They’re the ultimate in quick-fix gameplay – simply aim the gun at the screen and shoot everything that pops up. The mainstay of the seaside arcade and motorway service station they’re perfect for short bursts of intense, adrenaline-inducing fun, rail shooters, and ideal for relieving stress after a hectic day at work. Here’s a list of a few of our favourite gun-based shooters ever…
Point Blank (Arcade/various home systems)
Proof that not all gun games have to involve unspeakable violence against monsters or muscular soldiers, Namco’s Point Blank was a digital shooting gallery packed with odd, whimsical charm. Offering up a series of mini-games that challenged accuracy and speed, Point Blank asked players to shoot leaves falling from a tree, blast away at tanks advancing over undulating hills, or fire at cuckoo clocks.
The game really came into its own with two players, and those lucky enough to own a copy of the PlayStation game and two GunCons were assured a great evening’s competitive shooting.
Silent Scope (Arcade/various home systems)
A game that satisfied the crazed rooftop killer in all of us, Sega’s Silent Scope is markedly different in pace and tone from most gun games. Where most rail shooters were fast-paced approximations of action movies, Silent Scope played more like a gun-crazy pulp thriller.
Armed with a sniper rifle, Silent Scope’s telescopic site created an intimate atmosphere of rising tension. From a remote position, you took pot shots at terrorists in high-rise buildings and hijacked aircraft, and each successful hit felt like a palpable victory. The sense of achievement reached its zenith during boss battles – those with a good aim will be able to take bosses down with a single bullet to the head, while less accurate players will have to plug away with five or six shots.
While competently ported to most several consoles (and most recently, to the iPhone) the arcade original is still the best, largely thanks to the weighty rifle attached to the front of the cabinet.The House Of The Dead: Overkill (Nintendo Wii)
Sega’s horror shooter series reached its zenith with this Wii-exclusive entry, a game that mixed the zombie-shooting trappings of the arcade originals with an aesthetic and gruesome sense of fun from grindhouse gore movies.
Like most gun games, its thrills were short-lived – and it could be argued that Overkill is a little too easy – but the game’s humour and graphics make it great fun to play, and it’s akin to playing through an interactive 70s exploitation movie at times.
Time Crisis (Arcade/various home systems)
As we mentioned in our retrospective yesterday, Time Crisis offers a timeless arcade challenge comparable to Namco’s own Galaga, and relies on a similar blend of reactions, timing and memory. The simple ability to duck (and reload as you did so) transformed the genre from a simple shooting gallery to something altogether more strategic – and the constant ticking of the clock merely added to the tension. An arcade classic.
Operation Wolf (Arcade/various home systems)
The venerable Op Wolf’s inclusion on this list is thanks almost entirely to its nostalgic appeal, admittedly, but it’s still a fun game despite its age. The game that sparked a wave of unimaginative clones, Operation Wolf’s big draw was its cabinet-mounted, life-size Uzi.
Where most arcade machines that followed had lightweight, unconvincing firearms attached to them (Konami’s Lethal Enforcers, with its plastic blue and pink revolvers, immediately springs to mind), Op Wolf’s submachine gun felt convincingly weighty, and provided a mighty kick with every squeeze of the trigger.
Duck Hunt (Nintendo Entertainment System)
Another classic slice of nostalgia, Duck Hunt was one of only a handful of gun games that doesn’t revel in hideous violence. Instead, it’s a cartoon-like, inconsequential slice of fun that you could have quite easily played with your auntie back in the 80s (as long as she didn’t mind a game that depicted the wholesale slaughter of ducks, that is).Beast Busters (Arcade/various home systems)
Reportedly Michael Jackson’s favourite arcade machine, but don’t hold that against it. A completely mental horror shooter that referenced zombie movies and the shape-shifting critters of John Carpenter’s The Thing, Beast Busters was worth playing just to see what kind of hideous abomination its creators would throw at you next.
Unusually, Beast Busters allowed up to three players to blast away at once, and is also notable for its high level of violence – until Sega brought out The House Of The Dead seven years later, Beast Busters was almost certainly the goriest gun game in existence.
Space Gun (Arcade/various home systems)
While Beast Busters freely referenced horror movies, Space Gun had its head firmly in the universe of James Cameron’s Aliens – flicking between side-scrolling and into-the-screen sections, the player trundled around a space ship infested by xenomorphs.
Immensely satisfying in one or two player mode, blowing the limbs of aliens was an enormous amount of fun, and the game took great delight in wrong-footing players at every turn. Blow the heads off certain monsters, and they’ll spew out deadly spheres from their necks, while the human survivors you’re meant to be rescuing will sometimes mutate into deadly alien critters.
Dead Space Extraction (Wii)
More gruesome outerspace action, this time in a Wii exclusive rail shooter that is easily the equal of Sega’s House Of The Dead: Overkill. Developer Visceral may not have been able to port its excellent third-person shooter Dead Space to the Wii due to its meagre hardware, but their gun game is an excellent spin-off that is almost as scary as its bigger brother on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.
Incredibly, hardly anyone bothered to buy Dead Space Extraction, despite almost universally positive reviews and genuinely addictive gameplay. Proof that far too many Wii owners have no taste.
Yoshi’s Safari (Super Nintendo)
We’re not sure why Nintendo are so good at gun games – this is the fourth such Nintendo-exclusive title in the list – but Yoshi’s Safari is one of the most fun and imaginative examples of the genre on any system.
Making full use of the Super Scope, Nintendo’s odd bazooka-like lightgun released for the SNES in the early 90s, the task was to guide Yoshi through a series of levels, shooting incoming enemies before the can injure him. Boss battles and power-ups were frequent, and the whole game was shot through with colour and humour.
Time Crisis: Razing Storm is due for release on 5 November, exclusively for PlayStation 3.