Space Invaders is an arcade video game.

Space Invaders Screen Shot

Is there any licensed material that explain from where they come from, why they want to invade us and why the only solution is to destroy them.

Bonus point for explaining why their strategy is to stay in formation while they descend.

  • 25
    They come from space, as the title suggests. Obviously, on their planet there is a extreme shortage of pixels and they've come to take them from us whether we give them up willingly or not. It's your classic "aliens invade to steal pixels" plot, which will be used in 3 blockbuster movies next summer, one based off of the Space Invaders franchise.
    – John O
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 16:22
  • 8
    The invaders ("possibly from space") need quarters to do their laundry.
    – gnovice
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 16:31
  • 3
    Did the older arcade games even have real plots to speak of?
    – Xantec
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 16:35
  • 1
    @Xantec I think Donkey Kong is the first to have a real plot from start, but nothing forbid to add one later.
    – DavRob60
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 16:49
  • Wait, what? Donkey Kong had a plot?
    – BBlake
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 17:19

2 Answers 2


From the wikipedia:

Nishikado drew inspiration for the aliens from H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds—he had watched the 1953 film adaptation as a child—and created initial bitmap images after the octopus-like aliens. Other alien designs were modeled after squids and crabs.

It doesn't seem like they have a backstory other than being chosen by the creator as the best design.

Just an interesting fact about the development of that game; the enemies originally were meant to be just one speed, but the processing power of computers at the time meant that when there were more of them to display the game actually ran slower. This meant that as the player destroyed the enemies, that the game got progressively faster as there was less processing to do.

  • It might be worth mentioning that they were also originally soldiers marching down in formation until he went with spaceships.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Oct 23, 2021 at 0:32

The user manual for the (1980) Atari 2600 version of Space Invaders appears to be the first documented back-story for the aliens. In short, your task is to use your laser cannon to defend the Earth from an seemingly neverending alien fleet of invaders, bent on the invasion of Earth.

Each time you turn on SPACE INVADERS™ you will be at war with enemies from space who are threatening the earth. Your objective is to destroy these invaders by firing your "laser cannon." You must wipe out the invaders either before they reach the earth (bottom of the screen), or before they hit you three times with their "laser bombs."

Your long-term objective is to score as many points as possible. Points are scored each time you hit one of the SPACE INVADERS. They are worth different amounts of points, depending on their initial position on the screen.

To answer your specific questions, the space invaders come

from space

and while their motivation isn't spelled out, what's obvious from the subtext is that these invaders represent nothing less than an existential threat to the human race and must be stopped at all costs, even if that means your own death.

  • 4
    Now we need to argue about whether the Atari 2600 continuity is the same or different from the cabinet game continuity.
    – The Photon
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 3:06
  • 1
    @ThePhoton - I thought about that. Perusing the manuals for the 1976-1979 cabinet games, there wasn't even an explanation of gameplay, let alone any story.
    – Valorum
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 10:12
  • There would be very few platforms where this game or a similar clone was not available. Similar could likely be said for breakout and pacman clones too no doubt :) In regard to background information what has been posted so far is generally excellent but to put a different twist on it perhaps looking up instructions for these invader games (tip: look at 8bit computers from early 80's) would likely reveal lots of slightly different stories, assuming it was not merely "defend the earth!"
    – AndyF
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 22:04

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