8000 video games, 1 retro game: “Space Invaders” (1978)

Type “Space Invaders” into a search bar and wander around the web for five minutes. Count the number of “Most influential”, from “most famous”… Also list the number of works and designs that the Invaders have generated. There you go, let's face the facts: an arcade machine owner/retro video game enthusiast cannot snub the experience for long. space invaders (Japanese creation from 1978). Even if it essentially consists of being atomized by pixelated octopuses and submitting to all kinds of sonic attacks.


  1. space invaders, endless story from every point of view
  2. Space is all black, the invaders disciplined, suicidal and noisy
  3. What can Humanity oppose to the space-marine horde? So little
  4. Sounds that drive you crazy: a masterpiece of the genre
  5. Additional resources at space invaders

The inexorable is part of the authentic arcade game, a fortiori when it comes to retro video games. It's the same thing that brings together good and bad players: within half an hour of each other, everyone will pass, there is no saving possible. But in terms of making the player aware of his insignificance, space invaders is perhaps the greatest of video games. It brings together Fort Alamo and Chtulu's Call. What’s that about? An infernal crescendo, anxiety-inducing sounds, defenses that are constantly cracking, an army of well-ordered octopuses that never back down when it comes time to go to the front. And the fatal, inexorable explosion. space invaders is fantastic, but it's not uplifting. 

The end is near

1. space invaders, endless story from every point of view

Nightmare + Shoot 'em up + octopuses + arcade machine + Atari = interstellar cardboard    

THE first article of this blog already mentioned space invaders and reported that its creator, Tomohiro Nishikado, had dreamed of schoolchildren attacked by aliens while waiting for Santa Claus. So it's called a nightmare, and its representation is perfectly successful. 

Among other legacies to posterity, Tomohiro founded a separate and fertile genre in video games: the Shoot'em Up, either “kill them all”; “if you are capable of it”, I would add for my part. 

This would also be the first endless game, because the player's goal is not to finish the game: the Aliens always come back. If the player destroys them all, we simply return to the start, for a second painting, a third, and so on until death ensues. We can always imagine, theoretically, endless resistance, which we cannot even imagine.

According to Guinness World Records, a 12-year-old Canadian hero, Eric Furrer, however, allegedly kept the invaders at bay for 38 hours between August 29 and September 2, 1980. There are many different versions on the Web about the circumstances of this record and I started to identify them. A long and obscure work... Ultimately, I think it would be better to investigate for yourself and choose your own, if you are interested. One thing is certain, despite everything, according to the site Antstream.com and a few others, he used a trick, since called “the Furrer Trick”. We will come back to this.

The space theme would come from the inevitable Star Wars (released in 1977) and the idea of pixelated octopuses, octopuses and crabs of the alien machines of War of the Worlds by HG Wells (1898). The subject of the game is therefore the following: Humanity, represented by a mobile shooting tower, fragile shields and three small lives, defends the planet against countless crabs and octopuses, organized and determined to descend to the bottom of the planet. screen to the point of sacrificing their own lives. Simple, refined. The matrix of a myth.

Tomohiro Nishikado worked for the no less legendary Taito company, still very much alive today, which notably published, in addition to Space Invaders, Arkanoid and Bubble Bobble. In 1978, the game triumphed in arcades in Japan, and not just a little. At the same time, it is operated on arcade machines in the United States by the Midway Manufacturing Company, with just as much success. When we look at this first American terminal on the precious site Arcade-Museum.com, one detail jumps out at the eye: the design of the terminal does not highlight the characters of the game but some sort of… radioactive sasquatch? They are quite successful, moreover, but obviously do not appear in Space Invaders. In hindsight, This seems strange, but remember that the Midway Company did not know a priori that the Invaders were destined to enter the category of the most famous graphic objects in the world. 

space invaders became in 1980 the first arcade game adapted for a console, in this case the Atari 2600 console. From then on, for the space octopuses as for the Atari console, we no longer spoke of success but of planetary cardboard. It's raining money, lots and lots of money. No, I will not give figures (no one gives the same figures, so as not to add confusion…).

Aside from urban legend: the shortage of 100 yen coins in Japan in 1978

When doing superficial research on space invaders, an atypical fact to say the least is cited extensively, sometimes in the conditional, sometimes not: the incredible triumph of the game in Japanese arcades would have caused a shortage of 100 yen coins. A monetary panic? Devil.

To this is often added the assertion that the number of 100 yen coins put into circulation tripled in the following years. However, if the fact is abundantly cited, the precise explanations are generally thin, which is often doubtful (especially since the language barrier prevents searching for sources in Japan...). Furthermore, only specialists and video game enthusiasts seem to be interested in the phenomenon: Western economists don't care, which is downright strange. Ultimately, it seems that this shortage would be classified in the “urban legend” category.

Two interesting and well-documented articles seek to demonstrate this in any case: the first was written in 2012 by a numismatics specialist, Mark Fox; the second, written in 2013 and explicitly titled Video Game Myth Busters – The Space Invaders Yen Shortage, attempts to go back to the sources of the legend and it is very pleasant to follow. To summarize: the number of 100 yen coins issued in 1978 was a little lower than in previous and following years, but nothing alarming; In 1978, the Japanese press reported sporadic cases of coin shortages in certain neighborhoods around arcades, hence the later exaggeration of the phenomenon by certain authors. In short, atypical situations caused by the phenomenon space invaders, probably ; general shortage, no.

We can compare this legend to that which surrounds the radio adaptation of War of the Worlds (definitely, these octopuses...) by Orson Welles in 1938, to which we attribute phenomena of collective panic which in fact never existed. The fact remains that this folkloric belief attests to the gigantic and immediate success of the terminal space invaders in Japan and the incredible aura that the game still enjoys.

Invaders everywhere, well beyond video games

Countless versions. We cannot mention here all the sequels, adaptations on consoles and ersatz generated by space invaders, because… life is too short. For the suites, in bulk: Space Invaders, Space Invaders Part II, Space Invaders II, Return Of The Invaders, Super Space Invaders '91, Space Invaders DX, Space Invaders '95. For the list of consoles and ersatz, let's forget, shall we? Life is really too short. 

This still poses a practical problem: which version to play on the FLEX-arcade terminal ? Personally, I took the version Space Invaders DX “color”, which I believe corresponds to Space Invaders Part II, released in 1980 on an arcade machine and which then included a great novelty: color. This version is the most beautiful, in my opinion.

On the street, in museums, on t-shirts, etc. space invaders has since the 1990s crossed the limits of the screen to irrigate global popular culture, and in particular the streets of big cities. Two links among a thousand to confirm what you already know: the site of the aptly named artist Invade and that of the photographer Lionel Belluteau. 

Also, what objects have the Invaders not yet invaded? They are on T-shirts, mugs, garden earthenware, magnets, watches, wallpapers... On arcade machines too, of course (try this 3D configurator if that gives you any ideas). Thousands of artists and non-artists regularly offer the world their version from Space Invaders. By the way, here is mine:

Cooking Space Invaders creatures is a pure gamer's fantasy
Fantasy of astro-marinière soup
for angry gamer

Brief, space invaders is a business that runs, a durable cardboard, a never-ending story. THE Invaders are trendy, trendy, nice… While they are not nice at all, if we look (finally!) at video games.

2. Space is all black, the invaders disciplined, suicidal and noisy

The representation of space is not that of Hubble or of Star Wars. No stars, no comets or galaxies, space is black, like this:

Space in Space Invaders: dark, hopeless

The invaders are of three types: “octopuses”, “squid”, “crabs”. They are organized into 5 lines of 11 and advance precisely in a crab to move to the next line, like a typewriter from Hell. The first are large and “easily” decimable. The ones in the back are small and difficult to aim. Killing the octopuses in the first two rows earns 10 points, the crabs in the third row 20 points, the squid in the last rows 30 points.

Scary, aren't they?

The Invaders do not seek to protect themselves, they know that thousands of their kind will replace them. And they fire missiles, “normal” missiles and “filaments”. The filaments do more damage, as you might expect.

The imperturbable march of the Invaders

Above all, the Astro-Marine Aliens accelerate their walking regularly as the game progresses. The closer they approach the bottom of the screen, the faster they go. The fewer there are, the faster they go. And finally, the more the player shoots, the faster they go. The acceleration of the Invaders' march is one of the most fascinating aspects of the game, especially as it is highlighted, not to say stabylobossed, by a terrifying sound design (see 4.).

Finally, a “mystery saucer” regularly crosses the screen from left to right. We might not notice it if it didn't emit a shrill siren that ends up putting the player's nerves on edge. However, destroying it earns a lot of points (the number of points is kept secret at the start of the game), so it is the player's holy grail. space invaders.

I never got a good look at her, actually.

3. What can Humanity oppose to the Space Horde? So little

A mobile defense tower (still happy)

It always fires missiles strictly vertically (so the barrel is not removable, thanks guys). Sadistic rule: there cannot be two human missiles on the same screen. You must therefore wait until a missile has completed its course on an Invader or at the top of the screen to fire a second one. Thanks guys. Suffice to say that it is better not to miss your shot. That said, human missiles annihilate enemy missiles, that's something.

A line of four shields

The player can take refuge behind it. These shields crack on both sides when an enemy or human missile hits it. It's sad to watch.

Classic 1-4 organization. Have you heard of the Maginot Line?

The player has three little lives, but you can get more if you accumulate enough points. Cool.

And... there you go, that's all Humanity had to offer us in terms of galactic defense in 1978. Thanks, guys. For an average player, playing correctly at space invaders is therefore a time-consuming experience beyond imaginable. That said, there are Tricks, like in all video games.


There is already the famous “Furrer Trick” mentioned above, which concerns the mystery saucer. It's about counting your shots at the start of each level. You count 22 shots. Then you wait to shoot the 23rd until the saucer arrives and… I already have a headache. Refer to this wonderful page instead Strategywiki which explains very well the “Saucer Scoring Trick”.

I'm not going to be smart, I haven't managed to master the “Furrer Trick” nor the other great master trick, called “Wall of Death”. In fact, I only started to feel a slight improvement in my playing level after reading two web pages whose links I have placed at the end of this article (you will also find an explanation of the “Furrer Trick" and "Wall of Death“). I summarize if you are too tired to jump on it: play well space invaders requires mastering the “heartbeat” of the game (corresponding to the regular movement of the Invaders) and knowing how to protect yourself behind shields. Thanks guys.

In addition, it is better to take your time when shooting because the real danger is missing your shots. Don't rush, stay cool and chill like Clint. If at least the sound effects of space invaders give you the opportunity.

4. Sounds that drive you crazy: a masterpiece of the genre

The visual design of space invaders is still enjoying incredible success, but what struck me personally when rediscovering the game was its sound design. Even now, as I write, it still haunts me to such an extent that I tremble. I know a mysterious saucer is going to enter the room, I can already hear it... 

The drums of the apocalypse

This is mainly due to the music, if you can call it that: a bass line of four notes which accompany enemy movements, like heartbeats (again the cardiac aspect of the game). Theirs or yours? Both, undoubtedly. Because, a brilliant and visibly innovative idea, the tempo of these four notes accelerates at the same time as the speed of advancement of the Invaders. So much so that at the moment of the player's agony, the latter's pulse beats at the same rhythm as the music, that of a galley drum - as in Ben-Hur (1959), you see? -, while he must face a horde of increasingly swift Invaders who pounce on his defenses all at the same time. Well, at least that's the effect it has on me.

Sound effects in tune

The sound effects of missiles and other explosions seem more banal in comparison after forty-five years of Star Wars. But it's always a pleasure and they blend wonderfully well with the inexorable mechanics of the music.

The Devil's Mermaid

Finally, there is the siren emitted by the mysterious flying saucer when it appears on screen. Maybe I'm too sensitive in the treble? I know she'll come back regularly, but she always surprises me with her metal rattles. I could play thirty hours straight and it would still surprise me and inevitably cause a stray shot into infinite space. For this reason and many others, I have never yet gone beyond table 2 to space invaders (I rarely go beyond table 1, that said). 

That was it !

In short, the game's soundtrack is, in my opinion, a necessary and sufficient reason to get started, even if you have to get up at night. You endured well Alien (1979, so), right?

5. Additional resources on space invaders

As expected, two advice links to play better space invaders, one of Classicgaming.cc, the other of Primetimeamusements.com. The two overlap, but two lessons are better than one. 

There is also this concrete example on YouTube of a player who “shoots the mystery Ship every time”

What about a little French ad for the Atari version of space invaders, on the Youtube channel VideoGameAds ?

And an American version advertising for the road?

I haven't found any really good documentation of the game's soundscape, but I think there's no substitute for your own experience, right?

Yannick Campe
Yannick Campe

Web editor, editorial secretary and even Swiss army knife on occasion. Interested in a lot of areas, including video games. Although it still tends to confuse buttons and fall off platforms.

Picture of Yannick Campe

Yannick Campe

Web editor, editorial secretary and even Swiss army knife on occasion. Interested in a lot of areas, including video games. Although it still tends to confuse buttons and fall off platforms.


At FLEX we love video games, it is this passion that rocked our childhood (and perhaps yours!?) that drives us on this adventure, to design and manufacture superb machines to replay the best titles of the young history of video games. We produce a “ready to play” range but also make special orders for unique and characterful arcade terminals using for example the base of a 300L wine barrel or a French army ammunition box ! We are at your disposal for your projects, share your wildest dreams, we love to make them come true.

The latest articles

Follow us on Facebook

Mount your terminal yourself (tutorial)


Votre Panier est vide

Il semble que vous n'avez pas encore ajouté de produits dans votre Panier

Voir la Boutique
Powered by Caddy