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River Raid

Atari 2600 instructions cover.

Developers Carol Shaw (programmer)
Barking Lizards
Code Mystics Inc.
Contraband Entertainment
Publisher Activision
Action Games (Atari 2600 version)
Atarimania (Atari 2600)
CCE (Atari 2600)
Cosmovision (Atari 2600)
Digitel (Atari 2600)
Digivision (Atari 2600)
Dynacom (Atari 2600)
H. E. S. (Atari 2600)
Microsoft (Atari 2600)
Play Time (Atari 2600)
Polygram (Atari 2600)
Polyvox (Atari 2600)
Robby (Atari 2600)
Star Game (Atari 2600)
Super 2600 (Atari 2600)
Supervision (Atari 2600)
Video Game (Atari 2600)
Systems Android
Atari 2600
Atari 8-bit
Atari 5200
Commodore 64
Game Boy Advance
PlayStation 2
PlayStation Portable
ZX Spectrum
Release Dates 1982-1983 (Original release)
2002-2003, 2005, 2012 (re-releases)
Modes Single player
Two players alternating
Media Cartridge
Digital download
Floppy disc


In River Raid, players controlled a series of jets flying over a scrolling "River of No Return", destroying multiple types of targets of various sizes and attack patterns.

The game debuted on the Atari 2600, selling well over a million units, and was later ported to many other consoles and computers, retaining pretty much the exact same gameplay as the Atari 2600 original, although with some additional targets and features. It would also be re-released years later on the Activision Anthology release, also on multiple platforms.

Releases, original[]

Atari 2600[]

Players control a jet that is constantly stationed at the bottom of the screen and can only move left and right as an unending river scrolls downwards. Players must avoid or destroy various enemy craft and bridges and avoid colliding with any land mass, enemy vehicle or bridge or they will lose a jet; lose all jets and the game will end.

Players’ jets are also constantly draining fuel, although they can be replenished by docking with onscreen fuel depots. Running out of fuel will also cost the player a reserve jet.

Bridges are also encountered during a game, which, upon being destroyed, the player will start off at the last bridge they destroyed prior to losing a jet.

As the game goes on, the difficulty level is raised by having less space to maneuver in river banks and with less fuel depots appearing onscreen.

There is also a variation for two players.

Controls, startup[]

  • Select game–Game Select switch
  • Start game–Game Reset switch
  • Fire straight missiles–Difficulty switch (A position)
  • Steer missiles–Difficulty switch (B position)
  • Move jet–left/right
  • Speed up–up on joystick
  • Slow down–down on joystick
  • Fire–button
  • Resume game with reserve jet–joystick or button


  • Battleship–30 points
  • Helicopter–60 points
  • Fuel Depot–80 points
  • Jet–100 points
  • Bridge–500 points
  • Extra jet awarded–every 10,000 points

Atari 8-bit[]

Mountains were added as part of the scenery that was not on the original Atari 2600 version. Balloons were also added as an additional target (moving like any of the others, although they are taller), as well as tanks, which can not only destroy the player’s jet with their fire, but also a shot will explode and the player will lose a jet by running into the explosion. Tanks cannot be destroyed when they are on a land mass, as they are always out of firing range, except for when the player destroys a bridge when a tank is on it.

There is also a count for how many bridges the player destroyed and several game variations.


  • Move plane–joystick (left/right)
  • Speed up–up on joystick
  • Slow down–down on joystick
  • Fire–button

Atari 5200[]

This version has eight game variations in regards to starting a game at the very beginning, or the fifth, 20th, or 50th bridges. All variations are for one or two players. Balloons, tanks and Helicopter Gunners (which fire at the player) were also added.


  • Start new game–Start key
  • Pause game–Pause key
  • Resume game with reserve jet–lower red button(s)
  • Move plane–joystick (left/right)
  • Speed up–up on joystick
  • Slow down–down on joystick
  • Fire–lower red button(s)


Same as the Atari 2600 version, with the following additions:

  • Balloon–60 points
  • Helicopter Gunner–150 points
  • Bridge with Tank–750 points


This version has four starting levels, a high score save and a destroyed bridge count. Radar installations were added as part of the scenery and the Fuel Depots are a solid yellow in appearance, rather than striped like on the original version. Tanks, balloons, and Helicopter Gunners were also added.

Controls, main menu[]

  • One player game–buttons 1, 3, 5, 7 (depending on level)
  • Two player game–buttons 2, 4, 6, 8


Commodore 64[]

This version displays the game and bridge number along with ships remaining and a high score. Mountains were added to the graphics, as well as the usual tanks and balloons.

Controls, main menu[]

  • Option screen–F1
  • Select option–F3

IBM PCjr[]

On this version, the player can select up to bridge number 50 to start their game at. Balloons were also added.

Controls, main menu[]

  • Start game–s key
  • Options–o key


In this version, players can fly over land masses without dying. The fuel depots are also oval-shaped and bigger this time around.



There are four skill levels, along with a demo to choose from on the main menu, plus a high score is also saved. Graphically the fuel tanks are a solid yellow color like with the ColecoVision version, plus radars and other structures were added to the graphics, as well as tanks and balloons.

Controls, main menu[]

  • One player game, skill level 1–F1 key
  • Two player game, skill level 1–F2 key
  • One player game, skill level 2–F3 key
  • Two player game, skill level 2–F4 key
  • One player game, skill level 3–F5 key
  • Two player game, skill level 3–F6 key
  • One player game, skill level 4–F7 key
  • Two player game, skill level 4–F8 key
  • Demo–F10 key
  • Move plane
  • Speed up
  • Slow down
  • Fire
  • Others?

ZX Spectrum[]

A high score feature was added to this version, along with there being four starting skill levels to choose from. There were also mountains added to the graphics and every enemy target is one solid color. The bridges are also numbered and tanks and balloons were added.

Controls screen[]

  • 1–keyboard control
  • 2–Sinclair interface
  • 3–Kempston interface
  • 4–Cursor interface
(Game select/level screen)[]
  • 1–Game 1
  • 2–Game 2
  • 3–Game 3
  • 4–Game 4
  • 5–Game 5
  • 6–Game 6
  • 7–Game 7
  • 8–Game 8
(Controls screen)[]
  • Corresponding controls can be reassigned here
  • Play game–Enter
  • Move left–O key
  • Move right–P key
  • Fire–bottom row
  • Faster–2 key
  • Slower–W key
  • Pause game–H key
  • Reset game–Caps shift/Enter keys
  • Reset menu selections–Sym shift/Enter keys

Note: the above are the default in-game controls, which can be reassigned.


  • Battleship–30 points
  • Helicopter–60 points
  • Fuel Depot–80 points
  • Balloon–60 points

Re-releases, later platforms[]

River Raid appeared on the Activision Anthology for most of the following platforms.


Game Boy Advance[]

The Atari 2600 version is pretty closely emulated.

Controls, startup[]

  • Choose difficulty–left shoulder button + left or right on D-Pad
  • Start game–Select button


  • Move jet/speed up/slow down–D-pad
  • Fire–A button
  • Pause game–Start button




(On Activision Anthology Remix)


(On Activision Anthology Remix)

PlayStation 2[]

PlayStation Portable[]

(On Activision Hits: Remixed)

Unofficial versions[]

Modern day remake[]

A modern day homebrew was created where the perspective was changed to more of a 3-D/behind the player view, rather than as a bottom of the screen, scrolling shooter, although most of the original gameplay remains intact.

Pirate versions[]


Pirated versions of the Atari 2600 release was done by Action Games, Atarimania, CCE, Cosmovision, Digitel, Digivision, Dynacom, H. E. S. (showing a screenshot of the Intellivision version of the game on the label), Microsoft, Play Time, Polygram, Polyvox, Robby, Star Game, Super 2600, Supervision and Video Game. It was also included in the pirated compilation cartridge entitled Super Hit Pak (which is known to have been sold in Australia), which also included several other Activision games.

River Raid was also released as Harbor Escape by Panda, changing many of the graphics, including having an air, rather than fuel meter at the bottom of the screen.


Due to Hack-O-Matic and other like programs, modern day hacks have been made of River Raid. Some are just graphical hacks, such as Alien Menace (giving the game a science fiction theme) and River Raid Black (making the game’s background dark), while others changed various gameplay mechanics, such as with River Raid Hack (infinite lives version), which gives the player unlimited lives, and Death Race, removing barriers so the player is free from running into islands and losing lives, plus the game was given a horror theme.


  • The original River Raid was one of the earlier Atari 2600 games to be programmed by a woman (Carol Shaw).
  • There were many firsts for the Atari 2600 version, as the console did not have a dedicated pause feature, which, whenever a player lost a jet, the game would pause and not start again unless the player moved the controller or pressed the button when their next jet reserve was launched. Scrolling shooters that never repeated screens were also totally unheard of back then, along with enemies that never fired, checkpoints (the last bridge that was destroyed), and fuel depots that had to be docked with, rather than shot in order to obtain more fuel.
  • River Raid was followed by River Raid II in 1988, which was released only for the Atari 2600.
  • A River Raid patch could be sent to whoever took a photo of a score of 20,000 or more on the Atari 2600 version and sent it in to Activision. Some of the modern day re-releases offer virtual patches that can be unlocked.



Needs a lot of blanks filled in with scoring and/or controls on the non-Atari/later release versions