Phoenix

Topping the list of the 1980 edition of Fun Facts You Probably Didn't Know is this: Birds hate humans, and all those birds you see hanging out in parks and sitting on wires along the highway are actually the spearhead of an intergalactic invasion force. It's shocking, but true. You'd think they would have been content to crap on our freshly washed cars, but that just wasn't enough. The cheerful singing of songs in the garden and the cute pecking for food by the pond was nothing more than a ruse to soften us up so the invading hordes of extraterrestrial raptors can crap on the entire planet. No pressure or anything, but you may want to hop into your space ship and defend the earth. Good luck, we're all counting on you.

Gameplay: Phoenix splits an avian attack into several stages, culminating in the attempted landing of the mothership. The good news is, the birds aren't that smart, and they tend to attack in repetitive patterns. The bad news is, there are an awful lot of them. However, you've got your trusty laser blaster to knock them out of the sky, and a spiffy shield as a last resort. But don't rely on it too much: It only lasts for three seconds, and it takes at least seven to recharge.

Could be mistaken for: Gorf, Galaxian, Pleiads.

Kids today might not like it because: There aren't any 3D cut-scenes to build the rich invasion backstory, so they'll have to use their imaginations—just as soon as TV tells them what an imagination is, and how to use it.

Kids today might like it because: Though this game is 25 years old, it's still challenging and fun to play. If you time it just right, you can get 200,000 points for blasting three birds in the first wave.

Enduring contribution to gaming history: Phoenix improved on the standard Space Invaders model by adding an animated background and distinctively different levels, each requiring its own unique strategy. Without this bold leap forward, we might still be playing black-and-white games and living under the delusion that digital watches are a pretty neat idea. —Wil Wheaton

Wil Wheaton is powered by infinite improbability. He lives behind a Somebody Else's Problem field.

Thanks to The International Arcade Museum and The Killer List Of Video Games for images and historical information.

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