Dragster (video game)

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Cover art
Developer(s) Activision
Publisher(s) Activision
Designer(s) David Crane
Platform(s) Atari 2600
Genre(s) Drag racing
Mode(s) Single-player

Dragster, released in 1980 for the Atari 2600, is the first video game developed by Activision. It was programmed by David Crane, who later wrote Pitfall![2] The object of the game is to either beat the player's opponent across the screen, or to race against the clock for best time, depending on the settings used. Dragster is an unauthorized adaptation of the 1977 Kee Games coin-op Drag Race.[3]


Select game with game select switch. Game 1: Straight-ahead Dragster, one or two players. Game 2: Steerable Dragster, one or two players. The player's Joystick Controller is both the clutch and gear shift for his Dragster the red button is his gas pedal. Use left Joystick for the top car right one for bottom car. Hold Joystick with button in upper left. To shift gears, CLUTCH by pushing Joystick to the left and SHIFT by letting the Joystick spring back to the center. The player gives his Dragster gas by pressing the Joystick button. His car then starts each race in neutral (N). There are four gear positions - 1,2,3,4 - and the player must clutch and shift between each gear. He cannot downshift. Press game reset or push Joystick to the right to start each race. The race starts with a new countdown and both cars in neutral. When the countdown reaches 0, the player is allowed to start. If the player drops into gear too soon, before the end of the countdown, EARLY will appear on the screen and the player have to wait for the next race. The player can clutch during the countdown, but he cannot drop into 1st until 0.

Tach monitoring[edit]

The tachometer (tach) shows how fast that the player's engine is turning over. A dark green line that starts at the left side of his television screen for each can and turns red at about the middle is his tach. When it turns red, the player are in the high power - but danger!- area. The player will find that he get his best speed in each gear by red-lining his tach close to the maximum . But watch out! If the player revs his engine too much, it will blow. So be careful. Once the player blows his engine, the race is over for him . The way to build maximum speed is to quickly clutch shift and accelerate through all four gears with maximum power at each gear level.

Once the player starts shifting gears, he can't downshift. But if the player shifts too soon, his engine will lug (work heavily); he will accelerate slowly and lose some time. It's tricky and takes practice, but the player's patience and perseverance will be rewarded with good times.


Dragster was reviewed by Video magazine in its "Arcade Alley" column where it was described as having "an interesting premise" and as being "undeniably clever and, with a lot of patience, ... probably fun" but the reviewers also called it the "least" of Activision's early Atari 2600 releases. Specific criticism was given to the "clumsy" and "annoying" gameplay mechanics, and the game design was characterized as "ill-suited to the Atari control system".[4]:105

World record[edit]

The world record on Dragster is currently held by video gamer Todd Rogers with a time of 5.51 as referenced on Twin Galaxies International Scoreboard


  1. ^ "Dragster". GameFAQs. 2015.
  2. ^ "The Giant List of Classic Game Programmers". 
  3. ^ "The Dot Eaters Classic Video Game History - Player 3 Stage 1: Pixel Boxes" Emuunlim.com. 2000.
  4. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Laney, Frank (December 1980). "Arcade Alley: A New Era Begins - Activision Exploits Atari's Success". Video. Reese Communications: 12 and 105. ISSN 0147-8907. 

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