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Zaxxon flyer.jpg
North American arcade flyer
Platform(s)Arcade, ColecoVision, Coleco Adam, MSX, Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit, SG-1000, Apple II, Intellivision, IBM PC , TRS-80, TRS-80 Color Computer, ZX Spectrum
  • NA: January 1982
Genre(s)Scrolling shooter
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer
Arcade systemSega Zaxxon
CPUZilog Z80 Edit this on Wikidata

Zaxxon[a] is a 1982 isometric shooter arcade game, developed and released by Sega, in which the player pilots a ship through heavily defended space fortresses. Some sources claim that Japanese electronics company Ikegami Tsushinki also worked on the development of the game.[1]

Zaxxon was the first game to employ axonometric projection, which lent its name to the game (AXXON from AXONometric projection). The type of axonometric projection is isometric projection: this effect simulates three dimensions from a third-person viewpoint. It was also the first arcade game to be advertised on television,[2] with a commercial produced by Paramount Pictures for $150,000.[3]


Arcade screenshot

The objective of the game is to hit as many targets as possible without being shot down or running out of fuel—which can be replenished, paradoxically, by blowing up fuel drums (300 points).[4]

There are two fortresses to fly through, with an outer space segment between them. At the end of the second fortress is a boss in the form of the Zaxxon robot.

The player's ship casts a shadow to indicate its height.[5] An altimeter is also displayed; in space there is nothing for the ship to cast a shadow on.[6] The walls at the entrance and exit of each fortress have openings that the ship must be at the right altitude to pass through. Within each fortress are additional walls that the ship's shadow and altimeter aid in flying over successfully.


Between 1982 and 1985, Zaxxon was ported to the Apple II, Atari 8-bit family, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, MSX, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Dragon 32, ColecoVision, Intellivision, IBM PC compatibles, Sega SG-1000, TRS-80 Color Computer, and TRS-80.[7] The Atari 2600 and Intellivision ports use a third-person, behind-the-ship perspective instead of the isometric graphics of the other versions.


Review scores
AllGame4/5 stars (Arcade)[8]
4.5/5 stars (Coleco)[9]
3/5 stars (5200)[10]
2/5 stars (INTV)[11]
1.5/5 stars (2600)[12]
4/5 stars (Apple)[13]
3/5 stars (400/800)[14]
2.5/5 stars (C64)[15]
CVG39 / 40 (MSX)[16]
Arcade Express9 / 10 (ColecoVision)[17]
Home Computing Weekly4/5 stars (Spectrum)[18]
K-Power8 / 10 (TRS-80)[19]
Tilt6/6 stars (ColecoVision)[20]
Arcade Awards (1982)Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Coin-Op Game (Certificate of Merit)[21]
Arcade Awards (1983)Videogame of the Year (Certificate of Merit)[22]
Arkie Awards (1984)Stand-Alone Game of the Year, Computer Game of the Year (Certificate of Merit)[23]
Electronic GamesHall of Fame[24]

Video Games in 1983 called the ColecoVision version of Zaxxon a "coup for this new system".[25] In Japan, Game Machine listed Zaxxon on their June 1, 1983 issue as being the eighth most-successful table arcade unit of the year.[26] Video magazine also praised the ColecoVision version in its "Arcade Alley" column, describing it as "one of the most thrilling games available", and noting in passing that the only "serious criticism" of the arcade original was that "many players felt they needed flying lessons to have even a ghost of a chance of performing well".[27]:26 K-Power rated the Color Computer version with 8 points out of 10. The magazine praised its "excellent three-dimensional graphics", and concluded that "Zaxxon is a game that can't be praised enough".[19]

Softline in 1983 called the Atari 8-bit version "a superb three-dimensional computer game ... Not since Choplifter has a game looked so impressive". The magazine also liked the graphics of the Apple II and TRS-80 versions despite those computers' hardware limitations, and predicted that Zaxxon would be a "long-lived bestseller".[28] In 1984 the magazine's readers named the game the fifth most-popular Apple program, the worst Apple program, and third-worst Atari program of 1983.[29]

II Computing listed Zaxxon fourth on its list of top Apple II games as of late 1985, based on sales and market-share data.[30]



Zaxxon is a bonus game in the Sega Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 2. It is also an unlockable arcade game in Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The arcade version was released on the Wii Virtual Console in Japan on December 15, 2009,[31] the PAL region on March 5, 2010, and North America on April 12, 2010.


Zaxxon was followed by an arcade sequel: Super Zaxxon. The color scheme is different, the player's ship flies faster (making the game more difficult), and the robot at the end of the second fortress is replaced by a dragon. It did not do as well as the original. Future Spy was released by Sega in 1984, which uses the same hardware as Zaxxon and has very similar gameplay but with a more realistic military theme.[32]

In 1987 Zaxxon 3-D was released for the Master System. This console variation makes use of the 3-D glasses add-on. As with the Atari 2600 and Intellivision ports, it is forward-scrolling rather than isometric.

In October 1993,[33] Atari Corporation filed a lawsuit against Sega for an alleged infringement of a patent originally created by Atari Corp. in the 1980s,[34] with the former seeking a preliminary injunction to stop manufacturing, usage and sales of hardware and software for both Sega Genesis and Game Gear.[35] On September 28, 1994,[36] both parties reached a settlement in which it involved a cross-licensing agreement to publish up to five titles each year across their systems until 2001.[37] Zaxxon 3-D was one of the first five titles approved from the deal by Sega in order to be converted for the Atari Jaguar, but it was never released.[35]

Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000 was released for the Sega 32X in 1995. It is the first Zaxxon game to incorporate polygon graphics. The game bore the Zaxxon brand only in the United States, as the Japanese version was named Parasquad and the European version was named Motherbase. U.S. gaming critics generally remarked that the game was not similar enough to Zaxxon to justify the use of the brand.[38][39]

Zaxxon Escape was released on October 4, 2012 for iOS and Android devices. The game was criticized for having little resemblance to the original.[40]

In popular culture[edit]

In 1982 Milton Bradley released a Zaxxon board game.[41][42]

In Paramount's 1984 film Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, the character Tommy Jarvis, played by Corey Feldman, plays Zaxxon during his introduction.[43]

In 2012, Zaxxon was shown at "The Art of Video Games" exhibition at the Smithsonian.[44]


  1. ^ Japanese: ザクソン Hepburn: Zakuson


  1. ^ It started from Pong (それは『ポン』から始まった : アーケードTVゲームの成り立ち, sore wa pon kara hajimatta: ākēdo terebi gēmu no naritachi), Masumi Akagi (赤木真澄, Akagi Masumi), Amusement Tsūshinsha (アミューズメント通信社, Amyūzumento Tsūshinsha), 2005, ISBN 4-9902512-0-2.
  2. ^ Mark J. P. Wolf (2008), The video game explosion: a history from PONG to Playstation and beyond Archived 2018-04-14 at the Wayback Machine, p. xviii, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 0-313-33868-X
  3. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (July 3, 1982). "Movie Themes Come To Video Games". Star-News. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  4. ^ Zaxxon from the Killer List of Videogames (KLOV)
  5. ^ Bernard Perron & Mark J. P. Wolf (2008), Video game theory reader two, p. 158 Archived 2015-02-25 at the Wayback Machine, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0-415-96282-X
  6. ^ Chris Melissinos; Elizabeth Broun (2012). The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect. Welcome Books. pp. 28–9. ISBN 978-1599621104. Archived from the original on 2012-07-12. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  7. ^ "InfoWorld Jan. 1983". 1983-01-31. Archived from the original on 2017-10-14. Retrieved 2017-10-13.
  8. ^ Zaxxon (Arcade)[dead link] at AllGame
  9. ^ Zaxxon (ColecoVision)[dead link] at AllGame
  10. ^ Zaxxon (Atari 5200)[dead link] at AllGame
  11. ^ Zaxxon (Intellivision)[dead link] at AllGame
  12. ^ Zaxxon (Atari VCS)[dead link] at AllGame
  13. ^ Zaxxon (Apple II)[dead link] at AllGame
  14. ^ Zaxxon (Atari 400/800/XL/XE)[dead link] at AllGame
  15. ^ Zaxxon (Commodore 64/128)[dead link] at AllGame
  16. ^ "CVG Magazine Issue 044". Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  17. ^ "The HotSeat : Review of New Products" (PDF). 1982-11-21. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  18. ^ "Spectrum Software Reviews". Home Computing Weekly. No. 52. 6 March 1984. p. 8. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  19. ^ a b Lentvorski, Andrew Jr. (February 1984). "Zaxxon". K-Power. p. 59. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  20. ^ "Le site des anciennes revues informatiques". Archived from the original on 2016-03-12. Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  21. ^ "Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Coin-Op Game". Electronic Games. Vol. 1 no. 11. January 1983. p. 35. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  22. ^ "Videogame of the Year". Electronic Games. Vol. 2 no. 23. January 1984. p. 67. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  23. ^ "1985 Arkie Awards". Electronic Games. Vol. 3 no. 35. January 1985. pp. 28–9. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  24. ^ "Hall of Fame Winners". Electronic Games. Vol. 3 no. 35. January 1985. pp. 58–59 [58]. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  25. ^ Wiswell, Phil (March 1983). "New Games From Well-Known Names". Video Games. p. 69. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  26. ^ "Game Machine's Best Hit Games 25 - テーブル型TVゲーム機 (Table Videos)". Game Machine (in Japanese). No. 213. Amusement Press, Inc. 1 June 1983. p. 29.
  27. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (April 1983). "Arcade Alley: Zaxxon, Turbo, and Two for Apple II". Video. Vol. 7 no. 1. Reese Communications. pp. 26, 28–29. ISSN 0147-8907.
  28. ^ Bang, Derrick; Shore, Howard A. (July–August 1983). "Zaxxon". Softline. pp. 22–23. Archived from the original on 2014-07-29. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  29. ^ "The Best and the Rest". St.Game. Mar–Apr 1984. p. 49. Archived from the original on 2014-07-29. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  30. ^ Ciraolo, Michael (Oct–Nov 1985). "Top Software / A List of Favorites". II Computing. p. 51. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  31. ^ "December 2009 releases in Japan". Archived from the original on 2009-11-30. Retrieved 2009-11-27.
  32. ^ Future Spy from the KLOV
  33. ^ "Atari Corp. v. Sega of America, Inc., 869 F. Supp. 783 (N.D. Cal. 1994)". August 12, 1994. Archived from the original on 2018-11-16. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  34. ^ "ProNews: Atari Sues Sega". GamePro. No. 54. IDG. January 1994. p. 258. Archived from the original on 2018-11-16. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  35. ^ a b CRV (August 6, 2017). "Blog:Legal Brief: Atari vs. Sega". Archived from the original on 2018-11-16. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  36. ^ "ProNews: Sega, Atari Settle Differences". GamePro. No. 65. IDG. December 1994. p. 282. Archived from the original on 2018-11-16. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  37. ^ "Special - Atari: from boom to bust and back again". Edge. No. 18. Future plc. March 1995. pp. 58–65. Archived from the original on 2019-01-18. Retrieved 2019-09-16.
  38. ^ "ProReview: Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000". GamePro. No. 82. IDG. July 1995. p. 46.
  39. ^ "Review Crew: Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 71. Ziff Davis. June 1995. p. 36.
  40. ^ "'Zaxxon Escape' Review - Hardly A Resemblance (Review)". 2013-12-06. Archived from the original on 2016-03-12. Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  41. ^ Zaxxon Archived 2006-10-19 at the Wayback Machine from the Great Game Database (GGDb)
  42. ^ Zaxxon at BoardGameGeek
  43. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-07-16. Retrieved 2018-07-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  44. ^ Choney, Suzanne. "80 video games head for Smithsonian art exhibit". NBC News. Archived from the original on 2014-03-13. Retrieved 13 March 2014.

External links[edit]