alt : Stargunner Main ThemeStargunner Main Theme


Stargunner was a little known horizontal shooter that probably never caught the attention of the average PC owner even back in the days when PC gaming (DOS) was more popular.

It was created by the now defunct Apogee Software whom created a vertical shoot'em up Raptor: Call of the Shadows which had proved very popular a few years before. These games unfortunately were a dying breed particularly on the PC as they appealed to a niche audience and the industry had almost fully shifted to 3D by that time. Originally released on November 19th 1996, Stargunner became Apogee's last game. It was somewhat difficult to find here in the UK as well.

Almost 10 years later it was released as a Freeware product in July 2005 for everybody to enjoy.

The graphics are superb. Like some console games of the day, pre-rendered images are used to make for well detailed and well animated visuals. There is plenty of variation in the enemy ships and creatures. Backgrounds and landscapes are well styled also.

There is a somewhat sophisticated soundtrack that sounds original and fits very well with the onscreen action. The sound effects fit very well and there will always be lots of powerful and satisfying explosions.

I first played Stargunner as a random shareware demo on the cover of a PC magazine (non-gaming) in early 1997. I was fairly new to PC gaming and thought this type of game only got released on consoles. I had played many games of a similar vein such as Hellfire and R-Type on consoles but used to the likes of Descent and Duke Nukem 3D on my trusty 5x86 which coincidently ran Stargunner very well. The game was mostly written in C++ with lots of assembly for the video and audio which enabled it play well on the 486 generation of hardware up to 60fps. A rare feat.

Although simple in comparison, the fury of the gameplay made for a cool game with lots of action offering a decent challenge particularly with the tricky boss fights. I got to know the shareware version very well in my recuperation period following an operation on my nose!

Since then and getting a full copy on CDROM it became one of my favorite PC games on its own merits, but there are few of this type and certainly of this quality on the platform.

In 2016 Stargunner celebrated its 20th anniversary and there is great article on the 3DRealms website with behind the scenes information. See Links section below.

In this feature you will find information on the gameplay, how to play on modern PCs along with cheats and tips and a download of the soundtrack.

Note: The Freeware version is actually the registered/retail version. Screens in the game may still use those terms but they are the same game.

To get started you need to obtain the game so point your browser to


Case Quote

Feel your adrenaline pump as the count down begins. You must strike now. There'll be no second chance. It's time to take your seat amongst the squadron of elite. It's time for STARGUNNER - the fastest, most action-packed, inter-galactic white knuckle-shoot-'em-up in the stratosphere.

Click image for larger.


Interestingly, the background story of the game differs greatly between the games manual and that on the help page. Both are detailed below.

Manual Version

Website [Starhelp.exe]

The huge carrier ships of Barak entered Amdara space with signs of friendship and cooperation. The peaceful Amdarans welcomed them and helped them colonize a nearby planet. But soon after, the masked Barakians revealed themselves as a warring race with conquest in their blood. Now two thousand years have passed.

Locked and beaten down in a staggering war, the Amdarans have one final hope before surrendering to the overwhelming Barakian forces. The Amdaran's have trained an elite squad for an offensive strike designed to cripple three strongholds on Barak, where the majority of Barak's fleets are amassed. If the offensive strike team can surprise the Barakians on their own planet, and destroy most of their fleet, then hope is not lost for the Amdarans.

The people of Amdara have nicknamed their elite force the "STARGUNNERS".

In the far distant future, an epic war for survival takes place...

Deep within the Andromeda galaxy; the people of Zile grow restless--and greedy. The Zilions secretly prepare for a massive strike against the nearby planet Ytima. Fearing such an attack the Ytimians train an elite squad of "Stargunners." Their mission: To strike the planet Zile first, and cripple the Zilions three strongholds, where the Zilion war fleets await the launch order. If the Stargunners can surprise the Zilions on their own planet, and destroy most of their fleet, then good will triumph at least one more time.


Stargunner plays like an arcade shoot'em up in the vein of R-Type and Gradius and despite the name, the action the action takes place in a few environments rather than just open space.

The screen will scroll at a steady pace from left to right and waves upon waves of enemies will throng from all directions. At no point can you backtrack.

alt : Cannot see the video?

Video is shamelessly embedded from Youtube. All credit to the video owner. No infringement intended.

The games action will take place in open space, across volcanic terrain or deep underwater. Enemies can be spacecraft, helicopters and even deadly fish. Enemies will appear the same from stage to stage but they will have different behaviors. Some brief sections present a serious threat as they are full on swarms like an asteroid field, missiles or depth charges. In the mix are plenty of secret Power-Ups to be found.

An ever present voice will relay important information such as "shield low", "danger approaching" or whichever Power-Up is collected. Across the bottom of the screen will be all your vitals. These are pretty self explanatory.

As you blast your way through targets and areas of the landscape, green credit crystals will be left behind. They can also be found in C boxes about the landscape conveniently. These are the currency of the game that allows you to purchase upgraded engines, weapons and extra lives in the Supply Store. Before beginning a stage you have the option to upgrade/customize your ship with an array of different weapons as well as engine and defense upgrades. A full list of all upgrades and descriptions is below.

There will also be plenty of Power-Ups to the collected during the course of each stage. Destroying a cluster of enemies (such as a string of green pods) or some significantly larger enemies will release a Power-Up. They will be hidden all over any stage also.

Your ship will be destroyed by taking a hit when the shields have been depleted. Instant destruction happens when crashing into the landscape/scenery or colliding with an enemy. The ship will be invincible for a few seconds upon return but do not rely on this.

At the end of each stage there will be a boss fight. These are somewhat tactical since each will have a specific weak spot and a strategy/opportunities to damage it. Most are modular meaning that several sections must be destroyed first before it can be defeated.

You begin the game with 3 lives. For every 10000000 points you can gain an extra life. They can also be collected as a Power-Up or purchased. When you get Game Over you can continue from the beginning of the current stage. If you do not continue you are displayed the high scores and then the main menu.

As with most PC games, the controls can be customized depending on what devices are available done through the Configuration menu on the title screen. By default, the game uses keyboard controls. They are:

Arrow Keys - move your ship about the screen in all directions. When you begin a game your ship will be pretty sluggish with the default engine.

CTRL - Fires your primary weapon. Hold down for rapid fire.

SPACE - SPACE - deploys a nuke which destroys all smaller enemies on the screen and severely damages others. You can carry a maximum of 4 and a new game begins with 2.

F1 - displays a help screen with a list of hotkeys.

F2 - allows you to save the game at any point.

F3 - allows you to re-load a game at any point.

Weapons and Supply Store (Upgrade System)

Supply Store

Your primary weapon has unlimited ammo and this will be a canon of either Pulse (red) or Plasma (blue). Pulse is a concentrated stream of fire whereas Plasma is a wider spread of fire but less powerful. Which weapon is online is toggled by collecting the Power-Ups.

There are 2 ports on your ship where you can customize which weapons are to be used. Certain configurations are more effective than others in some situations and a good/rewarding aspect of the gameplay is experimentation.

In addition you can use 2 satellites (moons) for defense alongside any nukes.

Described below are the upgrades and their costs.

Weapon descriptions taken from manual


Standard Impulser

Low performance engine. This is a sturdy and reliable engine used in many older military ships. It's a great starter rocket booster for the first few missions.


Hydrogen Ioniser

A medium performance engine. By a massive discharge of ionized gasses, this engine offers good forward and vertical thrust. Warning: don't go too fast toward enemies.


Megapulse 2000

A high performance impulse drive. The latest in technology, it provides increased acceleration in all directions. This engine offers a true test for the experienced pilot.


Gravdis 5

A super performance engine. It utilizes gravity displacement and localized warp fields to move at great speeds with very little inertia. This is not an engine for the weak heart.



Plasma Bomb

A high energy plasma bomb. It does devastating damage to crafts and any structures it hits. Obliterate all enemy structures with only a few of these babies.


Maxipow Evolter

Fires a high voltage blast that can penetrate multiple small crafts before dissipating. Great for blasting enemy structures while you concentrate on what's attacking you.


Matter Disruptor

Generates a wave of matter disruption that will do great damage to anything it passes through. A good cheap weapon for hitting enemy structures and hard to get turrets.



Shoots quick repulsing blast that will reflect off non-energy charged surfaces several times before exploding.


A-Matt Boomerang

This fires an auto returning bolt of anti-matter. Its fast discharge rate and arc shaped path makes it a formidable weapon for getting a second shot with each fire.


Fragmentor BE 800

It fires a heavy duty range restricted missile. Its explosion has a long duration which provides a very effective ball of defence. Kill a whole wave of enemies in one shot.


Biparticle Cannon

Fires a small missile equipped with energy sensors. On detection of an enemy vessel, it will fire two approaching vertical magnetized particle blasts.



This weapon carries a jet of intense heat by burning a stream of a liquidized gas compound. You'll be safe behind a couple of thousand degrees if you fire this one up.


Ion Cannon

The auto-aiming cannon delivers quick and deadly pulses of ionic discharge. Good for knocking out those annoying enemy turrets and slow flying formation ships.


Magnum 3000DX

This heavy missile launcher has an onboard fission replicator device which allows for quick and virtually infinite missile dispersal. Pity the poor fool that gets hit by one of these.


Dual Laser

This dual directional laser fires a piercing beam ahead and behind. An internal generator supplies the incredible energy required to fire, if they see this one fire, they're already dead.


Torpedo Launcher

This shoots fast and accurate photon driven torpedoes which target the nearest alien vessel and attempt to home in on it. Just close your eyes and let this baby do the work for you.




A cheap and effective satellite of defense. It maintains a locally powered force shield to protect its hardened silicon body.



A heavy duty satellite, that due to its incredibly dense body, can withstand huge amounts of punishment.


Dynamo 500

The top of the range satellite, that generates intermittent, high powered discharges that can wipe out or damage ships.


Nuke Blast

(Press "2" to select). The Nuke Blast radiates an immense wave of proton emissions from your ship which causes great damage to all nearby ships and energy weapon discharges.


Extra Life

Invest in life-saving inter-dimension shifts. Each 'life' charge will activate when your ship destructs shifting an image of you and your ship from a compatible dimension to this one.


Credit Drone

Fires a fast homing drone which is equipped with the most advanced credit seeking technology. This is a must have tool for saving up for those expensive super-weapons.


Items and Power-Ups

Power-Ups/Bonus/Secret Items appear in many places throughout the run of a stage. Significantly larger and clusters of enemies will leave behind a Power-Up when destroyed. To collect, simply fly over.

At the end of a stage a percentage of aliens destroyed (enemies) and secrets found is displayed and bonus points awarded. When entering the next stage, the level of power your primary weapon has remains.

Stage Coomplete

The items are:

Credits - These are used to buy upgrade components for your ship. Each chip is worth 15 credits. Crystals surrounding structures are worth 25. When collected are worth between 25-500 points, depending on how quickly they are picked after appearing. Credits can also be found in C boxes dotted about the landscape. Beware that you can still collide (and die) with these if they have not been shot open.

Pulse/Plasma Icon - This Power Up increases the firepower of your primary weapon. These are cumulative.

Pulse Weapon Plasma Weapon

Shield - Restores shield strength by 50%.


Mega Points - Worth 50,000 points. If you shoot this Power-Up it can turn into something more useful (Like?)

Mega Points

Credits (Silver) - Worth 200 credits.


Mega Credits (Gold) - Worth 500 credits.

Mega Credits

Extra Life - An additional life. These can appear still or will rush across the screen when the ship moves across specific locations in a stage.


Invincibility - your ship will be indestructible for a short period of time. These are usually well hidden in a stage. When invincible, you can fly into enemy ships and through structures where many secret items tend to lie.


Nuke - an extra nuke. There are two types of these; some will explode instantly when collected and others will store a blast in your arsenal.


Mystery - Can be any one of the above!


Secret Items - These are hidden around structures mostly (though some can be inside them) and can be any one of the Power-Ups available. They can be spotted beforehand by the small "twinkle" in the place of them as you approach. You may also spot clusters of these but they can need collecting in a certain order for all of them to be available.

After several plays, you will get a feel as to where the secret items will most likely appear. For example: in tight spaces, above a laser turret or inside clusters of Credit boxes. Some may be collected only with the correct primary weapon used whilst others maybe in clusters and need collecting in a sequence.


Men - Simply fly over these to earn 1000 points each. Be careful as firing on them will destroy them.


Game Options

When the game starts you are presented with the main menu. The run down is as follows:

Play Mission - Starts a new game or loads a previously saved game.

Load Game - Load a previously saved game.

Ordering - How to obtain the complete version of the game. (Obsolete)

Configuration - Here control, graphics and sound options can be adjusted.

Information - A brief 'How to Play' and credits.

High Scores - High Scores.

Run Demo - Runs a demo of the game. Well worth a look for getting the basics.

Quit to DOS - Ends the game. Returns to the command prompt.


Stargunner has four episodes each having 9 stages. Before beginning an episode you select the difficulty between Ensign (easiest), Captain and Admiral (hardest).

When a mission/episode is selected a brief introduction Star Wars style sets the scene.

Click on any of the screenshots below to see each stage of each episode.

Episode 1: Scout Mission

Scout Mission Stage 1

Scout Stage 1

Scout Mission Stage 1 Boss


More Scout Mission screenshots..

Episode 2: Stellar Attack

Stellar Attack Stage 1

Stellar Attack Stage 1

Stellar Attack Stage 1 Boss


More Stellar Attack Mission screenshots..

Episode 3: Terran Assault

Terran Assault Stage 1

Stage 1

Terran Assault Stage 1 Boss


More Terran Assault Mission screenshots..

Episode 4: Aquatic Combat

Aquatic Combat Stage 1

Aquatic Combat Stage 1

Aquatic Combat Stage 1 Boss


More Aquatic Combat Mission screenshots..


Collect Credits

One the first stage of any episode start with two credit drones to collect as many credits as possible to begin with. Even if they find nothing, they still inflict some damage on enemies.

Useful Starting Configuration

The optimum configuration for starting the first stage of an episode will be a credit drone, plasma bomb and two enertron satellites.

Stargunner Tip

Killing Bosses

Sometimes if you manoeuvre close enough, one of the ships moons (if equipped) will penetrate the boss killing it instantly. This is very tricky and only works on certain bosses.

Loosing Defence Satellites

In stages where you will encounter a dense field or swarm of missiles the defence satellites around your ship will be lost so it's not worth investing in the more expensive versions on these stages.

Easy Kills

In sections where enemies are homing on you manoeuvre so that they will crash into the landscape if possible. When invincible use the opportunity to crash into and destroy any particularly large enemies that are on the screen.

Cheat codes can only be used on the registered version of the game nor will you be allowed to enter a high score. To enable cheats, press the "Pause" key (you must be in pause mode to type in cheat codes), then type "imabigcheat". You will hear a bell sound when cheats become enabled as well as see your score disappear. Now enter the desired codes. These are all lowercase.


Full powerup of the current main weapon.


Selects plasma main weapon (blue wide fire)


Selects pulse main weapon (red stream fire)


Mega credits, gives you 5,000 credits.


Ship becomes invincible for a short time.


Full nukes; gives you up to 4 nukes.


Extra Life


Warp to any level in current episode where # is a level from 1 to 9


Gives Standard Impulser


Gives Hydrogen Ioniser


Gives Megapulse 2000


Gives Gravdis 5






Dynamo 500


Removes top sidearm


Credit Drone


Plasma Bomb




Matter Disruptor




A-Matt Boomerang


Fragmentor BE800


Bi-Partical Cannon




Ion Cannon


Magnum 3000DX


Dual Laser


Torpedo Launcher


Removes bottom sidearm


Credit Drone


Plasma Bomb




Matter Disrupter




A- Matt Boomerang


Fragmentor BE800


Bi-Partical Cannon




Ion Cannon


Magnum 3000DX


Dual Laser


Torpedo Launcher

Note: You can not enter a high score if you cheat.


Included on the original retail CDROM is the soundtrack to the game in CD audio format. The tracks are described below. These can also be played via the Jukebox option under Sound on the Configuration menu but in slightly lesser quality. They are available to download in MP3 format along with the freeware edition of the game.

Stargunner Soundtrack Download

Soundtrack Download
Stargunner Soundtrack Track Listing





Data Track (Do not play)



Apogee Fanfare



Stargunner Main Title



Spend More Money (The Shop)


Stellar Mission


Episode 1 stages 1-3 - Main stage



Episode 1 stages 1-3 - Stage Guardian



Episode 1 stages 1-3 - Zone Guardian



Episode 1 stages 1-3 - Victory



Episode 1 stages 4-6 - Main stage



Episode 1 stages 4-6 - Stage Guardian



Episode 1 stages 4-6 - Zone Guardian



Episode 1 stages 4-6 - Victory



Episode 1 stages 7-9 - Main stage



Episode 1 stages 7-9 - Stage Guardian



Episode 1 stages 7-9 - Zone Guardian



Episode 1 stages 7-9 - Victory


Terran Mission


Episode 2 stages 1-3 - Main stage



Episode 2 stages 1-3 - Stage Guardian



Episode 2 stages 1-3 - Zone Guardian



Episode 2 stages 1-3 - Victory



Episode 2 stages 4-6 - Main stage



Episode 2 stages 4-6 - Stage Guardian



Episode 2 stages 4-6 - Zone Guardian



Episode 2 stages 4-6 - Victory



Episode 2 stages 7-9 - Main stage



Episode 2 stages 7-9 - Stage Guardian



Episode 2 stages 7-9 - Zone Guardian



Episode 2 stages 7-9 - Victory


Aquatic Mission


Episode 3 stages 1-3 - Main stage



Episode 3 stages 1-3 - Stage Guardian



Episode 3 stages 1-3 - Zone Guardian



Episode 3 stages 1-3 - Victory



Episode 3 stages 4-6 - Main stage



Episode 3 stages 4-6 - Stage Guardian



Episode 3 stages 4-6 - Zone Guardian



Episode 3 stages 4-6 - Victory



Episode 3 stages 7-9 - Main stage



Episode 3 stages 7-9 - Stage Guardian



Episode 3 stages 7-9 - Zone Guardian



Episode 3 stages 7-9 - Victory



Crash and Burn (Game Over)



This section will detail how to play both registered freeware and shareware versions of the game on a typical PC of today running Windows from a clean install.

For reference the original system requirements are:

Minimum Requirements


486 CPU
VGA with 256K min RAM
1.4KB on HDD to play from CDROM
44MB for full install
Double-Speed CDROM
DOS5 or later

Pentium 90
PCI or VLB video card with 1MB RAM
VESA 2.0 compliant video card (or through driver)
Quad-Speed CDROM
Speed compensating joystick card
Sound Blaster Card

Much more information about how the game operates can be obtained by reading the webpage included on the CDROM or the manual included in the download but is mostly obsolete. This can also be downloaded here. Simply extract all the files to a folder and view the STARHELP.HTM page.

Stargunner HTML Help

Windows XP/Vista/7 with DOSBox

This game will not work correctly under Windows NT/2000/XP/Vista/7 and simply will not execute on an x64 based computer.

It is possible to play Stargunner under modern versions of Windows such as XP, Vista and 7 (including the x64 versions) by using DOSBox - a free DOS emulator which you can obtain from It runs hundreds of games very well and is constantly under development and there are versions for Linux and Macintosh.

DOSBox can seem complicated to use but these instructions are the minimum in which to get the game running without issues. There is plenty of in-depth information on the DOSBox website.


After downloading the game, download and install DOSBox. You may need Administrator privileges to do this. A shortcut will be installed on your programs menu.

Stargunner Installer

Run the Stargunner installer. Specify where you wish the files to be installed/extracted to. For example, c:\oldgames\stargun. Note that this folder name will need to be 8 characters only.

Stargunner Freeware Installer

When completed the readme file will be displayed. There is also the manual for the game included sgmanual.pdf.

Retail Version

If you have the original release of the game on CDROM the following methods can be used.

Create a folder on the hard drive where you want the game to be stored. For example, c:\oldgames\stargun

You can 'install' the game via these methods.

Method 1: Retail/Registered version. Note this method will not work on an x64 version of Windows.

Run the install.bat off the Stargunner CDROM. Specify the folder you created as the destination. You have the option to run from CDROM. A full install will not require the use of the CDROM to play.

Method 2: Retail/Registered version.

Copy all the files from the STARINST folder off the CDROM to the folder you created as the destination. Ensure they are not set to read only when finished.

Launch DOSBox. Two windows will appear. One is output information which for the most part can be ignored and the other is the command prompt.

In the command prompt window, enter the commands shown in the following screenshot pressing ENTER after each line.


This has mounted your folder as your hard drive and now we need to setup the sound card details for the game.


Click Auto Detect. The screen should look like the shot below. Click the VESA2.0 so it says disabled. This is for greater compatibility.

Click on Test Sound to ensure it works. You should hear the Stargunner main theme.

Save and Quit.


Type 'stargun' and press ENTER. The game will launch.


Depending on the speed of your machine, the game could be unplayable because it may run way too fast. The easiest fix is to use CTRL+F11 to slow and CTRL+F12 to speed up until you reach a playable speed. The speed will be displayed in the output window of Dosbox for reference. Note that you may need to slow the game as much as 95%.

There is also an option on the Main Menu under Configuration and then Game Options. Set the Refresh Rate to DISABLED (using the arrow keys) if necessary otherwise leave this.

You can press ALT+ENTER to switch to full screen.

Advanced Fix

The reason Stargunner may run too fast is because Dosbox incorrectly guesses what speed is required to run the game and overcompensates.

Another method which produces a smoother game involves changing this setting manually by changing an entry in the dosbox.conf file the location which is specified in the output window when Dosbox launches.

Using a text editor such as Notepad, open this file and find the section [cpu] change the cycles setting from cycles=auto to cycles=fixed 15000.

With this VESA2.0 can be enabled in the Stargunner Setup which will make for a very smooth game.

This solution is good if you use Dosbox for Stargunner only as it will effect all programs/games that Dosbox runs.

Command Line switches

There are a number of switches for stargun.exe that can be used. Each is explained in more detail in the HTML Help file though they typically allow the turning off of intro's and use of other control devices. To view them at the command prompt type stargun -?

Stargunner Command Line Switches

Working Under DOS/Windows95/98/Me (Native Running)

Stargunner will play under Windows 9x. However, you will not be able to return to Windows by means of the Windows key (or other method) and especially when using VESA 2.0.

It is advisable to boot into DOS mode by pressing F8 and launching the game then.


The patch for the game fixes a small number of issues. A list of changes can be found in the readme file with the patches.

There are separate patches for the shareware and retail/registered version. You can get them here. Note that any previous save game files will be deleted.

Stargunner Patch

Shareware Version

Stargunner Patch

Registered Version

To apply them, download the required file and extract/unzip into the same folder as the game. Run the patch from there using a command prompt. The program is PATCH001.exe

Stargunner Patch

VESA2.0 and Universal VESA BIOS Extensions (UniVBE)

The purpose of VESA2.0 was essentially to speed up graphics on old 486 PCs that were using PCI video cards and provide higher resolutions. Due to bad implementation of standards on video cards at the time a BIOS extension called UniVBE was somewhat widespread back in the days of DOS games/programs that provided VESA2.0 modes. It was later renamed to Scitech Display Dr.

Some cards later came with VESA 2.0 directly on their BIOS chip (later upgraded to VESA 3.0).

If you have such an old PC that you use specifically for DOS games (which I do) then check in the BIOS for an option called PCI Dynamic Bursting and make sure this is set to ON.

You can still get the program online if you wish to play it with Stargunner as it will make graphics much smoother. Be sure to run the setup program and specify that you are using VESA 2.0. This is not strictly necessary if using DOSBox.

More information about the program can be found at:


Official Website of the Game

You can download the freeware edition, shareware edition, their patches and the soundtrack to the game.

Stargunner Review

A brief review from one of the authorities of the time.

About the Soundtrack

A good article about the origins of the rather funky soundtrack created by Lee Jackson whom also created music for Duke Nukem 3D, Rise of the Triad and Shadow Warrior.

20th Anniversary Article at 3DReams

Plenty of info about the history of the game including downloads of singing theme songs that were part of the game in its Beta stage.


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