Game History

Discover Star Castle, the Game that Inspired Yars’ Revenge

Discover Star Castle, the Game that Inspired Yars’ Revenge

Star Castle was a “space shooter” arcade game developed by Cinematronics with similar free-floating space mechanics to Asteroids. In Star Castle, players act as a ship trying to destroy a cannon at the center of the screen protected by three rings of shields. Players face the challenge of dodging exploding mines and the cannon’s lasers as the game gradually speeds up. Star Castle was created when the “space shooter” genre was at its peak, likely inspired by the seemingly futuristic advances to consumer tech and entertainment. And in arcades everywhere, it performed well among audiences looking for a challenge.

You can see video of a rare Star Castle gaming table on YouTube.

Atari challenged Howard Scott Warshaw to bring the title to the Atari 2600 in 1982. After spending some time on the project, Warshaw decided that Star Castle would not adapt well to the 2600 platform and instead developed Yars’ Revenge based on Star Castle’s core mechanics. Warshaw used the game to experiment with visual overstimulation by creating full-screen explosions and flashing barriers. He also brought a cohesive storyline that stretched across games, adding a backstory with depth (and one that continues to evolve .. stay tuned). Yars' Revenge became the best selling first-party game on the Atari 2600.

Because Star Castle never made it to a home console it remained a relatively obscure title. The title had a new chapter in 2012 when an ex-Atari developer named D. Scott Williamson decided that he wanted to take on the challenge of porting Star Castle. Williamson faithfully recreated the game after several years of trial and error. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign he designed and manufactured new cartridges.

That challenging and addictive gameplay was revisited once again in Yar’s Return, Curt Vendel’s unofficial sequel, which is getting an official cartridge release from Atari this year. You can learn more about the development of that title in our interview with homebrew developer Dennis Debro