A Space Invaders Appreciation Post: Sights & Sounds Saluting the Arcade Classic on Its 45th Anniversary

a screen shot from the 1978 arcade video game Space Invaders, depicting the player's green ship along the bottom, behind four green shields, firing up at rows of white-colored invaders getting increasingly lower and firing back. A red UFO is moving across the top of the screen.

The classic arcade video game Space Invaders, developed by Tomohiro Nishikado, began its conquest of Earth’s pop culture when it landed in Japan with a June 16, 1978, release by Taito. That was followed with its arrival on North American shores in November of that year, distributed by Midway, and pretty quickly the world was under the control of this insanely popular, addictive and influential game.

One of the earliest shoot ’em up video games, Space Invaders had a big impact on the culture as a whole, and certainly within the video game industry. Soon there were clones of the game, some better than others, as well as arcade games that made interesting tweaks on the premise and became classics in their own rights, like Galaga, and Space Invaders adaptations and clones/ripoffs for home consoles and personal computers.

marquee art from the arcade machine for the 1978 video game Space Invaders. The title is in yellow lettering, and around it is artwork of various UFOs and alien monsters attacking.

(Internet Archive)

The game has continued to be popular among generations old and new 45 years after its release, even into the era of much more sophisticated games and graphics. All kinds of versions of Space Invaders can be found on emulators and in app stores; it can be played on a desktop, tablet or smartphone; you can find its logos and its cute little alien invader graphics on T-shirts and other apparel; and it has been referenced in other pop culture well into the 21st century.

To celebrate nearly a half-century of Space Invaders, we’re dropping a few sights and sounds on you representing various aspects of the game itself, as well as its impact on the larger popular culture.

  • Pictured here: One of the most anxiety-inducing situations in video game history:
image from the 1978 video game Space Invaders. It is a screenshot of a point in the game when one invader is left on screen and it speeds up, getting ever closer as it goes back in forth across the screen, getting lower and lower toward the player's ship at the bottom that is attempting to shoot it.


  • Some gameplay from the original Space Invaders arcade game:

  • The relentless, throbbing sound from the game that speeds up as the invaders continue to approach lower and lower, the sound almost mimicking your heartbeat as the intensity of the game increases:

  • A couple of weird novelty songs about Space Invaders. As far as video game novelty songs go, they certainly weren’t as popular as the later Buckner & Garcia Pac-Man-themed tune “Pac-Man Fever,” but they are catchy enough, with a disco beat accompanied from sounds of the game:

  • Gameplay from Space Invaders Part II (aka Space Invaders Deluxe, or Deluxe Space Invaders), the 1979 Space Invaders sequel:

  • Box art for the 1980 adaptation of Space Invaders for the Atari Video Computer System (2600). The hugely popular game was a “killer app” for the 2600, making that home console a must-have (and it’s a really fun game, on top of it, one of the better VCS versions of an arcade game and still highly playable, especially with 112 game variations).
box art for the 1980 Atari 2600 home system adaptation of the video game Space Invaders. it is a blue box, with art in the center depicting a UFO above a planet with beams coming out of it. Below the name of the game, in white lettering, there is yellow lettering on the box indicates there are 112 game variations in the cartridge.

(Internet Archive)

  • Here’s some of that Atari 2600 Space Invaders gameplay:

  • A page from the Atari 2600 Space Invaders manual breaking down the 112 game variations:
image from the instruction manual for the 1980 Atari 2600 version of Space Invaders. The page offers a breakdown of the 112 game variations available on the cartridge (one player, two player, zig-zagging bombs, etc.)

(Internet Archive)

  • 1980 commercial for Atari’s Space Invaders:

  • Find out who the Space Invaders champion of the Midlands is in this video of the championship round in a U.K. Atari Space Invaders competition:

  • I always enjoyed Sneakers, a 1981 Space Invaders-type game for the Apple II computer. It had interesting-looking aliens moving in challenging ways, a nice tweak on the original Invaders concept:

  • Atari may have had the home video system adaptation rights for Space Invaders, but in 1981, rival console Intellivision developed Space Armada, a game with a similar concept that was fun, as well:

a still image from the 1982 movie "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" Left to right are Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore and Robert MacNaughton, in closeup, staring in awe at E.T. (not seen in the image).

(Courtesy Everett Collection)

  • Cover of a Japanese flyer for the 1985 arcade game Return of the Invaders:
shot of the cover of a Japanese arcade flyer for Return of the Invaders, a 1985 followup to Space Invaders

(Internet Archive)

  • As I got different video game consoles over the years, I always picked up their version of Space Invaders if one was available. This one, Space Invaders ’91 for the Sega Genesis, was especially fun:

  • In a segment within the “Anthology of Interest II” episode of Futurama that aired in 2002, Earth is faced with a familiar-looking video game-like threat in the form of “invaders … possibly from space”:

  • When I got an original PlayStation in the late ’90s, I of course had to track down this version of Space Invaders, put out by Activision:

Finally, if you’ve got over an hour to spare, here is a nice rundown of many Space Invaders variations (only ones that have maintained the game’s initial premise, and not altered the gameplay too dramatically:

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