Yars' Revenge

Yars' Revenge is a video game released for the Atari 2600 in 1982.[1][2] It was created by Howard Scott Warshaw and is Atari's best-selling original title for the 2600.[3]: 236–240 

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, Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Color
ReleaseMay 1982
Genre(s)Multidirectional shooter


Gameplay screenshot

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 attack the Yar, even if the barrier is undamaged, by turning into the Swirl and shooting across the screen. In early levels the player is warned before the Swirl is fired and can retreat to a safe distance to dodge the attack, and in later levels, the Swirl turns into a guided missile after firing and will chase the Yar until it scrolls off either the top or the bottom of the screen. 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.[4]

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 leading with the Qotile or Swirl, then fire the cannon and fly the Yar out of the path of the cannon's shot. If the weapon finds its mark, the level ends. If the cannon blast hits a piece of the shield or misses, it is expended. The cannon itself is dangerous because, once activated, the fire button launches it instead of firing the Yar's usual shots and, as the cannon tracks the Yar's vertical position, players effectively use the Yar itself as a target and therefore must immediately maneuver to avoid being hit by their own shot. The cannon shot can also rebound off the shield in later levels. An extra life is earned if the player shoots the Swirl in mid-air.

Easter eggEdit

A screenshot of the Easter egg

The game has an Easter egg. After killing the Swirl in mid-flight, a black vertical line appears 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 Yar is in the lower third of the screen and the black spot on its back across the vertical line at the moment the explosion vanishes, the game ends and goes into the "game select" screen with programmer's initials, HSW, shown both forwards and backwards as HSWWSH in place of the player's score.[5] This forward-backward lettering is a clue to players to look at the names in the game manual the same way.[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.[6]

However, as Warshaw realized the 2600's limitations would not allow for an accurate port of the game, he readapted the concept into a new game, preserving the "top logical and geometric components of Star Castle and reorganized them in a way that would better suit the machine". The reimagined game's working title was Time Freeze, because Warshaw wanted an action game where time would pause to feature the first full-screen explosion in a video game.[2]

The final game story involves mutated houseflies defending their world against an alien attacker. Warshaw "liked secret messages and hidden ideas" and thus inverted the name of Ray Kassar, then CEO of Atari, to become the titular Yar race and its planet Razak.[7] This secret was hinted at by the forward-backward letters in the Easter egg. Warshaw wanted to call the game Yars' Revenge and so lied to one marketing employee that the CEO had approved the name. He then swore that employee to secrecy, assuming "This guy is going to run back and tell everyone."[8]

Play testing by Atari found that the game was popular with women, in contrast to most space shooter games, which were not.[9]


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.[10] 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.


While the original is now considered a classic,[15][16][17] Yars' Revenge received some mediocre reviews at the time of its release. The October 1982 issue of Electronic Games stated, "The game has only one objective that must be repeated indefinitely. Today's player's have grown used to progressive play, new challenges, and changing graphics. In this regard Yar is far too static."[18]

The following year in the same magazine Bill Kunkel and Arnie Katz called Yars' Revenge a "video sleeping pill".[19]

The reimagined Yar's Revenge for Xbox 360 was positively reviewed by Popmatters, who considered it visually appealing and good value.[20] The PC port of the Xbox 360 version was panned by IGN, scoring a rating of only 5.5 out of 10. 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.[21]



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.[22]

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.[23]

The original version of Yars' 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. [needs update] 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.[24]

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 Teravision 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][25][26][27]

Another reimagining, playable for free on web browsers supporting HTML5, was released on Atari.com.[28]


In 2005, a sequel to the original Yars' Revenge, titled Yars' Return, was released on the Atari Flashback 2.[29]


  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. ^ Kent, Steven L. (2002). The Ultimate History of Video Games: The Story Behind the Craze that Touched our Lives and Changed the World. New York: Random House International. ISBN 978-0-7615-3643-7. OCLC 59416169.
  4. ^ Bogost & Montfort 2009, p. 89.
  5. ^ "Yars Revenge Easter Egg". Youtube. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  6. ^ Bogost & Montfort 2009, p. 88.
  7. ^ "The story of Yars' Revenge is a journey back to a lost world of video games". Polygon. 2015-03-09. Retrieved 2017-05-07.
  8. ^ "Atari devs dissect Yars' Revenge, Adventure, Atari's woes". Ars Technica.
  9. ^ "DP Interviews..." www.digitpress.com. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  10. ^ "Atari Comic Books - The Qotile Ultimatum! (Page 1)". AtariAge. Retrieved 2009-08-24.
  11. ^ Weiss, Brett Alan (1998). "Yars' Revenge - Review - allgame". All Game Guide. Retrieved September 28, 2014.
  12. ^ Weiss, Brett Alan (1999). "Yars' Revenge - Review - allgame". All Game Guide. Retrieved September 28, 2014.
  13. ^ Harris, Craig (September 29, 1999). "Yars' Revenge - IGN". IGN. Retrieved September 28, 2014.
  14. ^ "Cassettes" [Cartridges]. Tilt (in French) (2): 15–16. Nov–Dec 1982. Retrieved September 28, 2014.
  15. ^ "Best Atari 2600 games of all time". gamesradar. Retrieved 2017-05-07.
  16. ^ "The Top 20 Greatest Games For Your Atari - The Atari Times". www.ataritimes.com. Retrieved 2017-05-07.
  17. ^ "The Greatest Atari Games of All Time". PCMAG. Retrieved 2017-05-07.
  18. ^ 8bitrocket. "Pac-Man, Electronic Games Magazine, And The Exact Moment Atari Lost The Video Game War". 8bitrocket.com. Retrieved 2017-05-07.
  19. ^ Katz, Arnie; Kunkel, Bill (June 1983). "Programmable Arcade". Electronic Games. pp. 38–42. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  20. ^ "Yar's Revenge". PopMatters.
  21. ^ "Yar's Revenge Review". IGN.
  22. ^ "Atari Brings Back Bygone Era". Daily Times. September 26, 2005. Retrieved April 23, 2010.
  23. ^ "Pong / Asteroids / Yars' Revenge for Game Boy Advance - GameSpot". GameSpot. September 23, 2005. Retrieved October 15, 2010.
  24. ^ "The New Yars' Revenge Looks More Like Zone of the Enders - Kotaku". Kotaku. November 17, 2010. Retrieved November 17, 2010.
  25. ^ "Yars' Revenge: The First War Facebook App". Facebook. April 8, 2011. Retrieved April 8, 2011.
  26. ^ "Atari's Yar's Revenge Gets A Reboot And Facebook Debut". 8-bitcentral.com. May 20, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  27. ^ "A Look at the Atari Facebook Retro-remakes". 8bitrocket.com. May 16, 2011. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
  28. ^ "Yars' Revenge". atari.com. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  29. ^ Atari Flashback 2 Instruction Manual, page 10

External linksEdit