The game objective is similar to the classic Asteroids (enemies) and Robotron: 2084 (controls) that requires the player to destroy virtually everything on screen combined with a frenetic pace that is more reminiscent of modern titles such as Geometry Wars. The game itself is an enhanced version of the classic Amiga game Super Stardust, itself a sequel to the game Stardust. Super Stardust HD was one of the games given free by Sony as part of their 'Welcome Back' package because of the Play Station Network intrusion.
A version for PlayStation Portable titled Super Stardust Portable (Star Strike Portable in Japan) was released in November 2008. Also, the game has been overhauled to PlayStation 4 as Super Stardust Ultra, featuring the previous DLC and new modes.
The objective of Super Stardust HD is to score as many points as possible by destroying rocks and enemies. The player controls a small fighter that can move in any direction on a spherical shield surrounding a planet, while simultaneously firing in any direction independent of its movement. The ship is equipped with three unlimited-fire weapons ('Rock Crusher', 'Gold Melter', and 'Ice Splitter'), a limited arsenal of bombs, and a boost capability that grants a brief moment of invincibility and recharges after use. The player can upgrade their ship's primary weapons, equip the ship with a single-use shield, earn extra lives and points, and increase their supply of bombs, by collecting power-up tokens dropped by certain rocks and enemies. The game is over when the player has lost all of their lives.
The planetary shield that serves as the game's playfield is bombarded by waves of rocks that begin drifting in random directions around the planet. Each rock is made of one of three materials that is most easily destroyed by a particular weapon (though all rocks can be destroyed by any weapon). Additionally, various enemies (also susceptible to certain weapons) arrive in waves and attempt to destroy the player by either colliding with or shooting at him/her. Contact with these enemies or rocks will result in one life lost or if you have only one life it will result in a game over.
Super Stardust HD provides several modes of play, such as arcade, planet mode, and endless each with their own online leaderboards. The default game mode, Arcade, takes the player through a series of five planets, each consisting of five main phases, the last of which is a boss battle. Planet Mode allows the player to play any one of five planets in the same way, ending the game after the planet is complete. Both of these modes support both single-player and two-player cooperative play. Endless mode is where you face an endless wave of enemies where you try to get the highest score.
A successor was released for the PlayStation Vita, titled Super Stardust Delta. It simplified the weapons to two, fire and ice, and added some minigames that utilize the Vita's various features.
This game provides examples of:
- Asteroid Thicket: Taken Up to Eleven in later planets and phases.
- Big Bad: The main villain of the series is Professor Schaumund, a blue Mad Scientist penguin responsible hellbent on conquering the galaxy.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Most enemies in Super Stardust Delta are colored in accordance to which weapon will be most effective on them; blue enemies are weak to ice, and red enemies to fire.
- Continuing is Painful: Applies when you are trying to play for score. The higher multipliers occur late in the 3rd planet and up when starting from the very beginning. Dying resets your score multiplier back to 1x. Time to restart...
- Deflector Shields: These protect against one fatal hit against your One-Hit Point Wonder ship. The planets on which the stages take place have their own, serving as the playfield.
- Dynamic Difficulty: Found in Endless mode, the difficulty increases the longer you play, with asteroids pouring in at alarming numbers and increased speed. Enemies are also far more aggressive.
- Elemental RockPaperScissors: Each of your weapons is more effective against certain asteroids than another. Additionally, certain enemies are more effectively destroyed with certain weapons.
- "Effective" does not necessarily mean "fastest to destroy" either. Rock Crusher is obviously best used against rocks, Gold Melter against gold, and Ice Splitter against ice. However, the big advantage of using the correct weapon is that the target rock will not split apart: Rock Crusher forces rocks to collapse in on each other, allowing you to quickly and easily take a huge rock and wipe it out, whereas using Gold Melter or Ice Splitter will cause the smaller rocks to fly away, forcing you to chase them down and increasing the density of ship-destroying objects on the playing field. As a result, it is almost always better to use the correct weapon against the correct rock type, even if you have a stronger weapon available.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: In addition to the asteroids, there are a variety of infuriating enemy ships to deal with. Each planet ends with a Boss Fight.
- Fake Difficulty: It can be said that much of the game's difficulty lies in its completely random nature. It is not when the waves of threats spawn that are random...it's where they spawn. There are times when an asteroid or enemy spawns right on top of you. Many a player have died because of this.
- The game's excessive special effects almost always obscure the drab-looking asteroids and enemy projectiles, leading to blind deaths if they are close to your ship.
- There is very little Mercy Invincibility after you lose your shields and after a boost, most likely less than one second. Sometimes your boost ends right into a dense cloud of asteroids, resulting in a quick death if you don't have any bombs to clear the area around you. When you lose your shield, you are invincible only while the shield dissipates; the dissipation effect is a exploding purple aura, which obscures the asteroids and lasts only as long as the effect's duration. This window of Merciless Invincibility is far too short to allow players to reassess the playfield, leading to players losing their shield and losing a life in a quick instant.
- Luck-Based Mission: Some of the trophies in the Solo expansion pack's game modes are difficult to obtain. Some rely on getting the best weapon upgrades early. Others require you to do a Pacifist Run for a specified amount of time in certain game modes. Due to the random nature of enemy/asteroid spawns in these game modes, acquiring these trophies can range from relatively easy to ridiculously and almost unfairly difficult.
- Macross Missile Massacre: An attack introduced in Delta does this, launching a massive amount of missiles that home in on nearby targets.
- Meaningless Lives: Averted. Extra Life tokens are rare, but good players can amass lives every 10 million points. They will need them on later Arcade Normal loops.
- Nintendo Hard: This game can become this, especially on higher loops on Arcade Normal.
- Nitro Boost: Your ship can boost to quickly escape tight situations and knock asteroids out of the way. It also inflicts damage on anything your ship touches and grants temporary invincibility. The downloadable Impact mode upgrades it; when an object is hit by the boost in that mode, the amount of time the boost lasts is extended. However this comes at the price of being unable to use regular weaponry.
- Pinball Scoring: With a high multiplier, scores can skyrocket. In Arcade Normal mode, players can play as long as their lives can last them. The top scores all time on the leaderboards top 1.5 to 1.8 billion points.
- Scenery Porn: See that image up there? It looks that spectacular all the time.
- Smart Bomb: Clears a radius around your ship of lesser asteroids, enemies, and their bullets. An even bigger one appears in some modes, and if you boost into it, it will clear the entire planet.
- Spiritual Successor: PS4 launch title Resogun does to Defender what this game did to Asteroids. Both games are made by the same company.
- Spread Shot: The Rock Crusher is this in HD. The Ice weapon is this in Delta.
- Zerg Rush: In non-Arcade game modes, swarms of red pyramids called Followers bear down towards your ship in vast numbers. If you are caught with low-level weaponry in a high level of Dynamic Difficulty, be prepared to be mercilessly overwhelmed and die a swift death.