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The Secret History Of Arcade Space Invaders

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

It’s a legend that even the most ardent of non-gamers will have heard of, based upon one of the most evocative video game themes: aliens are invading, and it’s up to a lone defender – YOU! – to protect the Earth from these marauding xenomorphs. With the first illustrious game, and more, coming to Antstream Arcade, we thought it was about time we had a look back at the various arcade games from this famous and immensely influential series.

Space Invaders – 1978

Designed by Taito’s Tomohiro Nishikado, the original Space Invaders was inspired by block destruction games such as Breakout. Realising that players took considerable pleasure from clearing an entire screen of blocks, Nishikado morphed the blocks into humans, before it was suggested to him that maybe that wasn’t the friendliest of approaches. Noting the incredible popularity of George Lucas’ Star Wars, the humanoid figures were changed to space aliens and a retro classic was born. Simple, yet hugely addictive and open to a range of tactics thanks to its defensive buildings and flying saucer bonus, Space Invaders’ importance in the history of video games can never be overstated. Let the invasion begin!

Space Invaders Part II – 1979

Released a year later, this official sequel from Taito adds a more colourful display, with friendlier-looking, but no less deadly invaders. The aliens dramatically descend at the start of each wave and there are now two different types of flying saucer patrolling the top of the screen, both of which occasionally drop enemy reinforcements. Along with some new sound effects and alien movements, there’s plenty here for fans after an upgraded Invaders experience rather than a full blown sequel. A cocktail cabinet version was released in North America a year later.

Return Of The Invaders – 1985

They’re back! And there’s lots of new gameplay and graphics present for this next official arcade game, released seven years after the original smash hit. More lively and detailed aliens swirl around each screen, with detailed and varied backgrounds behind each wave. The player’s tank cannon (now dubbed ‘Xerovy’) can fire multiple shots, but that doesn’t mean Return Of The Invaders is any easier; falling debris, increased enemy fire and moving bases all increase the challenge, which is mollified by a small selection of power-ups.

Super Space Invaders – 1990

Regarded by many as the finest entry in the series, Super Space Invaders manages to evoke all the sheer playability of the original game while updating it for the new decade. Featuring boss fights (an Invaders first) and a wacky Cattle Mutilation bonus round – which will seem familiar to fans of the Topps classic card series Mars Attacks – there are also some neat rotating power-ups such as a powerful laser that handily obliterates any enemy it touches. A supreme example of improving gameplay and graphics while maintaining the spirit and playability of an illustrious forebear.

Space Invaders DX – 1994

It’s a bit cheeky this release from Taito, but when you have a classic like Space Invaders in your back catalogue, it would be a harsh person to be too critical of Space Invaders DX, especially when there are essentially three games in one. Yes, it’s an unusual arcade compilation, offering up the original game together with a competitive versus mode and a daft parody mode which replaces the standard sprites with images from various Taito games such as Arkanoid and Bubble Bobble, and is as bonkers as that sounds.

Space Invaders ’95 – 1995

Following on from the parody mode of Space Invaders DX, Taito went full-on crazy with this multi-coloured and vibrant arcade game, released in 1995. Subtitled The Attack Of Lunar Loonies, the sheer variety of madcap scenarios, from the pork chop and flying egg food world to a beach level complete with comically rotund aliens larking about on rubber rings, has to be seen to be believed. It’s also enormous fun, and a stiff challenge, thanks to its assortment of rapidly gyrating enemies and vast swathes of missiles and bullets to avoid. There’s even an option to play as different characters, from a giant robot to a smart chrome spaceship.

Space Invaders The Beat Attacker – 2008

Released in 2008 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first game, Taito’s The Beat Attacker certainly qualifies as the strangest addition to the series. It’s a somewhat random combination of Space Invaders and the popular rhythm game genre, and as such involves no shooting but plenty of toe-tapping. The Beat Attacker only saw action in its native Japan.

Space Invaders Frenzy – 2017

The latest Space Invaders game is another of Raw Thrills’ updates of classic arcade games for the modern age. Boasting a massive eight-foot screen, movable ray guns and its own crimson bucket seats, two players can now join forces to repel the onslaught of alien forces, with most of the graphics and sound effects of the original game present, taking you back through 40 years of invader blasting.

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