Night Driver (video game)

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Night Driver
Arcade flyer
Developer(s) Atari, Inc.
Publisher(s) Atari, Inc.
Designer(s) Dave Shepperd s/w
Ron Milner
Steve Mayer
Terry Fowler h/w
Platform(s) Arcade (original)
Atari 2600, Commodore 64
Release Arcade
Atari 2600
Commodore 64
Genre(s) Racing
Mode(s) Single-player
Cabinet Upright and cockpit
Arcade system CPU: M6502 (@ 1.008 MHz), Sound Chips : Discrete (@ 1.008 MHz)
Display 23 inch Raster resolution 256×256 (Horizontal) Palette Colors 2

Night Driver is an arcade game developed by Atari Inc for release in the United States in October, 1976. It was inspired by the earlier German coin-op Nürburgring 1.[2][3] Along with Micronetics' Night Racer and Midway's 280 ZZZAP, Night Driver is one of the earliest first-person racing video games, and is commonly believed to be one of the first published games to display real-time first-person graphics.


The player controls a car which must be driven along a road at nighttime without crashing into the sides of the road as indicated by road side reflectors. The game is controlled with a single pedal for gas, a wheel for steering and a four-selection lever for gear shifting. The coin-operated game had a choice of three difficulties, novice, pro, and expert, from which the player could choose at game start. The turns were sharper and more frequent on the more difficult tracks. As play progresses, the road gets narrower and more winding.

The game length could be set by the owner to 50, 75, 100, or 125 seconds.[4] After 300 points, a player is awarded bonus time equal to game time, but the score wraps around back to zero at 1000 points, so it is possible to reach 300 points more than once.[5] Due to the additional points received for more difficult play, playing on the expert setting is actually the easiest to achieve extra time once a player has mastered the game.[5]

Due to the limitations of arcade technology at the time, the car the player is driving is not actually drawn on-screen. Instead, the car is a printed plastic insert that is laid under the screen. Also, the fact that the car is driving at night made it easier for the programmers to draw the environment with limited graphics at the time, as most things (street, buildings, ...) didn't need to be drawn because they were supposedly completely dark.[6]

There were two versions of the cabinet manufactured, an upright and a cockpit. The upright version had a blacklight installed inside the cabinet which illuminated the bezel.[4][7]


Night Driver gameplay screenshot from the Atari 2600 port

After the success[citation needed] of the arcade, Rob Fulop ported the game to the Atari 2600. It uses the paddles to control the vehicle. The player pushes the fire button to accelerate the car forward, and uses the paddle to steer the vehicle; it is not possible to shift gears in this version. The game offers eight different variations. Some are timed, and the player tries to score as much as they can in 90 seconds, and others are not timed. This version includes features not present in the coin-operated version, such as additional vehicles the player must avoid as well as showing houses and trees along the sides of the road.

A version for the Commodore 64 was published by Commodore in 1982.[8]

Bill Budge wrote a Night Driver clone for the Apple II using the same name as the original.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Production Numbers" (PDF). Atari. 1999. Retrieved 19 March 2012. 
  2. ^ "Nuerburg Ring Game". Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  3. ^ "Game Review". Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Owner's Manual". Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Night Driver Museum Entry". Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  6. ^ "Racing Game Pioneers". Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  7. ^ "Arcade Museum". Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  8. ^ "Night Drive on Commodore". Retrieved 7 November 2012. 

External links[edit]