What is Galaga?

Quite simply put, Galaga (pronounced ga-LAG-a) is one of the best arcade video games ever made!  It was developed by Namco in 1981, and published by Namco (Japan) and Midway (North America).

I grew up in the 80’s, and I vividly remember Galaga machines at the local video arcades - they were the ones that were difficult to get to since people would line up to play them!  Galaga was more popular than most other arcade games because it was a space shooter game that had a magical combination of great sound, fun gameplay, and impressive graphical effects that were extremely smooth for arcade games of the time.  I spent much of my hard-earned paper route money on Galaga.

Galaga has been ported to nearly every video game console, and has become a timeless classic that still remains popular.  Even today, you can buy Galaga for your favorite home game console, as well as find brand new Galaga arcade machines in entertainment centers (Namco has manufactured several newer arcade machines featuring Galaga since 2000).

Galaga in popular culture 

In the MGM movie War Games (1983), Matthew Broderick played Galaga within a video arcade during several scenes, as shown to the right (MGM sent him a Galaga machine to practice on for two months prior to the filming).   Moreover, when the NORAD tour group activates their Welcome message (about halfway through the movie), a sound effect from Galaga is actually played - it’s the sound that plays when a new level is started.

Bally Midway also used this movie opportunity to promote Galaga within video arcades - check out the colorful banner below:

In 1986, Galaga made an appearance in the Sci-Fi series Dr. Who.  About about 9:20 into the episode The Trial of a Time Lord Part 10: Terror of the Vervoids, you’ll find two Mogarians playing Galaga on a galactic cruise ship as shown to the left.

Since Galaga is one of the longest lasting classic arcade video games, you will even find more recent references to Galaga in pop culture.  Namco still manufactures and sells arcade machines today that contain the original Galaga game (the first model being the commonly found Ms. Pac-man/Galaga 20 Year Reunion (Class of 1981) arcade machine), as well as publishes Galaga and Galaga remix games for mobile phones, tablets, and game consoles.   In the television series Lost (2007), the writers included a submarine named Galaga in tribute to the game.  And in the movie The Avengers (2012), Galaga is played by one of the technicians on the control deck.  Tony Stark points this out by saying “That man is playing Galaga.  Thought we wouldn’t notice, but we did.”  After the statement, the technician returns to his game:


Galaga is alive and well, and because of its magical recipe of fun gameplay, it will probably be referenced in popular culture for a good many years to come.

Galaga sound

One of the features that set Galaga apart from its rival arcade video games was its sound.  Galaga’s sound effects were fluid and smooth, and they had a synthesizer-like touch to them that fit well into the culture of the 80’s.  Perhaps the best example of this is Galaga’s theme song, that you can listen to here: Galaga_Theme.mp3.  For those interested, the sheet music for this theme song is shown below: