It’s time to pop a power pill and eat some ghosts as we take a look at the best Pac-Man games of all time.
Which are the best Pac-Man games ever, in your opinion? Hopefully you agree with this list, if now, hit us up on socials to discuss.
Let’s find out!
10. Baby Pac-Man (Arcade, 1982)
Perhaps one of the most interesting titles on the best Pac-Man games list, Baby Pac-Man is no ordinary arcade game – which you’ll see from just one look at the machine itself!
Baby Pac-Man is a hybrid video game and pinball machine – with players beginning in a familiar maze on the screen, albeit with a few minor differences to gameplay. Firstly, there’s no power pellets and secondly, two escape tunnels in the maze point downwards.
Heading down one of these tunnels activates the pinball section of the game – which you then play to try and earn power pellets to take back to the maze on the screen above!
Due to the hybrid nature of the game, it was never ported to home consoles. Also, due to the same issues faced by any pinball table – i.e. regular maintenance needed of the physical elements of the machine – it was always an incredibly rare game to find in working condition in arcades, or at all.
Which of course means it’s even rarer now, forty years on.
9. Pac-Man 99 (Switch, 2021)
Third person shooter games such as PUBG and Fortnite have made the Battle Royale – in which large numbers of players compete to be the last person standing – hugely popular, not to mention very lucrative.
The success of those games has led other publishers to try and apply the Battle Royale formulas even to other genres. On the Switch, the success of Tetris 99 – competitive Tetris for up to 99 players – paved the way for a similar style of game featuring Pac-Man.
Hugely addictive, at once nostalgic and feeling entirely new, it’s an excellent implementation of familiar elements with an incredibly exciting competitive edge. Best of all, it’s free to play for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers!
8. Pac-Man Battle Royale (Arcade, 2010)
Despite the name, this isn’t a Battle Royale game as we’ve come to know them (Pac-Man 99 being a battle royale game in terms of genre, as you can see above!).
When you head into most seaside arcades these days, it’s clear that they’re shells of their former selves – full of rip-off claw machines and ticket-dispensing games of chance.
There’s a few reminders of the glories of the arcade heyday however – and, despite being twelve years old already, the eye-catching four player Pac-Man Battle Royale machine is a game that pretty much demands to be played.
It has a simple premise based on the classic Pac-Man formula, except it’s not just the ghosts you have to worry about: other players, as different coloured Pac-Men, are trying to eat your Pac-Man too! Be the last Pac-Man standing and you win the round – win the most rounds out of five and you win the game.
Pac-Man Battle Royale has an audiovisual style reminiscent of the glowing, neon-and-EDM Pac-Man Championship Edition aesthetic. It’s addictive and brilliantly competitive, though once you’ve played it a few times, you’ve pretty much seen all it has to offer.
It’s now available on current platforms thanks to its inclusion in Pac-Man Museum Plus – and it’s well worth gathering some friends together for!
7. Pac-Land (Arcade, 1984)
In my opinion, there’s only one possible competitor for Bubble Bobble’s crown when it comes to classic arcade game music – and that’s Pac-Land’s catchy, impossible to shake earworm of a theme tune.
Yet this sideways scrolling platformer – the first platformer in the Pac-Man series – has much more to offer than its catchy music. Though the joystick-less, three button controls take a bit of getting used to, Pac-Land is an addictive and colourful journey beyond the usual dark mazes.
The gorgeous, cartoony visuals were designed to closely match the mostly-forgotten Hanna-Barbera Pac-Man animated series – and they’ve aged surprisingly well.
Pac-Land was ported to pretty much all 8-bit and 16-bit machines back in the day – successfully, for the most part – and also helped pave the way for games such as Wonder Boy, Alex Kidd and numerous other 80s platformers!
6. Pac-Man World (PS1, 1999)
The first 3D platform game to feature Namco’s yellow hero, Pac-Man World is also the first in the trilogy – and just about the best of the three.
Released just in time for Pac-Man’s 20th Anniversary, this 3D title plays heavily on nostalgia, even making Pac-Man’s 20th birthday party integral to the game’s story!
Pac-Man World also cleverly uses sound effects from the original game – and mechanics such as eating dots, power pellets and fruit make an appearance as well.
Cameos from characters featured in other Namco games also add to the appeal; as a bonus, you can even play the very first Pac-Man game via the main menu, as well as all new mazes in the updated 3D style of Pac-Man World itself!
5. Ms. Pac-Man (Arcade, 1982)
Weirdly, Ms. Pac-Man wasn’t an official sequel to the original Pac-Man – and started life as a completely unrelated called game Crazy Otto!
Originally made as a conversion kit for Pac-Man cabinets by General Computer Corporation, previous legal issues forced them to present Crazy Otto to Midway, the North American distributor of Pac-Man.
Midway worked in conjunction with Namco’s then-president to transform the game into Ms Pac-Man – and the rest is history! Unlike the first Pac-Man game, Ms. Pac-Man featured different maze layouts and colour schemes, moving bonus fruit and new movement patterns for the ghosts too.
Ms. Pac-Man is an excellent game that was ported to countless platforms in its heyday and beyond – it’s more than deserving of its high ranking on the best Pac-Man games list.
Though Ms. Pac-Man has featured in numerous games over the years – even in her own spin-off series called Ms. Pac-Man: Maze Madness – a recent legal dispute with ATGames has sadly led to Namco creating a subtly different character named Pac-Mom to replace Ms. Pac-Man.
The Ms. Pac-Man game, despite how fondly remembered and highly regarded it is (it even features on our list of the best arcade games ever!), has been entirely – and controversially – left out of the new Pac-Man Museum Plus compilation, with her future left in doubt. Have we seen the last of Ms. Pac-Man? Let’s hope not!
4. Pac-Man Vs (GameCube, 2003)
The brainchild of Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, Pac-Man VS is a genius concept, originally made possible by the magic of GameCube to GBA connectivity.
One player uses the Game Boy Advance – connected to the GameCube via a link cable – to play a fairly standard game of Pac-Man. The twist is that up to three players can play as the ghosts trying to catch the yellow guy.
In a further twist, the three ghosts can only see a limited section of the maze as they play, so carefully working together to trap the Pac-Man player is a must.
It’s a seriously clever updating of the classic formula and though somewhat light on content, the asymmetrical nature of Pac-Man VS makes it feel utterly unlike any other version of Pac-Man.
Though it was always difficult to play due to the hardware needed – not to mention actually getting hold of the game in the first place, given as it wasn’t available outside of being bundled with the GameCube versions of Pac-Man World 2, i-Ninja and R: Racing Evolution – newer versions of the game have subsequently been released.
Pac-Man VS was included as part of Namco Museum DS (using DS Download Play to function) and with Namco Museum on Switch, with this version requiring two Switch consoles to play in full!
3. Pac-Man 256 (PC/PS4/Xbox One, 2016)
Originally released for iOS and Android devices in 2015, this isometric endless maze game was put together by the creators of Crossy Road.
Though it was a superb touchscreen game in its original incarnation, the console/PC port adds up to four player simultaneous multiplayer – and it’s undoubtedly one of the best Pac-Man games of all time.
Just as in the very first Pac-Man, players collect dots and avoid ghosts, though there’s also a massive variety of power ups to even the odds against the enemies – in addition to standard power pellets. The biggest twist is in the form of the glitch, which is ever encroaching upon the player’s position from the bottom of the screen – so players must keep pushing forward, or else they’ll die by being caught in the glitch.
It’s a cleverly self-referential game – the glitch and 256 of the title refer to the infamous 256th level of the very first Pac-Man, which saw the game run out of memory, display a glitched pattern over half of the maze and become impossible to complete.
With numerous smart gameplay elements and superb co-operative multiplayer features, Pac-Man 256 is a brilliant modernising of the classic formula.
2. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX (PC/PS3/Xbox 360, 2010)
Pulsing electronic music accompanies shifting neon colours, both increasing in intensity and speed as combos rack up and the timer counts down to zero in this phenomenal reimagining of Pac-Man.
A slightly tweaked update to the excellent Pac-Man Championship Edition (which released three years earlier), Pac-Man Championship Edition DX improves on that game in every way, without ruining what made it such a great reboot in the first place.
Though Pac-Man Championship Edition DX looks like a normal – albeit technologically modern – game of Pac-Man at first, the clever risk vs reward gameplay is fresh and exciting. Clear dots from one side of the maze and a fruit bonus appears on the other side.
Collect that fruit bonus and a new maze layout and dot pattern appears back on the previously cleared section – all the while being chased by accelerating ghosts as your pulse quickens thanks to the brilliant soundtrack.
It’s a genuinely incredible concept, tuned for fixed sessions of 5 or 10 minutes at a time, with graphs shown at the end of each game to show you where your points came from during every second of play.
There’s nothing quite like executing a perfect, no-lives-lost five or ten minute round of Pac-Man Championship Edition DX; in fact, the formula is so complete that its sequel absolutely ruined the experience by adding in ghost trains and combos, which were visually exciting but completely unbalanced the basic game mechanics.
This was very nearly our choice for number one on the list of best Pac-Man games ever, but another title has managed to grab the top spot…
1. Pac-Man (Arcade, 1980)
Though subsequent games added extra gameplay elements and upgraded the audiovisual style to keep up with advances in technology, there’s still something immediately recognisable and universally appealing about the original Pac-Man.
From the single, perfect maze layout to the perfectly tuned – if incredibly challenging – gameplay, the first Pac-Man is a perfect example of a game that has transcended generations and remained firmly in the ludographical lexicon of video game players everywhere. It was also the very first video game to feature animated cut-scenes between levels.
Pac-Man’s immediacy – that allows pretty much anyone to pick up and play it – is incredibly appealing and the visuals, along with the sound effects, are absolutely iconic even today.
It might not even be a stretch to call Pac-Man the perfect video game, such is its timeless appeal and addictiveness. It does put up quite a challenge though – getting good at Pac-Man can take years of practice!
Due to its ongoing popularity, Pac-Man is constantly being repackaged and re-released in various compilations or available as a digital download (check it out on our list of the best retro games!). We’ve found a great way to play Pac-Man is on the move using the Evercade and a copy of Namco Museum Collection 1 (which appears in our best Evercade games list!), but regardless of where and how you play Pac-Man, you’re unlikely to ever tire of trying to eat as many dots – and ghosts – as possible in the search for that sometimes elusive high score!
What is Pac-Man?
Said no-one – ever (or at least not after 1980!). Releasing at the dawn of the golden age of arcade gaming in 1980 – undeniably playing a huge part in moving that fondly-remembered era forward at breakneck speed – Pac-Man is a game that has survived countless generations and trends, somehow feeling as addictive and compelling as it always did. Despite being more than 40 years old, it genuinely hasn’t aged and Pac-Man is just as recognisable as ever – especially as he is plastered over all kinds of merchandise and even food; check out the Pac-Man Pork Belly Buns for one crazy example!
Who is Pac-Man?
A hungry yellow sphere – originally just a circle – Pac-Man is an eternally hungry creature who eats dots while pursued by ghosts in a maze. If he eats a Power Pellet, he can briefly turn the tables on his spectral pursuers and eat them instead!
Are all the Pac-Man games the same?
Far from it. Though Pac-Man originally appeared in 2D maze games, even the sequels changed the formula of the original in significant ways – and beyond those immediate games, Pac-Man has been in platformers, kart racers, puzzle games, pseudo-point and click adventures and even minigame compilations.
Who created Pac-Man?
Video game designer Toru Iwatani designed Pac-Man, after becoming disillusioned with the video game industry’s obsession with war and violent themes. Pac-Man was intended to appeal to a wider audience and its colourful, character-based gameplay and easy to grasp mechanics were deliberately aimed at attracting female gamers who would generally be uninterested in video games.
Does Toru Iwatani still make games?
Sadly not, but his final game was Pac-Man Championship Edition in 2007. Though it didn’t quite make this list, its slightly updated successor – Pac-Man Championship Edition DX – did, and it’s thanks to Iwatani that this best Pac-Man games list exists at all!
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Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.