Video Game / Space Invaders


The Trope Maker that spawned a thousand other Shoot Em Ups, Taito's Space Invaders debuted in 1978. Although Pong had started the industry, this game revolutionized it, virtually launching The Golden Age of Video Games, establishing or codifying many of the tropes used in later games, such as Video Game Lives, and a separate score counter for high scores.

Essentially, it is a shooting gallery game in which the objects in the gallery shoot back. The player controls a planetary defense laser cannon that can move and hide behind shields, and must confront a moving (and shooting) phalanx of Big Creepy-Crawlies who are attempting to invade the earth.

The game was so popular in Japan that it caused a nationwide shortage of the 100-yen coins that the game's coin slot demanded, and the home version was largely responsible for the runaway success of the Atari VCS (later 2600) home console system. It also spawned the medical term "Space Invaders wrist." In United States arcades, it was the first video game to out-gross any and all Pinball machines (the top selling arcade game the year before had been Bally's Evel Knievel pinball). It was the first game in which play could last an open-ended amount of time, given sufficient skill, rather than being timed to a finite clock, and it immediately spawned a host of equally classic imitators, such as Galaxian, Gorf, and the entire top-scrolling rail shooter genre.

2002 saw an ill-fated attempt to updated the franchise, with a Gamecube/Playstation 2 game called "Space Raiders" released that took the familiar gameplay of the original, but set it on the streets of Earth, with the ships of the original series replaced with large bugs. The game was a critical and commercial flop, in particular for its bizarre attempt to update the story and setting. But then, in 2008, Taito released Space Invaders Extreme for Nintendo DS, PSP and Xbox 360 as part of the 30th Anniversary. The game turns into a fast paced shooting game, omitting barriers, but adding new varieties of invaders with various weapons and shields, and, most importantly, a complex combo system that rewards players with Power Ups, Bonus Stages and One Ups. A sequel was released for the DS in 2009 featuring even faster gameplay. Additionally, Taito also released Space Invaders Get Even for WiiWare, where the invaders, rendered in pixelated 2D in a 3D environment, become Villain Protagonists and attack Earth's cities.

In 2009, Taito graced the iPhone with Space Invaders Infinity Gene. The game begins with the original classic gameplay, then the infinity gene takes over and the game gradually evolves into a modern Shoot 'em Up, as the player gains selectable ships, powerups, and an unrestricted range of movement, while the Invaders themselves enlist large ships, fleets, armadas, and bosses to take you on. There's also the added threat of terrain Collision Damage. You can also load up your favorite music to generate custom levels, similar to Audiosurf. The game gained critical praise, and has recently been updated to include achievements. It has been ported to the Play Station Network and Xbox Live Arcade, and befitting its evolution theme, it has addressed the Video Game 3D Leap.

There was also a less-well-known, though quite good fun, version released by Activision in 1999. It would have been In-Name-Only but for a very similar gameplay mechanic (most of the time, anyway; it had boss monsters, powerups, and a few levels which were more akin to puzzles than straight shooting galleries). It also contained an unlockable version of the original game.

"Space Invaders" was at one point used by many non-gamers (in Small Reference Pools style) as a generic term for any game/console, as with "Atari" and "Nintendo" later on, a testament to the game's cultural impact. There are also many references and ShoutOuts in other media: for example, the Invaders show up (randomly) as Mooks in Battletoads` infamous Turbo Tunnel Level, and Terry Pratchett in his novel Only You Can Save Mankind (which is about a contemporary 90s space shooter turning out to be taking place in another dimension) has a wrecked Space Invader ship encountered at one point, suggesting that all space shooters take place in the same dimension and the Space Invaders, from the 1970s, were the first wave of aliens.

    Games in the Series 
The following games were released in the arcade first unless otherwise noted.
  • Space Invaders (1978)
  • Space Invaders (pinball, 1979)
  • Space Invaders Part II (1980), aka Deluxe Space Invaders
  • Space Invaders II (1980; not to be confused with the above)
  • Return of the Invaders (1985)
  • Space Invaders 90/91 (1990; Sega Genesis)
  • Majestic Twelve: The Space Invaders Part IV (1990), aka Super Space Invaders '91
  • Minivaders (1990, Japan only)
  • Space Invaders Day of Resurrection (1990; Japanese PC Engine only)
  • Space Invaders DX (1993)
  • Akkanvaders (1995), aka Space Invaders '95: The Attack of the Lunar Looniesnote 
  • Space Invaders X (1999; PlayStation, PC, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Color)
  • Space Invaders EX (2002; Game Boy Advance)
  • Space Invaders Revolution (2005; Nintendo DS)
  • Space Invaders Evolution (2005; PSP)
  • Space Invaders Extreme (2008; Nintendo DS, PSP)
  • Space Invaders Get Even (2008, WiiWare)
  • Space Invaders Extreme 2 (2009; Nintendo DS)
  • Space Invaders Infinity Gene (2009; iPhone, iPod Touch, 2010; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
  • Space Invaders Frenzy (2016; Arcadenote )
  • Arkanoid VS Space Invaders (2017; iPhone, Android)

Space Invaders has examples of:

  • Action Bomb: Two of Extreme's invaders, the Bomb and the Invader. The Bomb explodes when you shoot it, and the Invader begins heading down to earth if you hit it once (straight down or side-to-side depending on the shape) and requires another shot to destroy it.
  • Alien Invasion: Well, what else could a game named this be about?
  • Aliens Steal Cattle: Bonus stages in Super Space Invaders have you defending a group of cows of alien flying saucers that try to abduct them.
  • Art Shift: Infinity Gene does this over the course of the game, as part of its evolution theme. First you get sprites and a static gradient background. Then you get a moving grid background. Then the background becomes rendered in full 3D. Finally, the game substitutes sprites for 3D models.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The Invaders' only mode of movement is to drop down, increase speed and reverse direction. Later incarnations gave them different, but still very predictable, tactics.
  • Ascended Glitch: The aliens speeding up as their numbers decreased. The behavior is the unintentional result of removing objects from memory, which makes rendering the remaining aliens easier for the system. The developers originally wanted to code out the behavior, but after some playtesting, they determined that it added challenge and the perception that the aliens were doubling down as their numbers fell, so they left it in.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Yeah, you can shoot through the houses and kill aliens, but it's a poor strategy.
    • Some of the special weapons in Space Invaders X come across as this. Diagonal Burst for example fires a missile which then splits into two smaller projectiles upon impact which cut through invaders. Useful for diagonal rows of identical invaders, but sometimes a projectile will hit nothing if it flies in-between them or if the primary shot was used on the side of a wave.
  • Battleship Raid:
    • The Giant UFO on Infinity Gene's Stage 3-3.
    • And again on the Xbox 360 & PS3 versions' Stage 5-3 against Ultimate UFO.
  • Book Ends: The first seconds of gameplay of Infinity Gene consist of a recreation of the original Space Invaders, before launching you into the first proper stage. After defeating the Final Boss, the final seconds of gameplay consist of going back to that same recreation, though this time you're trying to shoot down the last alien before it touches down.
  • Boss Rush:
    • Stage 3-5 of Infinity Gene, where you fight every single Mini-Boss so far, before fighting the boss. The extra stage X-19 has you fight every boss in the entire game. X-29 has you fight the bosses again, except that they all Took a Level in Badass.
    • Stages 4-5 and 5-5 of the console version has you fight against all the main bosses from the previous world as Minibosses.
  • Boss Warning Siren:
    • Extreme has a pretty standard "Warning!" alert.
    • In Extreme 2, the announcer warns you "Don't let the enemy freak you out!"
  • Determinator: The invaders.
  • Co-Op Multiplayer. The Atari 2600 version.
  • Covers Always Lie: In America, the cabinet art involved a bunch of evil-looking, sharp-fur-covered humanoids, rather than the bug-like critters of the actual game.
  • Dare to Be Badass: "Nagoya Attacks". In Extreme, you have to destroy enemies that have descended right in front of you (without letting them cross the line). In Infinity Gene, you have to make contact with certain enemy bullets that have been shot out (they are harmless in the first second). Your reward for Nagoya Attacks is racking up a huge load of points.
  • Degraded Boss:
    • Good lord, Infinite Gene must have over a hundred of these in the normal game alone. Usually the demoted versions have far less health, but they'll leave depriving you of points if you can't finish them off quickly enough. There's also usually something else going on to differentiate each battle.
    • The Final Boss of Space Invaders Extreme reappeared as the first boss in the sequel, but much smaller. It returns again for the final battle, this time even larger than its appearance in the first game.
  • Denser and Wackier: Space Invaders '95: The Attack of the Lunar Loonies hits Widget-status with some absolutely off-the-wall enemies to fight, such as really chubby kissy-faces that split apart Asteroids-style when shot (and your ships are pretty kooky too, with things like a spacefighting toilet). The core game is still intact, by and large (even including the classic "dun-DUN-dun-DUN" from the original game playing in the background behind the music), but also ups the ante with more traditional vertical scrolling shooter segments and battles against equally-weird boss enemies which would be at home in any strange Japanese curio or tchotchke shop.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: The Variable ship in Infinity Gene. It requires some practice to get the feel of the laser swords' angle adjustment, but once you do you can pretty much slice through waves of enemies effortlessly, and bosses will die very rapidly if touched with all four beams at once.
  • Difficulty by Acceleration: This was a lucky accident. Just rendering all the sprites of the enemies was a heavy load for CPUs of the time, but as the player killed more aliens, the computer was able to devote more cycles to moving the enemies, making them faster and resulting in one of the earliest examples of this trope (although not the Ur-ExampleBreakout did it first).
  • Easier Than Easy: "Beginner Mode" in Extreme 2. You get infinite lives, but there are no branching paths.
  • Endless Game
    • Demonstrated with style in this Retro Sabotage game, where you are pitted against a single, slow moving Invader. Shoot it, and another Invader will come in its place. After shooting that one and the next one comes, the game screen starts to subtly zoom out, and you can see a row of 18 Invaders, with one of them coming down to replace an Invader you shot, with yet another one coming to take its place in the row. The screen continues to zoom out, and you can see an identical row of Invaders behind the first, doubling the amount of Invaders at the top of the screen into 36. But the zoom won't stop, and gradually starts to pick up speed. Then yet another row of Invaders comes up, bring the total to 57. Then 72... 90... 108... At this point, hopeless music kicks in as the zoom continues and more and more Invaders are revealed, and it becomes increasingly apparent that they're in some sort of formation... until finally, you see 7,254 Invaders in a formation in the likeness of themselves, easily dwarfing your playfield. All this goes on while the player is still controlling the cannon and able to shoot the single Invader within his playfield.
  • Every 10,000 Points - In the original, this occurred only once, at one thousand points.
  • Flying Saucer: One will appear across the screen every so often and give you a large amount of points if you hit it.
  • Follow the Leader: Almost every game console and home computer in The Second Generation Of Video Games had an adaptation of this game available.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Both you and the invaders shoot these.
  • Gaiden Game: Groove Coaster, the interface of which heavily borrows from Infinity Gene. Several of the "avatar" items are Space Invaders aliens.
  • Game Over: In first installments, the only way out is death.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Infinity Gene when it comes to some achievements\trophies: after the game is cleared once, it's trivial to get all the difficulty-based trophies. All you need to do is finish the last level on that difficulty, as the levels you have unlocked carry to all difficulties. The last level is basically the same on any difficulty: either impossible or ridiculously easy depending on which weapon you have equipped, so if you can win on Easy you're set for the other 4 (although you do need to play other modes to unlock the last 2 difficulties).
  • Game Mod: In 1983, Atari was commissioned by Coca Cola to create a modified version of the 2600 port called Pepsi Invaders where instead of invaders, you shoot letters that spell out P-E-P-S-I. In addition, the game was changed to a Time Attack mode, where the player has infinite lives, but is given three minutes to score as many points as they can. Only 125 copies were given out at a sales convention, making it one of the rarest 2600 games out there, going for a little over $2,000. Many believe this to be the UR Example of ROM hacks and an official one to boot!
  • Hold the Line: Early example. Besides trying to dodge projectiles, one must make sure that none of the aliens reach the bottom of the screen, resulting in an instant game over.
  • "Instant Death" Radius: The Field weapon in Infinity Gene is pretty much this for most enemies.
  • Lead the Target: The importance of which was also referenced in Futurama, along with Artificial Stupidity.
  • Lethal Joke Character: The Classic ship in Infinity Gene. One Bullet at a Time? Yep. Said bullet is a One-Hit Kill on anything, including bosses!
  • Luck-Based Mission:
    • Infinity Gene's Challenge Mode in the Xbox Live Arcade version gives you randomly generated levels. You can always win (probably), but sometimes invaders will blindside you out of nowhere unless you're at the bottom of the screen, and the boss is random; could be one that takes 5 seconds to beat, or could be the Gigantic UFO, which consists of nearly a minute of just looking at it in the background, a minute or so of avoiding some simple shots, and finally the actual fight against the UFO itself.
    • The same applies to scoring. Expect your rank to hit the double digits if you get several of those cone-spread UFO minibosses, which are painfully trivial to grind for Nagoya Attack bonuses.
  • Mascot Mook: The crab Invaders.
  • More Dakka: Super Space Invaders, Space Invaders Extreme, and Infinity Gene break the One Bullet at a Time limitation that has stayed with the series for decades with large-scale weapons built for destroying large groups of invaders at a time.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: If you beat Infinity Gene in any difficulty higher than Easy, you'll get the message, "To everyone who loves games. And Charles Darwin."
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The power up items in Infinity Gene are the Newalone particles taken directly from Metal Black, an obscure Taito shooter that has more in common with Darius than Space Invaders. A more direct call back to Darius comes in the form of Boss Warning Siren in the familiar form, "WARNING - A FORMIDABLE ENEMY '[Boss Name]' HAS ENTERED THE BATTLE."
    • Those particles, at least according to Infinity Gene's achievements, are called "Neurons". The phonetic similarity to Newalone cannot be coincidence...
    • The Lock-On ship bears a suspicious resemblance in performance and shape to the R-Gray from the Layer Section/Ray series of shmups...
  • Nintendo Hard: The original game requires very precise timing and reflexes—clearing even one wave, let alone two or more, is no cakewalk for any newcomers.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: In the original games, if an alien hits the bottom of the screen, you lose all of your lives. Subsequent games tend to simply cost you a life.
  • Nostalgia Level:
    • The last wave of Space Invaders Extreme stage 1 is a recreation of the formation from the original.
    • Stage 0 of Infinity Gene plays exactly like a game of the original for the first few seconds, sans score counters and barriers. It's not like you'll need them, anyway.
    • The last stage of Infinity Gene plays exactly like the end of a game of the original, with one invader left. But for some reason, the game ends the same way whether you shoot it down or not, achievement and all.
    • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon of Space Invaders X, the Alien World, is literally an arcade machine of the original. The final boss is a giant classic invader that shrinks as you hit it. By its last hit, it's like one of the normal final invaders, but smaller and faster.
  • Older Than the NES: By a little more than a decade and a half.

You made it out this time, but this isn't the end! IT'S INDEX TIME!

Alternative Title(s): Space Invaders Get Even