One could argue that Space Invaders is the vertical shooter that defines the genre. It certainly feels like the consummate classic in the field. That impending doom march of the Invaders. That alluring droning of the UFO as it taunts you from the top of the screen. Those equally defending and infuriating shields that are never where you need them to be. When I hear the words "vertical shooter" these are the images in my mind.
Space Invaders is a great game! And to be honest I am partial to the "improved" Invaders in the VCS version. But you don't get to the top of a list like this by just being a classic or by defining a genre. As a matter of fact that sort of works against Space Invaders here. The game lays the foundation for many better games to come, but when you break new ground you are setting yourself up to be improved upon. Many of the games further up this list owe their greatness at least in part to Space Invaders.
My biggest qualm with Space Invaders for the VCS is the lack of challenge. The base game can be mastered and the score rolled with relatively little practice. I wish the score counter went into the millions because I think I could play it that long. And no, I am not going to just keep rolling the score and try to keep track of how many times I have done that. Thankfully there are lots, and I mean lots, of variations on the base game to keep things fresh, but if we are evaluating these games on the base game play, then I have to say that Space Invaders gets a bit stagnant a bit too quickly.
I have big love and big respect for Space Invaders on the Atari 2600, but I just don't play it much anymore. It would rank much higher on a list of classic, iconic label and box art, however!
My Top Space Invaders Score: Score Rolled, repeatedly.