How 13 Classic Video Games Got Their Names

Pac-Man, Tetris, Halo—these are just some of the odd names of video games that are now so widely used that we rarely questions where those names came from.See the stories behind how these games, and a slew of others, got their now-famous names … and what they were almost called instead.

Pac-Man was inspired by a Japanese onomatopoeia.

Metroid comes from 'metro' and 'android.'

The name of Nintendo's classic game is actually a combination of two words: metro, as in another word for subway, which is an allusion to the game's underground setting; and android, referring to the game's protagonist, Samus Aran, who appears to be a robot through most of the game. (Really old spoiler alert: Samus is a woman.)

Game designer Alexey Pajitnov named Tetris after a geometric shape and his favourite sport.

When Russian game designer Alexey Pajitnov named his famously addictive video game, he decided to combine two words: tetromino and tennis. A tetromino is a geometric shape comprising four squares. Tennis was just Pajitnov's favourite sport.

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Luckily, Grand Theft Auto didn't keep its original name—Race 'n' Chase.

According to one of the original game's developers, Gary Penn, GTA was initially called Race 'n' Chase. And instead of only playing a car-stealing gangster, the game gave you the option of being a gangster-chasing police officer, too.

Wolfenstein 3-D took on its name after another software company lost its copyright.

Doom got its name from a scene in 'The colour of Money.'

Guerrilla War was known by another name in other parts of the world—Guevara.

The Legend of Zelda was named after F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife.

Final Fantasy was a game developer's last shot in the video game industry.

The year was 1987. Four years earlier, Hironobu Sakaguchi had left school mid-semester so that he could take a job as a game developer at a company called Square. Now, though, he was starting to wonder if this video game thing was really for him. He decided to give it one last shot with his latest title--an expansive role-playing game --but if it wasn't a hit, he was going back to college to finish his electrical engineering degree.

As a sort of inside joke, he decided to call the game Final Fantasy, because he figured it would most likely be his last. It wasn't. The game sold 400,000 copies for the Nintendo Entertainment System, has gone on to sell millions of copies across nearly every gaming platform in existence, spawned 13 sequels, and more spin-off titles than you can count.

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Yars' Revenge is Atari's then-CEO's name spelled backwards.

One of the best-selling games ever for the Atari 2600, Yars' Revenge, is named after Atari's then-CEO, Ray Kassar. The insect-like alien species, the Yar, is Ray spelled backwards. The planet they come from, Razak, is a phonetic spelling of his last name backwards.

Q*bert was inspired by M.C. Escher's drawings.

When game developer Gottlieb's Warren Davis and Jeff Lee started to create what would become Q*bert, they initially called their project Cubes after the M.C. Escher-inspired boxes that the main character hops around on. After they added the ability to shoot balls of slime from the character's snorkel-like nose in order to defend himself, they changed the name to Snots and Boogers. But when it was decided that slime-ball-shooting made the game too complicated, the name didn't really make sense anymore, so the marketing team started brainstorming.

One idea was to name the game @!#[email protected]!, the curse-word grawlixes that appear whenever the player gets caught by a bad guy. They also thought about naming it after the main character who, until then, didn't have a name. Someone came up with Hubert, which was later combined with Cubes to make Cubert. But as the art designer made the logo, he changed it to Q-bert, only to later have the dash become an asterisk, resulting in the game's final name.

Halo had some strange potential names until the creators named it after the shape of the planet Solipsis.

Donkey Kong's name is the result of a confused translation of Japanese to English.

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