Well before framerates and processor speed were words used by video game fans, the simple use of a color monitor was enough to send gamers into a tizzy.
Galaxian, among the very first video arcade games to use a color monitor, is turning 35 years old. According to Wikipedia, the Namco classic first appeared in Japan in October 1979. A few months later it appeared stateside, licensed to Bally Midway for distribution in the United States.
Borrowing heavily from 1979 breakout Space Invaders, Galaxian added full color, a scrolling playfield and divebombing alien enemies to the concept. The fresh concept proved to be a hit among arcade players across the world. For much of it’s heyday in North America, Galaxian was second in popularity only to Atari’s Asteroids through most of 1980. It continued to hold its own even with the releases of Pac-Man and Defender later that year, selling 50,000 units in North America.
The success of the game resulted in numerous home versions by Atari, not only for their video game consoles but for home computers and the ColecoVision as well. The Galaxian aliens made a cameo appearance, under license, in Midway’s 1980 hit GORF. The flagship alien from the game also became the king of early video game cameos, appearing as bonus items and easter eggs in a variety of other Namco hits, such as Pac-Man and Dig Dug.
Galaxian also spawned a number of sequels. The first one, Galaga, was released in late 1981 to low expectations yet proved to be a solid money maker on vending routes across the United States. Even after the North American arcade industry crashed in 1983, never to fully recover to the same glory as it enjoyed in the early 1980s, Galaga remained a staple of arcades, pizza parlors and laundromats across the country and can still be found today.
Gaplus, a 1984 release, took the concept in a new direction but failed to find the same success as the previous two titles. In an effort to help sales in North America, the title of Gaplus was later altered to Galaga 3, despite the fact that it was technically Galaxian 3. The title of Galaxian 3 would actually be used later, in the form of a huge theatre-style arcade game by Namco in the 1990s.
In the modern day, Galaxian continues to see re-releases, both for modern home video game consoles as well as smartphones and tablet devices.