Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 launched this week. This fast-paced, psychedelic take on everyone’s favorite pellet eating yellow blob is the latest in a long line of games that remix the traditional Pac-Man formula established with the 1980 arcade original. If you watch our playthrough below, you might even think Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is one of the weirdest Pac-Man games ever. But that’s hardly the case.
Throughout the long history of the franchise, Pac-Man has appeared in many updated takes on the original that revamp the look of the game and introduce a new trick or two. Namco’s mascot also appeared in pretty much every game genre you can think of, including kart racers, platformers, and point-and-click adventure games. Some of these are instant classics. Others are instantly forgettable. And some of these are just downright strange (but still good). Here are five of the weirdest Pac-Man games released in the past four decades.
In the late 1980s, Tetris took the gaming world by storm. The Russian-developed puzzle game became the favorite distraction of millions, whether on the Game Boy, consoles, or PC. Tetris’ massive popularity led to many, many, imitators, including one from Namco. After taking an unrelated arcade game and then reskinning it with Pac-Man characters, Pac-Attack was born.
The Tetris-style action meant players had to work hard to avoid letting the falling block fill up the screen. But in Pac-Attack you also needed to strategically place the Ghost-filled blocks in a path that Pac-Man could then chomp on for extra points. Despite not being designed for Pac-Man and company, Pac-Attack did an impressive job of combining puzzle gameplay with traditional Pac-Man action. The game even offered up some cool bonus modes that made the odd pairing of Tetris and Pac-Man even more fun.
Pac-Mania made quite an impression when it hit arcades at the tail end of their golden era in 1987. The game used some pretty impressive graphical tricks for the time to attract gamers (and their pockets full of quarters). Pac-Man, his ghost enemies, and the mazes all appeared to be in full 3D years before that was common in most games. This was accomplished through the use of an isometric view where the camera followed Pac-Man as he made his way around the maze, versus the old fixed view that showed the entire maze at one time.
Pac-Mania added several other new twists to the usual Pac-Man formula. There were power-ups with random effects, mazes could contain up to nine ghosts at once, and Pac-Man (and a few ghosts) had the ability to jump. Perhaps the most bizarre new feature was the fact that Pac-Mania had an ending and could be beaten after a set number of rounds. Instead of the fabled Pac-Man kill screen, completing the game netted you an actual ending and credits. You have to wonder: Was this a cool reward for skilled players, or just a way to get them to pump more quarters into the machine and start all over again to try to beat their high score?
Pac-Man World Rally
Much like Tetris, once Super Mario Kart hit the market, every publisher around got interested in kart racing titles. The genre is a great way to make approachable racing titles that feature all of a company’s colorful characters. So it makes sense that even Pac-Man would eventually get in on the fun with Pac-Man World Rally in 2006. And he’d be bringing some of his classic arcade pals with him.
After years of platforming and eating pellets, Pac-Man and friends oddly ditch the mazes for straightforward races in Pac-Man World Rally. Not that ghost eating wasn’t part of the racing action, because every racer could collect enough pellets to activate their Pac-Meter and chomp down on the competition. Making this even more of an oddity is all the Namco guest stars beefing up the roster. Pac-Man contemporaries like Mappy and Pooka are playable, as is the more recent Namco star, The Prince from Katamari Damacy. Despite the game being well-received, there has yet to be a true sequel, though Pac-Man has appeared in multiple Mario Kart arcade titles.
Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures
This is almost the weirdest of all time just because of the name. When you see a game called Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures, you’re likely imagining a fresh take on the arcade original. Instead, the 1994 release on SNES and Genesis is a weird take on PC point-‘n-click adventure games. Only it gets much stranger, because you don’t actually control Pac-Man at all.
The player of Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures is merely a spectator who can try to direct the AI controlled Pac-Man using a slingshot and other offscreen weapons. It becomes a very frustrating exercise in telling a sometimes unwilling protagonist to pick up specific items or go to a certain area, and then he doesn’t even listen. This gets even harder when you get to the mine cart stages, a beast in a normal platformer. You’ve got to give Namco credit for taking such a novel approach with Pac-Man in this oddity. But beyond the A for effort, the praise ends there.
Pac-Man Vs. has to be the top oddity in Pac-history. First and foremost being the fact that it was designed by none other than Shigeru Miyamoto, longtime Nintendo creative lead and one of the most recognizable faces of the company. This GameCube title was the odd result of a partnership between Bandai Namco and Nintendo. And it borrows elements from both companies, including music from Pac-Mania and Mario doing play-by-play commentary of every match.
The multiplayer-only game was one of the few to utilize the GameBoy Advance link cable, and it did so in an ingenious way. The player holding the GBA plays as Pac-Man in a typical manner, trying to collect all the pellets in a maze without being caught by the ghosts. Meanwhile, the other players take control of the ghosts using GameCube controllers. Each has only a limited view of the maze just around their ghost, and they must coordinate and use the missing pellets as clues to locate and catch Pac-Man.
Pac-Man Vs. was only available as a bonus disc packed in with certain games, or as an in-store giveaway, so getting your hands on an original disc may prove difficult. Fortunately, the game got a second chances when included in the Namco Museum DS compilation, and is definitely worth tracking down a copy. If for no other reason pick it up so you can say you’ve played the weirdest Pac-Man game ever.