Defender is an arcade video game developed by Williams Electronics in 1981. A horizontally scrolling shooter, the game is set on an unnamed planet where the player must defeat waves of invading aliens while protecting astronauts. Development was inspired from Space Invaders and Asteroids.
Defender was one of the most important titles of the golden age of arcade video games, selling over 55,000 units to become the company’s best-selling game and one of the highest-grossing arcade games ever. Praise among critics focused on the game’s audio-visuals and gameplay. Though not the first game to scroll horizontally, it created the genre of purely horizontal scrolling shooters. It inspired the development of other games and was followed by sequels and many imitations.
Defender is a two-dimensional side-scrolling shooting game set on the surface of an unnamed planet. The player controls a spaceship as it navigates the terrain, flying either to the left or right. A joystick controls the ship’s elevation, and five buttons control its horizontal direction and weapons. The object is to destroy alien invaders, while protecting astronauts on the landscape from abduction. Humans that are abducted return as mutants that attack the ship. Defeating the aliens allows the player to progress to the next level. Failing to protect the astronauts, however, causes the planet to explode and the level to become populated with mutants. Surviving the waves of mutants results in the restoration of the planet. Players are allotted three ships to progress through the game and are able to earn more by reaching certain scoring benchmarks. A ship is lost if it is hit by an enemy or its projectiles, or if a hyperspace jump goes wrong (as they randomly do). After exhausting all ships, the game ends. Once 990,000 points are scored, extra lives will be added per destroyed enemy, other than humanoids. The game also features asynchronous multiplayer for 2 players.