River Raid

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River Raid

River Raid - 2600 - USA.jpg

Atari 2600 - USA - 1st edition.

Developer Activision
Publisher Activision
Published 1982-??-??
Platforms Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, Intellivision, MSX, PCjr, ZX Spectrum
Genres Scrolling shooter, Shooter
Themes Action
Multiplayer Simultaneous versus
Distribution Commercial

River Raid is a scrolling shooter designed by Carol Shaw and published by Activision for the Atari 2600 in 1982. It was later ported to many different platforms.

In the game, you pilot a jet and must fly it safely through a canyon over a river. Enemy ships obstruct your path and you must destroy them while taking care not to shoot stations which replenish your fuel. Each time you destroy a bridge, the game's difficulty increases.



River Raid is the very first memory I have of ever seeing a video game being played. I don't remember if my family had bought a used Atari 2600, or was borrowing it, but it was around 1985. I thought the game was really cool, and I remember my brother and his friend from across the street trying to figure out how to play the game, and learning that you shouldn't shoot the fuel tanks, because you needed them to keep flying, but you had to shoot the bridges, or you'd crash into them. I don't remember if I had a chance to play the game then or not, but it certainly left a lasting impression on me. I have since played the game a little and found it to be rather lacking.

The game doesn't really have a win condition, however, when you max out the score, it has a planned game over.


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2 4 2 2 3

Best Version: Atari 8-bit

— This section contains spoilers! —


  • This game is technically impressive for the Atari 2600. It has a lot of independently moving objects and decent graphics for a 2600 game.
  • Having to avoid shooting your fuel tanks, while still hitting the enemy, is a nice mechanic that adds complexity.
  • Difficulty is increased by a number of different factors, increasing the number of enemy ships, decreasing fuel tanks, narrowing the canyon, and making enemies more active.
  • The Atari 5200/8-bit release adds a more realistic river canyon, a balloon enemy, and tanks crossing the bridges.


  • You've seen pretty much everything the game has to offer after the third bridge.


  • Later in the game, fuel tanks become so rare that there is no guarantee you'll make it to the next one. You either have to be extremely lucky, or so good at shooting enemies that you earn free guys faster than you run out of fuel.


Box Art




Longplay - 2600, elapsed score.
Game play - ColecoVision.
Game play - Intellivision.

Play Online

Atari 2600, MSX


Strong female character?FailThere are no characters.
Bechdel test?FailThere are no characters.
Strong person of color character?FailThere are no characters.
Queer character?FailThere are no characters.


Thomas Jentzsch has disassembled and commented the source code of River Raid.


Role Staff
Entire Game Carol Shaw


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