Video Game: Pac-Man

"Computer games don't affect kids. If Pac-Man affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive music."
Marcus Brigstocke

A well-known game developed by Namco (now Namco Bandai) from The Golden Age of Video Games, and one of the most popular games ever, Pac-Man was the first really successful Maze Game, and one of the first games to be popular with both sexes. It sparked a pop-culture phenomenon, and helped drive the early-1980s video game craze. Ironically, its poorly implemented Atari 2600 port helped turn Pac-Man Fever into Pac-Man Cancer. It also was the first video game to get an Animated Adaptation, with a reluctant Marty Ingels in the lead role.

The game depicts an abstract round yellow character vaguely reminiscent of a head with a mouth opening and closing to gobble up nearby objects. The player must steer the character around a maze and "eat" all of the dots and four special power pellets. Four ghosts pursue the character, and their touch is fatal unless Pac-Man recently ate a power pellet.

The original game famously had no random number generator: The ghosts moved through the maze in a completely predictable pattern. It is said that the ghosts were given different colors to enable the programmers to give each a different "personality" or movement pattern. Top players could develop and memorize specific patterns to clear levels without losing lives. However, the ghosts prove an equal challenge if run on a random AI.

A sequel, Ms. Pac-Man, was even more popular than the original, and featured more complex mazes and randomized play. It started life as a bootleg hack of the original Pac-Man called Crazy Otto, which featured the player character as a Pac-Man head with legs. GCC, who created that hack, thought this game could be successful and brought the game to Bally/Midway, Namco's American distributor. Midway was impressed and, together with the hackers, edited the sprites back into Pac-Man–style sprites and with Namco's blessing, they released it as a Pac-Man sequel in the US.

Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man were known for having lots of bootleg versions, many with altered mazes and graphics. They also had unofficial "speed-up kits" that, added to a legitimate machine, made the game faster and presumably harder.

The franchise continued through an endless array of sequels, including two Pinball machines (Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man Pinball and Baby Pac-Man) and lots of console adaptations. One of the most notable of these is Pac-Man Championship Edition, released for the Xbox LIVE Arcade and iPhone — notable because it is the only sequel to have been designed by Pac-Man's original creator, Tōru Iwatani. It is also a much faster, more intense game than the original Pac-Man, and was heralded as being "actually a video game now" by several gaming sites.

There's also a special version of the game, Pac-Man VS. for the GameCube, designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and bundled with the Game Boy Advance link cable (as well as several other Namco games, and it was even given away for free at stores!). One of the few multiplayer entries in the series, the game allows up to three players to take control of the ghosts on the TV screen, while a fourth player controls Pac-Man himself on a linked Game Boy Advance, passing systems and controllers among one another between rounds. It also features Mario as an announcer, for some reason, and makes a great party game.

Another notable sequel is Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures, for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo Entertainment System. This game was an adventure game, except instead of controlling Pac-Man, you were an off-screen helper who suggested things to Pac (who had a mind of his own and was prone to moods which affected how he would respond), either by directing him to look in a general direction or by shooting things with a slingshot. You could also give him power pellets, of which you had only three but could find more around the levels. This game also included a full version of the original Pac-Man, and either Ms. Pac-Man (SNES) or the exclusive Pac-Man Jr. (Genesis). Pac-Man 2 was largely forgotten but still has a cult following.

Fun fact: It is one of the few games from the Golden Age to still make money in arcades in some form. Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga and Pac-Man were released as a multiple game arcade machine in 2001, with Pac-Man being hidden or not depending on the version of the machine. There is also a "Penny Falls" gambling machine called Pac-Man Ball that's notable for featuring a screen with a video game mechanic reminiscent of Puzzle Bobble. It actually pays out rather generously, so play it if you find one.

The game was originally released in Japan as "Puck-Man". It was changed for the North American release when marketing noticed how easy and tempting it would be to blot out a bit of the P to undesirably retitle the game. Either version of the name is based on the Japanese sound "paku-paku", for eating.

For the series' 30th anniversary, Google made a new version of the game using a custom map with their name on it. No, really, the map is their name. It's awesome to play, by the way (and the mechanics are scarily accurate to the arcade game, right down to the freaking Kill Screen).

Pac-Man received a second Animated Adaptation called Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures. It began airing in June 2013 on Disney XD.

On June 10, 2014, Pac-Man was confirmed to be a playable character for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS.

This page should have anything you ever wanted to know about the gameplay.

See also Pac Man Fever. For the trilogy of platform games based on Pac-Man, see Pac-Man World.

The franchise has contributed the following works:

    open/close all folders 

    Arcade Games 
  • Pac-Man May, 1980
  • Ms. Pac-Man 1981 (Made by Bally/Midway without Namco's authorization, as well as:)
    • Mr. & Mrs. Pac-Man Pinball 1982
    • Pac-Man Plus 1982
    • Baby Pac-Man 1982
    • Professor Pac-Man 1983
    • Jr. Pac-Man 1983 (This game and Professor Pac-Man is what eventually led to the separation of Namco and Bally Midway in 1984.)
  • Super Pac-Man 1982
  • Pac & Pal 1983
  • Pac-Land 1984
  • Pac-Mania 1987
  • Pac-Man Arrangement 1996
  • Pac-Man VR 1996
  • Pac-Man Battle Royale 2011

    Home Console Games 

    Other Games 
Non-Pac-Man games which feature Pac-Man.

    Non-Video Game Adaptations 

Game tropes include:

  • Adrenaline Time: In Championship Edition DX, it's something to help you so the time slows down when you're in a dangerous situation.
  • Aerith and Bob: The ghosts are mainly known as Blinky, Pinky, Inky and... Clyde. (Or Sue.)
  • Alertness Blink: When sleeping ghosts are woken up in Championship Edition DX, they'll do this with the ! thing over their head and a chirp sound effect.
  • Artificial Brilliance:
    • The original Pac-Man - for the time, at least. Because the game doesn't have a random number generator, the ghosts' moves were deterministic, but they were each given different tendencies. In "Chase" mode, Blinky (Red) targets Pac-Man, Pinky (Pink) targets 4 spaces ahead of Pac-Mannote , Clyde (Orange) targets Pac-Man when far away and the lower-left corner when close, and Inky (Blue)... wow. Draw a line from Blinky to two spaces in front of Pac-Mannote . Now keep drawing this line past this space until it's twice as long. The end of the line is where Inky targets. Detailed here.
    • Ms. Pac-Man mixed things up by making the ghosts move pseudo-randomly for the first seven seconds. The upside is that you can't memorize paths this time around, the downside is that finishing a level quickly (or "perfectly") now relies on luck.
  • Animated Adaptation: Hanna-Barbera produced one in the early 1980s. And now there's a second one on Disney XD.
  • Art Evolution: Pac-Man has changed a lot in design over the years; from this to this and now this. Recently, he and his friends got a complete design overall for Pac-Man Party, and Namco has plans to redesign him again.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: Although the intermissions in the original game suggest they have some kind of body under there. The arcade game calls them "monsters". See Fan Nickname below for more information.
  • Big Eater: Guess who.
  • Blue with Shock:
    • The monsters/ghosts, when an energizer/power pellet is eaten.
    • In Pac-Man Battle Royale, a player's Pac-Man becomes this if an opponent has eaten a Power Pill but the player hasn't.
    • In the first game, due to a bug, getting killed by a ghost under certain (very rare) circumstances (right as their vulnerability time wears off) causes all four ghosts to turn bright orangenote .
  • Cameo / Hey, It's That Voice!: Mario is the announcer in Pac-Man Vs.
  • Cartoon Bomb: The Smart Bomb counter icons in Championship Edition DX certainly look like these.
  • Catching Some Z's: Sleeping ghosts in Pac Man: Championship Edition DX.
  • Color-Coded Multiplayer: Pac-Man Arrangement has this. Player 1 is the normal Pacman while Player 2 is a green one.
  • Confusion Fu: Inky's behavior is somewhat unpredictable. It's based on the relative positions of both Pac-Man and Blinky, and there's a bug involved as well (normally "ahead of Pac-Man" means two tiles ahead in the direction he's moving, but when Pac-Man is moving up, the game thinks that ahead is two tiles up and two tiles left).
  • Cutscenes: Speaking of which, are therefore Older Than They Think.
  • Difficulty By Acceleration: Until the game eventually crashes.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Ms. Pac-Man
  • Dub Name Change: An interesting version, as not only were the original Japanese names for the ghosts (understandably) changed for the American market, but so were the descriptors cluing in the player to each ghost's particular movement style. They were:
    • Akabei/Blinky - Chaser/"Shadow"
    • Pinky - Ambusher/"Speedy"
    • Aosuke/Inky - Whimsical/"Bashful"
    • Guzuta/Clyde/Sue/Tim - Playing dumb/"Pokey"
    • This could potentially be considered a little bit of a Dub-Induced Plot Hole due to the fact that the new descriptors for the latter three ghosts don't really match their movements. In fact, despite Pinky being called "Speedy" in the localized version, it's actually Blinky who is the quickest of the ghosts, increasing his chase speed at various stages of progress through the maze.
    • A booklet published not long after the game was released, called How to Win at Pac-Man, took the name "Bashful" literally, based on the fact that Pac-Man can sometimes go through him without harm, and other alleged quirks such as their claim that he tends to run away from Pac-Man. In fact, the pass-through ability is a glitch in the game's collision detection and not unique to Inky, and the other "quirks" have been disputed.
  • Edible Collectible: The Trope Maker for bonus fruits, though after the eighth board the fruits are replaced by non-food items, such as the Galaxian ship (or the Atari "fuji" symbol in the Atari 5200 and 8-bit computer version). Of course, Pac-Man's goal in each stage is to eat all the dots, and the energizers let him chomp on the ghosts for more bonus points.
  • Endless Game: As planned, but there's a Kill Screen after 255 mazes. However, every maze past 20 is exactly the same.
  • Every 10,000 Points: Despite the trope name, only the first 10,000 points nets an extra life.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Besides pellets, power pellets and ghosts, Pac-Man can eat fruit, Galaxian flagships, bells, keys, and much more. The port for Atari 8-Bit Computers substitutes an Atari logo for the Galaxian ship.
  • Fan Nickname: "Cruise Elroy" for Blinky in his sped-up mode. The origins of this term are lost in time.
  • Fan Remake: These do exist, whenever they be in small or large numbers. Champ Pac-Em is one of the earliest known.
  • Follow the Leader: Pretty much every game console and home computer in the Second Generation Of Video Games had either an adaptation of this game available or some maze game that resembled Pac-Man. Magnavox's K.C. Munchkin for the Odyssey 2, however, was deemed so close to the original that it was pulled from the market.
  • Game Mod: Besides Ms. Pac-Man, there was Hangly-Man, Pirahna, and quite a few others that popped up in the arcades.
    • The Atari 2600 version of Ms. Pac-Man got a mod in the form of Pac-Man Arcade, in effect being the reverse of how arcade Ms. Pac-Man came into being.
    • The Atari 7800 version of Ms. Pac-Man got modded into Pac-Man Collection, which features Pac-Man and some other game mods.
  • Graphics-Induced Super-Deformed: Rather radical example. In the cabinet art, Pac Man is drawn with legs and eyes. In-game, he's very stylized so only a pie chart remains. This image soon stuck with the audience.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Pac-Man's hitbox is usually smaller than it looks, allowing him to dodge the ghosts more easily.In rare cases, Pac-Man can even pass right through a ghost (if he and the ghost "switch tiles" at the same time).
  • The Hunter Becomes The Hunted: What happens to the ghosts when Pac-Man eats a power pill.
  • Invincibility Power-Up: Power pellets.
  • Kill Screen: ...not completely endless.
  • Marathon Level: World's Biggest Pac-Man, which strings thousands of different user-generated mazes into one gi-freaking-gantic mega-maze. Good luck completing it in your lifetime.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Along with Ms. Pac-Man, starting with the 19th level, where eating a power pellet does nothing to faze the ghost monsters. The monsters will reverse direction, but Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man must avoid their pursuers at all costs.
  • Nintendo Hard:
    • Jr. Pac-Man, with double-width scrolling mazes, bonus items that will mutate dots into larger dots that slow you down (and will even destroy power pellets if Jr. doesn't eat them), long corridors...
    • Baby Pac-Man, with more aggressive ghosts, laser-guided AI, and no power pellets to start off with... until you (hopefully) gain some in the pinball portion of the game.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: The original game really had none: You send this little yellow guy around the maze to eat all the dots while avoiding the monsters, and you could eat the monsters if you ate a power pellet. Still, popular to the point of addictive.
  • Non-Indicative Name: As said above, Pac-Man is known as "Puck-Man", but nonetheless is almost always depicted with a spherical body.
  • Nonlinear Sequel: There are three sequels to Pac-Man: the official Super Pac-Man, the unofficial bootleg turned canon Ms. Pac-Man, or the 16-bit point and click action game Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures.
  • Odd Name Out: For the orange ghost. Names of the ghosts were: Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and... Clyde.
    • The orange ghost's name varies depending on the protagonist — in Ms. Pac-Man, it's "Sue", and in Jr. Pac-Man, it's "Tim".
    • The original Japanese names of the ghosts were always "Akabei" (from "Akai", Japanese for "Red"), Pinky (the only one who never went through a Dub Name Change), "Aosuke" (from "Aoi", Japanese for "Blue"), and Guzuta (from "guzuguzu", an onomatopoeia for sluggishness, and referencing the fact that he's always the last one to leave the ghost pen at the start of each level). Even here, Guzuta is still the Odd Name Out due to breaking the Colorful Theme Naming of the three others.
  • Older Than the NES: Pac-Man was born in 1980, a year before Mario even existed. He's one of the oldest video game mascots in the videogame industry, and still going.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: One of the most famous.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: or possibly not ghosts at all.
  • Pie-Eyed: When shown with arms, legs and a face, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man have eyes like these. Appropriate since their pupils are shaped like they are.
  • Pinball Spinoff: Two of them.
    • First was Mr. & Mrs. Pac-Man Pinball. It was a more conventional Pinball game, with a five-by-five bank of lights in the playfield. During the game, the player could move Pac-Man (represented by a yellow light) by tapping flipper buttons for direction/movement to avoid the ghost (represented by a red light).
    • Five months later came Baby Pac-Man, which combined a Pac-Man video game with a pinball table, in a video-game-sized cabinet. Unfortunately, the small playfield was a challenge for most players, and the maze game was Nintendo Hard to the point where finishing the first maze was an accomplishment.
    • Pac-Man Pinball Advance was released in 2005 for, you guessed it, Game Boy Advance. It received unenthusiastic reviews.
  • Power-Up Food
  • Power Up Motif
  • Retcon: Namco hasn't made very many mentions of Ms. Pac-Man since the 30th anniversary of the original arcade game. It hasn't been in any Namco Museums since Virtual Arcade, and the recently-announced Pac-Man Museum, a compilation based on Pac-Man, does not include Ms. Pac-Man.
    • It probably doesn't help that Ms. Pac-Man was developed by Midway rather than Namco. Then again, Namco did buy the full rights to the game and character.
    • There is also strong evidence that Pac-Man's other family members (Pac-Jr, Baby Pac, Professor Pac) were retconned out of the series following Pac-Man World 3.
    • Unrelated to the last three: Blinky and Clyde had their names switched for the Pac Man World series.
    • It should be noted that Ms. Pac-Man is available in Pac-Man Museum as Downloadable Content and Ms. Pac-Man herself cameos in Super Smash Bros for Wii U.
  • Rule of Funny: Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures lives on this.
  • Scoring Points
  • Smart Bomb: You can use these in Championship Edition DX at the cost of an opportunity to score higher.
  • Something Person: Pac-Man, natch.
  • Sturgeon's Law: In full effect with World's Biggest Pac-Man; for every genuinely good maze you come across, there are 20 that either go above and beyond Fake Difficulty or are just someone's name spelled out in walls and/or dots.
  • Super Empowering: In Pac-Man Arrangement from Namco Classics Collection Volume 2, a fifth ghost named Kinky who could fuse with one of the four other ghosts to give them special powers fitting their personalities: Blinky gains a dashing headbutt, Pinky gains the ability to jump to and from any location in the maze, Inky gains a Doppelgänger Attack and Clyde gains the ability to lay down Pac dots in empty portions of the maze (forcing you to revisit those sections). Initially, the ghost house will only spawn one Kinky, but later levels will have it spawn more copies, allowing multiple ghosts to get special powers.
    • The official Namco sequel to the original Pac-Man was "Super Pac-Man".note 
  • Third Is 3D: Pac-Mania. Well, more like "tenth is 3D".
  • Timed Mission: The Championship Edition games.
  • Timed Power-Up: The Power Pellet.
  • Title Confusion: To clarify, the arcade game is Junior Pac-Man; the unlockable game in the Genesis version of Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures is Pac-Man, Jr. They are not the same game.
  • Turns Red:
    • Well... Blinky is already red to begin with, but when a certain number of dots remain (20 in the first level, up to 120 in later levels), he moves faster and becomes even more of a Determinator. And once you've eaten half that number of dots, he'll speed up even more. Fans have dubbed this behaviour "Cruise Elroy".
    • In Pac-Mania, the player is given a visual indication when Blinky goes "Cruise Elroy" — he gains angry eyes. Later, Namco Classics Collection Volume 2's version of Pac-Man Arrangement kept this for Blinky (unless he is in his fused form), as well as raising his arms.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Pac-Man 2 gives you many ways to abuse the main character and others.
  • Video Game Remake: Pac-Man Arrangement in Namco Classics Collection Volume 2 featured two-player co-op play, new power-ups, new stage elements, such as dash arrows and jump panels, and introduced a fifth ghost that could give the other four ghosts special powers. This game, in turn, got remade again for Namco Museum Battle Collection, as well as Pac-Man Collection for the Game Boy Advance.
  • Video Game Setting: The worlds in Arrangement follow as this.

Alternative Title(s):

Pac Man, Ms Pac Man