Why Pac-Man was light years ahead of its time

It was released way back at the start of the 80s. So surely anything worth saying about Pac-Man has been said already? Actually, we don't think so. You may have heard how Pac-Man is gaming's premiere pop culture icon and how he single-handedly pushed electronic entertainment into the big time. But what you haven't heard until now is why Pac-Man is the original Resident Evil. Or why Pac-Man is more like Grand Theft Auto than you could ever imagine. Make no mistake, Pac-Man was light years ahead of its time.

It was survival horror before survival horror was even invented

Never mind its fizzy-pop fun and huggable attitude. Pac-Man has a dark, sinister core. At the epicentre of that dark, sinister core is a game that plunges the player naked and alone into a desperate, against-all-odds battle for survival in an inescapable maze occupied by pastel-coloured phantoms possessed by a hell-bent supernatural urge to kill you. It's the stuff of cold-sweat nightmares. The back of the box could easily look like this:

And if you're still not convinced, consider this. Locked doors are a staple feature of any survival horror. Guess what? Pac-Man has a locked door. Locked doors simply weren't a convention in 1980. It's no accident. Pac-Man is quite clearly the bedrock of the entire survival horror genre. You can't ignore the evidence.

Pac-Man was a casual game before 'casual' became a dirty word that made gamers convulse with sick in their mouths

Pac-Man ticks all the casual game boxes as they are defined today. It's simple to understand. It's simple to play. It can be engaged in short bursts. It's even perfect for mobile phones. And mobile phones were huge, screenless machines in 1980. It also broke with convention by not being about space, driving, sport or shooting, which made it infinitely more attractive to females.

The cute little ghosties were given names making them more relatable, which further appealed to the delicate sensibilities of 80s women. Better still, one of the ghosts - Pinky- was actually pink. Ladies like pink. And, despite being Pac-Man, Pac-Man was neither a masculine or macho character. He was naked, but had no discernible physical or behavioural characteristics that made him a man. Like a penis or beard or an irrational animalistic urge to punch other Pac-Men in the face after drinking 10 cans of cheap fizzy alcohol. Conversely, Pac-Man was also a brutally hardcore game and only the manliest of men could ever boast of reaching level 256.

It has side missions/quests. Just like Fallout 3

A side mission or side quest is a voluntary objective contained within the wider parameters of a game. Completion of a side quest is entirely dependant on the player's prerogative. However, if a player does successfully complete a side quest it usually bestows their endeavour with a favourable reward of some kind.

In Pac-Man, a player could choose to divert from the main objective of munching dots and collect the fruit that intermittently appeared for a brief period of time in the maze. The player was not obliged to collect the fruit, but were awarded additional points if they successfully completed this optional task. It's definitely a bloody side quest.

Games like Fallout 3 have side quests coming out of its radioactive ears. The image below shows what Pac-Man's side quest might look like if it appeared in Fallout 3.

Next: Hard evidence proving that Pac-Man is kind of like the blueprint for GTA


  • Dr.Salvador - September 13, 2009 5:58 p.m.

    In game SFX! WAKA WAKA! sry, sweet speculation, Toru being from the future is obvious
  • CatrParrot - September 12, 2009 9:01 p.m.

    We truly need more open-world, survival-horror, casual games with rewarding sidequests and amazing cutscenes. Not joking by the way.
  • ChrisWestwood - September 12, 2009 9:08 a.m.

    will they ever bring pac man out on playstation store. maybe they should do like a classic bundle with tetris , pac man and so on. but with.... trophies
  • Spybreak8 - September 12, 2009 1:51 a.m.

    oh and btw, also thinking about Pac Man and GTA elements, wouldn't it be funny if you had a choice not to eat(kill) up the ghosts and get points that way too, obviously that would be dull but I'm just saying. lol ReCaptcha: "the dulles"
  • Mittenz - September 11, 2009 10:47 p.m.

    Wasnt there a quest in point lookout that had you looking for Punga fruit?
  • oryandymackie - September 11, 2009 6:18 p.m.

    Oh My God ! Pac Man is the inventor of survival horror/RPGs/AND sandboxes?
  • Usgo - September 11, 2009 2:11 a.m.

    funny article
  • nai1210 - September 10, 2009 9:45 p.m.

    Pac-Man is king of video games,i have been playing this for years and i never get bored of a quick blast of it.I have it on my phone,the NES version on my virtual console,the championship edition on my 360,the GBA pacman collection thing,pac-pix on DS,I long for the day i can afford to purchase the table top style arcade cabinet i'll have it doubling up as a coffee table that will be so sweet.
  • Cyberninja - September 10, 2009 8:10 p.m.

    your right pac man is the ultimate game
  • Corsair89 - September 10, 2009 6:36 p.m.

    Stuff like this is why I love GamesRadar.
  • Xobi - September 15, 2009 10:05 a.m.

    Amazing Article
  • Undead - September 14, 2009 1:16 a.m.

    This is the most amazing one I've read yet. xD Awesome.
  • Architek9 - September 13, 2009 9:30 p.m.

    O man this is epic win
  • chiefpacman - September 13, 2009 7:27 p.m.

    Yeah pacman was great, but I'd still call Mario the king of video games.
  • gamer343 - September 13, 2009 6:32 p.m.

    lol boobs
  • Link555 - September 12, 2009 9:34 p.m.

    pac mans okay but tetris is better
  • oreomonkey - September 12, 2009 7:06 p.m.

    Free Roaming and Side Quests? Wow.
  • Spybreak8 - September 12, 2009 1:46 a.m.

    Pac Man is the man, then they made Pac Man CE which is totally awesome and the best arcade game ever! Ok with local multiplayer it would be the best ever.
  • noobastar - September 11, 2009 9:59 p.m.

    I never liked PacMan much (compared to Mario). I was too young then and the game seemed rather very hard for me.
  • tbonedakilla - September 11, 2009 5:21 p.m.

    Pac-man, along with dolphins, can suck it.

Showing 1-20 of 29 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000