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North American arcade flyer
Developer(s) Sega
Publisher(s) Sega
Platforms Arcade, various
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Isometric shooter
Mode(s) Up to 2 players, alternating turns
Cabinet Upright and cocktail
Arcade system Sega Zaxxon hardware
CPU Z80 (@ 3.04125 MHz)
Sound Samples
Display Raster, 224 × 256 pixels (Vertical),
256 out of 512 colors
Screenshot of the original arcade version of Zaxxon

Zaxxon (ザクソン?) is a 1982 isometric shooter arcade game developed and released by Sega. Some sources[13][14][15] claim that Japanese electronics company Ikegami Tsushinki also worked on the development of Zaxxon. The game gives the player the experience of flying a fighter craft through a fortress while shooting at enemy entities (missiles, enemy gunfire, etc.) The object of the game is to hit as many targets as possible without being shot down or running out of fuel—which can be replenished, paradoxically, by blowing up fuel drums.[16]

At the time of its release, Zaxxon was unique as it was the first game to employ axonometric projection, which lent its name to the game (AXXON from AXONometric projection). The type of axonometric projection is isometric projection: this effect simulated three dimensions from a third-person viewpoint. It was also one of the first video games to display shadows, to indicate the ship's altitude above the surface;[17] the game also employed an altitude meter, allowing the player to control how high or low the ship is above the surface.[18] It was also the first arcade game to be advertised on television,[19] with a commercial produced by Paramount Pictures for $150,000.[20]

The world record on Zaxxon is 4,680,740 points scored by Vernon Kalanikaus of Lā'ie, Hawai'i, on March 15, 1982, according to the Twin Galaxies Intergalactic Scoreboard.[21] A bootleg of the game was released in the arcades in 1982 called Jackson.[22]


Between 1982 and 1985, Zaxxon was ported to MS-DOS (as a booter), Amiga 1000, Apple II, Atari 8-bit family, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, MSX, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Dragon 32, ColecoVision, Intellivision, Sega SG-1000 and TRS-80 Color Computer.[23]

The Atari 2600 and Intellivision ports were noticeably different because they used a 3rd person, behind the ship 3D perspective instead of the isometric graphics of the other versions. The ColecoVision version, designed by Coleco staffer Lawrence Schick, was the first home version to use the isometric graphics.[citation needed]

In 1983 Coleco released a table top version of Zaxxon with a double panel VFD screen.[24] Bandai[25] released 2 Zaxxon handhelds: one VFD table top for the European and Japanese market, and an LCD card game sold worldwide.

In 2006, Zaxxon games were included as bonuses on the Sega Genesis Collection for Sony's PlayStation 2 and PSP consoles. The original Zaxxon is the game included on the PS2, and Super Zaxxon is the one available on the PSP. Zaxxon was also included as an unlockable arcade game in Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

The arcade version was released on the Wii Virtual Console in Japan on December 15, 2009,[12] the PAL region on March 5, 2010 and North America on April 12, 2010.


Unauthorized adaptations of the game were published for the TI 99/4A (as Arcturus), Amstrad CPC (as Zaxx), BBC Micro (as Fortress), and the TRS-80 Color Computer (as Zakssund, 1983).[26]

Hostile All Terrain Encounter (H.A.T.E.) is a Zaxxon clone developed by Vortex Software for several 8-bit and 16-bit computers and published by Gremlin Graphics in 1989.

The 2003 Retro Remakes competition produced clones for Linux and Windows.[27]


Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 4/5 stars (Arcade)[28]
4.5/5 stars (Coleco)[2]
3/5 stars (5200)[3]
2/5 stars (INTV)[4]
1.5/5 stars (2600)[5]
4/5 stars (Apple)[6]
3/5 stars (400/800)[7]
2.5/5 stars (C64)[8]
CVG 39 / 40 (MSX)[29]
Arcade Express 9 / 10 (ColecoVision)[30]
Home Computing Weekly 4/5 stars (Spectrum)[31]
K-Power 8 / 10 (TRS-80)[32]
Tilt 6/6 stars (ColecoVision)[33]
Publication Award
Arcade Awards (1982) Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Coin-Op Game (Certificate of Merit)[34]
Arcade Awards (1983) Videogame of the Year (Certificate of Merit)[35]
Arkie Awards (1984) Stand-Alone Game of the Year, Computer Game of the Year (Certificate of Merit)[36]
Electronic Games Hall of Fame[37]

Video Games in 1983 called the ColecoVision version of Zaxxon a "coup for this new system".[38] Video magazine also praised the ColecoVision version in its "Arcade Alley" column, describing it as "one of the most thrilling games available", and noting in passing that the only "serious criticism" of the arcade original was that "many players felt they needed flying lessons to have even a ghost of a chance of performing well".[39]:26 Softline in 1983 called the Atari 8-bit version "a superb three-dimensional computer game ... Not since Choplifter has a game looked so impressive". The magazine also liked the graphics of the Apple II and TRS-80 versions despite those computers' hardware limitations, and predicted that Zaxxon would be a "long-lived bestseller".[40] In 1984 the magazine's readers named the game the fifth most-popular Apple program, the worst Apple program, and third-worst Atari program of 1983.[41] K-Power rated the Color Computer version with 8 points out of 10. The magazine praised its "excellent three-dimensional graphics", and concluded that "Zaxxon is a game that can't be praised enough".[32]

II Computing listed Zaxxon fourth on its list of top Apple II games as of late 1985, based on sales and market-share data.[42]


Zaxxon spawned an arcade sequel: Super Zaxxon. The color scheme is different, the player's ship flies faster (making the game more difficult), and the robot at the end of the second fortress is replaced by a dragon. It did not do as well as the original.

In 1982 Milton Bradley made a Zaxxon board game.[43][44]

In 1987 Zaxxon 3-D was released for the Sega Master System. This console variation made use of its 3-D glasses add-on for extra depth perception. As with the Atari 2600 and Intellivision ports, it was forward-scrolling rather than isometric.

Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000 was released for the Sega 32X in 1995. It is the first Zaxxon game to incorporate polygon graphics. The game bore the Zaxxon brand only in the United States, as the Japanese version was named Parasquad and the European version was named Motherbase. U.S. gaming critics generally remarked that the game was not similar enough to Zaxxon to justify the use of the brand.[45][46]

In 2012 Zaxxon was shown at 'The Art of Video Games' exhibition at the Smithsonian.[47]

A direct sequel, Zaxxon Escape, was released on October 4, 2012 for Apple and Android devices. The game was criticized for having little resemblance to the original.[48]

In popular culture

A home video game console port of Zaxxon was shown in the music video for the New Order track "Blue Monday".

Zaxxon was a featured plot device of the 1986 independent feature film Hollywood Zap!.

In the horror film "Friday the 13th- The Final Chapter", Tommy Jarvis was playing "Zaxxon" while wearing one of his home made masks.

The NPR podcast "Pop Culture Happy Hour" holds its hosts to the "Zaxxon Rule," wherein they are forbidden to bring up topics which are unrelatable to the audience, such as events in one's personal life.

Similar games

  • Future Spy was created by Sega in 1984. This game uses the same hardware as Zaxxon and has very similar game play but with a more realistic military theme.[49]
  • Viewpoint was released by Sammy in 1992 for the Neo-Geo system. This game features the same 3/4 view perspective and similar gameplay as Zaxxon.[50]


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  3. 3.0 3.1 Zaxxon (Atari 5200) at Allgame
  4. 4.0 4.1 Zaxxon (Intellivision) at Allgame
  5. 5.0 5.1 Zaxxon (Atari VCS) at Allgame
  6. 6.0 6.1 Zaxxon (Apple II) at Allgame
  7. 7.0 7.1 Zaxxon (Atari 400/800/XL/XE) at Allgame
  8. 8.0 8.1 Zaxxon (Commodore 64/128) at Allgame
  12. 12.0 12.1 December 2009 releases in Japan
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  14. ドンキーコング裁判についてちょこっと考えてみる Thinking a bit about Donkey Kong, accessed 2009-02-01
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  16. Zaxxon from the Killer List of Videogames (KLOV)
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  22. Jackson entry from CAESAR (Catalogue of Arcade Emulation Software - the Absolute Reference)
  23. Zaxxon at MobyGames
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  25. Bandai Zaxxon from
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  49. Future Spy from the KLOV
  50. Viewpoint from the KLOV

External links