Dig Dug – Ready Player One Video Game Replay

Dig Dug is a quirky tunneling-based arcade game from the 1980s. It features an … exterminator? … in a white environment suit who ventures underground to wipe out the pests dwelling there. Released in 1982 by Namco, it became a staple of arcades and myriad game consoles.


I continued farther into the dark electronic cave and walked up to a Pac-Man machine at the very back of the room, wedged between a Galaga and a Dig Dug.

Game Play

Dig Dug’s protagonist tunnels through an underground of rocks and small caverns to hunt down Pookas (round, red monsters) and Fygars (a kind of fire-breathing lizard). He can take them out either by pumping them up with his air hose or by dropping rocks on them (after having strategically weakened the earth beneath the rocks). The monsters can become incorporeal and float through the surrounding terrain, reverting to their solid form in the passageways.

It’s a maze-style game, but one in which the player gets to make the maze. The goal is to wipe out the monsters and move on to the next level; there are (unsurprisingly) 256 levels to tunnel through.


Dig Dug is a deceptively simple game. It seems like it should be easy to quickly progress through its many levels – after all, as the main character you control the low ground. You dig the tunnels that the monsters have to follow, and you can easily explode them with a few pumps from your air gun (take that, ghosts in Pac-man!).

Plus you’ve got strategically placed rocks that you can conveniently drop on your enemies with Roadrunner-like glee.

How could you not win?

Rock dropping, monster-slaying heroics

Except, of course, it’s harder than that. The monsters go ethereal and start walking through dirt, seeking you out no matter where you are on the board. You can use this to your advantage by digging tunnels that lead them to nearby rocks and then squash them while cackling with maniac laughter … but sometimes, that doesn’t work. The monsters know when you’re dropping rocks, and will try to flee. As the game speeds up, they’re particularly good at swarming you and overwhelming your air gun … which requires several pumps to kill a monster. You can stagger those pumps and spread them between monsters to buy you some time if you’re quick enough.

I’m usually not. The controls can be a bit twitchy (particularly on emulators) and I died several times while trying to break through into one of the monster-filled caves, only to have them touch (and thus kill) me. I’m also particularly good at dropping rocks on my own head when I get the timing wrong.

Indeed, like Pac-Man (especially Ms. Pac-Man) the game wants you to take risks. It wants you to line up that perfect boulder drop. It wants you to delve deeply to score extra points. It wants you to push your luck because that is when it gets you.

You might not think at first glance, but the game’s surprisingly addictive. The combination of digging your own maze, combined with the on-the-fly strategy of trapping and killing monsters is pure 1980s gaming pleasure.

The Ready Player One Replay is an ongoing exploration of the games that inspired the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Love it or hate it, there’s value in revisiting our geeky roots.

High Scores

  • My High Score: 19,190


Where to Play


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