Missile Command: Classic Arcade Game Video, History & Game Play Overview


Debuting in the US in 1980, Missile Command is considered to be one of the most prolific shooting themed arcade games of its time. Published and created by Atari, this simple game was eventually to nearly three dozen different home gaming consoles and gaming computers. Missile Command was designed by Dave Theurer, who also worked on the video game Tempest.

Technically, there were three sequels to Missile Command. However, only two sequels were ever produced. Missile Command 2 never made it to the production stage, but a few arcade machines have been located over the years. Official sequels to Missile Command include; Missile Command 3D and an updated version of Missile Command that was released in 1999.

Ports for Missile Command include the Atari 5200, Atari Lynx, Nintendo Game Boy, Emerson Arcadia, Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation. Multiple anthologies and classic game collections that include Missile Command have been produced for more contemporary gaming consoles, including the Microsoft Xbox.

Both one and two persons can play Missile Command by taking turns.


Game Play Overview

In Missile Command, the players’ objective is to prevent their home bases and cities from being destroyed by fending off enemy attacks. As this game was produced in the early 1980s, the images are simplistic. However, learning the game’s control mechanisms is critical to survival.

There 11 basis stages in the game, which are referred to as waves. Missile Command is programmed to go to as high as 256 waves, but this level of game play can only be reached by the most skilled players. A total of three bases must be defended, each coming with 10 defensive missiles.

There are six cities that can be defended when Missile Command is played in standard setting. It is possible to add or take away cities when different playing modes are selected. If a player runs out of defensive missiles, he or she will have to watch enemies decimate their cities and hope to survive the round.

Players must shoot both missiles and MIRVs launched by enemy forces as well as the weapons which launch the attacks. Each wave ends only when all six cities have been destroyed, or all enemies have been decimated. The number of points given for intercepting an enemy missile is 25. Shooting down a smart bomb yields 125 points, and taking out a killer satellite earns players 100 points. Bombers are also worth 100 points.

Players that are able to survive waves with defensive missiles leftover receive 5 points for each additional round. Ending a level with cities left relatively intact yields 100 points.

Special Features

After the second wave has been completed, all points earned increase in value. From stages three to four, players receive double the points they normally would. From stages five to six, scores are tripled. Stages seven and eight give players four times their normal scores. This continues until the 11th wave, where point values are six times their original value.

Extra cities, which can help to extend games, are also awarded at 10K and 12K point intervals.


Bases – Three bases set on the bottom of the screen are used to direct defense missiles. Each base can launch a total of 10 missiles at enemies.

Bombs – Enemies launch bombs at cities in order to destroy them. Launching a missile in their direction will stop them.

Killer satellites – These enemies move stealthily, launching what are known as smart bombs. Unless you launch a precise shot, smart bombs can simply move around oncoming defensive missiles.

Cities – With six cities to protect, players must prevent them from being completely destroyed in order to continue the game.

Smart bombs – Smart bombs are the most dangerous type of attack that can be launched by enemy forces. Use your missiles sparingly when battling smart bombs.

Crosshairs – There are three separate sets of crosshairs in Missile Command, with each representing one of the three bases that you control. The crosshairs are used to change the direction of shots.

Missiles – Only a limited number of defensive missiles are given to players. Extra missiles at the end of the wave yield additional points, but running out could spell disaster.

How to Play Missile Command

The three military bases at the bottom of the screen, named Omega, Alpha and Delta, are perhaps the most crucial element in Missile Command. Players can select which base they want to launch their next defensive missile from as long as they have enough ammo in their reserves. As enemies launch attacks from different parts of the screen, it is most adventitious to start a counter attack from the base that is closest in proximity.

In between each military base are three cities. While the bases are placed in a position where they can easily defend against oncoming attacks, the cities can easily end up taking the brunt of the damage. Most enemies give players some type of warning prior to entering the screen. In addition, players are given an alert when they start to run out of defensive missiles at any given base.

During the first wave, regular bombs will make up the majority of all enemy attacks. Bombs move at a slow rate of speed, which gives players plenty of time to react. As soon as wave one has been completed, a single killer satellite will make an appearance. Smart bombs will start to come toward your bases and cities. Use the crosshairs and take precise shots. Remember that missing a single smart bomb could cause you to lose an entire city.

As players reach the third wave and beyond, more enemies will attack at once. On the other hand, players will also be awarded more points for each successful hit. By the time that the 11th wave has been reached, you will be receiving six times the regular amount expected for every enemy taken out.

Missile Command can continue to be played for as long as you have cities available. If you get a high enough score, you will have more cities added, which will allow you to sustain more damage without losing the game.

Hints and Tips
– Smart bombs are among the most difficult type of weapon to defeat. If you are not good at taking out smart bombs, aim for killer satellites first. This will limit the amount of damage that your cities take.

– Defensive missiles can destroy multiple enemies at once because they explode outward. Instead of attempting to defeat foes individually, wait for them to reach a point on the screen where they are close together. You can defeat up to five or six shots from opponents by carefully aiming your defensive missiles.


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