Earlier this year, a 13-year-old boy in Oklahoma shared what some considered a miraculous achievement: he seemed to be the first person ever to conquer the original version of Tetris.
You might not have known that the game was beatable, and it’s possible that the revelation sparked thoughts of other video games waiting to be conquered, such as Pac-Man.
If you’ve ever engaged in the “waka waka” eating frenzy of Pac-Man, surviving a few levels only to face defeat and the haunting “eiweiweiweiweiw – wuh wuh” sound of death, you may wonder if you can avoid that crushing defeat and emerge as the victor against the colorful ghosts.
Let’s rewind to 1980.
In that year, programmer Toru Iwatani created Pac-Man in Japan, initially released by Namco as PuckMan. When the game made its way to the U.S. later that year through Midway, it was rebranded as Pac-Man, as there were concerns that mischievous players might alter the “P” to an “F.”
Iwatani revealed in a 2020 interview with CNN that Pac-Man was designed “with women in mind,” a departure from the violent games dominating arcades in the late 1970s. The game’s iconic yellow protagonist, Pac-Man, drew inspiration from pizza, resembling a slice taken from a whole pie.
Pac-Man garnered widespread acclaim, selling over 100,000 units in its first year and becoming the best-selling arcade game on record, as highlighted by The Strong National Museum of Play.
Since then, the game has seen various iterations, including Ms. Pac-Man and Super Pac-Man. The phenomenon extended to pop culture with the song “Pac-Man Fever” by Buckner & Garcia reaching the ninth spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. TV shows, books, and reports of a live-action Pac-Man movie further solidify the game’s cultural impact.
But can Pac-Man truly be conquered?
In short, yes. The original Pac-Man has been beaten, requiring a perfect score of 3,333,360 points, as outlined by the official Pac-Man website. This entails clearing all 256 stages flawlessly, consuming all Pac-Dots, fruits, and ghosts (four with each Power Pellet boost) without any mistakes.
Billy Mitchell of Florida is credited as the first person to achieve a perfect game of Pac-Man in 1999, a feat that took him between five and six hours. The game seemingly crashes once the perfect score is reached, with the screen becoming garbled, as confirmed by Mitchell and Pac-Man’s creator, Iwatani. In 2009, David Race of Ohio set a new record, completing a perfect game in speed-run mode in three hours, 41 minutes, and 22 seconds.
Since then, many others have conquered Pac-Man and its spin-offs, according to Twin Galaxies, the entity that tracks video game records for the Guinness Book of World Records. The most recent perfect game on the original Midway version of Pac-Man, submitted to Twin Galaxies, occurred in 2017.
So, while defeating Pac-Man is indeed possible, be prepared for a few hours of gameplay (and perhaps some pizza).