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Digging Up Mazes and Monsters With Dig Dug, The 1982 Arcade Game

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Digging Up Mazes and Monsters With Dig Dug, The 1982 Arcade Game

Hey man, can you dig it?! There is this dude named Dug and he's got himself a problem. You see this cat is a miner, and what a miner has to do is dig, but they're these monster-like cats who gone and taken up subterranean stakes in Dug's digging site. Well, a Dug has got to dig, so that's just what he does, and when he reaches them burrowing baddies he's gotta pump them up 'til they blow, baby blow. And like I keep telling him, it's all about the Dig, Dug.

Basic Facts

Digging Up Dug:

In the early '80s arcade games were still in an experimental age. It was a year before the crash of the video game market and another nine years before Street Fighter II turned video arcades into wastelands of fighting games.

The maze game had been a concept since the early days of gaming, however by 1980 the genre had become enormously popular in thanks to the success of Pac-Man. Arcade manufacturers were churning out all sorts of maze games designed to have the player being chased though a maze. Then in 1982, the company that created Pac-Man, and reinvented the maze game genre, did it again with an experience where the main mechanic has you creating your own maze, Dig Dug.

Although in 1982 Namco was a major arcade game developer and manufacturer in Japan, they didn't have a distribution arm in the US, so they would license out their games to American distributors such as Midway in the case of Pac-Man; and for Dig Dug, they inked a deal with Atari.

While previous deals had the game release in Japan first to see how it performed commercially before seeing a US release, Namco was a proven creator of popular games, so Dig Dug ended up releasing to both territories in 1982 and was an instant success.


Players control a space-age looking miner, who must dig his way deep below the surface of the earth using his portable jackhammer. As he burrows though the layers of soil he creates a maze path behind him, but those aren't the only openings within the earth. Two types of creatures pace within underground caves...

  • Pookas: Walking, goggle wearing tomato-like creatures


  • Fygars: Mini-Fire Breathing Dragons

While these creatures start out on their narrow, enclosed caves, they have the special ability to transform into ghosts and float though the solid earth, either to another the open maze Dug has been digging, up to the surface, or right towards Dug himself.

Dug will Pump You Up!

Dug's only defense is a super-powerful hand pump, which shoots out a hose that sticks into a monster, allowing Dug to start inflating the creatures. The player does this by rapidly tapping the fire button.

While partially inflated the creature is stunned, leaving Dug the choice to stop pumping and run past it before the critter deflates, or keep pumping and blow the sucker up. The other way is to burrow a path that Dug can use to trick one, or more, of the creatures down the tunnel right as he digs beneath a boulder. If timed right you the boulder will fall and crush the creatures below it.

The Pookas can only injure you if they touch you, however the Fygars can breath fire, which has a reach, and they can move faster than Dug while in one of the tunnels, but on the surface they end up moving slower.

Goals to Dig

The goal of the game is to clear out all of the creatures by either blowing them up or crushing them. When only one last creature remains it will either float, or if in a tunnel, run to the surface and try to escape by running off the left side of the screen. Even if Dug isn't able to kill this last enemy before it escapes, the stage is still completed, indicated by a flower growing on the top right side of the screen.

Like many other Namco games, fruit is used to gain bonus points. In the case of Dig Dug, it appears somewhere in the path you've dug out, meaning you have to backtrack and tear yourself away from the task of blowing creatures up.

Dig Dug was a major hit and one of the most popular games of 1982. It spawned numerous ports and versions for home consoles, a sequel titled Dig Dug II, and a hugely popular spin-off series about Dig Dug's son: Mr. Driller.

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