Yars' Revenge

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North American box art.

Yars' Revenge is a single-screen action game designed by Howard Scott Warshaw and published by Atari for the Atari 2600 in 1982-05. In the game, you control an insect-like alien called a Yar who is trying to destroy an enemy called a Qotile. The Qotile is hidden behind a powerful shield, which you must destroy before you can reach it. This is done by either biting off chucks or shooting it. The Qotile cannot be destroyed with your regular shots, so you must instead hit it with a powerful Zorlon cannon. However, as you're trying to do this, the Qotile charges up to become a deadly Swirl, which fires out at you, and you must avoid the Destroyer Missile which steadily seeks you out. As you get further into the game, the Swirls fire more frequently and begin changing direction mid-flight, the Destroyer Missile becomes faster, and, your only safe haven, the Neutral Zone, vanishes forcing you to constantly be on the move.

In addition to the game which came with a mini comic book, the game had a fair amount of marketing surrounding it. There was the usual stickers, shirts, and the like, but there was also a Halloween costume, and a read-along book and album.

Although my family got an Atari 2600 with a big bundle of games around 1986, this game was not among them. Instead, the first time I saw this game being played by the boys across the street. The game looked particularly interesting, and I was jealous that we didn't have it. Some time later, we did end up getting it, I think around 1987, but I'm not sure. It took awhile before any of us got decent at the game, but around 1988 my older brother was the first to reach the part where the shield changes color from red to blue to gray to pink, all in one sitting, which we were both amazed by. Unfortunately, after we got an NES my mother convinced us to give away our Atari and games away, so I wasn't able to play again for years. It wasn't until middle school when I bought a bundle of duplicate games and an old Atari 2600 from a school friend that I get another copy of Yars' Revenge. I was able to get to the blue and gray stages fairly easy, but it took some time before I could also reach the pink stage consistently. Then, in an effort to beat my high score set over a decade back, I began playing the game again. Now in my 30s, with a better trained eye for video games, I discovered a playing tactic that allowed me to hit the swirl in mid-flight pretty much every time it fires. So, on 2018-03-11, I was able to not only beat my best score, but gain a free life each level to the point where I elapsed the 999,999 max score (it took about 40 minutes).

I enjoyed this game so much, I programmed a clone game called Dar's Revenge which features additional enemies and, since I didn't know it at the time, a completely different backstory.


I own this game for the Atari 2600. I have elapsed the score with over 999,999 points with 9 lives remaining and can essentially play indefinitely.


  • Overall: 6/10
  • Best Version: Atari 2600


  • Over all, the game is well-made. You can play safe, but are rewarded for more aggressive behavior, and the challenge continues to improve as you get better.
  • The game makes good use of the Atari's poor audio capabilities. Though there isn't any music, the constant buzzing background sound, spin of the swirl, crash of attack, full screen explosion, and buzz of death are all distinct. They also help keep the game play aggravating.
  • Having two separate shield wall configurations is a nice way to eliminate some of the repetitious game play. I just wish there were a few more layouts.
  • The color-changing shield wall is a nice indicator of your progress and what type of behavior you can expect from the Swirl.
  • The additional comic that came with the game was a nice addition, as was the, sold-separately, story book and audio drama.
  • The big full-screen explosion is pretty awesome to watch.
  • Re-purposing code to generate the random pattern of the neutral zone and explosion was a clever trick.
  • Like with many games of the time, I'm awed that Howard Scott Warshaw was able to fit the game into a mere 4K of memory and run with only 128 bytes of RAM!


  • Once you get really good, the game becomes kind of boring because it stops getting harder after about ten minutes of play.
  • Although giving out a free guy for hitting the Swirl mid-flight seems like a good idea, those players who become good enough to do it every time are effectively guaranteed unlimited play.
  • The alternate game play methods don't add enough variety to the game.
  • While I get the importance of wanting to add an Easter egg into the game, I have accidentally triggered it on more than one occasion and ruined a good high score run.


  • Nothing.


Yars' Revenge is able to draw all the objects on the screen by flicking half of them on and off between redraws. Because of this, it's not possible to take a single screenshot of the game and have it display everything, so these screenshots are composites.

Box Art