Galaxian is an arcade game that was developed by Namco and released in October 1979. It was published by Namco in Japan and imported to North America by Midway that December. A fixed shooter game in which the player controls a spaceship at the bottom of the screen, and shoots enemies descending in various directions, it was designed to compete with Taito Corporation’s successful earlier game Space Invaders (which was released in the previous year, and also imported to the US by Midway Games).
The game was highly popular for Namco upon its release, and has been a focus of competitive gaming ever since. It spawned a successful sequel, Galaga, in 1981.
Galaxian expanded on the formula pioneered by Space Invaders. As in the earlier game, Galaxian features a horde of attacking aliens that exchanged shots with the player. In contrast to Space Invaders, Galaxian added an element of drama by having the aliens periodically make kamikaze-like dives at the player’s ship. This made it the first game to feature enemies with individual personalities. The game’s plot consists of a title screen that displayed the message “WE ARE THE GALAXIANS / MISSION: DESTROY ALIENS”.
Galaxian was very successful for Namco and introduced several “firsts”. Although not the first color video game, Galaxian took RGB color graphics a step further with multi-colored animated sprites and explosions, different colored fonts for the score and high score, the scrolling starfield, and graphic icons that show the number of lives left and how many stages the player had completed. It also features a crude theme song and more prominent background “music.” These elements combine to create a look and feel that would set the standard for arcade games in the 1980s such as Pac-Man.
The game was developed by Namco in 1979, and released in Japan that year. It was designed to build and improve upon the formula of Taito’s game Space Invaders, which revolutionized the gaming industry upon its release a year earlier. Galaxian incorporated new technology into its dedicated arcade system board, the Namco Galaxian. Unlike Space Invaders, which was black and white and featured enemies that could only move vertically and horizontally as they descended, Galaxian had a color screen and enemies that descended in patterns and came from various directions. The result was more complex and difficult game play.
Soon after the Japanese release Namco partnered with the American company Midway to release the game in North America. Midway had previously published Space Invaders in the market, but had to seek new foreign partners when Taito decided to market their games themselves.