The Scientifically Proven Best Video Games of All Time #90: Space Invaders

“The Scientifically Proven Best Video Games of All Time” is a statistical meta-analysis of 44 “Best Video Games of All Time” lists that were published between 1995 and 2016. Catch up on how we decided to sort the games and the rest of the Top 100 in the Introduction.

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“Drop down, increase speed, and reverse direction!”

Somehow, the writers of Futurama found a way to sum up the essence of Space Invaders (in 2002’s “Anthology of Interest II”) with a single succinct sentence. And yet, in the days and years after its release in 1978, the game was considered something of a phenomenon. Even today, an oft-repeated urban legend claims that obsessive Space Invaders fans caused a shortage of the 100 yen coin in Japan.

Obviously, dropping a coin into an arcade slot will keep it in circulation, so it would have been impossible for Space Invaders to be the cause of any shortage. Though one thing those obsessive fans did do was raise the profile of the game’s titular aliens so that now they’re something of a mascot for all video games.

But it all started with, “Drop down, increase speed, and reverse direction!” Which as a formula was later refined and improved upon by Namco when they created Galaxian and Galaga.

The simplicity of Space Invaders is one of its defining characteristics, but the game was considered anything but simple by developer Tomohiro Nishikado. Nishikado looked to Breakout and Star Wars for inspiration, but he was unable to use any off-the-shelf parts for the arcade cabinet. Instead, Nishikado designed and built the components himself, which resulted in some interesting glitches that became part of Space Invaders’ iconic design.

Like many arcade games of the day, the original plan was to make the invaders from space move faster as the player completed each wave. But the hardware available to Nishikado couldn’t do that, so the designer made the aliens move faster during each level as the player thinned their ranks. A faster tempo for the music was added to match the faster pace of the aliens. This signature beat was later aped by dozens of games, including two that famously attempted to match the music to the action on the screen: Tetris and Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros. actually owes a very specific debt to Space Invaders, and Shigeru Miyamoto would be the first one to tell you that the shooter was directly responsible for his interest in game development. In fact, that’s exactly what he said to Time Magazine back in 2007: “Before I saw it, I was never particularly interested in video games and certainly never thought I would make video games.”

Not bad for a game that can be summed up in a single sentence… “Drop down, increase speed, and reverse direction!”

For all its ubiquity in the late 70s and early 80s, Space Invaders is a surprisingly hard game to replay in 2017. Unless you know where to find a still-working arcade cabinet, your best bet would be to obtain a used copy of the Taito Legends compilation, which was released for the PC, PS2, and Xbox in 2005.

If neither of those options are feasible, Space Invaders was released for several different platforms in the late 80s, and an emulated version of the game’s Sega SG-1000 port is available through The Sega SG-1000 was Sega’s first stab at a home console (released even before the Sega Master System), though it was never available outside of Japan. However, this didn’t stop the editors of from saying “the SG-1000 port of [Space Invaders] was one of the most accurate of its time.”

Publisher: Taito/Midway
Developer: Taito
Release Date: Summer 1978

Average Ranking: 74.98
Selection Percentage: 31.82% (14/44)
Scientifically Proven Score: 143.16

Publication Rankings For Space Invaders
Hyper (1995) 1*

Next Gen (1996)


Next Gen (1999)


Edge (2000)

GI (2001) NR

GameSpy (2001)


Edge (2003)


EW/G4TV (2003)

GameSpot (2003) NR

IGN (2003)


1UP (2004)


The Age (2005)

IGN (2005) NR

Yahoo! Games UK (2005)


Edge (2007)


IGN (2007)

IGN HoF (2007) 1*

Stuff UK (2008)


Edge (2009)


Empire (2009)

GI (2009) NR

FHM (2010)


GamesTM (2010)


The Phoenix (2010)

Gamereactor (2011) NR

GamesRadar (2011)


Stuff UK (2011)


1UP (2012)

G4TV (2012) 40

GamesRadar (2012)


Time (2012)


EPN (2013)

GamesRadar (2013) NR

Gaming Bolt (2013)


PC & Tech Authority (2013)


GamesRadar (2014)

Popular Mechanics (2014) 10

Slant Magazine (2014)


Stuff UK (2014)


Edge (2015)

GamesRadar (2015) NR

IGN (2015)


GamesMaster (2016)


Time (2016)


Game Informer (January 2008) – Classic GI: Space Invaders – 2008

Sayre, Carolyn – 10 Questions for Shigeru Miyamoto – Time – 2007

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John Scalzo is Warp Zoned’s Editor-In-Chief and resident retro gaming expert. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at john AT warpzoned DOT com.

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