Defender: Classic Arcade Game Video, History & Game Play Overview


Defender was released in 1981. As one of the most popular arcade games every produced by Williams Electronics, Defender went down in history for several reasons. First, Defender is considered to be one of the most difficult titles ever created. Secondly, Williams Electronics successfully manufactured and sold almost 60K Defender arcade machines at its peak.

Programming was handled by Sam Dicker, Eugene Jarvis and Larry Demar. Both Jarvis and Demar also helped to design Defender. This scrolling shooter is set in outer space, and requires players to operate a control panel equipped with five buttons as well as a multi directional joystick.

Defender was developed for the Atari 5200 and 2600, Emerson Arcadia, ColecoVision, Intellivision, Nintendo Game Boy, Sega Saturn, Sega Genesis and Nintendo 64, amongst others. Ports for the Commodore 65, Apple II, ZX-Spectrum and other home gaming computers were also developed.

Three sequels were spawned by Defender, including Stargate, Strikeforce and Defender 2000. None of these sequels ever became as popular as the original Defender, but they have received modest reviews. Up to two players can play Defender at a time.


Game Play Overview

Players name a ship called the Defender in this title. Before a new game can be started, you must identify and understand all of the controls. The player ship can be moved in literally all directions with the use of the joystick. The hyperspace button moves the ship through space and time, but ultimately, there is no telling where it will end up.

The fire button controls the Defender’s primary weapon, while the smart bomb button drops a small number of high powered bombs from the underside of the ship. Smart bombs should be used wisely and conservatively. Hitting the thrust button will move the Defender forward, but this is a tricky control to master. When the desired speed is met, the thrust button should be released. When a player wants to move at maximum speed, this key should be held down.

The reverse control moves the player ship backward, but there are only two different scenarios in which this would be necessary. It usually takes multiple tries before players are able to accurately locate and utilize Defender’s controls.

Aside from the manual controls, the system scanner gives players an overall picture of the current playing field as well as nearby areas. Look for a set of white brackets to see where you are currently. The system scanner is located at the top of each stage.

In Defender, your job is to roam the vast landscape in search of aliens to destroy and humans to pick up. Players can scroll to the left or the right, as long as they have not reached the outer edges of the playing field. Within this vast space will be hundreds of enemies. Thankfully, there are only five different enemy types to look out for.

The mothership is a powerful enemy group that can appear in groups of up to four. Motherships release swarmers. They can generate a great deal of damage, and they are worth 1,000 each.

Swarmers follow behind the player ship, and they only appear when motherships are present. Earn 150 points for every swarmer destroyed.

The lander enemy group is particularly fond of human. When captured, they will turn humans into humans. Players earn 150 points each time that a lander is eliminated.

Always appearing in formations, bombers have a 250 point value. Generally, they do not attack players directly, instead leaving land mines in their wake.

Mutants are humans that have been abducted by landers. When changed, they are no longer friendly to the defender. Mutants have shooting capabilities, and they have a 150 point value.

Lastly, baiters almost always come onto the screen when landers are present. These enemies like to attack from behind. Baiters are worth 200 points.

Rescuing humans also helps players to earn points. Preventing a human from being abducted from a lander results in 500 points earned. Dropping a human from the sky onto the ground is worth 250 points, while placing a human on land gently is worth another 500 points.

Special Features

Smart bombs are relatively difficult to obtain in Defender. They are automatically awarded to players at 10K intervals.

Players also receive a bonus for completing a round with human still remaining.


Swarmers – Originating solely from motherships, swarmers can be eliminated only two ways; by destroying the mothership or taking them out directly.

Defender – The player ship as well as the game is named Defender. The Defender saves humans from an alien invasion.

Bombers – Bombers usually attack in stealth mode, preferring to attack players from the rear.

Motherships – The most dangerous type of enemy in Defender, motherships house swarmers and attack aggressively.

Humans – The helpless humanoid figures seen walking along the ground are humans. They must be rescued before they are turned into mutants.

Mutants – These enemies emerge after landers have been able to successfully turn humans into genetic mutants.

Landers – Landers don’t pose a direct threat to the Defender, but they are focused on creating mutants.

Scanner – The system scanner allows players to see where they are in the larger world at all times.

How to Play Defender

Defender becomes enjoyable to play only after players have learned all of the controls. Knowing how to move the ship is imperative to survival. Otherwise, motherships and mutants should be your primary focus.

There are four basic stages in Defender, but the game continues until the end of the 20th level. In the first level, there will be 15 landers to defeat. During level two, one mothership, three bombers and twenty landers will be present. On level three, four bombers, twenty landers and three motherships appear. From the fourth level on, four motherships, five bombers and twenty landers take part in the battle.

Being hit by enemy gunfire and surviving gives players 25 points for each shot. However, taking too many hits will result in the loss of a man.

Hints and Tips
-Mathematically mutants are less valuable than humans. Try not to allow too many landers to abduct humans because this could negatively impact your score.

- Although humans are important, you can’t always put all of your attention in them. While attempting to pick up humans, enemies will attack while you are most vulnerable. Try to drop humans safely onto the surface, otherwise you will have no choice but watch them fall to their doom.


We hope you enjoyed the video and the information shared on this classic arcade game.

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