My Top-10 Shooter Games
Shooting enemies is pretty standard fair for most video-games and I’ve certainly played my fair share of such games. I was thinking about making a list of some kind dedicated to shooters but the problem is that I’ve never really been a fan of any one kind of shooter game. Sure, I had an FPS phase in youth but I’d been playing shooter games of various descriptions long before then.
So eventually, I decided to just say: “Fuck it! Let’s lump ’em all together!” Indeed, this is a list of all my favourite games where you get to shoot. First Person Shooters, over-the-shoulder shooters, scrolling shooters (Shoot-em-ups or Schmups) and really any type of game where blasting enemies is just a normal part of the gaming experience. I realise that some of the entries here would probably get classified in other genres as well but as long as they involve a lot of shooting (either as the dominant or at least a frequent game mechanic) they are eligible for the list.
So enough shooting shit, let’s shoot some metaphors because I can’t come up with a clever quip to transition to the list…
A familiar entry from my Top-10 Golden Age Arcades list and it’s here for a reason. Taito’s late-70s alien shooting game was one of the first to really create a sense of anxiety. As you weaken the enemy hordes, you realise that they keep making their way to you faster and faster.
This game is the most basic of all shooters. You move, you shoot and, if you’re not fast enough to take out the enemies, you die. This game was the progenitor of countless imitators but, in all its simplicity, I think its undefeated in its fun factor and the sheer anxiety of trying to blast the enemy hordes.
I mentioned Battle Zone in the Classic Arcades list as another early shooter, in fact probably the first FPS in history, but in my view Space Invaders is just more fun and enjoyable.
Shoot-em-up games have honestly never held a lot of appeal for me. Once you’ve played R-Type, you already know what the experience is going to be like. However, if there is one Schmup which honestly manages to hold my interest in a serious way, it’s the meme-spawning classic from Toaplan.
“All your base are belong to us!”
This game of course became “internet famous” thanks to its hilariously badly translated opening on the Sega Mega Drive port. However, it’s actually one of the most fun Schmups around. You get infinite continues and you always get to start from where you died, so there is no excuse for quitting on the game if you want to beat it.
And of course, there’s the fucking amazing soundtrack from Tatsuya Uemura and company which just makes playing the game all the more enjoyable. Zero Wing is an under-appreciated cult classic and just a really fun game. Definitely worth playing.
Really, either of the Jazz games could have made it on here, but Jazz 2 probably is the more polished and refined of the two classic PC shooter-platformers. Epic Mega Games filled a bit of void in the PC gaming world with these two classic platformers.
Jazz was a fast-paced platformer which also involved lots of shooting and a really impressive variety of weapons. The larger resolution and over-all screen-size of the sequel also made the game a bit more fair as you weren’t taken by surprise with your surroundings and enemies you couldn’t see.
Plus, with all its expansions, Jazz 2 had three playable characters (Jazz, Spazz and Lori) for a bit more variety in gameplay. Jazz ultimately became another cult title but it was definitely an interesting rarity and gave better known shooter-platformers like Contra a run for their money.
As I said, Schmups really aren’t my thing but I do like it when the genre tries something different (like Parodius and Sexy Parodius). Lylat Wars left a strong impression on me on the Nintendo 64 and I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that it’s still one of my favourite games for the system. A 3D scrolling shooter was something quite new to me but it was all the cool additions that this game brought to it that made me love it so much.
Firstly, there’s the story. Although pretty straightforward and simple, its obvious Star Wars parallels and goofy character interaction actually made me very invested in Fox and crew’s adventure. Secondly, the fact that your team-mates were constantly helping out and talking to you made the game a lot more alive. As did the fact that the boss enemies would taunt you during battles.
The game’s short length is also something of a point of interest for me. At the same time, I think it’s ultimately a bit of a weakness since the game feels like it could have offered so much more (though I did get a hefty dose of StarFox action with the sequel). However at the same time, it’s the reason why the game is such a great pick-up-and-play title.
Although I would say that RE4 is still a survival horror game in spirit, it can definitely also be classified as an over-the-shoulder shooter. Gun fights are just much more prominent in this instalment than in the games preceding it but at least in the case of Resident Evil 4 it still didn’t bother me that much.
The game still has a disturbing atmosphere and even feels as if its taking a lot of inspiration from 70s and 80s horror films. It still has over-the-top voice-acting and a degree of cheese factor to even out the more intense horrors you face as the game goes on. The game does get quite relentless towards the finale and its shooter side does show up fairly often. In fact, gun-play is the dominant gameplay style in this instalment, despite that there is a fair amount of exploration and puzzle solving still present.
RE4 is just a great, over-the-top and, at times, a really cinematic experience. You still have to be smart about where you use your weapons and the game is still really challenging in the right places. It has a great entertainment factor but perhaps not big enough to land it in the Top-5.
My huge FPS phase happened to be in the late-90s and while there were many potential candidates from that time to go up here (Doom, Quake, Half-Life etc.), my fondest gaming memories always involve the man with the Balls of Steel.
Duke Nukem 3D from Apogee’s 3D Realms studio made all other FPS titles feel inferior with its tongue-in-cheek, macho energy. Duke would kill hordes of horrific alien monsters on his mission to save Earth’s women and would spout cheesy one-liners and famous movie quotes all the while doing so. This attitude is what made Duke stand out amongst the faceless and personality-free heroes of most other FPS titles.
Lest you think Duke’s game was all about boobs, guns and gore though you’d be wrong. Duke Nukem 3D’s levels were ambitious, gigantic and traversing through them required a hell of a lot of trial and error and at times a lot of spacial thinking. But having a badass like Duke on for the ride made it worth-while (the same reason I’m one of the few people who actually liked Duke Nukem Forever).
In the realm of shooter-platformers, one simply can’t ignore the mightiest earthworm in the known universe. This crazy, cartoony adventure pits the goofy-looking hero against all manner of space nasties but what makes Jim so excellent is the variety of gameplay.
Yes, there’s a lot of shooting but the game even puts that to some pretty original use as the game goes on. Jim can also swing around using his head and the game is filled with colourful, weird and at times just flat-out creepy locations. Earthworm Jim’s excellent level design is what makes it so unique amongst platformer-shooters.
Deservedly, the game found its way both to my Top-10 SNES and Top-10 Mega Drive games lists. Whichever version you decide to try out is up to you, but I personally prefer the Mega Drive version for its vastly better music.
Here’s another Mega Drive classic from former employees of Capcom and Konami. Gunstar Heroes puts together elements of a Mega Man and a Contra game and the end result is quite spectacular. A sci-fi shooter-platformer with varied controls and a really interesting cast of bad guys to go up against.
Gunstar Heroes, much like Earthworm Jim, uses some pretty novel gameplay mechanics which make it stand-out amongst most shooter-platformers. However, more so than that, Gunstar Heroes is most fun when played with two players. I rarely play games in multiplayer, but Gunstar Heroes has always been in my view the definitive MD multiplayer experience. Teaming up with a friend to take down the bad guys is just a whole lot of fun.
On the flip side, I feel Gunstar Heroes is a little underwhelming when played alone. Sure, there’s infinite continues and the levels are still fantastic but the game really needs a second player to reach its peak fun-factor. This is the only reason Gunstar Heroes only got an honourable mention on the Top-10 Mega Drive games list.
Amongst FPS games, Metroid Prime 3 has long stood as my absolute favourite. And it’s little wonder why that is. The Wii’s controls were a perfect adaption to the First Person Shooter style but rather than simply have Samus blast through tons of enemies, the game also includes navigating complex levels and solving puzzles to progress to the next part of the game.
Metroid Prime 3 instantly became my favourite Metroid game since it dispensed with the annoying scavenger hunt element of old school Metroids (at least for the most part) and made the game much more focused and intense as a result. There was even a promise of a really good storyline, although it did fall a bit flat towards the end (but thankfully Other M fixed that problem). The game feels like such a dark and lonely experience as you have to traverse the abandoned and occasionally alien infested ships and stations. The feeling is very much similar to that of Half-Life but I think I prefer Samus’s arm-cannon to a crowbar.
Not a surprise that the game made it this high as it was also number-1 on my Top-10 Wii games list. Despite great level variety, top-notch atmosphere and awesomely fun gameplay, I think Metroid Prime 3 still had enough hiccups that it doesn’t quite reach the top of the list.
Of course, my favourite game series ever to involve shooting is Mega Man. However, picking a favourite from the main-original series was rather difficult for me. I could have gone with everyone’s favourite (Mega Man 2), my personal favourite (Mega Man 5) or the hardest (Mega Man 4). But none of these games were honestly fast-paced enough to really qualify so finally I decided to throw in one of the most extreme titles to bear Mega Man in the title, the first X-game.
Mega Man X is Mega Man on steroids. You move faster, you shoot faster, you can climb walls and you have to fend off against relentless hordes of enemies. Sure, the first X-game is probably not the “hardest” game in the series but it’s challenging enough that you feel really accomplished when you manage to take down the Mavericks and head for Sigma’s castle. Even then, in order to defeat the final boss, you pretty much have to have all the bells and whistles hidden in the levels and that probably makes the game even more extreme as far challenge goes.
Mega Man X is just a supremely fun game where you blast hordes of malicious robots, gain new abilities with each victory and enjoy some of the best video-game music ever made. It was honestly almost a coin-toss between this and Mega Man X3, but the first MMX is definitely more polished as an experience and still extremely rewarding. No two ways about it, my favourite type of shooter involves a heroic, blue robot and lots and lots of plasma shots!