. Cassette only, SST Records SSTC902. Negativland Discography at The Skeptic Tank.
  30. ^ "Classic video game characters unite via film 'Pixels'". Philstar. July 23, 2014. Retrieved July 23, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Centipede at the Killer List of Videogames