Pac-Man vs. Ms. Pac-Man

Pac-Man vs. Ms. Pac-Man

Namco's famous couple compete

A.J. Maciejewski

Written by for Versus on

Back in the early '80s, everyone had Pac-Man fever and the original arcade games are still a ton of fun to play. So, let's revisit the 2 classics that started it all and decide which one holds up better nearly 40 years later.

Official artwork for Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man
Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man seem happy no matter who wins

Pac-Man

First up, here's the iconic Pac-Man from 1980. I have many fond memories of trying to get a high score in this arcade masterpiece. My introduction to it came in the form of the NES port and I remember taking turns playing it with my dad who opted to use the QuickShot Python 2 joystick because dads will be dads, right? Anyway, whenever I saw an arcade cabinet for Pac-Man, I'd always feel compelled to give it a few attempts and even find it hard to resist nowadays. So, what makes Pac-Man so much fun? In my opinion, it's the perfect balance of action, strategy, and simplistic fun. Meanwhile, catchy little ditties play and the sound effects are so recognizable that they persist even to this day. Plus, who could forget snagging a piece of fruit for some extra points? It's so much fun.

There are varying degrees of Pac-Man fans. Over the years, gamers have mastered each of the ghosts' unique artificial intelligence in order to take advantage of their movement patterns which just blows my mind. Although I prefer to play it casually, professional Pac-Man players are quite a sight to behold. To think that they can reach the notorious level 256 with general ease is jaw-dropping. It just goes to show how thoroughly entertaining Pac-Man is if countless gamers over the years put that much time and effort into mastering it. There really isn't anything more satisfying than gobbling up a power pellet only to chow down on all 4 ghosts that have been relentlessly chasing you around. In the end, Pac-Man is a classic in every sense of the word and I'm sure it'll be popular for another 40 years and beyond.

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Pac-Man screenshot
The original Pac-Man in all its arcade glory

Ms. Pac-Man

In 1982, Ms. Pac-Man debuted but how could it possibly top its amazing predecessor? Well, it follows a similar formula in that you navigate through mazes while eating pellets, avoiding ghosts, and powering up with power pellets. In addition to the basics, Ms. Pac-Man features a wealth of changes that do a fantastic job of freshening up the gameplay. The most notable change is the maze layout which is quite different and it even changes a few times with a total of 4 unique layouts. Having to consistently change up your strategy whenever a new maze shows up will definitely keep you on your toes. A similar enhancement that I appreciate is how the walls are brighter thus removing any graphical ambiguity and streamlining the gameplay. The only downside is that I miss the classic music and effects.

Remember how I said that hardcore fans memorize the ghost patterns in order to master Pac-Man? Well, in Ms. Pac-Man, the ghosts behave a lot differently and feature more randomized patterns which makes trying to outsmart them a lot more difficult. Speaking of unpredictability, I also love how the fruits bounce around the maze instead of merely materializing in the centre like they do in the original. Chasing blue ghosts and fruit at the same time adds a very enjoyable dynamic to achieving a high score. I personally prefer all of this unpredictability as it makes each attempt fresh and exciting while also placing the challenge solely in the player's ability to think on their feet instead of relying on memorized patterns. It really is an incredible sequel and set a very high bar for arcade games.

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Ms. Pac-Man screenshot
Ms. Pac-Man sure changed things up; that's for sure!

It was a lot of fun revisiting these classic Pac-Man arcade games but writing about them made me want to play them so I better wrap this up! You might have a good guess at which one I'm going to pick as the winner and it is indeed...

Winner Ms. Pac-Man

The original Pac-Man stands tall as one of the greatest arcade games of all time and without it, Ms. Pac-Man would never exist. With that said; Ms. Pac-Man took everything great about the original and added a layer of unpredictability which makes the gameplay much more exciting and fulfilling. No matter which one you prefer, you can't go wrong with enjoying both of these arcade treasures. Here's hoping Namco shows even more love for Pac-Man and releases new takes on the classic formula!

That's just my opinion. Agree? Disagree? Vote now!

Gameplay video playlist for Pac-Man vs. Ms. Pac-Man 13:50
Namco arcade games Trivia

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