Year Of Release: 1980
Released in 1980, Defender is one of the most beloved games from the 1980’s. Interestingly while, Defender would go on to be one of the highest grossing arcade games of the 1980’s it actually had a somewhat slow start, but once it started picking up momentum there was no stopping it and before long it was a game that arcades all over the world wanted. At the time Defender was released, Williams were more well known for their pinball machines and actually the lead designer of Defender, Eugene Jarvis before he worked on Defender was a pinball guy.
Defender at the time wowed gamers with its crisp graphics and its amazing sound. This was one of the games that you know the arcade would have turned up full blast. As soon as you walked into an arcade in the early 80’s within a few minutes you would be able to tell if they had a Defender machine as the sounds the game made were just so iconic. People would be pulled in by the sound and the great graphics, but it would be the addictive game play that would hook them.
The inspiration for Defender was games like Asteroids and Space Invaders. Set on a far off planet you pilot a space craft and need to fend off an alien invasion. As well as this you must protect your fellow man from being abducted by the aliens. Defender while on paper may sound like just another 1980’s sci-fi shooter. There is actually a vast amount going on in this game.
Defender sees you being able to move left and right in your space craft, but as well as this you need to move up and down also. This requires a great deal of skill in order to be able to do all of what you are required to do in order to beat a level. You need to first of all shoot down any alien craft that is flying around your planet. As soon as you take down one it feels like there is another one that is either flying around or abducting one of your people. The people at the bottom of the screen need your protection and if they are being abducted you can destroy the alien craft and catch them before returning them back to the ground. If they are abducted then they will come back as a mutant and you will have to put them down.
Defender is a game that just has so much going on. It can often feel like you never have a moments piece which is not a bad thing and certainly does add to the games excitement. One thing that many people get a kick out of is killing the people they are supposed to be protecting or letting them fall when they have been abducted.
Current High Score: 543,950 by Bill Jones
Defender was a huge hit and was given a very faithful port on the Atari 2600 as well as many other systems and home computers. Even now when a Midway compilation is released, Defender is 99/100 one of the games on there.
Star Gate would be released in 1981 and would be the first of many sequels to the original Defender. The home port of the game would actually be called Defender II to try and capitalise on the popularity of the first game. In 1982, Williams would actually turn Defender into a pin ball machine.
In 1991, Midway would release the game Strike Force which while not billed as an official, Defender sequel it does share many similarities with Defender and as a result many people consider it to be a spiritual sequel.
Many games have used Defender over the years as their inspiration. In 2013 the Playstation 4 game, Resogun does have a very Defender vibe to it.