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Galaxian flyer.jpg
Japanese promotional sales flyer.
Designer(s)Kazunori Sawano
Shigeichi Ishimura[1]
Programmer(s)Kōichi Tashiro
Haruhisa Udagawa (Famicom)
  • JP: October 1979
  • NA: April 5, 1980
Genre(s)Fixed shooter
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer (alternating turns)
CabinetUpright, cabaret, cocktail
Arcade systemNamco Galaxian

Galaxian[a] is a 1979 fixed shooter arcade game developed and published by Namco. It was licensed and distributed by Midway Games in North America. The player assumes control of the Galaxip starfighter in its mission to protect Earth from waves of aliens. Gameplay involves destroying each formation of aliens, who dive down towards the player in an attempt to hit them.

Designed by company engineer Kazunori Sawano, Galaxian was Namco's answer to Space Invaders, a similar space shooter released the previous year by rival developer Taito. Space Invaders was a sensation in Japan, and Namco wanted a game that could compete against it. Sawano strived to make the game simplistic and easy to understand. He was inspired by the cinematic space combat scenes in Star Wars, with enemies originally being in the shape of the film's TIE Fighters. Galaxian is one of the first video games to feature RGB color graphics, and the first ever to use a tile-based hardware system.

Galaxian was Namco's first major arcade hit. It is one of the best-selling arcade games of all time in North America, with over 40,000 arcade units sold by 1982. The game was celebrated for its gameplay and usage of true color graphics. In retrospect, it has gained fame for its historical importance and technological accomplishments. Its success led to several sequels and reimaginings; most notable of these is Galaga, which usurped the original in popularity. Galaxian has also been ported to many home systems, and is included in numerous Namco compilations.


Arcade version screenshot.

Galaxian is a fixed shooter video game. The player controls a starship called the "Galaxip", the objective being to clear each round of aliens.[3] The enemies appear in formation towards the top of the screen, with two escort ships, labeled the "Galaxian Flagship" or "Galboss". Enemies will make a divebomb towards the bottom of the screen while shooting projectiles in an attempt to hit the player.[3] The Galaxip can only fire a single shot on-screen, and must wait for it to hit the top before being able to fire another, due to limitations of the hardware.[3]

Flagships will make a divebomb with two red escort ships - shooting all three of these will award the player bonus points, with extra points awarded to the destruction of the flagship.[3] Enemy movement will increase as the game progresses alongside the number of shots that the enemies fire.[3] Rounds are indicated by small flags at the bottom of the screen.[3] The game's attract mode featured a slim scenario, reading "WE ARE THE GALAXIANS. MISSION: DESTROY ALIENS"[3] which could be read either and the enemies as the "Galaxians" and the player as the 'aliens" or vice versa.

Development and release[edit]

Galaxian was designed by Kazunori Sawano, who had previously worked on many of Namco's electro-mechanical shooting gallery arcade games, notably Shoot Away (1977).[4] Early in the game's development, Taito had released Space Invaders in Japan, which swept the country by storm and helped turn the video game industry into a highly-profitable business. To help capitalize on the game's success, Namco president Masaya Nakamura ordered Sawano to make the best "post-Invaders" game they could, which put a vast amount of pressure on the development team.[4] Although development of the game lasted six months, Sawano had made several ideas half a year before production began.[4]

Sawano and his team set out to make a game anybody could play, using a "simple is best" motto during production — this helped trim away large-scale ideas in favor of a game that could loop endlessly, and be able to use only two enemy types.[5] Alongside Space Invaders, a large portion of the game was inspired by Star Wars, specifically its large-scale space battles.[4] Sawano had wanted to replicate the feeling of a space war, specifically with the game's sound effects.[4] Several back-and-forth sound effects were made, many being rejected by Sawano for not matching his vision. The game was Namco's first arcade game to be composed with a synthesizer.[4]

Game balance was an important part of the game, as Sawano did not want to make the game suddenly spike in difficulty with no build-up or warning;[4] the development team made the number of enemies on-screen the same and gradually increased the difficulty as the player progresses, becoming more noticeable in later stages.[4] The enemies themselves were designed to have a personality of their own, programmed to monitor the player's movements and make attacks based on them[5] - early in development, Sawano had envisioned the enemies to resemble TIE Fighters from Star Wars.[4] To save up on hardware memory and processing, programmers created a tilemap hardware model, which created a set of 8x8 pixel tiles — this reduced processing and memory requirements upwards of 64 times, compared to the framebuffer model used in Space Invaders.[6]

Galaxian was released by Namco in Japan in November 1979.[7] Following its large success, Namco approached Midway Games in terms of releasing the game overseas. Midway, who had previously lost their license with Taito due to the success of Space Invaders in the west, was in the midst of trying to find a new partner for releasing games.[8] They agreed to the deal and released the game in North America in early 1980[8] — this move helped strengthen Midway and challenged Atari's leadership in the market.[8] To help keep up demand for the game in Japan, Namco would license the game to other companies for manufacturing cabinets, including Taito and Irem.[7][9]


Review scores

Galaxian was a critical and commercial success upon release. By 1982, it sold over 40,000 arcade units in North America, while in Japan it would outperform Pac-Man for a short while. Critics applauded the game's use of true color graphics and for improving the formula established in Space Invaders. The game continued to see success in Japan throughout the early 1980s; Game Machine reported that it was still performing well as late as August 1983.[12]

The April 5, 1980 issue of Cashbox noted of the game's colorful and attractive cabinet design,[2] while the April 26 issue called it an "earthshaking hit", referring to it as a true followup to Space Invaders. In a 2007 retrospective review, Sir Clive of Eurogamer labeled it a masterpiece, praising its "beautifully drawn" game graphics and intense gameplay, and for being a historically important game for the industry.[11]

Home versions and ports of the game (see Ports below) received mixed responses by platforms. Video magazine in 1982 reviewed the Astrocade version of Galaxian (named Galactic Invasion), noting that the graphics were inferior to the coin-op and PC versions, but praising the play-action as "magnificent" compared to other console versions.[13]:43 The Astrocade version would later be awarded a Certificate of Merit for "Best Arcade-to-Home Video Game Translation" at the 4th annual Arkie Awards.[14]:108 Home Computing Weekly in 1983 gave the Spectrum version of Galaxian 3/5 stars describing it as a well-written version and praising the graphics as fast although flickery.[15] Softline in 1983 criticized the Atari 8-bit version of the game, stating that "this game becomes tedious very quickly".[16]


Atari, Inc. published ports of Galaxian for its own systems—Atari 8-bit family,[17] Atari 2600,[18] Atari 5200— in 1982–3, three or more years after Galaxian appeared in arcades and a year or more after Galaga. Additional ports were published under the Atarisoft label: Apple II, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, VIC-20, IBM PC, and ZX Spectrum. Ports from other companies were sold for MSX (Europe and Japan only), NEC PC-8801, Famicom (Japan only) and Sharp X1.

A Bally Astrocade version was published as Galaxian, but the name was later changed to Galactic Invasion.

Coleco released a stand-alone Mini-Arcade tabletop version of Galaxian in 1981,[19] which, along with Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Frogger, sold three million units combined.[20] Entex released a handheld electronic game called Galaxian 2 in 1981. The game is called Galaxian 2 because it has a two-player mode. It is not a sequel, as there is no Entex Galaxian.[21]



Galaxian would spawn a long series of sequels and spin-offs for multiple game platforms, including arcade hardware and home video game systems. The first of these, Galaga, was released in 1981, usurping the original in popularity and be cited as one of the greatest video games of all time, becoming a popular game during the golden age of arcade video games in North America. It was followed by Gaplus in 1984, which added power-up items and juggling-based bonus stages. Galaga '88 was released in 1987, published in North America by Atari Games, which featured branching level paths, new enemy types and multiple endings.

In 1990, Namco produced a theme-park attraction based on the series, Galaxian3: Project Dragoon. Originally presented at Expo '90 and moved to Namco's Wonder Eggs theme park two years later, it was a rail shooter where up to 28 players used lightguns to shoot down enemies and projectiles. A smaller version for arcades was released in 1992, followed by a 1996 PlayStation release in Japan and Europe. In 1995, an arcade remake of Galaga was released for the Namco Classic Collection Vol. 1 compilation, Galaga Arrangement. This game added two-player co-operative play and boss fights, alongside new enemy and weapon types. It was ported to the Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube in 2002 as part of the compilation disk Namco Museum.

A Japan-only medal game spin-off, Galaxian Fever, was released in 2000 as part of Namco's Shooting Medal series. The following year, Hasbro Interactive released Galaga: Destination Earth for the PlayStation and Game Boy Color, adding side-scrolling and third-person stages to the core gameplay. The 2005 PlayStation Portable compilation Namco Museum Battle Collection includes a remake of Galaga titled Galaga Arrangement, having no relation to the one featured in Namco Classic Collection Vol. 1. This game was later ported to iOS devices in 2009, renamed Galaga Remix. In 2008, Namco Bandai Games released a downloadable game for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Galaga Legions — this game was instead a twin-stick shooter game with score attack modes and multiple stages. It was followed by a 2011 sequel, Galaga Legions DX, branded under the now-defunct Namco Generations label.


Galaxian is included in the Namco Museum series of collections across several platforms.

Galaxian and Galaga were bundled together for a Game Boy release as Arcade Classic 3.

Galaxian was released on Microsoft Windows in 1995 as part of Microsoft Return of Arcade.

The game was also released as part of the Pac-Man's Arcade Party 30th Anniversary arcade machine.

The game has also been seen in Jakks Pacific's "Plug It In & Play" TV game controllers.

Galaxian, along with Galaga, Gaplus, and Galaga '88, was "redesigned and modernized"[22] for an iPhone app compilation called the Galaga 30th Anniversary Collection, released in commemoration of the event by Namco Bandai.[23]

Super Impulse also released a stand-alone Tiny Arcade version of Galaxian.[24]

In the competitive arena[edit]

The Galaxian world record has been the focus of many competitive gamers since its release. The most famous Galaxian rivalry has been between British player Gary Whelan and American Perry Rodgers, who faced off at Apollo Amusements in Pompano Beach, Florida, USA, on 6–9 April 2006. Whelan held the world record with 1,114,550 points,[25] until beaten by newcomer Aart van Vliet, of the Netherlands, who scored 1,653,270 points on 27 May 2009 at the Funspot Family Fun Center in Weirs Beach, New Hampshire, USA.[26]


  1. ^ Japanese: ギャラクシアン Hepburn: Gyarakushian


  1. ^ Szczepaniak, John (11 August 2014). The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers (First ed.). p. 201. ISBN 978-0992926007. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  2. ^ a b Midway Debuts 'Galaxian' Video (PDF). Cashbox. 5 April 1980. p. 40. Retrieved 19 March 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Galaxian at the Killer List of Videogames
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Video Game Museum Project (June 1988). Terebi gēmu (in Japanese). You B You. ISBN 978-4946432316.
  5. ^ a b "Galaxian - 1985 Developer Interview". 1985. Archived from the original on 6 June 2019. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  6. ^ Mark J. P. Wolf (15 June 2012). Before the Crash: Early Video Game History. Wayne State University Press. p. 173. ISBN 978-0814337226. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  7. ^ a b Microcomputer BASIC Editorial Department (December 1986). All About Namco (in Japanese). Dempa Shimbun. ISBN 978-4885541070.
  8. ^ a b c Kent, Steven L. (2002). The Ultimate History of Video Games: The Story Behind the Craze that Touched our Lives and Changed the World. New York: Random House International. ISBN 978-0-7615-3643-7. OCLC 59416169. Archived from the original on 24 June 2016.
  9. ^ "Play Table" (PDF) (137). Amusement Press Inc. Game Machine. 1 March 1980. Archived (PDF) from the original on 11 June 2019. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  10. ^ "Well Played Galaxians!" (26). Future Publishing. Computer and Video Games. December 1983. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  11. ^ a b Clive, Sir (25 October 2007). "Galaxian". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  12. ^ "Game Machine's Best Hit Games 25 - テーブル型TVゲーム機 (Table Videos)". Game Machine (in Japanese). No. 218. Amusement Press, Inc. 15 August 1983. p. 27.
  13. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (May 1982). "Arcade Alley: Astrovision's Rising Star". Video. Reese Communications. 6 (2): 42–43. ISSN 0147-8907.
  14. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (February 1983). "Arcade Alley: The Fourth Annual Arcade Awards". Video. Reese Communications. 6 (11): 30, 108. ISSN 0147-8907.
  15. ^ Harris, Ron ed. Spectrum Software Reviews - Testing, testing... 10 programs for the Spectrum: Galaxian Spectrum £4.95. Home Computing Weekly. Issue 4. Pg.41. 29 March 1983.
  16. ^ Bang, Derrick (May–June 1983). "Beating the Classics". Computer Gaming World. p. 43. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  17. ^ "Atari 400 800 XL XE Galaxian". Atari Mania.
  18. ^ "Atari 2600 VCS Galaxian". Atari Mania.
  19. ^ "Coleco Galaxian". Handheld Museum.
  20. ^ "More Mini-Arcades A Comin'". Electronic Games. 4 (16): 10. June 1983. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  21. ^ Morgan, Rik. "Entex Galaxian 2". Retrieved 23 October 2010. Entex Galaxian 2, based on Bally/Midway's Galaxian arcade game.
  22. ^ "Jesse David Hollington, "Namco releases Galaga 30th Anniversary Collection"". 9 June 2011.
  23. ^ "Galaga 30th Anniversary Collection information from Apple iTunes". 9 June 2011.
  24. ^ "Miniature iconic arcade games are now available from Super Impulse". 14 October 2017.
  25. ^ "Guinness World Records 2008 - Gamer's Edition", page 243
  26. ^ "Twin Galaxies' Galaxian High Score Rankings". 27 December 2009. Archived from the original on 4 October 2008.

External links[edit]