In Thexder, players pilot an anime-style robot that can transform into a fighter jet, cosmetically similar to the 'Variable Fighters' present in the Macross mangas & anime.
As a humanoid robot, the player fires a head-mounted laser that automatically targets the nearest foe; while in 'airplane mode,' the laser fires in the direction of travel, limited to the 8 directions (up, up-right, right, etc.) of classic controllers.
Gameplay focuses on the exploration and escape from an underground maze filled with alien enemies.
Following the original Japanese release and an English NES port by Square in 1985, Thexder became one of the first arcade style games available for Western personal computers, with compatible releases published for IBM/PC and Tandy in 1987.