Maze (video game genre)

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Pac-Man (1980) was the first maze traversal game.

A maze game is a video game genre in which a player must solve or traverse every passage of a maze, often with pursuers. It is one of the oldest video game genres, dating back to 1959. Part of the reason why maze games made such an early impact on video games is because most early software developers were also mathematics students who had to learn the various algorithms that can be used to generate mazes.


The very first maze video game was Mouse In the Maze (1959) where you had to make a maze for a mouse to solve. However, since you couldn't solve the game yourself, it was more of a toy than a game. In the early 1970s, maze games were becoming larger and required the player to solve a randomly generated maze. The predecessor of Maze War, Maze (1973) was the first first-person perspective maze game, and Maze (1974) and Maze Tracing (1974) were the first traditional maze solving games. Atari created probably the first maze pursuit game with Gotcha (1973) although it wasn't much of a maze, and other companies were hot on the trail as first generation home video game consoles included Amazing Maze (1976), Videocart-10: Maze (1977), and Super Maze (1977). The first maze traversal game, where the player is expected to walk through the majority of the passages in a maze, was Pac-Man (1980), and the first grid capture maze game was Amidar (1981).

As hardware became more powerful, maze games started to become more complex and evolved into genres like dungeon crawlers, Rougelikes, and first-person shooters, which, although they still take place in mazes, their game play is so different, they don't really fit into the category anymore.


There are several sub-genres of maze games.

Sub-Genre Description Examples
Standard Maze The player is expected to solve a maze from beginning to end while viewing it from a top-down perspective. Maze (1974), Maze Tracing (1974).
3D Maze The player is expected to solve a maze from beginning to end while viewing it from inside the maze in a first-person perspective. Later 3D maze games incorporate pursuing enemies or opponents. Maze (1973), Escape! (1978).
Maze Pursuit The player is expected to avoid or defeat opponents in a maze. Gotcha (1973), Heiankyo Alien (1979).
Maze Traversal The player is expected to traverse all of the passages of a maze with enemies or an opponent in pursuit. Pac-Man (1980), Lock 'n' Chase (1981).
Grid Capture The player is expected to surround and "capture" areas of a maze with enemies or an opponent in pursuit. Amidar (1981), Triple Punch (1982).


I'm pretty sure the first maze video game I ever played was the arcade version of Pac-Man around 1985. My family also had Maze Craze and Pac-Man for the Atari 2600. Although I really enjoyed mazes on paper in my childhood, and frequently drew them, I never really cared much for any of these games, and none of the sub-genres appeal to me either. I either find them to be too simplistic or too geared toward reflexive play.


This is a list of maze game that are important to me. For all games in this genre, see the maze category.

Title Released Developer
Combat 1977-09-11 Atari
Katamari Damacy 2004-03-18 Namco
Maze Craze 1980-??-?? Atari
Ms. Pac-Man 1982-02-03 General Computer Corporation, Midway
Pac-Man 1980-10-26 Namco
Pac-Man (Atari 2600) 1982-??-?? Atari
Super Bomberman 1993-04-28 Hudson Soft