From Academic Kids

Developer: Namco
Publisher: Midway Games
Release date: 1981
Genre: Retro/Fixed Shooter
Game modes: Up to 2 players, alternating turns
Cabinet: Standard and cocktail
Controls: Joystick; 1 button
Raster, standard resolution 224 x 288 (Vertical) Colors 32, Size: 19-inches
Developed during the Golden Age of Arcade Games. Ranked the #2 most popular arcade game of all time by the Killer List of Videogames web site.

Galaga is an arcade game created and manufactured by Namco. Since its debut in 1981, it has been one of the most popular arcade games and is still sought after by collectors.



Galaga is a sequel to Galaxian and has similar gameplay. The player controls a spaceship (which can move only right or left) and shoots at swarms of incoming insect-like aliens which fly in formation above him and occasionally swoop down to bomb him in a kamikaze-like dive. The enemies in the top row will sometimes dive with one or two escorts. Enemies which survive a dive will rejoin the formation. When all enemies are destroyed, the player moves on to the next level.

The game differs from its predecessor in several ways:

  • At the beginning of each level, the enemies arrive in five groups of eight enemies each, which fly in from the sides or top of the playfield and enter formation. The player can shoot these enemies as they arrive, and they shoot back. Enemies only drop bombs while they arrive or while they are in a dive; they do not drop bombs while in formation.
  • The boss Galaga, the green aliens at the top of the formation, take two hits to destroy (the first hit will turn it blue). They are capable of stopping mid-dive and attempting to capture the player's spaceship with a tractor beam. If the ship is captured, the boss carries it up into the formation. If the player still has additional lives, he can regain his ship by destroying the boss during a dive; once freed, the captured ship connects beside to the player's current ship to form a pair which fires two shots at a time (but is also twice as wide and thus harder to defend; if one of the ships is hit, only that ship is destroyed and the player continues with the surviving one). The captured ship can also be destroyed if the player is not careful with his shots. Due to the benefit of the double firepower, a common Galaga strategy is to allow one's ship to be captured then free it. Contrary to rumor, the double ship cannot in turn be captured and released to form a "triple ship".
  • Galaga was one of the first games with a bonus round, here called the "Challenging Stage." A Challenging Stage consists only of groups of enemies entering the playfield, circling, then leaving; there is no formation to clear. If the player destroys all 40 enemies before they depart, he earns a "Perfect" bonus of 10,000 points. The doubled firepower earned by freeing a captured ship on a previous level is very useful here.

Galaga can be played by a single player or by two players alternating turns. The starting number of lives is set to three by default, and an extra life is awarded at 20,000 points, 70,000 points, and every 70,000 points thereafter, but these settings can be changed via DIP switches on the game's motherboard.

The three types of enemy each have a different score value. A blue enemy is worth 50 points in formation and 100 when attacking. A red enemy is worth 80 in formation, 160 when attacking. A boss is worth 150 in formation, and its attack value depends on whether it is accompanied by red escorts: 400 points if alone, 800 with one escort, and 1600 with two. This point value is determined when the boss's attack is initiated, so shooting escorts before the boss (or missing them entirely) will still earn the higher point values.


There are at least two well-known bugs in Galaga:

  • One bug causes enemies to cease dropping bombs for the rest of the game. To trigger it, destroy all enemies but the two bees in the bottom-left corner, then wait, dodging their shots for fifteen minutes or so until they stop dropping any bombs. From that point onward until the end of the game, all enemies will effectively be disarmed (but can still be dangerous kamikazes).
  • It is possible to control the game during its attract mode. During the game demonstration, at the moment that a boss Galaga begins emitting its tractor beam, the game for some reason pays attention to the joystick and fire button. A player can shoot the boss and continue to play the game for a short while. Sometimes the player's ship will move oddly or be invulnerable until the game demonstration ends; sometimes the game will crash and reset itself harmlessly.


Galaga was so successful that it spawned several follow-up games, though none were as popular as the original.

Because of its significance and success in the video game industry, Galaga is popular among collectors. It is ranked as one of the "Top 100 Videogames" by the Killer List of Videogames (KLOV). The KLOV readers rank it second as the most popular arcade game of all time, behind only Pac-Man.


Missing image
Galaga on the Atari 7800

The original arcade version of Galaga has been ported to several systems. Most notably:

In 2001 Namco released a "20 Year Reunion / Class of 1981" arcade unit which contained the original Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga games. The bugs described above are still present in this version.

Popular culture

In the movie WarGames (1983), Matthew Broderick plays a young hacker who nearly starts World War III because the computer that controls U.S. nuclear weapons cannot understand the difference between a game and an atomic war. Broderick's character is shown playing Galaga at least twice (one game "ends" even though there are still two ships showing in the lower-left corner of the screen). The studio had a Galaga and a Galaxian machine delivered to Broderick's home, where he practiced for two months to prepare for the arcade scene. One of the game's musical motifs is played during a scene in the NORAD command center.

In the Doctor Who serial episode "Terror of the Vervoids", two aliens are seen playing a holographic version of Galaga in the rec room of an interstellar cruise ship.

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