(This page was last updated June 7, 2012)



During the early 1980s, my favorite video arcade game was Dig Dug.  I spent countless hours in arcades and 7-11 stores playing this game.  I often recall wishing I had my own personal Dig Dug game at home.

Now, of course, with software programs available that emulate precisely the hardware of these original arcade machines, and with the original ROM images that are often available online, a player can now play Dig Dug on their computer, just as they played it twenty-five years ago, as often as they wish!

This page was created in honor of this almost 30-year-old arcade game and the many pleasurable hours I spent playing it.  Enjoy.

Ed Collins
June 3, 2009



A Very Short History
In 1980, the game designers at Namco turned the arcade coin-operated video game Pac-Man into an international phenomenon. Even before the Pac-Man craze died down, Namco tried to follow up Pac-Man's success with several other maze-related video games. Alas, most all of these met with only marginal success.

Then in 1982, some bright young employee turned the concept upside down - what if we let the players create their own mazes? With this simple thought, the soon-to-be arcade classic Dig Dug was born. Its oddball premise and eye-catching cartoon graphics were a hit with gamers, who were happy to try something different.

Atari built the United States version of the coin-operated game under license from Namco. With its charming characters, catchy tune, innovative (and addictive) game play, Dig Dug did indeed become an instant classic.

In 1985, Namco put out a sequel, arming the hero with a jackhammer and placing him on an island instead of beneath the earth. Unfortunately, Dig Dug II arrived during somewhat of an arcade downswing and consequently never got a wide distribution. However, the original remains a beloved favorite of the arcade community, an addictive and charming classic like no other game before... or since.

The text below is from a Dig Dug magazine advertisement:

Dig a maze down deep in the ground.
When a flower sprouts you play another round.
Use your pump just like a bazooka.
Use it to puff up the bad, bad Pooka.
Pump up Fygar, put out his flame.
Eat all the veggies and win the game.
There's a lot more. But you've got to play it to get all the action. It's DIG DUG, the new ATARI coin video game that's shaking the whole country.



The Concept
In Dig Dug, you portray Dig Dug, a stocky blue & white suited fellow who digs through multi-colored layers of earth to eliminate dangerous underground enemies. Your weapon of choice? An air pump!

Taking aim at the red, sunglasses-wearing orbs called Pookas or the green, fire-breathing dragons called Fygars, you fire a short hose, snare an enemy and pump it up until it explodes. But be careful! If you get the job half-done, the enemies will not remain stunned in their semi-inflated state, but will soon recover and resume the chase!

If your air pump isn't challenging enough for you, your character can always lure the Pookas or Fygars underneath a large rock, dig out the earth holding it up, then move away and watch the smashing with sadistic glee.
Pookas and Fygars generally stick to the tunnels you dig underground, but theses curious little creatures have the ability to change to ghost form, passing through the earth to chase you down!



Arcade Game Photographs




Playing Tips
You score more points if you kill the monsters by dropping rocks on them, rather than by killing them with your air pump. To do so, dig a tunnel beneath a rock. When a monster runs close behind, turn away and the let the rock fall on top of it, squashing it to death. Because of this, often times you may wish to use your air pump to temporarily stun the monsters, so you can lure it to a nearby rock.
...1 monster 1,000
...2 monsters at once 2,500
...3 monsters at once 4,000
...4 monsters at once 6,000
...5 monsters at once 8,000
...6 monsters at once 10,000
...7 monsters at once 12,000
After dropping the 2nd rock in each round, a vegetable / fruit will appear in the middle of the screen. Extra points will be awarded if you "eat" or run over this food item. It only appears for about ten seconds, so you have to hurry before it disappears. During the higher rounds your priority should be to get these bonus vegetables / fruits because they're worth more points than destroying the monsters.

Fygar's deadly fire can reach you through a thin wall of dirt, so be sure to stay out of his way when he stops moving.

When his buddies are all killed, the last monster will always try to escape at the top left side of the screen. Thus, for maximum points, when there are just two monsters left, try not to kill one in the lower right section of the screen if the other monster is near the upper left portion of the screen. If you do so, you won't be able to get to this last monster in time, before it escapes.

You can't use your air pump through the earth, so back off if a ghost is approaching through the dirt toward your tunnel. Wait until the ghost gets inside the tunnel and then quickly turn and pump it up.

You'll score more points by killing the Fygar dragons from the side, rather than from above or below. Thus, if approaching a Fygar from above or below, it often is beneficial to use your air pump to first stun the dragon, then move to its side, and only then finish pumping it until it explodes. (See the "points awarded" chart below.)

Each round has four different colored levels of earth. Killing the monsters in the bottom-most level earns more points than the level above it, and so on, and so on. (See the "points awarded" chart below.)

To crush a ghost, tunnel under a rock and wait (as long as you don't move, the rock won't fall). When a ghost covers the rock, quickly move out of the way and the ghost will be crushed.

A good way to trap and squash several creatures at once is to tunnel straight up under a rock and wait for the monsters to follow. When the first one or two get close, stun them a few times while the others get closer, then quickly move out of the way to the right or left. Ideally, several monsters will be trapped in the path of the falling rock.

If you want to be extra greedy and get more points, tunnel through as much dirt during each round as you can.

Thanks to Randy Davis for the following Dig Dug videos:

Round 1:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWzhKcqZmm4
Round 2:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ectHJYdwXHw
Round 3:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWJjIxMjvAE
Round 4:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUpHW0HMrTc
Round 5:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qc2y8a-zA8A
Round 6:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIzbhDWH4e0




Various Screenshots




















The Bonus Vegetables / Fruits
carrot 400
turnip 600
mushroom 800
zucchini (or cucumber) 1,000
zucchini (or cucumber) 1,000
eggplant (or aubergine or squash) 2,000
eggplant (or aubergine or squash) 2,000
green pepper 3,000
green pepper 3,000
tomato 4,000
tomato 4,000
garlic 5,000
garlic 5,000
watermelon 6,000
watermelon 6,000
Galaxian Flagship 7,000
Galaxian Flagship 7,000
18 and
pineapple 8,000




Arcade Game Information
Manufacturer: Namco / Atari
Wide Release
Genre: Labyrinth / Maze
Video Arcade
Monitor Orientation: Vertical
Monitor Type:
Monitor Resolution X:
224 pixels
Monitor Resolution Y:
288 pixels
Number of Colors Used:
Video Frequency:
60.61 Hz
Conversion Class: Namco Galaga
Number of Simultaneous Players:
Maximum Number of Players:
Control Panel Layout:
Single Player Ambidextrous
4-way (up, down, left, right)
1 - Pump
Number of Coin Slots:
Unamplified Mono (requires one-channel amp)

Dipswitch Options:

Extra life can be set to 'none'
or varying scores.
(The default is 20,000 and 60,000).
Starting number of lives
can be set to 1, 2, 3, or 5.
(The default is 3).
An option for the game to continue
at the current level after all lives
are lost can be set to ON or OFF.

(The default is ON).
The game difficulty can be set to
(The default is EASY).




After the release of Dig Dug in 1982, Namco Engineers went to arcades to watch their new game being played. They noticed there were two completely separate groups of people. One group enjoyed blowing the monsters up with the air pump. The other group enjoyed killing the monsters by dropping rocks on them!
(I'm a member of the latter.)
The five high scores at the
beginning of the game belong to:

N .N
A .A
M .M
C .C
O .O


The famous director Alfred Hitchcock often made a cameo appearance in the movies he directed. Similar to this, the Galaxian Flagship appears in many Namco games, sometimes as an active partner and sometimes in a more passive role. In Dig Dug, the Galaxian Flagship appears as the bonus vegetable / fruit during Round 16 and 17.

At the beginning of Round 256, a Pooka is on top of the Dig Dug character. Since there is no way to escape, at this Round your game is basically over, no matter how many lives you have left at that point. (Note: I've also read that after Round 256 the game will start over at Round 1 and become easier again, so I'm not sure which is actually correct.)

As proof of its popularity, Dig Dug has been ported to many systems - Amiga, Apple II, Atari, ColecoVision, Commodore, Dreamcast, Game Boy, IBM, Intellivision, Java, Nintendo 64, Palm Pilot, Playstation, Playstation 2, Sega, Sony, VIC-20...

In a 1997 episode of "The X Files", actor Ken Hawryliw, as he is being dragged away by the Military Police exclaims, "You don't understand... all I did was play Dig Dug! I didn't hack into anybody's computer..."

The original chip would rollover back to a score of 0 after reaching 999,990. (Meaning you would not see a score of 1,000,000 or more - there were only six digits allotted for the score.)

Beginners may believe you can "tunnel anywhere" but all Dig Dug screens are actually overlayed on a 14 x 18 grid as shown to the right.

The bottom row is never used while playing. It displays the number of lives left and the number of the Round.

Notice the bottom-most level of earth only has three rows, while the three levels of earth above this one all have four rows.

The very top row of the grid is used only to display the current score and high score.




A Poem
by Edward D. Collins - Copyright 1982
Dig Dug is the game we love
We play it all the time
Been bitten by the Dig Dug Bug
And it sure feels fine.

Drop those rocks and crush their heads
Watch out for that flame
Play all night, play all day
Dig Dug is our game.

Pooka's just above you now
Fygar's closing in
Play all night, play all day
Sometimes you just can't win.




My Current High Score
(Level 13)

"Hey, I like the game. 
I never said I was
good at it!"

High score last updated on 
March 28, 2006.  Note:  This is with the default values.  (Three men at the beginning of the game, an addtional man awarded at 20,00 points, and then another man awarded at 60,000 points.)

Screenshot of previous high score



Here's a link to a review of the game, by Jon Reddick!


(Frequently Asked Questions)

How can I play Dig Dug, and other arcade games of that era?

First you have to download an emulator, that will emulate the arcade game you wish.  (Emulators are much better than simulators, since the latter programs are never able to provide the same feel as the original game.)   MAME is a good emulator program, and probably the most well known, but I understand there are others.  Then, you have to find a site that offers the ROM images for your favorite arcade game.  (No, I'm not legally able to offer the ROM images for download.)