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Gorf flyer.png
Roklan Software
(Atari 8-bit/5200)
CBS Electronics (2600)
Nuvatec (ColecoVision)
  • Atari 8-bit
    • NA: Roklan
    • NA/EU: CBS Electronics
    • NA: CBS Electronics
    BBC Micro
    • EU: Doctorsoft
    • NA: Commodore
Designer(s)Jamie Fenton
February 1981
  • Arcade
    Atari 8-bit
    2600, VIC-20
    • WW: 1982
    5200, C64
    BBC Micro
    • WW: 1983
Genre(s)Fixed shooter
Arcade systemAstrocade[1]

Gorf is an arcade video game released in 1981 by Midway Manufacturing, whose name was advertised as an acronym for "Galactic Orbiting Robot Force". It is a fixed shooter with five distinct levels, the first of which is based on Space Invaders and another on Galaxian. The game makes heavy use of synthesized speech for the Gorfian robot which teases the player, powered by the Votrax speech chip.[3] Gorf allows the player to buy 2 additional lives per quarter before starting the game, for a maximum of 7 lives.

The home ports omit the Galaxians stage for copyright reasons.


Astro Battles, the game's first mission

Gorf is a fixed shooter in which the players take control of an unnamed starship from the Interstellar Space Force, capable of moving freely on all directions around the lower third of the screen, in an attempt to prevent the Gorfian Empire from conquering Earth. Gameplay comprises five distinct missions; each mission presents its own distinct playstyle, but the central goal of each is to destroy all enemies. Successfully completing all five missions increases the player's rank, which represents the current difficulty level of the game, and loops back to the first mission. Gameplay continues until the player loses all of their lives.

Before starting a new game, players can buy up to seven additional lives by purchasing more credits; an extra life is also granted after clearing the first five missions. Unlike similar games where the player can only fire their weapon after an existing shot has disappeared from the screen, the ship is equipped with a laser cannon capable of firing a single vertical shot (called a "quark laser") at any time, although doing so causes the previous shot to disappear.

Players can advance through the ranks of Space Cadet, Space Captain, Space Colonel, Space General, Space Warrior and Space Avenger, which increases the speed and difficulty of the game and introduces more enemy patterns. Along the way, a robotic voice heckles and threatens the player, often calling and mocking the player by their current rank (for example, "Some galactic defender you are, Space Cadet!"). Depending on the version, the player's current rank is displayed via a series of integrated lit panels on the cabinet.


  1. Astro Battles: A clone of Space Invaders; it is the only mission that takes place on Earth instead of space. 24 enemies attack in the classic pattern set by the original game; however, the player is protected by a parabolic force field that switches off temporarily when the player's shots pass through it and is gradually worn away by enemy fire.
  2. Laser Attack: The first mission set in space, where the player must battle two formations of five enemies. Each formation contains three yellow enemies that attempt to dive-bomb the player, a white gunner that fires a single laser beam stream, and a red miniature version of the Gorf robot.
  3. Galaxians: As the name implies, this mission is a clone of Galaxian, with the key differences being the number of enemies and the way enemies fire against the player. Gameplay is otherwise similar to the original game.
  4. Space Warp: This mission places the player in a sort of wormhole, where enemies fly outward from the center of the screen and attempt to either shoot down or collide with the player's ship. It is possible to destroy enemy shots in this level.
  5. Flag Ship: The Flag Ship is protected by its own force field, similar to the one protecting the player in Mission 1, and it flies back and forth firing at the player. To defeat it, the player must break through the force field and destroy the ship's core. As with the alien ship in Phoenix, the bottom of the flag ship must be blasted away to expose the vulnerable core. If a different part of the ship is hit, the player receives bonus points, and the part breaks off and flies in a random direction, potentially posing a risk to the player's ship. When the player successfully hits the core, the Flag Ship explodes in a dramatic display, the player advances to the next rank, and play continues on Mission 1, with the difficulty increased. Later encounters with the Flag Ship on higher ranks include additional enemies during the mission.


Gorf was originally intended to be a tie-in with Star Trek: The Motion Picture but after reading the film's script, the game designers realized that the concept would not work as a video game;[3][4] however, the player's ship still resembles the Starship Enterprise.[1] The underlying hardware platform for Gorf allowed arcade operators to easily swap the pattern, CPU and RAM boards with other similar games such as Wizard of Wor, since only the game logic and ROM boards are specific to each game.[1][5] The name of the game is also Frog spelled backwards; "Frog" was the nickname of designer Jamie Fenton during college.[1][5][6]


Gorf was released in North America in February 1981 and, notably, became one of the first titles to use synthesised speech (powered by the Votrax speech chip) as well as one of the first games to feature multiple screens.[1][3]


Gorf was ported to the Atari 8-bit family, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, BBC Micro, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, and VIC-20 by multiple developers between 1982 and 1983. Because of copyright issues, the Galaxians mission was removed from almost all versions.[1][5] The Commodore 64 port is the only one that features synthesized speech via the Magic Voice Speech module.[7]


The arcade version reached the top of the US Play Meter arcade charts in September 1981.[24] The Atari 2600 version of the game received a Certificate of Merit in the category of "Best Solitaire Video Game" at the 4th annual Arkie Awards,[21][25] and received the "1984 Best Computer Game Audio-Visual Effects" award at the 5th Arkies the following year. At the 5th Arkies the judges pointed out that the Atari versions had out-polled both the ColecoVision and Commodore 64 versions of the game, and they suggested that it is the game's "varied action" that "keeps players coming back again and again."[22]

Regarding the VIC-20 version, Electronic Games wrote that "this fast-moving colorful entry is a must ... one of the best games available for the VIC-20",[26] and Ahoy! stated that the VIC-20 version "still has my vote for the best of the bunch ... The graphics are excellent".[27]

Gorf is included in the 2010 book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.[28]


A planned sequel, Ms. Gorf, was never released. It was programmed in the programming language Forth. The source code for the prototype is owned by Jamie Fenton. The game exists only as source code stored on a set of 8-inch floppy disks, and would require access to a development environment that no longer exists in order to compile it into executable machine code.[4][29]

In 2006, an unlicensed port of Gorf was released for the Atari Jaguar CD by hobbyist developer 3D Stooges Software Studios.[30][31][32] Another hobbyist clone for the Game Boy Advance was made available in 2010.[33] Other independent developers have also created titles influenced by Gorf on other platforms.[34][35][36]

Competitive play[edit]

On July 8, 2019, Matthew Garrett set a new world record score in Gorf of 1,543,160 points, recognized by Twin Galaxies. His game spanned 953 missions across 6 hours 41 minutes. Garrett holds the world record for both the arcade 3 & 6 life settings and is the first person recorded to reach mission 500 (having beaten each of the 5 individual levels 100 times) without losing a life. The previous world record was set by Keith Swanson in 2011 with a score of 1,129,660.[37]

See also[edit]

  • Stratovox (1980), first arcade game with synthesized voice


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  5. ^ a b c "Gorf - Videogame by Midway Manufacturing Co". arcade-museum.com. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
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  8. ^ Green, Earl. "GORF (Arcade) - Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on 14 November 2014. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
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  10. ^ Alan Weiss, Brett. "GORF (Commodore 64/128) - Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on 14 November 2014. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
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  12. ^ "Complete Games Guide" (PDF). Computer and Video Games (Complete Guide to Consoles). No. 1. 16 October 1989. pp. 46–77.
  13. ^ Spencer, Spanner (October 26, 2007). "Gorf • Too bad, Space Cadet". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  14. ^ "Game Reviews - Gorf - Commodore/VIC-20". Electronic Fun with Computers & Games. Vol. 1, no. 1. Richard Ekstract. November 1982. pp. 70–71. Archived from the original on October 23, 2016. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  15. ^ Mills, Kim (January 1983). "Game Reviews - Gorf - CBS Games/Atari VCS". Electronic Fun with Computers & Games. Vol. 1, no. 3. Richard Ekstract. p. 69. Archived from the original on October 23, 2016. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  16. ^ Steere, Noel (August 1983). "Game Reviews - Gorf - Coleco/ColecoVision". Electronic Fun with Computers & Games. Vol. 1, no. 10. Richard Ekstract. p. 56.
  17. ^ Donald, Tom (June 28, 1983). "VIC-20 Software Reviews - Gorf - Commodore". Home Computing Weekly. No. 17. Argus Specialist Publications. p. 33. Archived from the original on October 11, 2017. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  18. ^ "TeleMatch Test - Gorf (CBS/Colecovision) - Das "Galaxian-Phoenix-Invaders"-Spiel". TeleMatch (in German). No. 8. TeleMatch Verlag. January 1984. p. 30. ISSN 0174-741X.
  19. ^ "Tubes - Cassettes - Gorf". Tilt (in French). No. 6. Editions Mondiales S.A. July–August 1983. p. 39.
  20. ^ Dimetrosky, Raymond (November 1983). "Third Wave - Reviews - Video Game Buyer's Guide - Gorf". Video Games Player. Vol. 2, no. 2. Carnegie Publications. p. 54.
  21. ^ a b Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (February 1983). "Arcade Alley: The Fourth Annual Arcade Awards". Video. Vol. 6, no. 11. Reese Communications. pp. 30, 108. ISSN 0147-8907.
  22. ^ a b Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (February 1984). "Arcade Alley: The 1984 Arcade Awards, Part II". Video. Vol. 7, no. 11. Reese Communications. pp. 28–29. ISSN 0147-8907.
  23. ^ Semrad, Steve (February 2006). "The Greatest 200 Videogames Of Their Time". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 200. Ziff Davis. p. 76.
  24. ^ Kubey, Craig (1982). The Winners' Book of Video Games. New York: Warner Books. p. 121. ISBN 978-0-446-37115-5.
  25. ^ "TeleMatch Test - Gorf (Atari VCS) - Eine Kreuzung aus mehreren Weltraumspielen". TeleMatch (in German). No. 5. TeleMatch Verlag. September 1983. p. 28. ISSN 0174-741X. Archived from the original on July 12, 2013. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  26. ^ Komar, Charlene (June 1983). "Computer Gaming - Gorf - 'Four Scenarios of Fighting Aliens Make Gorf a Tough Test'". Electronic Games. No. 16. Reese Publishing Company. p. 69. Archived from the original on January 7, 2015. Retrieved August 1, 2016.
  27. ^ Salm, Walter (March 1984). "VIC Game Buyer's Guide". Ahoy!. p. 49. Archived from the original on December 10, 2014. Retrieved June 27, 2014.
  28. ^ Mott, Tony (2010). 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die. Universe Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7893-2090-2.
  29. ^ Newitz, Annalee (2001). "Secrets of Ms. Gorf". Metro Silicon Valley. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013. Retrieved April 18, 2013.
  30. ^ "En Bref... - Jaguar". ReVival (in French). No. 31. ABCD Dire. June 9, 2006. pp. 9–10.
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  32. ^ "Top Ten Atari Jaguar Games". Retro Gamer. June 23, 2014. Archived from the original on 2017-01-19. Retrieved 2019-04-27.
  33. ^ Ragan, Jess (April 4, 2010). "GameBoy Advance GORF". gbadev.org. Archived from the original on August 10, 2015. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  34. ^ "Left Overs - Hardcore Gaming Info We Couldn't Put Anywhere Else - The Jaguar Roars". GameGO!. Vol. 1, no. 1. Video Game Depot Corp. June 2001. p. 62.
  35. ^ Dolce, Mike (May 19, 2002). "Preview - Gorf Pluz / Gorf 2K". Jaguar Front Page News. Archived from the original on April 9, 2007. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
  36. ^ "Gorf Pluz Coming For Jaguar, Dreamcast, and PC". DCVision. Consolevision.com. 5 August 2005. Archived from the original on 12 August 2019. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  37. ^ "Gorf". Twin Galaxies. July 8, 2019. Archived from the original on 2020-08-15. Retrieved 2020-08-15.

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