Kill screen

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Level 256 in Pac-Man, considered to be unplayable under normal circumstances due to an integer overflow in the game's code.[1]

A kill screen is a stage or level in a video game (often an arcade game) that stops the player's progress due to a software bug.[2] Kill screens can result in unpredictable gameplay and bizarre glitches.[3]

Games known to have a kill screen include Pac Man[1] and Donkey Kong.[4]

Notable arcade kill screens[edit]

Dig Dug[edit]

In the coin-operated version of Dig Dug, the game ends on round 256 (round 0), where the player cannot move and ultimately dies.[5]


For more details on this topic, see Pac-Man § Split-screen.

Pac-Man has a kill screen on level 256 based on an integer overflow.[6] Ars Technica calls this "one of the most well known accidental endings in gaming".[5] Billy Mitchell was the first person to perform a perfect play of Pac-Man, stopped only by the kill screen.[7]

The games Ms. Pac-Man and Jr. Pac-Man also have kill screens.[5]

Donkey Kong[edit]

Donkey Kong has what Ars Technica calls the "second-most famous kill screen of all of gaming",[5] and Wired described it as "mythic".[8] This was popularized in the documentary The King of Kong.[5]

Duck Hunt[edit]

Duck Hunt also has a kill screen after level 99 in which the ducks become invincible and fly at a high speed.[5]


Galaga's kill screen occurs on level 256 (level 0), when an integer overflow occurs and the game turns into a blank screen that Joshuah Bearman described as "an existential void".[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rogers, Scott (2010). Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design. John Wiley & Sons. p. 48. ISBN 9780470970928. 
  2. ^ Wolf, Mark (2012). Encyclopedia of Video Games: The Culture, Technology, and Art of Gaming, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 70. ISBN 9780313379369. 
  3. ^ Jensen, Christopher Matthew (2011-03-16). "Albert Elmore scoffs at the blue screen of death". City Pages. Retrieved 2013-10-17. 
  4. ^ Heater, Brian (2007-09-26). "Q & A: Steve Wiebe, Donkey Kong Champ". PC Magazine. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Orland, Kyle (2013-04-11). "Ten classic games you can actually beat, but probably won’t". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2013-10-16. 
  6. ^ Kushner, David (2010-08-30). "Screengrab: Pushing Arcade Games to the Limit". Wired. Retrieved 2013-10-16. 
  7. ^ Buchanan, Levi (2010-05-21). "Pac-Man Turns 30". IGN. Retrieved 2013-10-17. 
  8. ^ Silverman, Jason (2007-08-17). "Review: King of Kong Gives No Quarter". Wired. Retrieved 2013-10-17. 
  9. ^ Horning, Rob (2008-08-20). "Beyond the threshold of Burgertime". PopMatters. Retrieved 2014-09-18.