Mega Zero Lives To Live

The Game That Launched DOA and the Man Who Resurrected It

Timo Zoetman
6 min readApr 1, 2022

Robin Velu has painstakingly remade, remastered, and expanded on his all time favorite video game… and it just happens to be one that he’s never actually played before, or even seen in motion.

In the summer of 1989 there was not a day that you couldn’t find young Robin Velu at the local Flippergubben arcade in Stockholm, Sweden, eyes glued to whatever newest game had arrived.

After his allowance had been spent, and his bottle of chocolate Pucko had run dry, Robin would wander the arcade and check out the current game du jour.

“There was always a new game coming out back then that would grab everyone’s attention,” says Velu, reminiscing about his childhood arcade. “One week everybody would be crowded around Space Invaders. A few weeks later Out Run was everyone’s favorite. Then Star Wars, then Final Fight. By the time I became skilled at one game, all my friends were on to the next new thing!”

Determined to get ahead of the wave, and earn himself a spot amongst the local arcade hi-score setters, Robin sets his sights on upcoming games​​. While flipping through the pages of Swedish coin-op industry trade publication Arkadspel, Robin spots an ad for the then upcoming arcade platformer, Mega Zero. He immediately falls in love with the game, and its titular hero, a running, jumping zero numeral.

A magazine ad for Mega Zero coming to arcades
A coin-op industry magazine advertisement for Mega Zero coming to arcades.

Robin eagerly checks the local arcades and electronics stores for copies of Mega Zero, but nobody has a copy. What’s more, nobody Robin talks to has even heard of the game. The rarity of his prize only encourages Robin’s quest, making him excited to become the champ at a game nobody else even knows about.

Unbeknownst to Robin, and the world, Mega Zero’s launch had hit a fatal snag back in late ‘79. Immediate integer overloads in the arcade cabinet’s processors caused near instant kill screen errors whenever Mega Zero was booted up. The 8-bit processing of the early arcades could not handle the amount of numbers on screen. This costly error would delay the launch of the game, and cause thousands of non-functional cabinets to be locked up inside publisher Skurk Game’s warehouse, rather than fill arcades across the globe. With the arcade version of Mega Zero delayed indefinitely, the home version for the Atari 2600 was scrapped, despite being finished and ready to ship.

Not keen to reveal the costly mistake that spoiled the launch of its first game, publisher Skurk remained quiet about Mega Zero’s delays.

Unaware of the fate of Mega Zero, Robin would spend much of his school day fantasizing about being at the arcade, and drawing doodles of Zero and Miss Undefined in the margins of his maths homework. When new issues of gaming and electronics periodicals hit the shelves, Robin would flip through them as fast as possible, looking for any sliver of info on his most anticipated game.

“Super Mega Zero” the spiritual successor to the forgotten, unreleased “Mega Zero”

That Damn Pac-Man

During an era when arcades were in their heyday, and the next hottest game was right around the corner, there was no time to lament a game that wasn’t. In Summer of 1980 a small yellow circular hero did finally hit arcades, but it wasn’t Zero. The premiere of Pac-Man not only brought in a new wave of arcade gamers, but also gobbled up any lingering excitement for Mega Zero like so many blue ghosts.

“That damn Pac-Man!” Velu groans and laughs. “For years every time I brought up Mega Zero people would say ‘I think you’re just thinking of Pac-Man,’ and I would say ‘No you idiot! Pac-Man cannot fly,’ and they would say ‘Maybe you dreamt it, calm down Robin, jeez.’”

But Robin would not calm down. He searches for years, writing into gaming magazines, calling up arcades and game stores, and even braving the world of Sweden’s gaming convention GothCon to find people who might have a clue. He eventually learns the truth about the instant kill screened arcade cabinets, and the sad fate of Mega Zero and publisher Skurk, who never recovered and shuttered just a year later.

However, in this tragic tale there is a kernel of hope! Rumors abound that a few versions of the Atari 2600 home port made it out to the wild. Robin’s search continues, and in 1998 he finally finds a beat up old Atari cartridge of Mega Zero. It’s not the arcade version he can still see so vividly in his brain, but it’s a victory.

The only known cartridge for ‘Mega Zero’ on the Atari 2600

Or at least, it would have been a victory, were it not for one little problem: the home port of Mega Zero is terrible. Unplayable like Q*Bert with its disappearing enemies. Bland and lifeless like the infamous E.T. game. Robin is devastated. This cartridge is the only version of the game that exists, besides the version locked in his head.

That’s when Robin Velu’s fate changes forever. He decides to honor the game he loved at first glance in those pages of Arkadspel, even if he has to program the entire game himself off the husk of a terrible port.

And that’s exactly what he does.

The Reboot/Resurrection/Redemption

Robin dedicates his every waking hour to rebuilding Mega Zero, at first recreating the game as close to his childhood nostalgia can picture it. But as Robin continues to work, the vision for what Zero can do grows and evolves.

Side by side comparison of the unreleased ‘Mega Zero’ for the Atari 2600 (L), and the upcoming ‘Super Mega Zero’ for Nintendo Switch (R).

Super Mega Zero takes the concepts laid out in the original Mega Zero and expands them into a technicolor explosion. There’s still the titular hero Zero, and his girlfriend Miss Undefined, and the game still uses the same core mechanics of precision platforming. But new to the series are some concepts that certainly could not have worked in the ‘80s arcades, such as gravity changing levels, shmup-style piloting levels, and boss battles.

“I spent so much time imagining all the amazing things Mega Zero might have contained, I would draw levels all over my school papers. It was like level design fan fiction,” Velu jokes.

“When I started recreating the game, it only felt natural to work these concepts into Zero’s adventure.”

The trailer for Robin ‘Silkworm’ Velu’s “Super Mega Zero”

Also new to the remake, is a long overdue payback for the original villain of the series: the Kill Screen. It’s a redemption arc, both for Zero, and in a way for Skurk too.

“Maybe it’s weird that my favorite game is one that never even came out, but now the next Robin Velu can play Super Mega Zero and say ‘I’m going to make a sequel to this!’”

Super Mega Zero is set to release April 21 on the Nintendo Switch and on PC.



Timo Zoetman

Writer, classic gaming enthusiast, historian