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Space Invaders

Slowly, but surely, they drew their plans against us.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

I challenge anyone to sit and play a Space Invaders cocktail cabinet for more than 10 minutes without feeling the subtle pinch of boredom nibbling at their fire-button finger, though it's equally impossible to walk past that original Taito coin-op and not say "Wow! I'd love to own that machine!". Perhaps it hasn't aged particularly well, or perhaps it's just massively overplayed (I suspect the latter), but there's something about the grandfather of the modern games industry that, despite its limited gameplay and simplistic design, remains disturbingly appealing.

Space Invaders achieved a cult status before we ever coined the phrase "obsessive fan boy", yet the game still holds an appeal that goes far beyond the narrow scope of its coin dissolving on-screen action. It quickly became a symbol of youthful, dynamic recreation, of unabashed escapism and (quite literally) cheap, exhilarating entertainment. For the first time, money spent in arcades wasn't wasted on self-indulgence; it was a legitimate part of weekly leisure finances and was recognised by gamers and non-gamers alike.

It introduced the world to the sight of an arcade machine standing in random corners wherever people gathered, and established the familiar sounds of electronic entertainment with its ominous, pounding metronomic sound effects. Developed quite organically from a combination of mechanical amusement machines and popular sci-fi culture, Tomohiro Nishikado's endless onslaught of ominous, marching aliens posed a brilliantly adventurous quest for kids the world over.

And for a Brucy bonus, shoot the flying Saucer

The simplistic, yet varied graphics suggested a wealth of possibilities for primed imaginations of the players who manned the moving laser cannon, diving in and out of tenuous, crumbling cover - never retreating and never surrendering, despite the inevitable doom of an incessant, encroaching Martian force of destructive fury.

Space Invaders epitomises the fundamental, no frills distraction we fickle retro gamers demand from an arcade game, and has seldom - if ever - been replicated.

9 / 10

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