Dig Dug

Dig Dug[a] is a maze arcade game developed by Namco in 1981 and released in 1982, distributed in North America by Atari, Inc. Controlling the titular character, the player is tasked with defeating all of the enemies in each stage, done by either inflating them with an air pump until they pop or crushing them underneath large rocks. It runs on the Namco Galaga arcade board.

Dig Dug
Dig Dug Flyer.png
Advertising flyer
Designer(s)Masahisa Ikegami[3]
Shigeru Yokoyama[4]
Programmer(s)Shouichi Fukatani
Toshio Sakai[3]
Composer(s)Yuriko Keino
SeriesDig Dug
  • JP: February 20, 1982[5]
  • NA: April 1982
  • EU: April 19, 1982
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer (alternating turns)

Dig Dug was planned and designed by Masahisa Ikegami, with help from Galaga creator Shigeru Yokoyama. It was programmed by Shouichi Fukatani, who worked on many of Namco's earlier arcade titles, along with Toshio Sakai. Music was composed by Yuriko Keino, becoming the first game she worked on for Namco — the short jingle made when the character moved was made when executives wanted a walking sound in the game. It was described as a "strategic digging game" by Namco for its large amount of strategy used to defeat enemies, which was heavily used in the game's marketing.

Upon release, Dig Dug was well-received by critics for its addictive gameplay, cute characters and strategy. It was a popular title during the golden age of arcade video games, being the second highest-grossing arcade game of 1982 in Japan while also being commercially successful internationally. It was met with a long series of sequels and spin-offs for several platforms, alongside ports for home consoles and digital storefronts. Dig Dug is also included in many Namco video game compilations for a variety of systems. Characters from the game appear throughout the Mr. Driller series, itself based on the Dig Dug gameplay.


Arcade version screenshot

Dig Dug is a maze video game. Controlling the titular character, the player's objective is to eliminate the enemies on each screen; these being Pookas, red tomato-like creatures with comically large goggles, and Fygars, green dragons that can breathe fire.[6] Dig Dug can defeat these enemies by using a bike pump to inflate them with air until they explode, or by crushing them under large falling rocks.[6] Bonus points are awarded for squashing multiple enemies with a single rock,[6] and dropping two rocks in a stage will cause a bonus item to appear in the middle of the screen, which can be eaten for points.[6] Once all the enemies have been defeated, Dig Dug progresses to the next stage.[6]

Enemies can travel through solid dirt to reach the player, where only their eyes are visible.[6] Inflated enemies pose no threat to the player, allowing Dig Dug to pass through them without harm.[6] The game plays a short music loop while Dig Dug is moving, abruptly stopping when he becomes idle. If the player takes too long to clear a stage, the enemies become faster and more aggressive.[6] When only one enemy remains in the stage, it attempts to escape. Stages are indicated by the number of flowers placed at the top of the screen.[6] Later stages feature variations in the color of the dirt, while increasing the number and speed of the enemies.[6]

Development and releaseEdit

Dig Dug was planned and designed by Masahisa Ikegami,[3] with help from Shigeru Yokoyama, the creator of Galaga.[4] The game was programmed by Shigeichi Ishimura, a Namco hardware engineer, and the late Shouichi Fukatani,[7] along with Toshio Sakai.[3] The rest of the staff were made up primarily of colleagues of Shigeru Yokoyama.[4]

The game was based around the concept of allowing the player to make their own mazes. [[Pac-Man] (1980) had a pre-set maze for the player to explore, but the development team thought the idea of letting players make their own mazes was interesting, and could lead to some unique gameplay mechanics. Namco described it as a "strategic digging game", a phrase heavily used in marketing material.[8] Yuriko Keino composed the soundtrack, which was her first video game project. The staff commissioned her to make a walking sound for the protagonist as he moves around the screen; Keino couldn't come up with a realistic stepping sound, so she instead went with a short melody that only played when the player was moving.[9] Hiroshi "Mr. Dotman" Ono, a Namco graphic artist, designed the sprites. The game was programmed for the Namco Galaga arcade system board.

Dig Dug was developed in 1981, and released in Japan on February 20, 1982.[5] It was then released in North America by Atari, as part of their licensing deal with Namco, in April 1982,[10][11] with Namco releasing it in Europe the same month on April 19, 1982.[1]

The first home conversion of Dig Dug was released for the Atari 2600 in 1983, developed and published by Atari, which was followed by versions for the Atari 5200, ColecoVision, Atari 8-bit family, Commodore 64 and Apple II. In Japan, the game was ported to the Casio PV-1000 in 1983, and later to the MSX in 1984 and the Nintendo Family Computer in 1985. Gakken produced a handheld LCD tabletop game in 1983, which replaced Dig Dug's air pump with a flamethrower to accommodate for hardware limitations. Namco released a Game Boy conversion in North America only in 1992, which featured an all-new game called "New Dig Dug" where the player must collect keys to open an exit door — this version was later included in the 1996 Japan-only compilation Namco Gallery Vol. 3, which also included Galaxian, The Tower of Druaga and Famista 4.[12] A Japanese Sharp X68000 version was developed by Dempa and released in 1995, bundled with Dig Dug II.[13] The Famicom version was re-released in Japan for the Game Boy Advance in 2004 as part of the Famicom Mini lineup.[12]

Dig Dug is a mainstay in Namco video game compilations, including Namco Museum Vol. 3 (1996), Namco History Vol. 3 (1998), Namco Museum 64 (1999),[14] Namco Museum 50th Anniversary (2005),[15] Namco Museum Remix (2007),[16] Namco Museum Essentials (2009)[17] and Namco Museum Switch (2017).[18] The game was released digitally for the Xbox Live Arcade in 2006, featuring support for online leaderboards and achievements,[19] which is included as part of Namco Museum Virtual Arcade, and was added to the Xbox One's backwards compatibility lineup in 2016.[20] A version for the Japanese Wii Virtual Console was released in 2009.[21] Dig Dug is also included as a bonus game in Pac-Man Party, alongside the arcade versions of Pac-Man and Galaga.[22]


Dig Dug was a critical and commercial success upon release, and was praised for its gameplay and layer of strategy.[25] In Japan, it was the second highest-grossing arcade game of 1982, just below Namco's own Pole Position.[30] In North America, Atari sold 22,228 Dig Dug arcade cabinets by the end of 1982, earning $46,300,000 (equivalent to $124,000,000 in 2020) in sales revenue.[31] It was a popular title during the golden age of arcade video games. The 2004 Famicom Mini release sold 58,572 copies,[32] while the Xbox Live Arcade version sold 222,240 copies by 2011.[33]

American publication Blip Magazine favorably compared it to games such as Pac-Man for its simple controls and fun gameplay.[34] Allgame called it "an arcade and NES classic", praising its characters, gameplay and unique premise, and for it being easily translatable to home platforms.[24] Japanese magazine Gamest called it one of the greatest arcade games of all time in 1998, applauding its addictiveness and for breaking the traditional "dot-eater" gameplay used in titles such as Pac-Man and Rally-X.[35] In a 2007 retrospective, Eurogamer praised its "perfect" gameplay and strategy, saying it is one of "the most memorable and legendary videogame releases of the past 30 years".[25] The Killer List of Videogames rated it the sixth most popular coin-op game of all time on their website.[36]

Electronic Fun with Computers & Games praised the Atari 8-bit version for retaining the entertaining gameplay from the arcade version and its simple controls.[29] Reviewing the Xbox Live Arcade digital re-release, IGN liked its presentation, leaderboards and addictive gameplay, recommending it for fans of the original and newcomers.[19] A similar response was echoed by GameSpot , who praised the XBLA version's colorful artwork and retaining the original arcade gameplay,[27] while Eurogamer applauded the game's addictiveness and for still holding up years after its release.[26]

Some home versions of the game were criticized for quality and lack of exclusive content. Readers of Softline magazine ranked Dig Dug the tenth-worst Apple II and fourth-worst Atari 8-bit video game of 1983 for its subpar quality and not living up to consumer expectations.[37] Eurogamer, IGN and GameSpot all criticized the XBLA conversion's lack of online multiplayer and achievements being too easy to unlock,[19][27] with Eurogamer in particular criticizing the game's controls for sometimes being unresponsive.[26]


Dig Dug popularized a short-lived trend of "digging games" following its release.[38] There were a number of Dig Dug clones at the time, such as the arcade game Zig Zag (1982),[39] the Atari 800 game Anteater (1982) by Romox, Merlin's Pixie Pete and Victory's Cave Kooks for the Commodore 64 in 1983, and Saguaro's Pumpman (1984) for the TRS-80 Color Computer.[40] The most successful digging game that followed it was Universal Entertainment's arcade game Mr. Do! (1982), released about six months later, which made changes to the formula that went beyond a clone.[38] Sega's Borderline (1981), when it was ported to the Atari 2600 as Thunderground in 1983,[41] was mistaken for being a "semi-clone" of Dig Dug and Mr. Do![42] Boulder Dash (1984) also drew comparisons to Dig Dug.[43][44] In more recent years, there have been numerous digging mobile games based on Dig Dug, either as clones or variations on its formula, such as Diggerman, Dig Deep, Digby Forever, Dig Out, Puzzle to the Center of Earth, Mine Blitz, I Dig It, Doug Dug, Minesweeper, Minecraft, Dig a Way, and Dig Dog.[45]


Dig Dug was met with a long series of sequels for several platforms. The first of these, Dig Dug II, was released for Japan in 1985 and was less successful,[46] opting for an overhead perspective; instead of digging through earth, Dig Dug drills along fault lines to sink pieces of an island into the ocean.[47] A second sequel, Dig Dug Arrangement, was released for arcades in 1996 as part of the Namco Classic Collection Vol. 2 arcade collection,[48] adding new enemies, music, power-ups, boss fights and two-player co-operative play.

A 3D remake of the original, titled Dig Dug Deeper was published by Infogrames in 2001 for Windows.[49] A Nintendo DS sequel, Dig Dug: Digging Strike, was released in 2005, combining elements from the first two games and adding a narrative link to the Mr. Driller series.[50] A massively-multiplayer online game, Dig Dug Island, was publicly released in 2008, and was an online version of Dig Dug II;[51] servers lasted for less than a year, shuttering on April 21, 2009.[52]

Related mediaEdit

Two Dig Dug-themed slot machines were produced by Japanese company Oizumi in 2003, both having small LCD monitors featuring animations with the Dig Dug characters.[53][54] A webcomic adaptation of the game was produced in 2012 by ShiftyLook, a subsidiary of Bandai Namco that focused on reviving older Namco game franchises, being drawn by several different artists and lasting for nearly 200 issues, concluding in 2014 following the closure of ShiftyLook. Dig Dug also appeared as a main character in the Shiftylook webseries Mappy: The Beat. A remix of the Dig Dug soundtrack appears in the PlayStation 2 game Technic Beat.[12]

The character of Dig Dug was renamed to Taizo Hori, a play on the Japanese phrase "horitai zo", meaning "I want to dig". He became a prominent character in Namco's own Mr. Driller series, where he is revealed to be the father of Susumu Hori and being married to Baraduke protagonist Masuyo Tobi, who would divorce for unknown reasons. Taizo appears as a playable character in Namco Super Wars for the WonderSwan Color and Namco × Capcom for the PlayStation 2, both of which were only released in Japan.[12][55] Taizo appears in the now-defunct web browser game Namco High as the principal of the titular high school, simply known as "President Dig Dug". Pookas would appear in several other Namco video games, including Sky Kid (1985), R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 (1998),[12] Pac-Man World (1999),[12] Pro Baseball: Famista DS 2011 (2011) and Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U (2014). Characters from the game briefly appear in the film Wreck-It Ralph (2012).[12]


  1. ^ Japanese: ディグダグ, Hepburn: Digu Dagu


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External linksEdit