Atari 2600 River Raid instructions

In River Raid, players controlled a series of jets flying over a scrolling "River of No Return", destroying multiple types of targets of various sizes and attack patterns.

The game debuted on the Atari 2600 in 1982 by Activision, selling well over a million units, and was later ported to many other consoles and computers, retaining pretty much the exact same gameplay as the Atari 2600 original, although with some additional targets and features. It would also be re-released years later on the Activision Anthology release, also on multiple platforms.

Releases, originalEdit

Atari 2600Edit

Players control a jet that is constantly stationed at the bottom of the screen and can only move left and right as an unending river scrolls downwards. Players must avoid or destroy various enemy craft and bridges and avoid colliding with any land mass, enemy vehicle or bridge or they will lose a jet; lose all jets and the game will end.

Players’ jets are also constantly draining fuel, although they can be replenished by docking with onscreen fuel depots. Running out of fuel will also cost the player a reserve jet.

Bridges are also encountered during a game, which, upon being destroyed, the player will start off at the last bridge they destroyed prior to losing a jet.

As the game goes on, the difficulty level is raised by having less space to maneuver in river banks and with less fuel depots appearing onscreen.

There is also a variation for two players.


  • Move jet–left/right
  • Speed up–up on joystick
  • Slow down–down on joystick
  • Fire–button
  • Resume game with reserve jet–joystick or button

Atari 8-bitEdit

Mountains were added as part of the scenery that was not on the original Atari 2600 version. Balloons were also added as an additional target (moving like any of the others, although they are taller), as well as tanks, which can not only destroy the player’s jet with their fire, but also a shot will explode and the player will lose a jet by running into the explosion. Tanks cannot be destroyed when they are on a land mass, as they are always out of firing range, except for when the player destroys a bridge when a tank is on it.

There is also a count for how many bridges the player destroyed and several game variations.


  • Move plane–joystick (left/right)
  • Speed up–up on joystick
  • Slow down–down on joystick
  • Fire–button

Atari 5200Edit

This version has eight game variations in regards to starting a game at the very beginning, or the fifth, 20th, or 50th bridges. All variations are for one or two players. Balloons, tanks and Helicopter Gunners (which fire at the player) were also added.


  • Pause game–Pause key
  • Resume game with reserve jet–lower red button(s)
  • Move plane–joystick (left/right)
  • Speed up–up on joystick
  • Slow down–down on joystick
  • Fire–lower red button(s)


This version has four starting levels, a high score save and a destroyed bridge count. Radar installations were added as part of the scenery and the Fuel Depots are a solid yellow in appearance, rather than striped like on the original version. Tanks, balloons, and Helicopter Gunners were also added.

Commodore 64Edit

This version displays the game and bridge number along with ships remaining and a high score. Mountains were added to the graphics, as well as the usual tanks and balloons.

IBM PCjrEdit

On this version, the player can select up to bridge number 50 to start their game at. Balloons were also added.


In this version, players can fly over land masses without dying. The fuel depots are also oval-shaped and bigger this time around.


There are four skill levels, along with a demo to choose from on the main menu, plus a high score is also saved. Graphically the fuel tanks are a solid yellow color like with the ColecoVision version, plus radars and other structures were added to the graphics, as well as tanks and balloons.

ZX SpectrumEdit

A high score feature was added to this version, along with there being four starting skill levels to choose from. There were also mountains added to the graphics and every enemy target is one solid color. The bridges are also numbered and tanks and balloons were added.


  • Move left–O key
  • Move right–P key
  • Fire–bottom row
  • Faster–2 key
  • Slower–W key
  • Pause game–H key
  • Reset game–Caps shift/Enter keys
  • Reset menu selections–Sym shift/Enter keys

Note: the above are the default in-game controls, which can be reassigned.

Re-releases, later platformsEdit

River Raid appeared on the Activision Anthology for most of the following platforms.


Game Boy AdvanceEdit

The Atari 2600 version is pretty closely emulated.


  • Move jet/speed up/slow down–D-pad
  • Fire–A button
  • Pause game–Start button




(On Activision Anthology Remix)


(On Activision Anthology Remix)

PlayStation 2Edit

PlayStation PortableEdit

(On Activision Hits: Remixed)


  • The original River Raid was one of the earlier Atari 2600 games to be programmed by a woman (Carol Shaw).
  • There were many firsts for the Atari 2600 version, as the console did not have a dedicated pause feature, which, whenever a player lost a jet, the game would pause and not start again unless the player moved the controller or pressed the button when their next jet reserve was launched. Scrolling shooters that never repeated screens were also totally unheard of back then, along with enemies that never fired, checkpoints (the last bridge that was destroyed), and fuel depots that had to be docked with, rather than shot in order to obtain more fuel.
  • River Raid was followed by River Raid II in 1988, which was released only for the Atari 2600.
  • A River Raid patch could be sent to whoever took a photo of a score of 20,000 or more on the Atari 2600 version and sent it in to Activision. Some of the modern day re-releases offer virtual patches that can be unlocked.

Needs a lot of blanks filled in with controls on the non-Atari/later release versions

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