River Raid

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River Raid
River Raid cover.jpg
Box art
Developer(s) Activision
Publisher(s) Activision
Designer(s) Carol Shaw[1]
Platform(s) Atari 2600 (original)
Atari 8-bit, Atari 5200, ColecoVision, Intellivision, MSX, IBM PCjr, ZX Spectrum,
Release date(s) 1982[1][2]
Genre(s) Vertically scrolling shooter
Mode(s) Single player

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

Activision published River Raid II in 1988. This sequel, programmed by David Lubar, has similar gameplay, but with a different landscape and increased difficulty.

In 1995 the game was ported to Windows and published as part of Activision's Atari 2600 Action Pack.[4] The Atari 2600 version of River Raid was republished via Microsoft's Game Room service in May 2010; River Raid II followed in June 2010.


Screenshot of the original Atari 2600 version of River Raid

Viewing 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 scores points for shooting enemy tankers (30 pts), helicopters (60 pts), fuel depots (80 pts), jets (100 pts), bridges (500 pts), and (in non-Atari 2600 versions of the game) hot air balloons (60 pts). The jet refuels when it flies over a fuel depot. A bridge marks the end of a game level.

The player's jet crashes if it collides with the riverbank or an enemy craft. In non-Atari 2600 versions of the game, tanks alongside the river also fire at the player's jet. If the player's jet runs out of fuel, it crashes. Assuming fuel can be replenished, and if the player evades damage, gameplay is essentially unlimited.

Unlike later scrolling shooters, there is little or no enemy fire in River Raid. Also, the player's jet cannot maneuver up and down the screen, only left and right. It can, however, accelerate and decelerate.

Technical design[edit]

For its time, River Raid provided an inordinate amount of non-random, repeating terrain despite constrictive computer memory limits. 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 vector.[5] Because this starting value is hard-coded, the algorithm generates the same game world every time the program executes. The enemy crafts' artificial intelligence, however, relies on a random number generator to make enemy movement less predictable.


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 other Atari 8-bit games like Caverns of Mars.[6] The Deseret News in 1984 called River Raid "one of the most playable and entertaining of all war games". It gave the ColecoVision version four stars, recommending it to all console owners and describing it as "a definite winner all the way".[7] The game received the award for "1984 Best Action Videogame"[8]:42 and a Certificate of Merit in the category of "1984 Best Computer Action Game" at the 5th annual Arkie Awards,[9]:28 where the judges described it as "provid[ing] the brand of non-stop excitement the blast brigaders adore".[8]:42

River Raid was the first video game to be banned for minors in West Germany by the Federal Department for Writings Harmful to Young Persons (German: Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Schriften).[10]


  1. ^ a b Buchanan, Levi (2008-04-08). "Top 10 Classic Shoot 'Em Ups". IGN. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  2. ^ "Release date". GameRankings. Retrieved 20 March 2012. 
  3. ^ http://www.vintagecomputing.com/index.php/archives/800
  4. ^ http://uk.ign.com/games/activisions-atari-2600-action-pack/pc-724812
  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. ^ Mace, Scott (1983-11-07). "Electronic Antics". InfoWorld. pp. 73–74. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  7. ^ Holyoak, Craig (1984-05-30). "Here are ColecoVision's jewels". Deseret News. pp. 4 WV. Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (January 1984). "Arcade Alley: The Arcade Awards, Part 1". Video. Reese Communications. 7 (10): 40–42. ISSN 0147-8907. 
  9. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (February 1984). "Arcade Alley: The 1984 Arcade Awards, Part II". Video. Reese Communications. 7 (11): 28–29. ISSN 0147-8907. 
  10. ^ Wolf, Mark J. P. (2012-01-01). Encyclopedia of Video Games: A-L. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313379369. 

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