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Centipede is a fixed shooter video game developed and published by Atari for arcades.  Players control a small insect-like head at the bottom of the screen called the Bug Blaster.   Controlling the Bug Blaster with the use of a trackball, players fire small darts at a segmented centipede advancing from the top of the screen down through a field of mushrooms.  The game became one of the most commercially successful games from the golden age of arcade era.

Atari Football introduced the concept of the trackball within North America, but it did not improve upon the gameplay, it was more of a novelty in this particular game. The concept of being able to provide a smoother gameplay experience led to the trackball being used in Atari’s Centipede and Missile Command. Both games made excellent use of the trackball and proved to add to the gameplay as well as provide a unique experience as none of Atari’s competitors were using trackball controls.

Centipede was the first arcade video game that was designed by a woman, Dona Bailey. Dona came up with the prototype and worked with Ed Logg to develop the final version of the game. Centipede had a special appeal to women gamers which contributed to its success, that coupled with the trackball controller to give the game more sensitive controls and a unique experience made Centipede Atari’s second bestselling arcade game of all time.

Centipede gives the player control of a character at the bottom of the screen which is manipulated with the trackball controller. The concept of the game is to shoot at a centipede that is advancing from the top of the screen down through a field of mushrooms. Shooting a middle segment of the centipede would result in the centipede splitting into two pieces. Each piece then continues independently down the screen as the first section of the split centipede becomes a head. The goal is to destroy the full original centipede without being hit by the centipede or one of the other enemies such as a spider or flea.

Atari’s Centipede received praise for its refreshing approach to the use of screen colors and for its whimsical mushroom world. Due to the massive success Atari decided to release a sequel to the game called Millipede. Millipede was a very good game but did not touch Centipede in popularity.

Media TypeCabinet
ReleaseNA: June 1981
JP: 1983
Genre(s)Fixed Shooter
Development TimeTBD
Sales55,988 Cabinets
$115.65m in est. Gross Revenue
RatingPre-Dates ESRB
Rereleased Platform(s)Ports
Atari 8-bit – 1982
Atari 2600 – 1983
Atari 5200 – 1983
Apple II – 1983
ColecoVision – 1983
Commodore 64 – 1983
Intellivision – 1993
VIC-20 – 1983
Atari 7800 – 1986
Game Boy – 1992
Game Boy Color – 1998

Game Screenshots:

Interview with Centipede creator Dona Bailey



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Dona BaileyDona BaileyDesigner
Ed LoggDesigner
Dan Van ElderenHead of Engineering

Arcade Cabinet

Atari 2600 (North American Release)

Atari 5200 (North American Release)

Apple II (North American Release)

ColecoVision (North American Release)

Commodore 64 (North American Release)

Intellivision (North American Release)

Atari 7800 (North American Release)

Game Boy Color (European Release)

Media & Promotional Material