Tapper (video game)

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Developer(s)Marvin Glass and Associates
Publisher(s)Bally Midway
Programmer(s)Steve Meyer
Elaine Ditton
Artist(s)Scott Morrison
Composer(s)Rick Hicaro
Platform(s)Arcade, Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, MSX, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, IBM PC
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer
CabinetUpright and cocktail
DisplayHorizontal orientation, Raster, standard resolution (Used: 512 x 480)

Tapper, also known as Root Beer Tapper, is a 1983 arcade game developed by Marvin Glass and Associates and released by Bally Midway.[1][2] Tapper puts the player in the shoes of a bartender who must serve eager, thirsty patrons before their patience expires[3] while collecting empty mugs and tips.

Originally sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, the arcade version features a Budweiser motif.[4] It was intended to be sold to bars, with cabinets sporting a brass rail footrest and drink holders. Early machines had game controllers that were actual Budweiser beer tap handles, which were later replaced by smaller, plastic versions with the Budweiser logo on them.[5] The re-themed Root Beer Tapper followed in 1984, which was developed specifically for arcades because the original version was construed as advertising alcohol to minors.


In Tapper, the player plays the part of a bartender serving drinks to eager customers. The Budweiser logo is clearly visible in the version pictured here.
Root Beer Tapper is almost identical to the Budweiser version, except the player character is a soda jerk serving non-alcoholic root beer.

The Tapper game screen features four bars. Patrons arrive periodically at the end of the bar opposite the player and demand drinks. The player must draw and serve drinks to the patrons as they slowly advance towards the player. If any customers reach the player's end of the bar, they impatiently grab the player-as-bartender and toss him out the far end of the bar, costing the player a life.[6]

The player serves customers by filling a mug at one of the four taps. Once the mug is full, the player releases the tap which automatically slides the mug towards the advancing customer. Customers catch mugs that are slid towards them, as long as they are not already drinking a beer, or otherwise distracted. If a mug is not caught by a customer (whether the customer is already drinking or distracted, or if there is no customer), then it falls off the bar on the other end, resulting in a loss of a life for the player. If a customer does catch the mug, though, then he or she is pushed back some amount towards the opposite end of the screen. The goal is to push the customer completely off the screen, but if they are not then they will stay and consume their drink in place. When a customer finishes his drink, he slides the empty mug back towards the player, after which the customer resumes his advance on the player. The player must collect the empty mugs before they reach the end of the bar and fall to the ground, as a mug falling to the ground costs a life.

Periodically, customers will leave tips on the bar for the player. These tips can be left at any place on the bar. The tip will appear after a specific number of empty mugs are released by the customers, and will appear wherever the customer who releases the required mug is standing. For example, in all levels, the first tip is left by the customer who returns the second empty mug, and will be left beside wherever this customer is standing. By collecting the tip, the player earns extra points and initiates "entertainment" for that level (dancing girls on the wild-west level, cheerleaders on the sports level, etc.). While the entertainment is active, some fraction of the customers will be distracted and stop advancing towards the player, but they will also stop catching mugs.

To complete a level the player must clear the entire bar of customers. Once this is done, the player is presented with a short vignette in which the bartender draws a drink for himself, drinks it, then tosses the empty mug into the air with varying (usually humorous) results, such as kicking it and shattering it or having the mug fall atop his head and cover it.

As the game progresses, the customers appear more frequently, move faster along the bar, and are pushed back shorter distances when they catch their drinks. In addition, the maximum number of customers per bar gradually increases until every bar can have up to four customers at a time.

In between levels of different settings, the player is presented with a shell game-type round. In this segue, the player is presented with a single bar that has six cans of beer or root beer sitting on top of it. A masked villain shakes every can except one and then pounds on the bar, causing the cans to shuffle their positions. If any other shaken can is picked, it explodes in the bartender/soda jerk's face, after which the right can is revealed. If the player selects the unshaken can, the hero is shown smiling and a message reads "This Bud's For You" (on the Budweiser version) or "This one's for you" (on Root Beer Tapper), and the player is rewarded with extra points.

There are four settings for the game, each setting lasting for two to four levels. The settings of the game are:

  1. A western bar with cowboys (2 levels)
  2. A sports bar with athletes (3 levels)
  3. A punk rock bar with punk rockers (4 levels)
  4. A space bar with aliens (4 levels)

After completing all the levels, 13 in all, the player starts at the first again, harder than the first time through, and with some minor variations.


Music and sound effects on the original arcade version of "Tapper" were created by the game's sound designer, Rick Hicaro, an electronic game developer at Marvin Glass & Associates (MG&A) who also happened to be a musician. He used a proprietary sound synthesizer system developed at Marvin Glass & Associates to create all the sound effects and music. The system consisted of a "Synclavier II" sound synthesizer (a sophisticated, professional synthesizer consisting of a 16-bit mini-computer and synthesizer keyboard/sound manager), running custom sound development software written by Richard Ditton, a software engineer and video game developer at MG&A. The system interfaced directly to the actual arcade game system so that sounds were true to the capabilities of the hardware. It also allowed for rapid prototyping and testing of gameplay with full sound and music during the development of video games. Also, unlike other gaming development systems where the music was created note-by-note in programming code, music (and even sound effects) on the MG&A system could be played on the Synclavier's keyboard, recorded directly into memory, then burned directly into the gaming ROMs.

The sound effects themselves were modeled after cartoon sound effects and real-life sounds. All music was original and composed by Rick Hicaro, except for "Oh! Susanna" (composed by Stephen Foster), "Buffalo Gals" (traditional American folk song) heard in the barroom scenes when the cartoon gals danced in the background, and the Budweiser theme heard in the bonus round. The "Can-Can" by Jacques Offenbach was heard when a tip was collected and set off the onstage entertainment.


Tapper was ported to the Apple II, Atari 8-bit family, Atari 5200, Atari 2600, BBC Micro, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, MSX, ZX Spectrum, IBM PC, and Amstrad CPC. Most of the home versions of Tapper featured the Mountain Dew logo, while the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC versions had the Pepsi logo, but they retained the bartender character of the original arcade game instead of the soda jerk in Root Beer Tapper.


Compute!'s Gazette called the Commodore 64 version of Tapper "one of the most addictive games we've seen lately ... not only fun to play, but also immensely challenging, graphically entertaining, and full of action". The magazine stated that "it's a very well-designed strategy game", and concluded that it was "near the top in entertainment value".[7]


An upright cabinet

The art style is almost identical to a previous game called Domino Man, and the following game Timber. In fact, the main character in Timber is a rework of the main character in Tapper. The art is based on Mike Ferris, an artist who taught Scott Morrison art.[8]


Root Beer Tapper has been included in several compilations. It was in the Nintendo 64 version of Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits, Arcade's Greatest Hits: The Midway Collection 2 for the Playstation, Midway Arcade Treasures for PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, and Microsoft Windows, and Midway Arcade Origins for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.[9]

A modern reinterpretation of the game for mobile devices, titled Tapper World Tour, was released in 2011.


Novasoft published a clone in 1984 called Brew Master for the TRS-80 Color Computer.[10] A clone called Nuka Tapper is included in Fallout 76 as a minigame with Fallout themed graphics.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

Tapper is one of the featured games in Disney's computer-animated film Wreck-It Ralph.[12]


Officially recognized competition on Tapper first reached marathon status by Michael Ward whose score of 9,068,625 was verified by Twin Galaxies on July 3, 1985. Ward held the record for 18 years until Gregory Erway, on June 20, 2003, surpassed that record with a score of 9,100,175.

Erway held the record for 2 years until December 5, 2005 when Kelly Tharp of Louisville, KY achieved a score of 9,100,175 in Humble, TX at Totally Amused. This was at a Twin Galaxies sponsored event called "The Golden Age Showdown". This marathon game was authenticated by videotape and also by Twin Galaxies referees Dwayne Richard of Canada and Walter Day of Ottumwa, IA.

Tharp held the record for 10 years until William 'Snowflake' Rosa of Vermilion, OH achieved a score of 10,361,550 on October 18, 2015 which was officially recognized 10 days later on the 8th. The marathon lasted 19 hours, 42 minutes, and 24 seconds and took place at Full Blast Arcade in North Ridgeville, OH. As with previous scores, this was certified by Twin Galaxies.

Rosa held the record for 2 years until the current Tapper world record was set by Lauren Featherstone with a score of 14,000,600. This record took place at Free Play Arcade in Arlington, TX on July 15, 2017.[13]


  1. ^ US patent 4643421, "Video game in which a host image repels ravenous images by serving filled vessels", issued 1987-02-17, assigned to Marvin Glass & Associates 
  2. ^ Mark J. Nelson (2015-08-04). "The 'Tapper' videogame patent". Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  3. ^ CLASSIC GAMES REVISITED - Tapper (Atari 2600) review at Univision[dead link]
  4. ^ Undertow, CGR. "ROOT BEER TAPPER for Arcade Video Game Review".
  5. ^ Rick Hicaro, former Marvin Glass & Associates employee; music composer/sound developer for Tapper
  6. ^ Game entry at Giantbomb
  7. ^ "Tapper". Compute!'s Gazette. January 1985. p. 113. Retrieved 6 July 2014.
  8. ^ Retro Gamer magazine, issue 74. "The making of ... Tapper", page 67
  9. ^ "Midway Arcade Origins Review". IGN. 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2018-05-08.
  10. ^ Boyle, L. Curtis. "Brew Master". TRS-80 Color Computer Game List.
  11. ^ Dingman, Hayden (3 November 2018). "Fallout 76 B.E.T.A. impressions: Hell is other people". PCWorld. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  12. ^ "The Art of Bobby Pontillas". Retrieved 2013-03-30.
  13. ^ "Arcade game classic 'Tapper' has a new queen: a yoga instructor from Plano | GuideLive". GuideLive. 2017-07-17. Retrieved 2017-07-17.

External links[edit]