Classic Arcade Games: Galaga

Galaga is among the greatest and most legendary games in the 8-bit universe! It blasted off as a shooter arcade game in 1981. Soon, it became one of the most popular titles of the golden era of arcade video games.

The rules are rather simple, but that’s what makes the game such a classic. The gameplay of Galaga puts the player in space. The player controls a spaceship and fights off evil alien invaders!

Galaga BosconianGalaga has since been ported and released on many platforms such as iOS in 2011. But, it’s also available online, meaning that you don’t need to have a rusty old arcade machine if you’re in the mood for some vintage gaming action! There are many free classic arcade games like Galaga online that you can find within minutes.

And, here’s another interesting fact: did you know that this thrilling sci-fi shooter was one of the first games that coined the term “boss”? Well, keep reading to find out more about the classic arcade game Galaga! We’ll look over the game’s history, gameplay, common bugs, and reveal some lesser-known facts.

Galaga History: The Golden Era

The year 1981 is mostly remembered for some key events like the wedding of Lady Diana and Prince Charles, the first space shuttle launch (Columbia), the first MTV broadcast in the U.S., and the release of the first Indiana Jones movie. But, it is also the year in which the arcade game golden era was at its peak.

Back in the golden era, tons of new games were being released every day. And a new shooter game managed to beat all the competition.

Games Galaxian Galaga Nintendo Gameplay Dendy

Lift Off!

Released on the 23rd of July, Galaga was actually intended to be a follow-up to 1979’s Galaxian. It was released by Midway in North America in 1981 and Namco released it in Japan.

Galaga CaptureIt was part of a whole slew of new space-themed shooters due to the massive appeal of Space Invaders from 1978. Titles like Missile Command, Centipede, Tempest, and Defender were all part of this new shooter craze. But, when it comes to games which are remembered the most, Galaga arcade game is undoubtedly at the top of the list.

This game was played by teens, kids, and adults in arcades all over the USA and the entire world. Interestingly, at the time of its release, the U.S. recorded a whopping sales figure of $900 million for arcade games. There were over 400,000 arcade locations in America, and Galaga was brought to most of them.

Future of Galaga

Soon after, Namco created ports for the Atari 7800, NES, Famicom Disk System, MSX, etc. Later, it was released for the Gameboy Advance, Nintendo DS, Xbox Live, Android, iOS, etc. Additionally, Namco created several sequels such as Gaplus, Galaga ‘88, Galaga ‘90, Galaga: TEKKEN, and many others.

But, the original version became so popular that it became a part of pop culture. It was spotted in all sorts of movies and TV shows. And, back in 1981, players had the choice of two versions — a cocktail table arcade machine and an upright cab. Today, the cocktail version is highly sought after, and one machine can fetch about $2,000 to $4,000.

Classic Gameplay With a Twist

Midway introduced the game as a “new generation multi-stage space challenge,” but that sounds a bit far-fetched compared to today’s games. Nevertheless, the key to Galaga lies in its simplicity! That’s why it has become such an entertaining classic after all these years. The original allows up to two players, and it features incredible gameplay, graphics, and sound for that era.

Galaga EnterpriseIt’s classified as a fixed shooter, meaning that you start it off in a spaceship which moves from left to right and flies upwards as the screen keeps scrolling. The game has one two-way joystick that allows you to control the ship as well as one button for shooting.

When you start, an army of evil, bug-like enemy alien invader ships flies will fly and fire towards you from the top. You have to shoot them in formation, If a ship hits you, you lose one life. Lives are indicated by ship icons on the left corner (bottom of the screen).

The goal is, of course, to beat as many aliens and score the highest points. However, if you lose all your lives, the game will end.


  • Most of the enemy ships need only one hit to perish, but the Boss Galagas require two.
  • After 20,000 points, you earn extra lives. The process repeats when you get to 70,000 points.
  • When you destroy all the aliens on the screen, the game takes you to the next level.
  • After level 3, you enter the Challenging Stage — ships will fly but not attack, and if you shoot them, you get bonus points (1,000, 3,000, and 10,000). After the initial Challenging Stage, you will be able to reactivate it when you beat the next 4 levels.
  • The Boss Galaga can try to capture the player’s ship. This is a special feature of the game — if the boss captures you and you manage to free yourself, you will then get two spaceships. Then, you will be able to play with them simultaneously until the stage ends. To activate this feature, you have to shoot and destroy the Boss Galaga first before it manages to capture you.

Hints, Tips, and Bugs

One of the strangest bugs is the game occurs when you avoid the bee-like enemies in the game. This can let you activate a “no-fire” cheat that makes all enemies cease firing. If you destroy all enemies in the first level except for the last two bee ships and only kill them after five times or more, you will trigger this hack.

Another trick is to start a single player game in 2-player mode since it allows you to gain a higher score without rolling over.

The most entertaining thing in this game though is to try to get captured by the Boss Galaga and then play with two ships. This was quite a groundbreaking feature in arcade games at the time. With two ships, your firepower increases times x2 and that way, you’ll double the fun!

Game Records, Popular Culture, and Fun Facts

In 2018, 37 years after Galaga’s original release, a player named Armando Gonzalez from California managed to break the world record with a score of 17,684,050. The previous record was around 4.5 million points by Andrew Laidlaw in 2011.

Galaga FlagshipAnd, Galaga is among the games which marked the arcade games’ golden era — a turning point in video game history during which decades became mainstream and a crucial part of pop culture.

The game was featured in such movies as ‘The Karate Kid,’ ‘WarGames,’  ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles,’ ‘Pixels’ and the ‘Avengers.’ Additionally, it appeared in TV shows like ‘Once Upon a Time,’ ‘Sisterhood,’ and ‘Lost.’

Additionally, similar to Pong, Ms. Pac-Man, and Pac-Man, Galaga is among the most bootlegged and copied games in history. Plus, there have been many mods to the game, such as the “rapid-fire” hack.

Galaga: Final Thoughts

Lots of people remember playing Galaga as kids, and many true fans still claim that it is the best shooter game ever released. With some awesome gaming features and a great color scheme, Galaga broke some barriers upon its launch and has definitely remained a favorite of many people. So try the classic arcade game or online Galaga and have fun!

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