River Raid

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River Raid
River Raid cover.jpg
Designer(s)Carol Shaw
Programmer(s)Carol Shaw
Platform(s)Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit, Atari 5200, ColecoVision, Intellivision, MSX, IBM PCjr, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64
ReleaseAtari 2600
Atari 8-bit, 5200, Intellivision
C64, Spectrum
Genre(s)Scrolling shooter

River Raid is a vertically scrolling shooter designed and programmed by Carol Shaw and published by Activision in 1982 for the Atari 2600 video game console.[2] Over a million game cartridges were sold.[3] Activision later ported the title to the Atari 5200, ColecoVision, and Intellivision consoles, as well as to the Commodore 64, IBM PCjr, MSX, ZX Spectrum, and Atari 8-bit family. Shaw did the Atari 8-bit and Atari 5200 ports herself.[3]

Activision published a less successful sequel in 1988 without Shaw's involvement.


Original Atari 2600 version

Viewed from a top-down perspective, the player flies a fighter jet over the River of No Return in a raid behind enemy lines. The player's jet can only move left and right—it cannot maneuver up and down the screen—but it can accelerate and decelerate. The player's jet crashes if it collides with the riverbank or an enemy craft, or if the jet runs out of fuel. Assuming fuel can be replenished, and if the player evades damage, gameplay is essentially unlimited.

The player scores points for shooting enemy tankers (30 points), helicopters (60 points), fuel depots (80 points), jets (100 points), and bridges (500 points). The jet refuels when it flies over a fuel depot. A bridge marks the end of a game level. Non-Atari 2600 ports of the game add hot air balloons that are worth 60 points when shot as well as tanks along the sides of the river that shoot at the player's jet.

Destroying bridges also serve as the game's checkpoints. If the player crashes the plane they will start their next jet at the last destroyed bridge.


For its time, River Raid provided an inordinate amount of non-random, repeating terrain despite constrictive computer memory limits. For the Atari 2600 the game with its program code and graphics had to fit into a 4 KB ROM.[4] The game program does not actually store the sequence of terrain and other objects. Instead, a procedural generation algorithm manifests them by employing a linear-feedback shift register with a hard-coded starting value,[5] also called a pseudorandom number generator.[6] Because of this the algorithm generates the same game world every time the program executes.[7] The enemy crafts' AI relies on another pseudorandom number generator to make the start of the enemy movement less predictable as this pseudorandom number generator's starting value is not reset when a new game starts.[8]


InfoWorld in 1983 stated that River Raid might be the best Atari 8-bit game of the year, "more challenging than any VCS version" and superior to others like Caverns of Mars.[9] Antic in 1984 said that the Atari 8-bit version was identical to the 2600 original, but with slightly "spiffed up ... game visuals".[10] The Deseret News in 1984 called River Raid "one of the most playable and entertaining of all war games". The newspaper gave the ColecoVision version four stars, recommending it to all console owners and describing it as "a definite winner all the way".[11] The game received the award for "1984 Best Action Videogame"[12]: 42  and a Certificate of Merit in the category of "1984 Best Computer Action Game" at the 5th annual Arkie Awards,[13]: 28  where the judges described it as "provid[ing] the brand of non-stop excitement the blast brigaders adore".[12]: 42 

Computer and Video Games rated the Atari VCS and ColecoVision versions 92% in 1989.[14]

River Raid was the first video game to be banned for minors in West Germany by the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Schriften (Federal Department for Works Harmful to Young Persons, now called the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons).[15]


I’m 1995, Flux magazine ranked the Atari 2600 version 87th in its Top 100 Video Games.[16] In 1996, Next Generation listed the Atari 2600 version as number 81 on their "Top 100 Games of All Time", commenting that, "Nostalgia aside, the 2600 sucks. ... But this game is still great, for one main reason: Level design."[17]

Activision published the relatively obscure River Raid II for the Atari 2600 in 1988. This sequel, programmed by David Lubar based on a concept by Dan Kitchen,[18] has similar gameplay, but with a different landscape and increased difficulty. The Games Machine magazine reviewed River Raid 2 and gave it a 76% rating.[19]

A further sequel called River Raid: The Mission of No Return was a planned release for the SNES in 1991 but it was cancelled.[20]

In 1995, River Raid was published for Microsoft Windows as part of Activision's Atari 2600 Action Pack.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "River Raid (Registration Number PA0000188573)". United States Copyright Office. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  2. ^ Hague, James. "The Giant List of Classic Game Programmers".
  3. ^ a b Edwards, Benj (October 12, 2011). "VC&G Interview: Carol Shaw, Atari's First Female Video Game Developer". Vintage Computing and Gaming.
  4. ^ Edwards, Benj. "VC&G Interview: Carol Shaw, Atari's First Female Video Game Developer". Retrieved 2020-10-15. It was only 4 kilobytes of ROM ...
  5. ^ Aycock, John (2016). Retrogame Archeology: Exploring Old Computer Games (1st ed.). Springer. p. 130. ISBN 978-3319300023. One of River Raids LSFRs was eight-bit, with taps b4 and b7, and the other was a 16-bit LSFR that was used for PCG.
  6. ^ Edwards, Benj. "VC&G Interview: Carol Shaw, Atari's First Female Video Game Developer". Retrieved 2020-10-15. ... I used a pseudorandom number generator ...
  7. ^ Jentzsch, Thomas. "River Raid". GitHub. Retrieved 2020-10-08. current number generator values
  8. ^ Jentzsch, Thomas. "River Raid". GitHub. Retrieved 2020-10-08. 8 bit random number (used for: start of ship and helicopter, sound)
  9. ^ Mace, Scott (1983-11-07). "Electronic Antics". InfoWorld. pp. 73–74. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  10. ^ Duberman, David (January 1984). "ROM Fun: Survey of recent cartridge games". Antic. pp. 62–63.
  11. ^ Holyoak, Craig (1984-05-30). "Here are ColecoVision's jewels". Deseret News. pp. 4 WV. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  12. ^ a b Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (January 1984). "Arcade Alley: The Arcade Awards, Part 1". Video. Vol. 7, no. 10. pp. 40–42. ISSN 0147-8907.
  13. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (February 1984). "Arcade Alley: The 1984 Arcade Awards, Part II". Video. Vol. 7, no. 11. pp. 28–29. ISSN 0147-8907.
  14. ^ "Complete Games Guide" (PDF). Computer and Video Games. No. Complete Guide to Consoles. 16 October 1989. pp. 46–77.
  15. ^ Wolf, Mark J. P. (2012-01-01). Encyclopedia of Video Games: A-L. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313379369.
  16. ^ "Top 100 Video Games". Flux. Harris Publications (4): 32. April 1995.
  17. ^ "Top 100 Games of All Time". Next Generation. No. 21. September 1996. p. 43.
  18. ^ Hague, James (1997). "Halcyon Days: Interviews with Classic Computer and Video Game Programmers".
  19. ^ "Atari 2600: River Raid 2" (PDF). The Games Machine. No. 19 (June 1989). 18 May 1989. p. 21.
  20. ^ "Activision Almost Rebooted the Atari 2600 Classic River Raid on the SNES". April 2015.
  21. ^ "Activision's Atari 2600 Action Pack - IGN".

External links[edit]