Yars' Revenge

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Yars' Revenge
Artwork of a orange, vertical rectangular box. The top half reads "Atari Video Computer System" and below "Yars' Revenge". The bottom half displays a drawn image of a silver robotic fly in battle. On the bottom-right corner there is a tricolor ribbon that says, "New inside. Yars' Revenge from Atari action-packed comic book".
Picture label cover art
Developer(s) Atari, Inc
Publisher(s) Atari, Inc.
Designer(s) Howard Scott Warshaw
Platform(s) Atari 2600
Release date(s) May 1982
Genre(s) Fixed shooter
Mode(s) Single player

Yars' Revenge is a video game released for the Atari 2600 in 1982.[1][2] It was created by Howard Scott Warshaw. Yars' Revenge was Atari's best-selling original title for the 2600.[2]


The player controls an insect-like creature called a Yar who must nibble or shoot through a barrier in order to fire his Zorlon Cannon into the breach. The objective is to destroy the evil Qotile, which exists on the other side of the barrier. The Qotile can shoot at the Yar, even if the barrier is undamaged, by turning into the Swirl. The player is warned before the shot is fired, and he can retreat to a safe distance to dodge the enemy's energy blast. The Yar can hide from a pursuing destroyer missile within a "neutral zone" in the middle of the screen, but the Yar cannot shoot while in the zone. The Swirl can kill the Yar anywhere, even inside the Neutral Zone.[3]

Gameplay screenshot

To destroy the Qotile or the Swirl, the player has to either touch the Qotile or eat a piece of the shield to activate the Zorlon Cannon, aim the cannon by lining up with the Qotile or Swirl, then fire the cannon and fly out of the way of the cannon's shot.

Easter egg[edit]

A screenshot of the Easter Egg

The game has an Easter egg. After killing the Swirl in mid-air, a black vertical line will appear on the screen across the spot where the Swirl was shot (the line is referred to in the manual as the "Ghost of Yars" and warns the player to stay off its "mean streak"). If the player moves vertically along that line and is slightly below the middle of the screen when the explosion closes, the game will end and go into the Game Select screen with programmer's initials, HSW, shown both forwards and backwards in place of the word Select.[citation needed]


Warshaw presenting an analysis of the game's development at GDC 2015

The game began as a licensed port of the Cinematronics arcade game Star Castle. Warshaw's original design for the Atari 2600 conversion was nearly identical to Star Castle: a powerful cannon is protected by three layers of counter-rotating shields. The player must shoot holes in these shields in order to destroy the cannon inside. But once these holes are made, the cannon can also shoot out at the player. If the outermost layer is completely destroyed, new layers of shields are grown. Harassing the player are three free-roaming mines that hunt the player's ship.[4]

As the Atari version was developed, changes were repeatedly introduced until the final product had very little resemblance to the original.

A common belief is the Yar race and their planet Razak were named after Ray Kassar, CEO of Atari at the time. However, Warshaw wanted to call the game Yars' Revenge and so lied to one marketing employee that the game was named after the CEO. He then swore that employee to secrecy, assuming "This guy is going to run back and tell everyone." The name was not changed.[5]


As with several other video games for the 2600 system, a miniature comic book was included in the game package of Yars' Revenge to illustrate the story behind the game.[6] The comic book explains the "revenge" of the game's title in terms of the Yars avenging the destruction of one of their worlds, Razak IV.

Atari also released an album, under the Kid Stuff Records label, which contains a theme song and a radio drama-style reading of an expansion of the story in the comic book. A different 7" recording explained the tragedy that revealed that a Yar could use himself to target the Zorlon Cannon rather than eating from the barrier. Both recordings were produced by John Braden.

Remakes and rereleases[edit]

In 1999, a Game Boy Color version was developed by Vatical Entertainment and released by Telegames.

A version was created in 2004 for the Atari Flashback system.[7]

A 3-in-1 cartridge was released for the Game Boy Advance in 2005, published by DSI Games. This title features Yars' Revenge, Pong, and Asteroids.[8]

The original version of Yar's Revenge was made available through Xbox's Game Room in 2010.[citation needed]

A reimagining (titled Yar's Revenge, rather than Yars' Revenge) was released as a downloadable title on April 12, 2011 on Xbox Live Arcade and on April 28, 2011 for Microsoft Windows. [dated info] It was developed by Killspace Entertainment and published by Atari. In this version, the eponymous Yar has been reimagined as a humanoid female in mechanized power armor.[9]

Another remake, a prequel to the original, Yars' Revenge: First War was released as a part of the Atari GO initiative on April 8, 2011 on Facebook. It was developed by Baboom Games and published by Atari. This version is an arcade social game reminiscent of the original Atari 2600 game. This version has been acclaimed by remaining faithful to the original and still offering new innovative content.[citation needed][10][11][12]

Another reimagining, playable for free on web browsers supporting HTML5, has been released on Atari.com along with a number of other classic Atari games.[13]


Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 4/5 stars (Atari 2600)[14]
4/5 stars (Game Boy Color)[15]
IGN 7/10 (Game Boy Color)[16]
Tilt 5/6 (Atari 2600)[17]

Bill Kunkel and Arnie Katz of Electronic Games in 1983 called Yars' Revenge a "video sleeping pill".[18]

IGN was unimpressed by the PC version of the reimagining, Yar's Revenge. It was considered to have little connection to the original game and to be too short even when the low price was taken into consideration.[19] The Xbox 360 version was more positively reviewed by Popmatters, who considered it visually appealing and good value.[20]


In 2005, a sequel to the original Yars' Revenge, titled Yars' Return, was released on the Atari Flashback 2.[21]


  1. ^ "AtariAge - Catalog - Atari (CO16725-Rev. D)". atariage.com. Retrieved 2015-11-12. 
  2. ^ a b Campbell, Colin (2015-03-09). "The story of Yars' Revenge is a journey back to a lost world of video games". Polygon. Retrieved 2015-07-02. This single-screen game of his is not some daffy adventure beloved of crusty collectors and nostalgists. Yars'Revenge, a side-ways Space Invaders-meets-Breakout with touches of Asteroids, was the most successful non-license game on the Atari 2600, a console that sold around 30 million units. 
  3. ^ Bogost, Montfort 2009, p. 89.
  4. ^ Bogost, Montfort 2009, p. 88.
  5. ^ "Atari devs dissect Yars’ Revenge, Adventure, Atari’s woes". Ars Technica. 
  6. ^ "Atari Comic Books - The Qotile Ultimatum! (Page 1)". AtariAge. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  7. ^ "Atari Brings Back Bygone Era". Daily Times. September 26, 2005. Retrieved April 23, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Pong / Asteroids / Yars' Revenge for Game Boy Advance - GameSpot". GameSpot. September 23, 2005. Retrieved October 15, 2010. 
  9. ^ "The New Yars' Revenge Looks More Like Zone of the Enders - Kotaku". Kotaku. November 17, 2010. Retrieved November 17, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Yars' Revenge: The First War Facebook App". Facebook. April 8, 2011. Retrieved April 8, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Atari's Yar's Revenge Gets A Reboot And Facebook Debut". 8-bitcentral.com. May 20, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2011. 
  12. ^ "A Look at the Atari Facebook Retro-remakes". 8bitrocket.com. May 16, 2011. Retrieved May 16, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Yars' Revenge". atari.com. Retrieved August 30, 2012. 
  14. ^ Weiss, Brett Alan (1998). "Yars' Revenge - Review - allgame". All Game Guide. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  15. ^ Weiss, Brett Alan (1999). "Yars' Revenge - Review - allgame". All Game Guide. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  16. ^ Harris, Craig (29 September 1999). "Yars' Revenge - IGN". IGN. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  17. ^ "Cassettes" [Cartridges]. Tilt (in French) (2): 15–16. Nov–Dec 1982. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  18. ^ Katz, Arnie; Kunkel, Bill (June 1983). "Programmable Arcade". Electronic Games. pp. 38–42. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  19. ^ "Yar's Revenge Review". IGN. 
  20. ^ "Yar's Revenge". PopMatters. 
  21. ^ Atari Flashback 2 Instruction Manual, page 10

External links[edit]