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Space Invaders Gameplay Screen.png

The Trope Maker that spawned a thousand other Shoot Em Ups, Space Invaders debuted in 1978. Although Pong had started the industry, this game revolutionized it, virtually launching The Golden Age of Video Games, establishing or codifying many of the tropes used in later games, such as Video Game Lives, and a separate score counter for high scores.

Essentially, it is a shooting gallery game in which the objects in the gallery shoot back. The player controls a planetary defense laser cannon that can move and hide behind shields, and must confront a moving (and shooting) phalanx of Big Creepy-Crawlies who are attempting to invade the earth.

The game was so popular that it caused a Japan-wide shortage of the 100-yen coins that the game's coin slot demanded, and the home version was largely responsible for the runaway success of the Atari VCS (later 2600) home console system. It also spawned the medical term "Space Invaders wrist." It was the first game in which play could last an open-ended amount of time, given sufficient skill, rather than being timed to a finite clock, and it immediately spawned a host of equally classic imitators, such as Galaxian, Gorf, and the entire top-scrolling rail shooter genre.

And then, in 2008, Taito released Space Invaders Extreme for Nintendo DS, PSP and Xbox 360 as part of the 30th Anniversary. The game turns into a fast paced shooting game, omitting barriers, but adding new varieties of invaders with various weapons and shields, and, most importantly, a complex combo system that rewards players with Power Ups, Bonus Stages and One Ups. A sequel was released for the DS in 2009 featuring even faster gameplay. Additionally, Taito also released Space Invaders Get Even for WiiWare, where the invaders, rendered in pixelated 2D in a 3D environment, become Villain Protagonists and attack Earth's cities.

In 2009, Taito graced the iPhone with Space Invaders Infinity Gene. The game begins with the original classic gameplay, then the infinity gene takes over and the game gradually evolves into a modern Shoot'Em Up, as the player gains selectable ships, powerups, and an unrestricted range of movement, while the Invaders themselves enlist large ships, fleets, armadas, and bosses to take you on. There's also the added threat of terrain Collision Damage. You can also load up your favorite music to generate custom levels, similar to Audiosurf. The game gained crticial praise, and has recently been updated to include achievements. It has been ported to the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, and befitting its evolution theme, it has addressed the Video Game 3D Leap.

There was also a less-well-known, though quite good fun, version released by Activision in 1999. It would have been In Name Only but for a very similar gameplay mechanic (most of the time, anyway. It had boss monsters, powerups, and a few levels which were more akin to puzzles than straight shooting galleries). It also contained an unlockable version of the original game.

"Space Invaders" was at one point used by many non-gamers (in Small Reference Pools style) as a generic term for any game/console, as with "Atari" and "Nintendo" later on, a testament to the game's cultural impact. There are also many references and ShoutOuts in other media: for example, the Invaders show up (randomly) as Mooks in Battletoads` infamous Terror Tunnel Level, and Terry Pratchett in his novel Only You Can Save Mankind (which is about a contemporary 90s space shooter turning out to be taking place in another dimension) has a wrecked Space Invader ship encountered at one point, suggesting that all space shooters take place in the same dimension and the Space Invaders, from the 1970s, were the first wave of aliens.

Games in the Series

The following games were released in the arcade first unless otherwise noted.

  • Space Invaders (1978)
  • Space Invaders Part II (1980)
  • Space Invaders II (1980; not to be confused with the above)
  • Return of the Invaders (1985)
  • Space Invaders 90/91 (1990; Sega Genesis)
  • Super Space Invaders '91 (1990)
  • Minivaders (1990, Japan only)
  • Space Invaders Day of Resurrection (1990; Japanese PC Engine only)
  • Space Invaders DX (1993)
  • Space Invaders '95 (1995)
  • Space Invaders X (1999; Play Station, PC, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Color)
  • Space Invaders EX (2002; Game Boy Advance)
  • Space Invaders Revolution (2005; Nintendo DS)
  • Space Invaders Evolution (2005; PSP)
  • Space Invaders Extreme (2008; Nintendo DS, PSP)
  • Space Invaders Get Even (2008, Wii Ware)
  • Space Invaders Extreme 2 (2009; Nintendo DS)
  • Space Invaders Infinity Gene (2009; iPhone, iPod Touch, 2010; Xbox 360, Playstation 3)

Space Invaders has examples of:

  • Action Bomb: Two of Extreme's invaders, the Bomb and the Invader. The Bomb explodes when you shoot it, and the Invader begins heading down to earth if you hit it once (straight down or side-to-side depending on the shape) and requires another shot to destroy it.
  • Adaptive Ability: Space Invaders Infinity Gene.
  • Alien Invasion
  • Anticlimax Boss: The true final battle of Infinity Gene. And then the solitary final invader, which is arguably harder than even the boss before it.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The Invaders' only mode of movement is to drop down, increase speed and reverse direction. Later incarnations gave them different, but still very predictable, tactics.
  • Ascended Glitch: The aliens speeding up as their numbers decreased.
  • Awesome but Impractical: Yeah, you can shoot through the houses and kill aliens, but it's a poor strategy.
  • Battleship Raid: The Giant UFO on Infinity Gene's Stage 3-3.
  • Boss Rush: Stage 3-5 of Infinity Gene, where you fight every single Mini Boss so far, before fighting the boss. The extra stage X-19 has you fight every boss in the entire game. X-29 has you fight the bosses again, except that they all Took a Level In Badass.
  • Breather Level: Every ten levels, the Invaders' starting positions are reset to the top of the screen.
    • Stage 5-6 in Infinity Gene.
  • Determinator: The invaders.
  • Co-Op Multiplayer. The Atari 2600 version.
  • Covers Always Lie: In America, the cabinet art involved a bunch of evil-looking, sharp-fur-covered humanoids, rather than the bug-like critters of the actual game.
  • Dare to Be Badass: "Nagoya Attacks". In Extreme, you have to destroy enemies that have descended right in front of you (without letting them cross the line). In Infinity Gene, you have to make contact with certain enemy bullets that have been shot out (they are harmless in the first second). Your reward for Nagoya Attacks is racking up a huge load of points.
  • Degraded Boss - Good lord, Infinite Gene must have over a hundred of these in the normal game alone. Usually the demoted versions have far less health, but they'll leave depriving you of points if you can't finish them off quickly enough. There's also usually something else going on to differentiate each battle.
  • Difficulty by Acceleration: This was a lucky accident. Just rendering all the sprites of the enemies was a heavy load for CP Us of the time, but as the player killed more aliens, the computer was able to devote more cycles to moving the enemies, making them faster and resulting in one of the earliest examples of this trope (although not the Ur Example--Breakout did it first).
  • Easier Than Easy: "Beginner Mode" in Extreme 2. You get infinite lives, but there are no branching paths.
  • Endless Game
    • Demonstrated with style in this Retro Sabotage game, where you are pitted against a single, slow moving Invader. Shoot it, and another Invader will come in its place. After shooting that one and the next one comes, the game screen starts to subtly zoom out, and you could see a row of 18 Invaders, with one of them coming down to replace an Invader you shot, with yet another one coming to take its place in the row. The screen continues to zoom out, and you could see an identical row of Invaders behind the first, doubling the amount of Invaders at the top of the screen into 36. But the zoom won't stop, and gradually starts to pick up speed. Then yet another row of Invaders comes up, totalling it to 57. Then 72... 90... 108... At this point, hopeless music kicks in as the zoom continues and more and more Invaders are revealed, and it becomes increasingly apparent that they're in some sort of formation... until finally, you see 7,254 Invaders in a formation in the likeness of themselves, easily dwarfing your playfield. All this goes on while the player is still controling the cannon and able to shoot the single Invader he can kill in his playfield.
  • Every Ten Thousand Points - In the original, this occurred only once, at one thousand points.
  • Flying Saucer
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Both you and the invaders shoot these.
  • Game Over: In first installments, the only way out is death.
  • Game Breaking Bug: Infinity Gene when it comes to some achievements\trophies: after the game is cleared once, it's trivial to get all the difficulty-based trophies. All you need to do is finish the last level on that difficulty, as the levels you have unlocked carry to all difficulties. The last level is basically the same on any difficulty: either impossible or ridiculously easy depending on which weapon you have equipped, so if you can win on Easy you're set for the other 4 (although you do need to play other modes to unlock the last 2 difficulties).
  • Hold the Line: Early example. Besides trying to dodge projectiles, one must make sure that none of the aliens reach the bottom of the screen, resulting in an instant game over.
  • Killer App: The Atari 2600 version
  • Lead the Target: The importance of which was also referenced in Futurama, along with Artificial Stupidity.
  • Lethal Joke Character: The Classic ship in Infinity Gene. One Bullet At a Time? Yep. Said bullet is a One-Hit Kill on anything, including bosses!
  • Luck-Based Mission: Infinity Gene's Challenge Mode in the Xbox Live Arcade version gives you randomly generated levels. You can always win (probably), but sometimes invaders will blindside you out of nowhere unless you're at the bottom of the screen, and the boss is random; could be one that takes 5 seconds to beat, or could be the Gigantic UFO, which consists of nearly a minute of just looking at it in the background, a minute or so of avoiding some simple shots, and finally the actual fight against the UFO itself.
  • Mascot Mook: The crab Invaders.
  • Milestone Celebration: In 2008, around the 30th anniversary of the original game's release, Square Enix and Taito released Space Invaders Extreme for the Nintendo DS and PSP, and Space Invaders Get Even for the Wii.
  • More Dakka: Space Invaders Extreme and Infinity Gene break the One Bullet At a Time limitation that has stayed with the series for decades with large-scale weapons built for destroying large groups of invaders at a time.
  • Multi Mook Melee: Ur Example
  • Musical Gameplay: Space Invaders Extreme.
  • My Friends and Zoidberg: If you beat Infinity Gene in any difficulty higher than Easy, you'll get the message, "To everyone who loves games. And Charles Darwin."
  • Mythology Gag: The power up items in Infinity Gene are the Newalone particles taken directly from Metal Black, an obscure Taito shooter that has more in common with Darius than Space Invaders. A more direct call back to Darius comes in the form of Boss Subtitles in the familiar form, "WARNING - A FORMIDABLE ENEMY '[Boss Name]' HAS ENTERED THE BATTLE."
    • Those particles, at least according to Infinity Gene's achievements, are called "Neurons". The phonetic similarity to Newalone cannot be coincidence...
    • Let's not forget that the Lock-On ship bears a suspicious resemblance in performance and shape to the R-Gray from the Layer Section/Ray series of shmups...
  • Nonstandard Game Over: In the original games, if an alien hits the bottom of the screen, you lose all of your lives.
  • Nostalgia Level: The last wave of Space Invaders Extreme stage 1 is a recreation of the formation from the original.
    • Stage 0 of Infinity Gene plays exactly like a game of the original for the first few seconds, sans score counters and barriers. It's not like you'll need them, anyway.
    • The last stage of Infinity Gene plays exactly like the end of a game of the original, with one invader left. But for some reason, the game ends the same way whether you shoot it down or not, achievement and all.
  • One Bullet At a Time
  • Serendipity Writes the Plot: The speed increase of the aliens as the game went on was an unintended side effect of the weak processors at the time, but the developers liked it enough to keep it in.
  • Shout-Out: Infinity Gene has quite a few:
    • one of the minor bosses extends a pixel-width tendril that makes a few random right turns, then develops a gunpod at the end; you fight it by shooting the gunpod, forcing it to retract along the tendril until it collides with the main ship. In a sense, the fight's with the tendril. The boss's name? Jolyne.
    • The "Option" weapon is an obvious reference to the Options from Gradius, they even move in the same way!
    • The iOS version of Infinity Gene has Downloadable Content featuring Silver Hawk from Darius, Inter Gray from Night Striker, Black Fly from Metal Black, and the R-Gray2 from Ray Storm.
  • Starfish Aliens: The Invaders resemble octopuses, crabs, and squids. Word of God says the octopus ones were directly inspired by HG Wells' description of the Martians from The War of the Worlds.
  • Theme Naming: The stages in Infinity Gene are named after biology and evolution terms.
  • Turns Red: Just try to hit the last enemy.
  • Villain Protagonist: You get to play as the aliens in Space Invaders Get Even.
  • Where It All Began: The first stage of Infinity Gene plays like the start of the original arcade shooter. The final stage has you face off the last invader, in the same style. (See Nostalgia Level)