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River Raid (Atari 2600) Review

Game Name: River Raid

Developer: Activision

Publisher: Activision

Date Released: 1982

Platforms: Atari 2600 (original), Atari 8-bit, Atari 5200, ColecoVision, Intellivision, MSX, IBM PCjr, ZX Spectrum


This was one of the first games that I played on the Atari 2600. To be more precise, I actually had the ColecoVision Atari Module Expansion Pack. I had very few games, but they were classics. i had Donkey Kong, Ken Uston's Blackjack-Poker, and Venture on ColecoVision; on Atari I had Pitfall II, The Lost Caverns and River Raid.

I played this game for hours on end, aiming for a higher score. Does this game hold up after all of these years? Let us find out.


The gameplay is very simple, as it was with many games back in the day. You are a yellow plane and you need to kill enemies on your way destroying helicopters, jets, and cargo boats. You also get to destroy bridges after a section is completed. You run on fuel and you have little fuel buoys that when you pass over them, they refill your fuel meter. I never actually finished the game myself as it can take a few hours. Some people online have finished the game and to them *** Hats Off ***.

What I found cool at the time is that you can slow down or speed up depending on the situation. This added an element of strategy to the game. For example, if you were really low on fuel, you can pass on the fuel really slow to get the maximum fill.

The gameplay is addictive. The point of course is to get the highest score when you get to the end or before you die. It is challenging, but not impossible. The animation is fluid and the AI although primitive, keeps you guessing enough making it challenging.

There was a sequel to this game called River Raid II. It was not as fun as this first iteration. I believe that this is the first game (or one of the first games) to have an aircraft vertically scroll continously. This was adopted in many games on the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System).

B-Wing (NES)

Star Force (NES)

I guess it was a enough of a hit that many games used this type of gameplay for years after River Raid was released.

The controllers are very responsive and still hold up today. There are not many buttons: there was the directional stick and the red button to press. However to the image of the game, the controls are simple yet effective.

River Raid - Sample Gameplay


Does this game hold up? Yes it does. It does not have the bells and whistles of the modern games. It is just as fun to play today than it was back when I was a kid. Would kids today like this game? I think they would like the challenge, but they would probably find the game too simple without any complexities. I would recommend this game to whomever wants to play a good, tried and tested game that did resist the test of time.

Rating: 9 Air Raids out of 10

What do you think?

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