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Pac-Man / パックマン
Pac flyer.png
North American flyer
Atari, Inc. (ports)
Designer(s)Toru Iwatani
Programmer(s)Shigeo Funaki
Composer(s)Toshio Kai
Platform(s)Arcade, Apple II, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, VIC-20, IBM PC, Intellivision, TI-99/4A, ZX Spectrum, NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket Color
CabinetStandard upright, mini-upright and cocktail
Arcade systemNamco Pac-Man
CPU1 × Z80 @ 3.072 MHz[4][5]
SoundNamco WSG (three-channel mono)
DisplayVertically oriented, 224 × 288, 16 palette colors

Pac-Man (Japanese: パックマン, Hepburn: Pakkuman), stylized in all capitals, is an arcade game designed by Toru Iwatani of Namco and first released in Japan as Puck Man in May 1980.[2][3] Licensed for distribution in the United States by Midway Games, it was released in October 1980 when top arcade games were stark space shooters, such as Asteroids. Pac-Man established the conventions of the maze chase genre,[6] and is considered one of the classics of the medium and an icon of 1980s popular culture.[7][8][9][10] The game and subsequent entries in the series—became a social phenomenon[11] that crossed over to other media, such as the Pac-Man animated television series and the top-ten Buckner and Garcia single "Pac-Man Fever."[12] Dozens of similarly-styled maze games appeared over the next several years, with some becoming successful in their own right.

60% of Pac-Man players were women according to one estimate published in 1982, while 90% of those playing space shoot-em-up Omega Race were men.[13]

It is also one of the highest-grossing video games of all time,[14] having generated more than $2.5 billion in quarters by the 1990s.[15][16] Adjusted for inflation, all versions of Pac-Man are estimated to have grossed over $12 billion in total revenue.[17]

The character has appeared in more than 30 officially licensed game spin-offs[18] in addition to bootleg versions.[19][20] According to the Davie-Brown Index, Pac-Man has the highest brand awareness of any video game character among American consumers, recognized by 94 percent of them.[21] Pac-Man is one of the longest-running video game franchises from the golden age of video arcade games. The Google Doodle version was estimated to have been played by over 1 billion people worldwide in 2010.[22] Pac-Man is part of the collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.[23] and New York's Museum of Modern Art.[24]


Screenshot of the play area

The player navigates Pac-Man through a maze containing dots, known as Pac-Dots, and four multi-colored ghosts: Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde. The goal of the game is to accumulate as many points as possible by collecting the dots and eating ghosts. When all of the dots in a stage is eaten, that stage is completed and the player will advance to the next one. Between some stages, one of three intermission animations plays.[25] The four ghosts roam the maze and chase Pac-Man. If Pac-man comes into contact with a ghost, he loses a life. The game ends when all lives have been lost. The player begins with 3 lives, but DIP switches in the machine can change the number of starting lives to one lifer, two lives, or five lives maximum. The player will receive one extra life after obtaining 10,000 points. The number of points needed for a bonus life can be changed to 15,000, 20,000, or disabled altogether.

Near the corners of the maze are four flashing Power Pellets that provide Pac-Man with the temporary ability to eat the ghosts and earn bonus points. The enemies turn deep blue, reverse direction and usually move more slowly. When an enemy is eaten, its eyes remain and return to the center box where the ghost is regenerated in its normal color. Blue enemies flash white to signal that they are about to become dangerous again and the length of time for which the enemies remain vulnerable varies from one stage to the next, generally becoming shorter as the game progresses. In later stages, the enemies go straight to flashing, bypassing blue, which means that they can only be eaten for a short amount of time, although they still reverse direction when a Power Pellet is eaten. Starting at stage nineteen, the ghosts do not become edible, but they still reverse direction. There are also fruits, located directly below the center box, that appear twice per level; eating one of them results in bonus points (100–5,000).

The table on the right lists each round, the fruit that appears in each round, the number of points the fruit is worth, and the amount of time the ghosts are blue when a power pellet is eaten:

Stage Fruit Fruit Points Ghost Blue Time (seconds) Ghost Flashing Time (seconds)
1 Cherry 100 4 5
2 Strawberry 300 3 5
3 Orange 500 2 5
4 Orange 500 1 5
5 Apple 700 0 5
6 Apple 700 3 5
7 Melon 1000 0 5
8 Melon 1000 0 5
9 Galaxian 2000 0 3
10 Galaxian 2000 3 5
11 Bell 3000 0 5
12 Bell 3000 0 3
13 Key 5000 0 3
14 Key 5000 1 3
15 Key 5000 0 5
16 Key 5000 0 3
17 Key 5000 0 0
18 Key 5000 0 3
19 and beyond Key 5000 0 0

North American title screen, showing the ghost names


The enemies in Pac-Man are known variously as "monsters" or "ghosts".[26][27][28] In an interview, creator Toru Iwatani stated that he designed each enemy with its own distinct personality to keep the game from becoming impossibly difficult or boring to play.[29] Iwatani described the enemy behaviors in more detail at the 2011 Game Developers Conference. He stated that the red enemy chases Pac-Man, and the pink enemy aims for a position in front of Pac-Man's mouth.[30] The blue enemy is "fickle" and sometimes heads towards Pac-Man, and other times away. Although he claimed that the orange enemy's behavior is random, in actuality it alternates from behaving like the red enemy when at some distance from Pac-Man and aiming towards the lower-left corner of the maze whenever it gets too close to him.

Color Pac Man (Original)[31] Pac-Man (English version)
Translation Nickname Translation Alternate
Red Oikake (追いかけ) Chaser Akabei (赤ベイ) Red guy Urchin Macky Shadow Blinky
Pink Machibuse (待ち伏せ) Ambusher Pinky (ピンキー) Pink guy Romp Micky Speedy Pinky
Cyan Kimagure (気まぐれ) Fickle Aosuke (青助) Blue guy Stylist Mucky Bashful Inky
Orange Otoboke (お惚け) Feigned Ignorance Guzuta (愚図た) Slow guy Crybaby Mocky Pokey Clyde

Level 256[edit]

Level 256, unplayable under normal circumstances

Pac-Man was designed to have no ending–as long as at least one life is left, the game should continue indefinitely. At level 256, a bug corrupts the entire right half of the maze with seemingly random symbols and tiles, overwriting the values of edible dots which makes it impossible to eat enough dots to beat the level.[32]

The bug is caused by the calculation of the number of fruit to draw rolling over to zero. The code attempts to draw 256 fruit–236 more than it was designed for–resulting in the maze being corrupted. [33]

Perfect play[edit]

A perfect Pac-Man game is when the player achieves the maximum possible score on the first 255 levels (by eating every possible dot, power pellet, fruit, and enemy) without losing a single life, and using all extra lives to score as many points as possible on level 256.[34][35]

The first person credited with achieving this score was Billy Mitchell, who claimed to perform the feat in about six hours.[35][36] In April 2018, Twin Galaxies removed all of Mitchell's scores from their database after ruling certain Donkey Kong submissions were not achieved using original arcade hardware.[37] Since Mitchell's Pac-Man achievement, 7 other players[38] have attained the maximum score on an original arcade unit. The world record according to Twin Galaxies is currently held by David Race with the fastest completion time of 3 hours, 28 minutes, and 49 seconds for the maximum possible score of 3,333,360 points.[39][40]

In December 1982, an eight-year-old boy, Jeffrey R. Yee, received a letter from U.S. President Ronald Reagan congratulating him on a worldwide record of 6,131,940 points, a score only possible if he had passed level 256.[35] In September 1983, Walter Day, chief scorekeeper at Twin Galaxies, took the US National Video Game Team on a tour of the East Coast to visit video game players who said they could get through level 256. No video game player could demonstrate this ability. In 1999, Billy Mitchell offered $100,000 to anyone who could complete level 256 before January 1, 2000. The prize expired unclaimed.[35]

Development and naming[edit]

The North American Pac-Man cabinet design (left) and the Japanese Puck Man design.

Up into the early 1970s, Namco primarily specialized in kiddie rides for Japanese department stores. Masaya Nakamura, the founder of Namco, started to direct the company toward arcade games, starting with electromechanical ones such as F-1 (1976). He later hired a number of software engineers to develop their own video games as to compete with companies like Atari, Inc.[41][42]

Pac-Man was one of the first games developed by this new department within Namco. The game was developed primarily by a young employee named Toru Iwatani over a year, beginning in April 1979, employing a nine-man team. It was based on the concept of eating, and the original Japanese title is Pakkuman (パックマン), inspired by the Japanese onomatopoeic phrase paku-paku taberu (パクパク食べる),[43][44] where paku-paku describes (the sound of) the mouth movement when widely opened and then closed in succession.[45][46]

Although Iwatani has repeatedly stated that the character's shape was inspired by a pizza missing a slice,[11] he admitted in a 1986 interview that this was a half-truth and the character design also came from simplifying and rounding out the Kanji character for mouth, kuchi ().[47] Iwatani attempted to appeal to a wider audience—beyond the typical demographics of young boys and teenagers. His intention was to attract girls to arcades because he found there were very few games that were played by women at the time.[48] This led him to add elements of a maze, as well as cute ghost-like enemy characters. Eating to gain power, Iwatani has said, was a concept he borrowed from Popeye.[49] The result was a game he named Puck Man[50] as a reference to the main character's hockey puck shape.[51] Later in 1980, the game was picked up for manufacture in the United States by Bally division Midway,[47] which changed the game's name from Puck Man to Pac-Man in an effort to avoid vandalism from people changing the letter 'P' into an 'F'.[50][51][52] The cabinet artwork was also changed and the pace and level of difficulty increased to appeal to western audiences.[50]


Intermission cutscene. It exaggerates the effect of the power pellet, showing a comically large Pac-Man.[53]

When first launched in Japan by Namco in 1980, Pac-Man received a lukewarm response as Space Invaders and other similar games were more popular at the time.[6] However, the game's success in North America in the same year took competitors and distributors by surprise. A frequently-repeated story claims that marketing executives saw Pac-Man at a trade show before its release and completely overlooked both it and the now-classic Defender, seeing a racing game called Rally-X (which also involves collecting items in a maze) as the game to outdo that year.[54][55] However, industry reporting from the era indicates that it was Namco itself which was heavily promoting Rally-X at the 1980 Amusement & Music Operators Association, where Pac-Man was at least as well received and reviewed as Rally-X.[56]

Pac-Man quickly became far more popular than anything seen in the video game industry. It overtook Asteroids as the best-selling arcade game in North America,[57][58] grossing over $1 billion in quarters within a year,[15][59][60] surpassing the highest-grossing film of the time, Star Wars.[61] [62] retailing at around $2400 each[63] and totalling around $1 billion (equivalent to $2.51 billion in 2016), within 18 months of release.[64][65] By 1982, 400,000 arcade machines had been sold worldwide and an estimated 7 billion coins had been inserted into them.[66] The combined sales of counterfeit arcade machines was nearly as high as the original.[67] United States revenues from Pac-Man licensed games and products exceeded $1 billion.[66] The game was estimated to have had 30 million active players across the United States in 1982.[68] Nakamura said in a 1983 interview that though he did expect Pac-Man to be successful, "I never thought it would be this big."[42]

Pac-Man was awarded Best Commercial Arcade Game at the 1981 Arcade Awards.[69]

II Computing listed the Atarisoft port tenth on the magazine's list of top Apple II games as of late 1985, based on sales and market-share data.[70]

Toward the end of the 20th century, the arcade game's total gross consumer revenue had been estimated by Twin Galaxies at more than 10 billion quarters ($2.5 billion),[15][16] making it the highest-grossing video game of all time.[14] In 2016, USgamer calculated that the machines' inflation-adjusted takings were equivalent to $7.68 billion.[71]

In 2001, Pac-Man was voted the greatest video game of all time by a Dixons poll in the UK.[72]


The game is regarded as one of the most influential video games of all time:[73][74][75] its title character was the first original gaming mascot, the game established the maze chase game genre, it demonstrated the potential of characters in video games, it increased the appeal of video games with female audiences, and it was gaming's first broad licensing success.[73] It was the first video game with power-ups,[76] and the individual ghosts have deterministic artificial intelligence which reacts to player actions.[77] It is often cited as the first game with cutscenes, in the form of brief comical interludes about Pac-Man and Blinky chasing each other,[78]:2 though Space Invaders Part II employed a similar style of between-level intermissions in 1979.[79]

Maze chase games exploded on home computers after the release of Pac-Man. Some of them appeared before official ports and garnered more attention from consumers, and sometimes lawyers, as a result. These include Taxman (1981) and Snack Attack (1982) for the Apple II, Jawbreaker (1981) and Ghost Hunter (1981)[80] for the Atari 8-bit family, Scarfman (1981) for the TRS-80, and K.C. Munchkin! (1981) for the Odyssey².

Pac-Man also inspired 3D variants of the concept such as Monster Maze (1982),[81] Spectre (1982), and early first-person shooters such as MIDI Maze (1987; which also had similar character designs).[78]:5[82] John Romero credited Pac-Man as the game that had the biggest influence on his career;[83] Wolfenstein 3D includes a Pac-Man level from a first-person perspective,[84][85] Many post-Pac-Man titles include power-ups that briefly turn the tables on the enemy. The game's artificial intelligence inspired programmers who later worked for companies such as Bethesda.[77]


The 1982 Atari 2600 version

Atari, Inc. licensed the home rights and developed versions of Pac-Man for their Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit family, and Atari 5200 systems. Ports to other systems were published under the Atarisoft label: Apple II, Commodore 64, VIC-20, Intellivision, IBM PC, Texas Instruments TI-99/4A, and ZX Spectrum. Namco later produced versions for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Gear, and Neo Geo Pocket Color.

Namco ported the game to the Famicom in 1985; as they had no North American operations at this time, they licensed Atari (under the Tengen name) to release certain of their Famicom titles for US audiences. The Tengen release of Pac-Man was initially a licensed Nintendo cartridge in a standard gray shell, soon afterwards Atari began manufacturing unauthorized clones of the NES lockout chip and produced unlicensed NES cartridges in black shells, including Pac-Man. Nintendo eventually discovered this ruse and filed a lawsuit against Atari.[86]In 1993, Namco released Pac-Man for the NES themselves, thus there are three different North American releases of the NES Pac-Man, differing only in the copyright notices on the title screen.

One of the first ports was the March 1982 release of the much-maligned port for the Atari 2600, which only somewhat resembles the original and was widely criticized for its flickering ghosts[87][88][89] and several design and implementation choices. Despite the criticism, this version of Pac-Man sold seven million units[90] at $37.95 per copy,[12][91] becoming the best-selling game of all time on the console. While enjoying initial sales success, Atari overestimated demand by producing 12 million cartridges, of which 5 million went unsold.[90][92][93] The port's poor quality damaged the company's reputation among consumers and retailers, becoming a contributing factor to Atari, Inc.'s decline and the North American video game crash of 1983, alongside Atari's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.[90]

Richard A. Edwards reviewed the Atari 2600 version in The Space Gamer No. 53.[94] Edwards commented that "If you must have Pac-Man for your home, then this is it, but if you're hesitant, there are enough differences in this version to suggest passing it by."[94]


Guinness World Records has awarded the Pac-Man series eight records in Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008, including First Perfect Pac-Man Game for Billy Mitchell's July 3, 1999 score and "Most Successful Coin-Operated Game". On June 3, 2010, at the NLGD Festival of Games, the game's creator Toru Iwatani officially received the certificate from Guinness World Records for Pac-Man having had the most "coin-operated arcade machines" installed worldwide: 293,822. The record was set and recognized in 2005 and mentioned in the Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008, but finally actually awarded in 2010.[28]

Students' Spring Days in Tartu: runners in Pac-Man costumes

The Pac-Man character and game series became an icon of video game culture during the 1980s, and a wide variety of Pac-Man merchandise has been marketed with the character's image, from t-shirts and toys to hand-held video game imitations and even specially shaped pasta. General Mills manufactured a cereal by the Pac-Man name in 1983.

The game has inspired various real-life recreations, involving either real people or robots. One event called Pac-Manhattan set a Guinness World Record for "Largest Pac-Man Game" in 2004.[95][96][97] The business term "Pac-Man defense" in mergers and acquisitions refers to a hostile takeover target that attempts to reverse the situation and take over its would-be acquirer instead, a reference to Pac-Man's power pellets.[98] The game's popularity has led to "Pac-Man" being adopted as a nickname, most notably by boxer Manny Pacquiao,[99] as well as the American football player Adam Jones.

On August 21, 2016, in the 2016 Summer Olympics closing ceremony, during a video which showcased Tokyo as the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics, a small segment shows Pac-Man and the ghosts racing against each other eating dots on a running track.[100]


The Pac-Man animated TV series produced by Hanna–Barbera aired on ABC from 1982 to 1983.[101] A computer-generated animated series titled Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures was released on Disney XD in June 2013.[102][103]


In music, the Buckner & Garcia song "Pac-Man Fever" (1981) went to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts,[12] and received a Gold certification for over a million records sold by 1982,[104] and a total of 2.5 million copies sold as of 2008.[105] Their Pac-Man Fever album (1982) also sold over a million copies.[106]

In 1982 "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded a parody of "Taxman" by the Beatles as "Pac-Man." It was eventually released in 2017 as part of Squeeze Box: The Complete Works of "Weird Al" Yankovic.[107][108]

In 1992, Aphex Twin (under the name Power-Pill) released Pac-Man, a techno album which consists mostly of samples from the game.


At one time, a feature film based on the game was in development.[109][110]

The Pac-Man character appears in the film Pixels (2015), with Denis Akiyama playing series creator Toru Iwatani.[111][112] Pac-Man is referenced and makes an appearance in the 2017 film Guardians of the Galaxy 2.[113]

In Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale where Kirito and his friends beat a VR Pac-Man game called PAC-Man 2024. [114] Iwatani makes a cameo at the beginning of the film as an arcade technician. In the Japanese tokusatsu film Kamen Rider Heisei Generations: Dr. Pac-Man vs. Ex-Aid & Ghost with Legend Riders, a Pac-Man-like character was introduced as the main villain.[115]

Other gaming media[edit]

In 1982, Milton Bradley released a board game based on Pac-Man.[116] In this game, players move up to four Pac-Man characters (traditional yellow plus red, green, and blue) plus two ghosts as per the throws of a pair of dice.[117]

Sticker manufacturer Fleer included rub-off game cards with their Pac-Man stickers. The card packages contain a Pac-Man style maze with all points along the path hidden with opaque coverings. From the starting position, the player moves around the maze while scratching off the coverings to score points.[118]

Pac-Man is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. The 3DS version also has a stage based on the original arcade game, called Pac-Maze.[119] A Pac-Man Amiibo figurine was also released by Nintendo on May 29, 2015.

Remakes and sequels[edit]

Pac-Man is one of the few games to have been consistently published for over three decades, having been remade on numerous platforms and spawned many sequels.

Coleco's tabletop Mini-Arcade versions of the game yielded 1.5 million units sold in 1982.[120][121] Nelsonic Industries produced a Pac-Man LCD wristwatch game with a simplified maze.[122]

Namco has repeatedly re-released the game to arcades. In 2001, Namco released a Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga "Class of 1981 Reunion Edition" cabinet with Pac-Man available for play as a hidden game. To commemorate Pac-Man's 25th anniversary in 2005, Namco released a revision that officially featured all three games.

Downloads of the game have been made available on game services such as Xbox Live Arcade, GameTap, and Virtual Console. Namco has released mobile versions of Pac-Man for BREW, Java, and iOS, as well as Palm PDAs and Windows Mobile-based devices.

Pac-Man has been included in Namco's long-running Namco Museum compilations as well as Microsoft Return of Arcade.

Namco Networks sold a downloadable Windows PC version of Pac-Man in 2009 which also includes an "Enhanced" mode which replaces all of the original sprites with the sprites from Pac-Man Championship Edition. Namco Networks made a downloadable bundle which includes their PC version of Pac-Man and their port of Dig Dug called Namco All-Stars: Pac-Man and Dig Dug.

In 2010, Namco Bandai announced the release of the game on Windows Phone 7 as an Xbox Live game.[123]

Pac-Man has numerous sequels and spin-offs, only one of which was designed by Tōru Iwatani. Some of the follow-ups were not developed by Namco either, including the most significant, Ms. Pac-Man, released in the United States in 1981. Originally called Crazy Otto, this unauthorized hack of Pac-Man was created by General Computer Corporation and sold to Midway without Namco's permission.[124] Bally Midway released several other unauthorized spin-offs, such as Pac-Man Plus, Jr. Pac-Man, Baby Pac-Man and Professor Pac-Man, resulting in Namco severing business relations with Midway.[11][125]

Pac-Man Championship Edition (2007), commemorating the first World Championship
The initial configuration of Google's Pac-Man banner

On June 5, 2007, the first Pac-Man World Championship was held in New York City, which brought together ten competitors from eight countries to play the new Pac-Man Championship Edition developed by Tōru Iwatani.[126] Its sequel was released November 2010.

For the weekend of May 21–23, 2010, Google changed the logo on its homepage to a playable version of the game[127] in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the game's release. The Google Doodle version of Pac-Man was estimated to have been played by over 1 billion people worldwide in 2010.[22] Google later allowed access to the game through a separate web page.[128]

In April 2011, Soap Creative published World's Biggest Pac-Man working together with Microsoft and Namco-Bandai to celebrate Pac-Man's 30th anniversary. It is a multiplayer browser-based game with user-created, interlocking mazes.[129]

In 2016 an in-app version of Pac-Man was introduced in Facebook Messenger. This allows users to play the game against their friends while talking over Facebook.


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External links[edit]