|You can emulate most of these games released before 2002 with MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator). Some games (Capcom, SNK) run better on WinKawaks and/or FinalBurn Alpha Playstation/Namco-based hardware runs better on ZiNc. NAOMI and NAOMI 2 games can be emulated in Demul, nullDC and Makaron, with varying compatibility. Nebula also has additional optimization for SNK, Capcom, Konami and PolyGameMaster systems, as well as the Sega Model 2 Emulator.|
Shoot 'em ups
|19XX: The War Against Destiny||1995||Fourth in the 19XX series. The War Against Destiny is arguably the best entry from Capcom. Its mainstay is the level ranking system which tallies your performance (boss clear time, miss percentage, medal catches) and grants levels based on how well you do. Holding shot and releasing on a bigger enemy locks on to it and fires homing missiles, whereas holding the bomb button charges them up to more destructive effect. Does away with the wing gunners seen in previous 19XX games, things that needlessly added two extra hit boxes.|
|After Burner II||1987||Fly a plane and shoot other planes. INCREDIBLE in an actual sit-down arcade machine.
Rereleased all over the goddamn place. You'll more often see Climax at arcades, although it is also available on XBLA.
|Armed Police Batrider||1998||A funky Raizing shooter with TONS of content and depth. Features nine standard hover bike riders (batriders) across three teams: Police, Psychics and Criminals. The player can select a team of 3 or hand pick their own (the button used in character select powers characters up differently, e.g. A = powers up shot, B = option). Has an extremely complex ranking and scoring system where firing or collecting anything raises difficulty, while grazing bullets and dying reduces difficulty. Also has a hilarious Australian announcer ("LUVUL AHP!").|
Brotip: get (Korea, version B) for extra content. It has a boss rush mode, solo batrider option, and all of the secret characters unlocked from Battle Garegga/Mahou Daisakusen.
|Battle Bakraid||1999||Battle Bakraid compounds the solid framework of Battle Garegga with the much needed neon flair of Armed Police Batrider. Includes nine ships, half of which need to be unlocked by codes in versions other than Unlimited. Refines elements like the charged shot, grazing (by making hit boxes smaller), and dynamic difficulty present in most Eighting/Raizing shooters.|
|Battle Garegga||1996||Holy fuck, this game. Get ready to flip some shit when you can't differentiate real bullets from debris. That's right: REAL BULLETS. None of that kawaii uguu~~ neon shit. Amazing art style aside, Battle Garegga is sure to hit the sweet spot for challenge seekers and enthusiasts alike. Has some incredible music that really gets your adrenaline flowing. Also features characters from Mahou Daisakusen after entering a combination similar to the Konami Code.|
Available on the Sega Saturn as a faithful port.
|Boogie Wings||1992||Also known as The Great Ragtime Show, Boogie Wings is a comedic adventure set around the time of World War I. You pilot a biplane with a hook attached that can be used to pick up objects and drop them on enemies. Has a lot of silly levels, involving propelling a ferris wheel along a roller-coaster track and even a giant, mecha Santa. There's a ton of vehicles, destructibles, and on-foot portions where you're somehow hulk strong and spiking 2-ton crates on things.|
|Dangun Feveron / Fever SOS||1998||"FE~VER! Can you feel it?"
Your body's not ready to behold the magnificent fusion of manic shooting and disco. Dangun Feveron is an insanely fast-paced shooter from Cave. Before you roll into the club you're able to configure your ship's speed and weapons. Little dancing men appear when you dispatch enemies quickly and drift down the screen to serve as a score multiplier. The music for the levels is 80's disco, and your smart bombs harness the power of disco itself to blast enemies. What are you waiting for? Get dancing!
|Dimahoo / Great Mahou Daisakusen||2000||ARE YOU GREAT?
Dimahoo is an outstanding, medieval/fantasy-themed shooter by Eighting/Raizing. Gameplay consists of intelligent use of the magical fire and ice polarity system to reap the most loot. Unleashing a charge on the opposite element will yield extra damage and produce loot, while bullets of the same element can't kill you but instead reduce your shot level. There are roughly a hundred unique treasures including secret boss drops, which adds to its replayability.
|DoDonPachi||1997||A brilliant, refined sequel to the original DonPachi. Everything was improved in DoDonPachi (lit. "angry leader bee") -- the level design, the action and explosions, the sprites and sound -- making it truly one of Cave's most well known master works. Level layouts now complement the combo system (improved to 1s fade time compared to the 0.0001s timer seen in the original) and huge chains are not uncommon. Great game, go play this shit even if you have a passive interest in shmups.|
Ported to the Sega Saturn as well as PS1.
|DoDonPachi Dai Ou Jou||2002||Take everything that made DoDonPachi great, add in hyper items, crank the bullet spray up to eleven and you have Dai Ou Jou (lit. "peaceful death"). There isn't anything peaceful about this, however, as this game doesn't fuck around. Be prepared to get manhandled on the later levels/second loop. Black Label is markedly easier compared to White Label.|
The PS2/Xbox 360 versions are recommended as they have training and boss rush modes. Playable on MAME.
|DonPachi||1995||DonPachi (lit. "leader bee") marked the beginning of one of the greatest shmup series of all time. It may look less action-packed when compared to DoDonPachi but you'll find yourself swamped in bullets with that relaxed outlook, as this game was the forerunner of the bullet hell (“danmaku”) subgenre. Its chaining is pretty shitty though with a split second combo timer. All things considered it's a rock solid game, with fluid sprites and amazing sound work, on par with that of DoDonPachi.|
Ported to the Sega Saturn as well as PS1.
|Dragon Blaze||2000||Choose one of four dragon riders (it's even got a dwarven thunder dragon rider named Rob, where's my Thor?) and blast through a bunch of mythological bosses. Unique to this title is the use of your dragon. It works as a separate, invulnerable entity in that it can be shot like a piercing weapon causing high damage. Your dragon will stay where it was shot and collect coins, power-ups and fire on enemies until called back.|
|EDF: Earth Defense Force||1991||You pick one of four main weapons for each level and gain experience as you shoot down enemies. Leveling up enhances your weapons and introduces new togglable formations for your secondary gunners. Has an amazing soundtrack which is especially resonant on the later levels; like something out of an RPG.
Ported to the Super Nintendo with four more weapon types, but the music didn't quite transition intact.
|ESP Ra.De.||1998||Set in a not-too-distant future Tokyo, ESP Ra.De. illustrates the rebellion of society against the oppressive rule of psychic subjugators known as ESPers. You play as one of three teenagers gifted with extraordinary psychic powers. Each character has a unique, quickly refilling piercing shot. Bombs, instead of clearing the screen, are now used as a chargeable, invincible shield that releases a high-powered beam. Extremely easy compared to most shooters.|
One of the few Cave games to see no localization or ports whatsoever.
|Espgaluda||2003||Fantastic feel good shooter. You're a pair of fairies on a warpath, blasting the shit out of robots, innocent bystanders and whatever-the-fuck-else is unlucky enough to get in your way. Gather gems to swap genders momentarily and burst enemy bullets into treats (no, really). Staying in Kakusei mode with zero gems initiates Overmode, where bullets turn pink and accelerate, and enemy deaths yield ingots. Score fetishist's delight. Spiritual prequel to ESP Ra.De.|
Also available on the PS2 as an import and, more recently, MAME.
|Giga Wing||1999||Notable for its ridiculous scoring system where scores in the hundreds of billions are commonplace. Has an ability known as Reflect Force that repels bullets back at enemy ships when the shot button is held, producing medals for all enemies hit. Features dynamic difficulty depending on where your first death occurs, something that can retard or severely increase the difficulty and volume of bullets.|
Ported to the Dreamcast along with Giga Wing 2.
|Gokujō Parodius! / Fantastic Journey||1994||A hilarious parody of Gradius and many other Konami shmups. Characters are all overloaded with cuteness (even the Vic Viper, d'awww) and have their own distinct shot types and options. Gameplay is completely absurd and never takes itself seriously (a Kitten Submarine? EXTREEEME!), which is good as it makes Parodius one of Konami's crown jewels.|
Rereleased on the PS1 and Sega Saturn.
|Gradius / Nemesis||1985||"Shoot the core!"
One of the games that revolutionized the scrolling shooter genre, Gradius was Konami's spiritual successor to the arcade title Scramble. You play as pilot James Burton aboard the Vic Viper on a mission to purge the universe of vile Bacterians. Features slow scrolling across several diverse levels with bacterion enemies, Moai heads and the iconic Big Core. Pay your respects; or nostalgia, if you're old enough for that kind of thing.
|Gradius II / Vulcan Venture||1988||Second in the Gradius series, Gradius II improves upon the original in every way: better graphics, more enemies, more firepower and an unforgiving difficulty. One major change is having to choose your weapon set before taking off, choosing between an array of bomb types, double shot/tailgun, and the laser/ripple laser (incorporated from Salamander). Relatively unknown as it was released in Europe as Vulcan Venture and never made available to North American audiences.|
Rereleased on the Wii's Virtual Console and as part of the Gradius Collection on the PSP.
|Gradius III||1989||Third in the Gradius series, Gradius III is a step down from Gradius II. While all of its usual elements are there, the arcade version is mind-numbingly hard. It also has a weird 3D stage where you maneuver through obstacles with no enemies. Despite its faults it did introduce more weapon types and the lovely Edit Mode, where you can tailor your own arsenal.|
Play it only if you enjoy the antique arcade feel and challenge, otherwise pick up the much superior Super Nintendo version. Now with less 3D and sand lions!™
Rereleased on the SNES, Wii's Virtual Console and PSP.
|Guwange||1999||Guwange is a relatively offbeat, stylistic and unique venture for Cave. Set during the medieval period of Japan, you play a handful of characters who must liberate themselves of the shikigami possessing their fates. Your character is entirely on foot while your shikigami can float through objects, hit distant enemies and slow bullets. Sports a punishing combo system that leaves no room for error. The game is entirely in moonspeak but no one really gives a shit about the story of arcade titles.|
Rereleased on XBLA with modes "Xbox 360" (very easy, dohoho) and "Blue" (masochists only).
|Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi||2003||Ludicrously hard shooter by the masterminds at Cave. The scoring system is somewhat of an acquired taste as it requires "point blanking". The closer you are to an enemy when it dies, the higher the value of its dropped cubes.
Available on Xbox 360, MAME and DS (Boss Rush only)
|Kingdom Grand Prix / Shippu Mahou Daisakusen||1994||F-Zero in the form of a scrolling shooter. It's as good as it sounds. Tear through a dozen stages in typical shooter fare while maintaining the pole position. Prequel to Dimahoo.|
Also available on the Sega Saturn.
|Mars Matrix||2000||"Why can't I hold all these bullets?" ‒ You
It's a big disgusting sloppy mess. Of purple. Also features the Gravity Hole Bomb which can attract and repel bullets and destroy everything on-screen, should it be depleted. Horizontally-aligned with vertical scrolling, something unique to shmups, which allows more bullets than your anus has room for. Go play Mars Matrix.
Rereleased on the Dreamcast which adds a shop mode!
|Progear / Progear no Arashi||2001||Cave's very first horizontal shooter. Choose one of two ships with differing speed and shot capabilities, powered by the self-propelling technology known as the "Progear". Ships are fitted with a loli gunner of your choice which fires a lock-on, piercing shot. At the end of each level you get a quick newspaper report and seemingly extraneous ACTIVE/SAFE/LOVELY data about your gunner waifu. Features a complex as fuck scoring system.|
|Pulstar||1995||A prettier R-Type with usage of pre-rendered 3D. The level design is remarkably poor; a single death is usually unrecoverable as power-ups and options are few and far between. High powered weapons and intelligent use of the charged blasts are essential on the later portions of levels. Has an easier sequel known as Blazing Star.|
Ported to NeoGeo and NeoGeo CD.
|R-Type||1987||One of the pillars of the arcade generation, R-Type innovated all over the original shmup formula. It introduced a shield known as a "Force" which can be attached to either side of the ship for protection and new shot types. It can also be shot like a piercing weapon where it stays in place continually damaging enemies; something that makes quick work of almost every boss.|
Re-released all over the goddamn place.
|R-Type Leo||1992||READY? 3.. 2.. 1, LET'S GO!|
Removes the charged shot and reworks your Force, now focusing its primary powers into your two side ships known as "Bits". Bits drastically improve your shot type and can fire in the opposite direction you move. They can also be fired where they will hunt enemies and revolve for a set duration, doing incredible damage, until called back. It's still a strategic challenge and well worthy of bearing the R-Type name.
Exclusive to arcade.
|Radiant Silvergun||1998||Treasure's first venture into the chaotic realm of scrolling shooters, Radiant Silvergun shattered the mold by removing power-ups altogether. Every weapon is available from the start and level up with successive color chaining, making this more of a puzzle game than a shoot 'em up. The game rewards the player greatly when weapons are used intelligently for bonuses.|
Japan exclusive. Ported to the Sega Saturn, and available on XBLA soon.
|Raiden||1990||It's Raiden, I ain't gotta explain shit.|
|Raiden Fighters||1996||Raiden Fighters is a spin-off to the original Raiden series. It allows a lot more customization with ship select and random stage order. There's 5 standard ships, all with varying attack power, movement, rapid fire capabilities and weapon types. It also has the titular Raiden mk-II and the Judge Spear (from Viper Phase 1) as unlockables who can use lasers and missiles simultaneously, at the expense of losing the charged shot.|
Ported to the Xbox 360 compilation title Raiden Fighters Aces.
|Raiden Fighters 2||1997||Second in the Raiden Fighters series. Same great laser wagglan, now with lots more ships and content. It has 14 ships in total: 7 standard, 7 unlockables. A few of the standard ships underwent aesthetic overhauls but no attribute changes. This game is actually incredible fun with two players as the game has what's known as a "hybrid attack". When flying next to one another you can unleash a supercharged beam in tandem which will destroy anything, even bosses, almost instantaneously.|
Ported to the Xbox 360 compilation title Raiden Fighters Aces.
|Raiden Fighters Jet||1998||Easily the best Raiden title in the entire series, and its polish shows. A lot of the ships from Raiden Fighters 2 make an appearance. One of the biggest changes is the medal system. Airborne medals now follow your slave ships when they graze bullets. When the tethered medal comes into contact with other medals it grows in size, culminating in a gigantic 2 million point medal should you combine enough. Despite the brutal scoring system there are multiple secrets, level paths and endings to reward your efforts. Don't pass this gem up.|
Ported to the Xbox 360 compilation title Raiden Fighters Aces.
|RayForce||1993||3D done right. Utilizes the background as an isolated field of battle which normal weapons can't reach. Lock onto distant enemies in the backdrop and annihilate them with your laser before they even reach you. Requires some solid strategy as your ship is slow as molasses, forcing you to deal with the ones you can't lock-on to in time up close.|
|RayStorm||1996||Sequel to RayForce, RayStorm features more believable 3D, scaling, and introduced a host of new content*. There's a new intermediate (and secret prototype model*) ship available and a special, all-out homing attack that charges with successive lock-on kills. Once you get out of Albion and beyond Stage 3 the space battles are simply amazing.|
(* Home extras only) The PS1/Saturn RayStorm and PSN/XBLA RayStorm HD make the arcade version obsolete.
|Salamander / Life Force||1986||A strongly divisive spin-off of the Gradius series, Salamander abandons the power-up system seen in the main series. Features horizontal/vertical scrolling, drastic region differences and some damn hard levels. A lot of the mechanical enemies seen in the Salamander JP/EU versions were given a cellular makeover for Life Force's US release to fit the reworked story. The poorly titled JP re-release Life Force returned the power-up bar.|
Ported to the NES, TG-16 and PSP.
|Salamander 2||1995||Salamander with glorious 3D elements! Weapons can now be overcharged when collecting weapon power-ups at max output and options can be fired as a homing laser. Has some bosses which are both terrifying and tough, like that final boss who will scare you like you've never been scared before! The announcer is REALLY into it, so get ready for some hilarious commentating.Ported to the PSX, Saturn and PSP.|
|Sexy Parodius||1996||What do you get when you mix risque themes with a PG-13 rating? Inanity. Now what happens when you let the monkeys at Konami mix those same elements? YOU GET A GODDAMN GOTY. Something unique to this title is the mission system, where failing or succeeding to complete objectives dictates your stage path and ending. You owe it to yourself as a gamer to experience Parodius at least once. Parodius is known for having sexy themes but this one dosen't really have any more than the rest unless corn and toilets turn you on.|
Rereleased on the PS1 and Sega Saturn.
|Sōkyūgurentai / Terra Diver||1996||It's the future, and Earth's space mining colonies are at war. Shit's epic, yo. Has a laser-locking system to zap enemies on the background before they can come fly upwards to you, similar to RayForce; some excellent graphics, although not quite on par with Radiant Silvergun. Also on Saturn and PS1.|
|Space Harrier||1985||WELCOME TO THE FANTASY ZONE. GET READY.|
Similar to After Burner, but you fly in 8 directions instead of steering. Good luck finding a sit-down machine, but you'll enjoy the hell out of it if you can.Best port is on the 32X
|Strikers 1945||1995||Well known, standard fare shmup which serves as the perfect jumping-off point for newcomers to the genre. Set on the tail end of World War II, your "Strikers" squadron combats a secret, futuristic munitions supplier. In some versions, should you score gold medals on every level, you're rewarded with a topless photo of the female pilots when you complete the game. Ask yourself, can you resist the alluring challenge?|
Rereleased all over the goddamn place.
|Strikers 1945 II||1997||We're not in Kansas anymore. II is a brick wall of difficulty meant to be chiseled out by dedicated players, quite unlike its entry level predecessor. Dozens of aggressive popcorn enemies, artillery and frenzied boss patterns will leave you inundated in bullets. You're not completely helpless though, as you can call in a wing squadron to soak up bullets in valiant sacrifice.|
Rereleased all over the goddamn place.
|Strikers 1945 III / Strikers 1999||1999||Moderate difficulty, then-modern planes (1999) equipped with lasers and napalm; what's not to like? III introduced a new tech bonus where orbs appear on a boss' weak points after certain patterns. Closing the distance and keeping proximity allows you to obliterate a boss quickly. Also no more pocket squadron clutch, some bombs requiring a whole second to detonate. ;_;|
|Strikers 1945 Plus||1999||Best in show, Plus takes Strikers 1945 I & II and turns them into glorious, horizontal bullet hells. Probably the easiest way to become accustomed to danmaku short of putting your balls in a blender. Almost all of the levels and bosses are identical. Super shots should be depleted liberally with certain ships as they recharge based on damage dealt.|
Available on the PSP.
|Truxton II||1992||If you've ever played the original Truxton, chances are you're having a mental breakdown at the very thought of an extra long, extra brutal shoot 'em up in the same vein. If you managed to truimph it with your sanity intact, congratulations! you're ready for Truxton II.|
|Twin Cobra||1987||This is the game where Toaplan really started to hit it's stride, and where vertically scrolling shooters really started to take off in general. Gameplay is just like Raiden except you don't have to worry too much about grabbing the right shot color here as you have a separate powerup to level up your guns.|
|V-Five / Grind Stormer||1993||Plays and looks almost identical to DonPachi except that you have a Gradius-style power-up bar and multiple shot types on a single ship.|
Ported to the Sega Genesis.
|Viper Phase 1||1995||Pretty much Raiden in space. Introduced a bunch of things that have become staple in Raiden Fighters, namely green napalm missiles, Blue Javelin and the goddamn Judge Spear. The original version features limited, maximum power secondary weapons, whereas the New Version (USA) has infinite ammunition that needs to be powered up. Your choice, really.|
|Xevious||1982||Legendary scrolling shooter that pretty much defined the vertical play style from then after.|
|Battlezone||1980||Simulation||Tank simulation with wireframe enemy tanks, UFOs and obstacles. Movement and turning is similar to that of a tank: slow as fuck. Once an enemy has you in his sights it's pretty much over.|
Some of the old cabinets to this game had an awesome, pseudo-3D effect with a graphical overlay you had to look through.
|Berzerk||1980||Run and Gun / Maze||Berzerk is a very straight to the point game. Shoot anything that moves and survive as long as you can. Despite having only one real enemy, the game still keeps things fresh and varied with encounters. The fear of accidentally killing yourself by touching walls or robots is very real, and the synthesized voice-acting is very charming and memorable still today. Check it out for a simple but fun action shooting experience.|
|Blaster||1983||Shoot 'em Up||OH GOD MY EYES. Pilot a space ship in search of paradise through a bunch of rainbow-flavored strobe levels. Joystick action which is better emulated with an actual joystick. Supposedly the envisioned sequel to Robotron: 2084 though it bears little resemblance.|
|Bosconian||1981||Shoot 'em Up||8-directional movement with a tail gun that allows you to make quick work of enemy squadrons even when running away. Hunt the green enemy space stations to progress through levels and keep your threat level manageable. Red threat level is when the kamikaze pilots start coming out of the woodwork.|
|Bump 'N' Jump||1982||Action / Driving|
|BurgerTime||1982||Puzzle||Make gigantic burgers by dropping ingredients downward and avoiding enemies.|
|Centipede||1980||Shoot 'em Up||Similar to Space Invaders, but involves bugs and mushrooms instead of shields and aliens.|
|Defender||1980||Shoot 'em Up|
|Dig Dug||1982||Maze||Tunnel underground and shoot monsters with a spike that fills them up with air until they explode.|
|Discs of Tron||1983||Action|
|Donkey Kong||1981||Platformer||Run and jump through 4 stages to rescue Pauline from Donkey Kong. KILL SCREEN COMIN' UP.|
|Donkey Kong II: Jumpman's Return||2006||Platformer/Mod||
A great mod/sequel to the arcade classic, Jumpman Returns features all of the classic elements of the first Donkey Kong with 4 entirely new levels, and "Cutscenes"
Gameplay footage can be found here
|Frenzy||1982||Run and Gun||Fantastic sequel to Berzerk. A lot of things have been reworked for the better: walls are no longer electrified and instead can reflect bullets or be destroyed, single-sprite robots now come in skeleton and.. uh.. octopus variety, and Otto can be killed! That can be seen as a blessing or a curse, because after he dies he comes back faster than before. Markedly weaker voice work, something that made the original so memorable.|
|Frogger||1981||Action||Cross the highway and avoid getting splattered.|
|1981||Shoot 'em Up||Shoot aliens. Protip: Get one ship captured and save it, now you have DOUBLE SHOT POWER.|
|Gorf||1981||Shoot 'em Up|
|Gravitar||1982||Shoot 'em Up|
|Gyruss||1983||Shoot 'em Up|
|Halley's Comet||1986||Shoot 'em Up||While it may look painfully basic the gameplay is actually quite fun, well worthy of a quick play. You launch from a planet and scroll vertically towards a hollowed out, alien-infested comet. Enemy ships that make it past you damage your home planet for a set percentage, where 100% damage results in a game over. Tiered weapons, erratic enemy patterns and random warp jumps give the game variety.
Spawned a sequel on the Game Gear: Halley Wars.
|Joust||1982||Platformer||You're a knight. You joust.. ON AN OSTRICH.
Joust is a competitive game, requiring precise movement and momentum to eliminate the ever-increasing throng of enemy knights. Elevation is the only factor in rendering a killing blow. The knight flying above at the point of contact kills the opposing one. Contact on an equal level is a draw, resulting in both bouncing away.
|Kung Fu Master||1984||Beat 'em up||Aka Spartan-X and Kung-Fu. Kick assholes and save your girlfriend.|
|Lode Runner||1983||Platformer||Get gold and escape. Dig holes in front of or behind you to trap enemies.|
|Mario Bros.||1983||Platformer||Collect coins, stun monsters then kick them. Avoid Fireballs. Much more fun in later remixes with 4 players.|
|Millipede||1982||Shoot 'em Up|
|Ms. Pac-Man||1981||Maze||If you've played Pac-Man, then you've played Ms. Pac-Man. Fortunately, it's just as good as its predecessor.|
|Pac-Man||1980||Maze||Eat pills in a dark room and chase ghosts while listening to repetitive techno music.|
|Pole Position||1982||Racing||Drive through a course to get the best time. A lot harder than it sounds.|
|Q*bert||1982||Puzzle / Platformer||Jump on every panel to make them the same color. Avoid enemies by jumping away or jumping on flying saucers.|
|Qix||1981||Action||Try to make a picture by clearing away the cover sheet with careful navigation.|
|Rally-X||1980||Racing / Maze|
|Robotron: 2084||1982||Shoot 'em Up||Dual-stick shooter, later copied by Smash T.V. Shoot robots and save humanity. This game doesn't pull punches.|
|Sinistar||1982||Shoot 'em Up||I AM SINISTAR. BEWARE, I LIVE. Shoot aliens and asteroids to collect crystals and stop a planet-sized monster from eating you.|
|Space Invaders||1978||Shoot 'em Up||You pilot a mobile cannon tasked to repel an alien invasion. As you kill aliens the music speeds up and they start to descend faster, with the last one styling all over your cannon-y ass. Good luck sniping that swift bastard.
One of the most iconic games on the arcade which helped bring video gaming into the limelight. If you've been living under a rock there's been multiple remakes which are simply AMAZING.
|Space Zap||1980||Shoot 'em Up|
|Star Wars||1983||Rail Shooter|
|Tapper||1983||Action||Serve (Root) Beer to customers.|
|Tempest||1980||Shoot 'em Up / TUUUUBES||Vector tube-based shmup which utilized a paddle controller. You're a crab-shaped spaceship. There's a bunch of monsters coming up at you from the depths of god-knows-where. Scroll your wheel, slide around the tube, and blast that shit back to oblivion. Also, watch out for pulsars and those goddamn fuseballs.
One of the most addictive shooters of its day. There's not much plot aside from "SHOOT THE LITTLE BUGGERS", but the original designer says it was going to be a sort of first-person Space Invaders until he had this trippy nightmare about monsters coming out of a hole. Take from that what you will.
Has a few direct remakes and ports, like Tempest 2000. Geometry Wars could be considered a mix of this and Robotron 2084.
|Vanguard||1981||Shoot 'em Up|
|Wizard of Wor||1980||Action / Maze||Pac-Man with guns. Blast through a labyrinth with weird looking creatures while hunting the elusive Wizard of Wor. Snipe the Worluk/Wizard before they escape to start a double score bonus stage. Shit gets real on the Worlord levels.|
Allows for bro-op if you both are well coordinated.
Beat 'em ups
|Alien vs. Predator||1994||The movie may have sucked but this MOST CERTAINLY DID NOT. Take control of a military cyborg or Predator and lash out at the encroaching alien swarm and corrupt Weyland-Yutani corporation. Developed by Capcom, so expect some very smooth controls and |
|Battle Circuit||1997||Almost similar to Captain Commando, now with 110% more awesome. Has a neat little shop mode in between missions where you can buy improved movesets, extensions to your lifebar and continues. Of the eccentric cast (a child on a pink ostrich? A talking plant monster? The fuck?) only a fraction of them are useful; like Cyber Blue, who utterly stomps shit like Ken from Street Fighter (Shoryu Reppa? Clever, Capcom). One of the best beat 'em ups exclusive to the arcade.|
|Battletoads||1994||Three players can control Rash, Zitz and Pimple, each with their own Smash Hit attacks. Be warned, this is a VERY long game, and it's just as tough as the rest of the Battletoads series. Unlike the rest of the games, attacks involving something sharp or extremely heavy will produce blood, and it's the only game were you can play as any of the three toads.|
|Cadillacs and Dinosaurs||1993||3 player simultaneous beat 'em up. Fight dinosaurs, drive cars, and shoot guns, all in the dystopian future. Extreme amounts of awesome. Pretty damn good music, too. Like other "later-era" Capcom beat 'em ups, you can use some inputs (like down, then up+attack or dash+attack) for special moves. The gun factor is pretty cool, giving it aspects of the Arcade "The Punisher" game, but the control scheme doesn't shift like that game and you get way more gun variety (rifles, uzis, bazookas, etc.) and when you're out of ammo, you can even swing (or throw) the gun around as a weapon!|
|image||Captain America and the Avengers||1991||THE AVENNNNGERRRRS! While somewhat simplistic, it's regarded as a classic for its fast-paced thrashing, comic-book aesthetics, and wicked cool soundtrack. The few intermittent side-scrolling shmup-like levels in the sky are also pretty damn cool. Be careful when fighting bosses though, since they tend to move pretty fast, with little start-up to their animations and attacks. OKAY, GO!||image|
|Captain Commando||1991||Choose one of four superhero characters to smash and bash through enemies. Notable for its gruesome death sequences. Loosely related to Final Fight (it's metro city in the future) and plays similarly to it (but faster) and you can use special timing-based moves to wreck shit up like Cap's mid-air fire blasts, Baby's Haggar-inspired wrestling moves, etc.|
|Crossed Swords||1991||A watered down Punch-Out!! in RPG format, IN THE GODDAMN MIDDLE AGES. Move the joystick up and down to use your shield to block incoming attacks and power up for a counterattack. Collect gold and experience, save wenches and discover new loot. Requires quick precision to not get your shit slapped as the game is balls hard when played alone.|
While not a traditional beat 'em up you do beat the shit out of a bunch of enemies. Think of it as a "first-person beat 'em up". Yeah, I made that up. Deal with it.
|Dungeons and Dragons: Tower of Doom||1993||A classic arcade beat 'em up with tons of depth. Further expanded on the RPG fusion by incorporating an inventory, magick and multiple paths through the high fantasy realms of D&D. Up to four players and four different characters, but you can't change your character upon dying/continuing or have more than one of each. Although simpler than Mystara, it's also a bit easier as well, especially for newcomers that you want to play Mystara with (but aren't sure they can handle it).|
|Dungeons and Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara||1996||The amazing sequel to Tower of Doom. Features two new characters (a male Wizard and female Thief), alternate skins, more branching pathways (some even needing a certain character to access like dwarf or elf), more magic items (like elemental-summoning items) and magic weapons (like fire sword and morning-star), and tons of secrets which add to its replayability.|
The controls were reworked from the original, being improved (more attacks, items, magics) and streamlined for the better (like sliding and rush strikes). You can also change your character mid-continue, with alt skins having a few differences for the magic-users. Hard to get tired of this one.
|Final Fight||1986||The mayor's daughter has been kidnapped by gangsters. Instead of asking for some bad dudes with attitude to save her, MAYOR MIKE HAGGAR and his boys, Guy and Cody, personally decide to take care of business. Each player also has a special skill, Haggar's being badass wrestling moves. I hope you like throwing thugs, because you're gonna be throwing LOTS of thugs (no really, there's times where lots of enemies are onscreen and one of the best ways to deal with them is to throw them at each other). |
Sadly, there was never another Final Fight like this on arcades, but 2 and 3 are on SNES. 2 is very similar to 1, but 3 is a huge improvement and the series' best.
|Golden Axe||1989||Styled after Conan the Barbarian, Golden Axe is a beat 'em up that features visceral weapon combos and a powerful, tiered magic system. Get more magic potions and you can use stronger magic attacks (though its up to you if you want to spam weaker spells on common foes or save them for a boss-stomping super spell). You can even hijack enemies' mounts to tear through their lines.|
On the Sega Megadrive, 2 is very similar to this, but 3 both improves and changes a few things, mostly for the better, but it's still somewhat contested among GA fans. GA:RoDA below is something of a sequel/spinoff. GA: The Duel is a fighting game and somewhat disappointing.
|Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder||1992||Arguably the best GA game, period. The roster has changed with a familiar barbarian swordsman (with modified attacks), an imbalanced (i.e. fast-combo chaining) female centaur, an imp, and Gilius from GA1 riding a giant. Magic has been modified to effectively balance both power and multiple usages. It's got some new mounts too: giant scorpions, bone dragons and praying mantises. The sprites and artwork have some amazing detail and zest, especially the vertical-scrolling stages (a PoV shift, not a jumping segment) and magic (use it on generic foes you get a short cut-in mid spell of their agonized screaming as their faces melt off, petrify, etc.).|
Protip: If you need to, consider having one player use Trix (the imp), since his magic doesn't deal damage, but instead produces food for the players to eat.
|image||Growl||1991||aka Runark. A beat'em up that's heavily weapons-based where you kick the asses of animal poachers. Tons of enemies on screen. Very campy humor (including the final boss). In most versions, Enemies blast apart into chunks when you hit them with explosives, though a few variants censored it. Has 2 and 4 player variations, and depending on which you're playing, you choose or are assigned a character. Made by Taito (yes, cutesy "Bubble Bobble" Taito).|
Ported to the Sega Megadrive with some differences in special attacks and health restores (also, the usual console restrictions of the day regarding both aesthetics and on-screen enemy counts).
|image||Light Bringer||1994||Beat'em up with fantasy setting. Huge "open-ended" levels. Extremely underrated. Japanese mode can be set to have red blood. aka "Dungeon Magic" in Europe.||image|
|image||Night Slashers||1993||Zombies + beat'em ups. Need I say more? Play the Japanese version for red blood and gore.||image|
|Ninja Baseball Bat Man||1993||Six golden items have been stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame, and it's up to you to reclaim them. The Ninja Baseball Bat Men all have lots of special attacks, including multiple grapples and ultimate attacks that use up health to nuke the whole screen. Made by Irem in their glory days, so you know this is good.|
|The Punisher||1991||Combines traditional beat 'em up fare with pseudo-light gun shoot out sequences. Great if you're a Marvel fan or not.|
|image||Sengoku 3||1991||aka Sengoku Denshou 2001. Excellent combat system, excellent custom combo possibilities, great graphics and music. One of the last SNK beat'em ups to come out, and one of the best.|
If you REALLY want to play Sengoku 1 and 2, you can if you want, but this is the best one in the series. The others are archaic (even for their era) and have pretty cheap as hell difficulty. Though they do have some pretty trippy ass aesthetics and gameplay (transform into a dog, what?)
|The Simpsons||1991||The Simpson family sets off to save Maggie from Mr. Burns. Features some really trippy stages and enemies. Best done in multiplayer, since characters can combine to do different co-op attacks.|
|Splatterhouse||1988||Aptly named horror-themed beat 'em up that features grotesque enemies and bosses, and GRATUITOUS amounts of gore. Very basic side-scrolling with emphasis on weapon use; like decapitating enemies with a machete or pummeling them into a bloody mess with a 2x4.|
Has two sequels on the Genesis and a parody title on the NES.
|Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time||1991||The Turtles are back with new moves and power ups. Had an updated port on SNES and a remix on Genesis.|
Remake released on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network though it plays a little differently. However, the remake has since been taken down.
|image||Tenchi wo Kurau II||1992||Combines aspects of past Capcom titles for one badass game. On foot, you go mostly melee and can grapple/throw foes. On horseback, you use wide-range weapons and can rush through enemy lines. Decapitate foes with your fists and elbow-slam others in half as you slam your way through Ancient China to a climactic confrontation with LU BU himself!|
Fun Facts: It's the first Capcom beat'em up to add input-based special moves (on foot AND on horseback) and is extremely popular in Asia (for good reason!).
AKA "Warriors of Fate" in the west, which also changed the names from Chinese to Mongolian, oddly.
Dynasty Wars is the original Tenchi wo Kurau, but it's pretty mediocre, don't bother. Also, the NES games (re-christened as "Destiny of an Emperor") are entirely different (but good).
|Undercover Cops||1992||Looks like a generic beat'em up at first -- until you're doing flying roundhouse kicks and flinging girders at thugs. All in the name of justice!|
Made by the people who'd form Nazca, the Metal Slug people. Play the Japanese or Alpha Renewal Version, as the World/US release removes half the moves and edits the music.
|X-Men||1992||Xbox hueg arcade game with two monitors, six players, crappy dialogue, and stupid amounts of awesome.|
beatmania THE FINAL
|The original DJ Sim game, the "prequel" to IIDX. Plays the same, but has only 5 keys instead of 7. Has many of its own songs that never appeared in IIDX, and is great to see the beginning of BEMANI. Every arcade title is playable on MAME. If you find its offshoot, beatmania III THE FINAL, PLAY IT!! It's a beefier more advanced system with more songs and a pedal.|
beatmania IIDX 20 Tricoro
|A DJ Sim game, where you play using a turn-table (scratching) and key sounded buttons, pressing or scratching in time when it hits the red line at the bottom. Big learning curve, but for those willing to learn, it's great fun. The Simulator to this is |
|Dance Dance Revolution||2010/2011
Dance Dance Revolution X2
|In this game, you use your FEET to play!
That's pretty much the premise of the game, and has done unbelievably well with it. You step on the designated platforms in time to match it up with the arrows on top of the screen. You'll most likely see the EXTREME version, Super Nova/Super Nova 2 or DDR X. There's been a Extreme Plus game seen around, but it's just a hacked 8th Mix, now with optional speed settings~
DJMax Technika 3
|Rhythm game that uses a touch screen for play. Difficulties that span from easy to start to god damn near impossible. Has four game modes, Lite mixing (easy mode, this is where you start off to get the hang of the game), Popular mixing (normal mode, this is where you get good at the game), Technical Mixing (hardcore mode for hardcore gamers, I did not make this up it says that word for word in the game), and Platinum Crew (online mode where you need a card to play, cards are usually 8 bucks and are worth it if you want to get into the game). Technical mixing is where you choose a set which has 8 songs to choose 3 to play in a set order, final song in the set is a boss song to be determined by your performance on the 3 songs you chose yourself. Platinum Crew allows access to missions which unlock songs to play in popular mixing, weekly challenges, and monthly special charts for songs (the special charts are extremely hard).|
|Same deal as Guitar Freaks, but with a drum set. This was ripped off by Rock Band, but they got the majority of their ideas from GH, but now with added drum set flavor.|
|Just like Guitar Hero (GF came first) you hold the correct button-chord and strum the guitar when the note hits the appropriate line; Can link up with DrumMania for serious RAWKIN' OWT. Despite what ANYONE tells you, Guitar Hero ripped it's concept of this very same game, but GF contains more Eastern-style music, whereas GH contains western-style music. Go figure.|
|In the Groove||2005
In the Groove 2
|The American version of Dance Dance Revolution, started as open-source project StepMania thrown into an arcade case. Unique in arcades in that you can bring your USB key to save your scores and upload custom steps & music to the arcade machine. Virtually infinite replayability. It's considered much more difficult than DDR, with landmines where you have to take your foot OFF the sensors, and and triple or quadruple arrow maneuvers. The Japanese DDR tourneyfags refuse to play it due to it being "harmful to their legs".|
jubeat copious APPEND
|A strange new rhythm game by Bemani (guy who made DDR, IIDX & all the rest). The game consists of a cube where you have to push certain pressure-sensors in time to the music.||,|
Pop'n Music Fantasia (20)
|Similar to IIDX, but with with either 5, 7 or 9 big colored buttons arranged in a horizontal zig-zag pattern. |
|Pump It Up||2010
Pump It Up Fiesta EX
Often rejected and called a DDR ripoff, but it is in fact quite different. Features 5 step panels and frantic stepcharts making this game exhaustingly fun. It rivals In The Groove in being one of the hardest games involving step panels. See for yourself.
Since NX2 it features a Quest Mode (World Max in NX2 and NX Absolute), which saves progress in an USB flashdrive and consists of playing songs with different modifiers. Confirmed to eat your quarters if you plan on playing seriously.
There's also the Pro series made by the ITG team that's aimed towards DDR/ITG players if you're interested, although be aware that the main series feels completely different.