The Pac-Man universe (パックマン, Pacman, initially romanized as Puckman), officially capitalized PAC-MAN, refers to the Super Smash Bros. series' collection of characters, stages, and properties from Bandai Namco's massively successful and long-running media franchise. A staple of popular culture, it is one of the most lucrative and influential video game franchises in history, with the original title being the highest-grossing coin-op arcade game of all time, popularizing the concept of a video game mascot — the titular Pac-Man — and spawning a wave of sequels and spin-offs, as well as animated series, songs, and merchandise. It was first represented in Super Smash Bros. 4, and returned in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, both developed by Bandai Namco.
After Masaya Nakamura's company, Nakamura Amusement-machine Manufacturing Company (or NAMCO), founded Namco's American subsidiary in order to license its video arcade machines to companies such as Atari and Midway Games for distribution in the U.S., Namco released its first internally designed video arcade game in 1978, Gee Bee. Following this, Namco developed and released the highly popular fixed shooter game Galaxian in 1979 to compete with Taito Corporation's successful earlier game, Space Invaders. Galaxian revolutionized the arcade industry as the first game to use RGB-color graphics, and it and its 1981 sequel Galaga became fixtures in what was subsequently remembered as the "Golden Age of arcade video games" — the peak era of arcade video game popularity and technological innovation.
However, Namco's project in between, 1980's Pac-Man, would arguably become even more definitive of both the era and Namco's legacy. A young Namco employee named Toru Iwatani designed the game with the intention to appeal to a wider audience beyond young boys and teenagers — demographics that were typical of the time because of the prevalence of space shooter-themed arcade machines. He therefore fashioned a game out of maze-like elements and a colorful aesthetic with cute character designs, including a player character he originally named "Puckman" after the Japanese phrase ぱくぱく ("paku paku"), an onomatopoeia used to represent the sound of eating. The character and the game itself were renamed Pac-Man for the North American release, as it was realized the original name could be vandalized to resemble profanity.
The original Pac-Man is set in a static, neon-colored maze, where the wedge-shaped Pac-Man must traverse every corridor and lane at least once in order to eat every pellet distributed across the screen. Pac-Man is at constant risk from four differently-colored "ghosts" that roam the maze with the intention to collide into him, but whenever Pac-Man eats through any four of the larger Power Pellets in a maze, the ghosts temporarily turn vulnerable, and will be briefly taken out of the game when Pac-Man collides with a ghost in this state. When a maze is cleared, the board will be reset, and the game essentially continues endlessly until the player runs out of lives (or reaches level 256, the bugged "kill screen" which cannot be cleared). The point score — the ultimate objective of the game, like with many arcade games — can be further increased by eating fruits that appear at certain thresholds. When all levels are cleared perfectly, the maximum possible score is 3,333,360 points.
Despite its initially lukewarm reception in Japan, it is difficult to overstate the immense impact that the North American release of the game Pac-Man had. It quickly became far more popular than anything seen in the game industry up to that point, grossing over $1 billion in quarters within a decade, and towards the end of the 20th century, the game's total gross in quarters had been estimated at more than 10 billion quarters ($2.5 billion), making it the highest-grossing video game of all time. It established the maze chase game genre, and is also credited for laying the foundations for the stealth genre due to its emphasis on avoiding enemies rather than fighting them; Pac-Man is often cited as an inspiration for the original Metal Gear.
It introduced what is argued to be the first original gaming mascot, and in doing so demonstrated the potential of characters in video games. It was the first video game to feature power-ups, and is often credited as the first game to feature cutscenes, albeit not to the degree that Nintendo's own revolutionary arcade game, Donkey Kong, had the following year. Finally, it opened gaming to female audiences, and it was gaming's first licensing success. Pac-Man was determined to have the highest brand awareness of any video game character among American consumers.
Pac-Man became one of few games to have been consistently published for over three decades, with many remakes and sequels released on numerous platforms. This is not to mention the influx of unauthorized Pac-Man clones that took place soon after the original release, nor of the ill-fated port of the game for the Atari 2600 (which ironically was a contributing factor to the infamous 1983 video game crash in North America due to the debilitating technical limitations of the console). An American-produced derivative titled Ms. Pac-Man, developed by Namco licensee Midway (today Warner Bros. subsidiary NetherRealm Studios), garnered a great deal of success of its own due to improvements over the original title; despite its development happening without Namco's consent, the company approved of the character, received the rights to the property, and subsequently included the feminine take on Pac-Man in various Pac-Man compilations and ports.
As the series progressed with continued releases that explored different genres, the iconic yellow wedge shape that ordinarily defined the title character onscreen was phased out for a design closer to his appearance on the promotional artwork printed on the arcade machines themselves — an abstract, spherical humanoid with rudimentary limbs and a massive face with a stick-like nose that varied in length between appearances. This design was first seen in-game in the 1984 title Pac-Land, in part to tie in with a Hanna-Barbera animated series about Pac-Man that ran for two seasons in 1982 and 1983. Pac-Land is considered an innovative title in itself as one of the first side-scrolling platform games, and one of the first games to include parallax scrolling. It is considered a major foundation for later mascot platformers, codified by 1985's Super Mario Bros.
The steady stream of Pac-Man games was more-or-less halted for roughly six years after Pac-Mania for the arcades in 1987, before resuming on consoles with Pac-Attack in 1993. Through releases on a variety of competing platforms, including the PC, the formerly maze-based series explored genres as varied as puzzle, adventure, platformer, party, racing, and even pinball. These games often introduced a colorful cartoon world, not unlike that of Mario and Sonic, and a wide variety of characters outside of the original cast of the arcade game, not the least of which were Pac-Man's wife and children. It could be argued that, as recently as the early 2010s, Pac-Man as a property was easily more relevant as a forerunner to modern video games than as a starring video game franchise, due to the tendency of these experimental Pac-Man games to cater to young child demographics and garner at-times mediocre reception, but Namco nonetheless continues to honor the character as its company mascot.
A new character design was formally introduced for Pac-Man's 30th anniversary in 2010, beginning with Pac-Man Party and continuing through the computer-animated series Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, which began airing in 2013. However, the rebooted franchise and its associated design was met with lukewarm reception, and in the meantime a new subseries had taken hold; the Pac-Man Championship Edition games, conceptualized by original game designer Toru Iwatani and initially released in 2007. Two other entries in this series, Championship Edition DX and Championship Edition 2, were released in 2010 and 2016 respectively, and overall marked a return to the classic maze gameplay and character designs associated with the series.
In an odd twist of fate, Pac-Man was involved both in another company's crossover fighting game — Capcom's Street Fighter X Tekken, wherein he was a playable character exclusively in PlayStation versions — and in the Mario series — as a playable racer in the Mario Kart Arcade GP series, racing arcade games developed jointly by Namco and Nintendo — before he was included for the first time as a playable fighter in Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. series of crossover fighting games in 2014, also a joint Nintendo-Namco effort. Inversely, Mario also made a cameo appearance in the Pac-Man series, acting as the announcer in the Nintendo-developed party title Pac-Man Vs.
In Super Smash Bros. 4
The Pac-Man franchise is introduced in Super Smash Bros. 4. Uniquely among other third-party franchises, it brings along elements from other properties of the same company. Elements from Namco's early Arcade games - Mappy, Dig Dug, Galaga, and Galaxian - are present along with small cameos from others. See here for elements pertaining to those series.
for Nintendo 3DS
for Wii U
Main article: List of SSB4 Music (Pac-Man series)
Arrangements and remixes unique to Smash 4.
When the Ghost Assist Trophies are summoned, their movement is accompanied with "Ghost: Spurt Move #2" from the original arcade game. When their period of summons is nearing its end, the ghosts become faster and the music shifts to "Ghost: Spurt Move #4".
Main article: List of SSB4 trophies (Pac-Man series)
Main article: Masterpieces
Main article: List of SSBU Music (Pac-Man series)
Notably, thanks to changes in the way Music is played on stages, all Namco songs in Ultimate are classified as Pac-Man songs.
Arrangements and remixes unique to Ultimate.
Arrangements and remixes returning from Smash 4.
Main article: List of spirits (Pac-Man series)
Games with elements appearing in the Super Smash Bros. series
Main article: Pac-Man (game)