Zaxxon is an intense shmup which has the player dodging missiles in the air, laser cannons shooting at anything along the ground, other enemy fighters, and force fields that require careful navigation to make it through tiny holes in the wall. All of this while trying to keep your fuel from running out.
Zaxxon is split into three levels, which loop afterwards while increasing in difficulty. Stage one consists of trying to get to the end of the level while dodging the various obstacles and enemies in your path. You also have to collect fuel which is done by shooting fuel tanks that are on the ground.
Stage two is empty space where you have to try to shoot down as many enemy fighters as you can before time runs out.
Stage three is similar to stage one except at the end you have to fight Zaxxon, a giant robot (or dragon). After defeating Zaxxon, the player is awarded a bonus and the game loops.
Zaxxon is interesting in that the fighter can move up and down with the ability to attack targets in the air and the ground. The player can tell what level they're at via an altimeter gauge right next to the fuel gauge. Mastering this system is crucial as without skill, it will be very difficult to navigate through the tiny gaps in the force fields which result in destruction.
Super Zaxxon is an upgrade to Zaxxon that has similar game mechanics but different graphics and one noted difference. Zaxxon is now a dragon and has to be defeated three times sequentially in order to beat the game.
Zaxxon spawned an arcade sequel: Super Zaxxon. The color scheme is different, the player's ship flies faster (making the game more difficult), and the robot at the end of the second fortress is replaced by a dragon. It did not do as well as the original.
In 1982 Milton Bradley made a Zaxxon board game.
In 1987 Zaxxon 3-D was released for the Sega Master System. This console variation made use of its 3-D glasses add-on for extra depth perception. As with the Atari 2600 and Intellivision ports, it was forward-scrolling rather than isometric.
Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000 was released for the Sega 32X in 1995. It is the firstZaxxon game to incorporate polygon graphics. The game bore the Zaxxon brand only in the United States, as the Japanese version was named Parasquad and the European version was named Motherbase. U.S. gaming critics generally remarked that the game was not similar enough to Zaxxon to justify the use of the brand.
In 2012 Zaxxon was shown at 'The Art of Video Games' exhibition at theSmithsonian.
A direct sequel, Zaxxon Escape, was released on October 4, 2012 for Apple and Android devices. The game was criticized for having little resemblance to the original.