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Gorf flyer.png
North American arcade flyer
Designer(s)Jay Fenton
Genre(s)Fixed shooter
CabinetUpright, cabaret, cocktail
Arcade systemAstrocade[1]
CPUZ80 @ 1 MHz)[1]
Sound2 x Astrocade @ 1 MHz
Votrax SC-01[1]
DisplayRaster, 204 x 320 pixels (Vertical)

Gorf is an arcade game released in 1981 by Midway Mfg., whose name was advertised as an acronym for "Galactic Orbiting Robot Force". It is a multiple-mission fixed shooter with five distinct modes of play, essentially making it five games in one. The game makes heavy use of synthesized speech, powered by the Votrax speech chip.[2] One of the first games to allow the player to buy additional lives before starting the game, Gorf allows the player to insert extra coins to buy up to seven starting lives.


Astro Battles, the game's first mission

Gorf is a fixed shooter game 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 a attempt of overthrowing the Gorfian Empire from conquering Earth across five distinct missions, each one having their own distinct playstyle and set of enemy patterns, while the central goal of each mission is to destroy all enemies in that wave and advance into the next mission. Successfully completing all five mission increases the player's rank, which represents the current difficulty level of the game, and loop back to the first mission where gameplay continues on a higher speed and difficulty until the player loses all of their lives.

Before starting a new game, players can buy up to seven additional lives by inserting more credits into the machine and a extra life is also granted after clearing the first five missions. Unlike similar games where the player is incapable of firing again until the existing shot on the screen has disappeared, the ship is equipped with a laser cannon capable of firing a single vertical shot called a "quark laser" and players have the ability of shooting again at any given time to the enemies, cancelling their previous shot that was present on screen.

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 as well as introducing 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: An almost exact clone of Space Invaders, it is the only mission that takes place on Earth instead of space. A small force of 24 enemies attacks in the classic pattern set by the original game, however, the player is protected by a parabolic force field that is gradually worn away by enemy fire and switches off temporarily when the player's shots pass through it.
  2. Laser Attack: The first mission set in space, the player must battle two formations of five enemies, each one containing 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 but 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, however it is possible to shoot down 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: 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. If the player successful hits its 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.

Development and release[edit]

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,[2][3] however the player's ship still bears resemblance to 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][4] The name of the game also stands for Frog spelled backwards, as it was the nickname of designer Jamie Fenton (then Jay Fenton) during college.[1][4][5] The game was released in North America on February 1981 and became one of the first titles to use synthesised speech, which was powered by the Votrax speech chip, becoming one of its most notable aspects as well as being one of the first games in featuring multiple screens.[1][2]


Gorf was ported to various platforms including the Atari 8-bit family, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, BBC Micro, ColecoVision, Commodore 64 and VIC-20 by multiple developers between 1982 and 1983 but due to copyright issues, the Galaxians mission was removed from almost all versions.[1][4] The Commodore 64 port is the only one that features synthesized speech via the Magic Voice Speech module.[6]


Review scores
Eurogamer(Arcade) 8 / 10[7]
AllGame(Arcade) 4.5/5 stars[8]
(2600) 2.5/5 stars[9]
(C64) 2.5/5 stars[10]
Electronic Fun(VIC-20) 3/4 stars[11]
(2600) 2/4 stars[12]
(ColecoVision) 3.5/4 stars[13]
Home Computing Weekly(VIC-20) 5/5 stars[14]
Tilt(2600) 5/6 stars[15]
Video Games Player(ColecoVision) B+[16]
Video (1983)Best Solitaire Video Game (2600)[17]:30
Video (1984)Best Computer Game Audio-Visual Effects (2600)[18]:28

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,[17][19] 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."[18][20]

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",[21] and Ahoy! stated that the VIC-20 version "still has my vote for the best of the bunch ... The graphics are excellent".[22]


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.[3][23] Fans have experimented with porting the game to other systems. On February 1, 2006, a nearly arcade perfect homebrew port of Gorf was released as a limited run for the Atari Jaguar CD by hobbyist developer 3D Stooges Software Studios.[24][25] Jess Ragan ported it to the Game Boy Advance in 2010 with a new mode and retouched visuals.[26] Fans have also developed titles inspired by the game such as Gp Earth GOD's Troopers on the Jaguar.[27][28][29]

Competitive play[edit]

On July 17, 2011, Keith Swanson set a new Gorf world record score of 1,129,660 points, recognized by Twin Galaxies. His game spanned 826 missions across 6.5 hours. Swanson is the first person recorded to score one million points on 3-ship settings. The previous world record was set by John McCann in 2009 with a score of 943,580.[30]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Gorf [Model 873]". arcade-history.com. Retrieved 2018-10-06.
  2. ^ a b c GameSpy Staff (February 25, 2011). "GameSpy's Top 50 Arcade Games of All-Time (Page 3)". GameSpy. Archived from the original on September 15, 2016. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "ClassicGaming Expo 2000: Arcade Games Get A Personality". classicgaming.gamespy.com. Retrieved 2019-04-27.[dead link]
  4. ^ a b c "Gorf - Videogame by Midway Manufacturing Co". arcade-museum.com. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  5. ^ Fenton, Jamie. "1980 - The GORF Coin-op Video Game". fentonia.com. Archived from the original on March 7, 2009. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  6. ^ Lemon, Kim (2003). "Gorf - Commodore 64, C64 Games, Reviews & Music!". lemon64.com. Archived from the original on April 22, 2019. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  7. ^ Spencer, Spanner (October 26, 2007). "Gorf • Too bad, Space Cadet". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  8. ^ Green, Earl. "GORF (Arcade) - Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on 14 November 2014. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  9. ^ Alan Weiss, Brett. "GORF (Atari Video Computer System) - Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on 15 November 2014. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  10. ^ Alan Weiss, Brett. "GORF (Commodore 64/128) - Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on 14 November 2014. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Steere, Noel (August 1983). "Game Reviews - Gorf - Coleco/ColecoVision". Electronic Fun with Computers & Games. Vol. 1 no. 10. Richard Ekstract. p. 56.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ "Tubes - Cassettes - Gorf". Tilt (in French). No. 6. Jean-Pierre Roger. August 1983.
  16. ^ Dimetrosky, Raymond (November 1983). "Third Wave - Reviews - Video Game Buyer's Guide - Gorf". Video Games Player. Vol. 2 no. 2. Carnegie Publications. p. 54.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ "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.
  20. ^ "TeleMatch Test - Gorf (CBS/Colecovision) - Das "Galaxian-Phoenix-Invaders"-Spiel". TeleMatch (in German). No. 8. TeleMatch Verlag. January 1984. p. 30. ISSN 0174-741X.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ Salm, Walter (March 1984). "VIC Game Buyer's Guide". Ahoy!. p. 49. Archived from the original on December 10, 2014. Retrieved June 27, 2014.
  23. ^ Newitz, Annalee (2001). "Secrets of Ms. Gorf". Metro Silicon Valley. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013. Retrieved April 18, 2013.
  24. ^ Smith, Jason. "Atari Jaguar Timeline". jaguarsector.com. Archived from the original on 29 July 2013. Retrieved 2018-10-06.
  25. ^ "Top Ten Atari Jaguar Games". Retro Gamer. June 23, 2014. Archived from the original on 2017-01-19. Retrieved 2019-04-27.
  26. ^ Ragan, Jess (April 4, 2010). "GameBoy Advance GORF". gbadev.org. Archived from the original on August 10, 2015. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  27. ^ "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. Archived from the original on 2019-02-08. Retrieved 2019-06-22.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ Terance Williams (March 11, 2018). E.G.T. (Earth God's Troopers) - Atari Jaguar. YouTube. Archived from the original on February 8, 2019. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
  30. ^ "Twin Galaxies' Gorf High Score Rankings". Retrieved 17 April 2013.[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]