Space Invaders: An Arcade HIstory

space invaders arcade graffiti

Space Invaders was one of the first Japanese video game arcade machines to make it big internationally, catapulting its company Taito to the front of the early arcade industry. While the game was not known for its sequels, there’s a surprising number of them that altered and improved on the Space Invaders formula in several ways.

Space Invaders (1978)

Space Invaders was the original shoot-the-aliens game that influenced everything from Galaga to Panzer Dragoon. The game was so popular in Japan that it led to an urban legend about a 100-yen coin shortage. The 100-yen coin shortage was a real thing, but was due to underproduction, not overuse in Space Invaders machines. Basic gameplay required players to shoot aliens in at the top of the screen by moving a shooting ship left and right at the bottom of the screen and shooting a small laser upwards. Destructible bunkers helped shield the player from return fire. According to some sources, revenue from the original Space Invaders reached $500 million in the 30 years after its release.

Space Invaders Part II (1979)

Known as Deluxe Space Invaders in the United States, Space Invaders Part II was added new enemies, including an alien that splits into two when you hit it. The international version featured a different background in-game from the Japanese version. The creator of Space Invaders has stated that this is his favorite version of the game, as it includes all the classic Space Invaders gameplay with a lot of variety of play without getting too complicated.

Space Invaders II (1980)

This version of the series is the same as Space Invaders Part II except it adds a two-player mode and was exclusively produced as a cocktail cabinet, a table-sized machine with a glass layer for putting drinks on. This version of the game was not available in Japan.

Return of the Invaders (1985)

A huge visual improvement over previous versions of the game, Return of the Invaders maintains the same gameplay style but with quicker, tighter controls and graphics that were much more complicated and futuristic looking. Far more colors were on display at the same time, and the attack patterns of invaders varied more than in previous versions.

Super Space Invaders ’91 (1990)

This version of Space Invaders had more in common with other space shooters of the time than the original Space Invaders, including huge screen-filling bosses and moving backgrounds. Additionally, there are power-ups that occasionally drop from defeated enemies to give the player’s ship some extra firepower—an innovation that was actually old hat by 1990 but was brand-new to Space Invaders.

Space Invaders DX (1994)

While Super Space Invaders ’91 was the most modern version of the game, Space Invaders DX was intentionally a return to the original graphical style of Space Invaders, simply with more colors and higher resolution, and can be considered a straight remake as opposed to a sequel. The home versions Space Invaders DX were very successful and renewed interest in the series for a time.

Space Invaders ‘95 (1995)

Perhaps the oddest Space Invaders version, this game features super-cute graphics, with all the aliens being smiling cartoons in the Japanese “super deformed” style. It was meant to appeal to kids, women, and families, however, this game was not terribly successful and killed much of the momentum that Space Invaders DX created.

Space Invaders The Beat Attacker (2008)

Released to celebrate Space Invaders’ 30th anniversary, this was not shooter at all but a rhythm game coming along at the end of the rhythm game fad in Japanese arcades. It was not released outside of Japan.

Cover Photo by donielle / CC-BY

Back to blog
1 of 3