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Centipede Arcade Game

Updated on January 16, 2017
RetroBrothers profile image

Martin has been a software developer for many years. This is mixed with a passion for retro machines and game,

Centipede Arcade Game

More nostalgia with Atari and Centipede
More nostalgia with Atari and Centipede


Centipede was a fast paced vertically-oriented trackball arcade game produced by gaming giants Atari way back in 1981.

Atari had already achieved a lot of success in the arcade sector with seminal titles such as the vector styled Asteroids and the 3D vector based shoot em up classic Battlezone.

Once again they were onto another winner with this game.

The aim of the game was to take on the mighty 'centipede' whilst also evading or destroying various other insects, arachnids, poisoned mushrooms and a myriad of creepy crawly type creatures and bugs.

Unsurprisingly, all of these creatures and fungi were deadly to the player.

It's time to take a look at another 1980s classic game from Atari which appeared just as the golden age of the amusement arcade was gathering steam.

Read on to find out more and to reminisce about Centipede...

Centipede Arcade Flyer

The Famous Atari Flyer For Centipede
The Famous Atari Flyer For Centipede

Centipede Gameplay

The player controlled a small rotund 'thingy' at the bottom of the screen, which could be moved in all directions. Player movement was confined to roughly the lower quarter portion of the game area.

The player moved the character around the movement area of the screen via the use of a trackball, much in the same way as one was used in Missile Command.

The centipede was comprised of chained together 'sections', with one end being the head of the creature, as it negotiated it's way from the top of the screen downwards. It would meander its way through a field of mushrooms which were dotted around the play area.

If you shot any section of the centipede it was destroyed and left a mushroom on the play-field; shooting one of the middle segments caused the centipede to divide into two pieces at the point of impact.

Each piece then continued to move independently with the first segment of the rearmost new centipede becoming a new head.

If you managed to obliterate the head then the next adjoining section became the new head and so on.

The centipede, in however many sections would continue it's relentless movement towards the bottom of the screen until it came into contact with you, or you took out the last remaining section.

Centipede Arcade Screen Shot

The Centipede Begins It's Descent In The Atari Arcade Game...
The Centipede Begins It's Descent In The Atari Arcade Game...

Centipede was a popular arcade game with females

Apparently Girls Really Enjoyed Playing Centipede
Apparently Girls Really Enjoyed Playing Centipede

The Centipede Arcade Game In Action

Various Enemies in Centipede

The centipede always began it's crawl at the topmost part of the game screen.

Whenever it hit a mushroom or the edge of the screen, it dropped by one level and changed its direction of movement.

This game-play mechanic cleverly ensured that the more mushrooms present on the screen, the quicker the deadly centipede would descend.

It was possible to lower the amount of on screen mushrooms though by shooting them, with each requiring four shots to destroy.

Once the centipede made it to bottom of the screen it crawled back and forth within the player 'movement area' with the added distraction of one section heads being added to it every few seconds.

These 'heads' continued to be added until you eliminated the entire centipede along with these new head segments.

Once the centipede had been completely wiped out a new centipede would appear at the top of the playing area barely giving you a second to rest before taking to the controls again.

The colour scheme would also change on each level up change too.

This next creature would be one segment shorter and accompanied by one rapid action head centipede.

Any contact with the centipede or any of the other on screen creatures resulted in the loss of a life, and there were plenty of other on screen beasties to avoid or destroy.

For instance, a flea would drop vertically from top to bottom leaving mushrooms in its wake if there were less than five mushrooms present in the designated player movement area.

This always made sure that the bottom third of the screen was populated with mushrooms, so no matter how many you destroyed they would re-appear almost as quickly as wiped them out..

Deadly spiders would jump around the player area too in a random fashion, generally being a nuisance although they would devour a mushroom from time to time. Any player contract with the spider resulted in the instant loss of a life.

Scorpions ran across the screen horizontally, poisoning every mushroom they came into contact with. Luckily they always appeared above the player move area so poisoned mushrooms would only be in a certain section of the screen.

These poisoned mushrooms added a further element to the game. If the centipede came into contact with the poisoned mushroom, it would descend rapidly downwards in a berzerker mode.

If you could get underneath it and hit it with rapid fire then it was a quick kill for you. If you did not have the time to execute this move, then you had to be fast at evading the creepy crawly as it moved rapidly around the bottom area of the screen.

Seat of the pants stuff!

Legacy of Centipede

This arcade game was another big hit for good old Atari.

It went on to spawn many sequels and spin-off games and it was also converted to pretty much every home computer and gaming console of the era.

Unofficial ports (such as the extremely playable Spectipede) appeared on the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64, and of course the Atari home consoles such as the Atari 2600 and 5200 were treated to great conversions of this classic game. In my opinion the Atari 2600 version remains very playable today.

The 16-bit generation of machines such as the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga were also host to plenty of conversions of Centipede.

The game is best played on an original cabinet with the good old trackball control - emulators are great but the original is the best!

You just cannot beat that trackball control for ultimate playability and for dodging around those on-screen nasties...

A Guided Tour Of An Original Centipede Cabinet - With A Slightly 'Tetchy' Player!

The Actual Centipede Arcade Machine In Action Again

Any fans of Atari Centipede?

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    • jawadgames profile image

      Jawad Satti 

      5 years ago from Pakistan

      nice games i try

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Game looks great! Must play it lol

    • RetroBrothers profile imageAUTHOR

      Martin Allan 

      6 years ago from Sunny Scotland

      Hi there TheDragonBringer. Always glad to hear from fellow fans of Centipede!

      Thanks for dropping by. Love your user name by the way :-)

    • TheDragonBringer profile image

      Jade Griffin 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      I am a girl and I LOVED playing centipied. I did not wear hot pants when I played though!

    • RetroBrothers profile imageAUTHOR

      Martin Allan 

      8 years ago from Sunny Scotland

      Thanks Roly!

      You are right, Centipede is one of the classic Trackball games - and it still plays nicely today.

      Keep it retro mate!

    • RolyRetro profile image


      8 years ago from Brentwood, Essex, UK

      Great arcade memory, great hub as always. I was about to write something similar following feedback on my Missile Command hub! Trackball games are few and far between and this is one of the greats.




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