Clearly, one of the mandates was to never use any actual video game titles in the episode. The Space Invaders are introduced when Leela (Katey Sagal) announces “Invaders! Possibly from space!” Donkey Kong is introduced when Fry says “I know that monkey! His name is Donkey!” The phrase “Donkey Kong” is never said. One might also note that Donkey Kong is wearing a loincloth, something he doesn’t wear in the original “Donkey Kong” video game.
David X. Cohen noted that “Raiders of the Lost Arcade” was mostly geared toward arcade denizens his age (Cohen was born in 1966). Arcade culture is embedded deep in the consciousness of Gen-Xers the world over, and it’s hard to communicate the glories of video game culture before the industry moved into homes. Cohen knew that his references would be understood by audiences of a certain age:
“[An anthology] I wrote was called ‘Raiders of the Lost Arcade.’ The ‘what if’ scenario was Fry asking, ‘What if life were more like a video game?’ And here I got to use all these things from video games of the 1980s, which was my era for video games, back in the day when you would actually spend your quarters in the arcade, and I spent many quarters in the arcade at that time. So we had a Space Invaders-style invasion of Earth where the spaceships were coming down by moving to the right, then dropping down a notch, moving back to the left, dropping down a notch.”
Lrrr’s instruction to his fleet was merely, “Move left! Drop down! Reverse direction!” — the pattern of the Space Invaders. He also noted that he and his team had to recreate a lot of old arcade noises, as there aren’t exactly master recordings of 1980-era arcade games anywhere.