Mastering Atari Games with Limited Data

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Weirui Ye, Shaohuai Liu, Thanard Kurutach, Pieter Abbeel, Yang Gao


Reinforcement learning has achieved great success in many applications. However, sample efficiency remains a key challenge, with prominent methods requiring millions (or even billions) of environment steps to train. Recently, there has been significant progress in sample efficient image-based RL algorithms; however, consistent human-level performance on the Atari game benchmark remains an elusive goal. We propose a sample efficient model-based visual RL algorithm built on MuZero, which we name EfficientZero. Our method achieves 190.4% mean human performance and 116.0% median performance on the Atari 100k benchmark with only two hours of real-time game experience and outperforms the state SAC in some tasks on the DMControl 100k benchmark. This is the first time an algorithm achieves super-human performance on Atari games with such little data. EfficientZero's performance is also close to DQN's performance at 200 million frames while we consume 500 times less data. EfficientZero's low sample complexity and high performance can bring RL closer to real-world applicability. We implement our algorithm in an easy-to-understand manner and it is available at We hope it will accelerate the research of MCTS-based RL algorithms in the wider community.