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
Atari 2600
Commodore 64
CabinetUpright and cockpit
Arcade systemCPU: M6502 (@ 1.008 MHz), Sound Chips : Discrete (@ 1.008 MHz)
Display23 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.

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][5]


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 the accelerator, 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), which the player could select 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.[6] 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.[6]

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 features (street, buildings...) didn't need to be drawn because they were supposedly completely dark.[7]


Atari VCS Night Driver

Atari released a port for the Atari 2600 in 1980. It was programmed by Rob Fulop, who added color and additional features such as additional vehicles the player must avoid, as well as showing houses and trees along the sides of the road. 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 variations. Some are timed and the player tries to score as much as they can in 90 seconds.

Commodore published a version for the Commodore 64 in 1982.


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


  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. ^ "Arcade Museum". Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  6. ^ a b "Night Driver Museum Entry". Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  7. ^ "Racing Game Pioneers". Retrieved 7 November 2012.

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