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The 50 best shoot-em-ups
September 26, 2004 7:21 PM   Subscribe

Put the quarter in the slot, give it a little backspin. Hit the "1UP START" button, grip the joystick in one hand and the fire button in the other. Until fate takes your lives away--and it always does--nothing else matters.
It's the 50 Best Shooters of All Time. [via that... other filter]
posted by arto (56 comments total)

 
No, I'm sorry, I don't think so.

#48 - Gyruss was a way better game than it's cousin, Tempest (#4), but could be forgiven because Tempest was ahead of its time. But the fact that they put Tempest 2000 as #17 (for the Jaguar system) shows they're completely wack.

And where in the hell is Pac-Man, or the (better) Ms. Pac-Man?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:38 PM on September 26, 2004


Pac-Man is not a shooter. It's an....eater.

Or something.
posted by armage at 7:41 PM on September 26, 2004


They're really loosely using the word "shooter," which to many people technically refers only to scrolling spaceship games. But having Eugene Jarvis show up is worth it.
posted by inksyndicate at 7:43 PM on September 26, 2004


Space Invaders should be #1. And if something like Robotron fits their definition of a shooter, then Berzerk should definitely be on there.
posted by markavatar at 7:49 PM on September 26, 2004


I agree with the #1 choice, but am disappointed that Terra Cresta doesn't even make the list. Also, Space Invaders sucks. People only played it because Galaga hadn't been invented yet.

And: There was an arcade Mad Planets? I thought it was just Mega Apocalypse (C64). You learn something new every day!
posted by majick at 7:50 PM on September 26, 2004


To aid discussion, here's the list in reverse order:

 50  Armalyte  49  1942  48  Gyruss  47  Matrix  46  Einhander
 45  Encounter  44  Mad Planets  43  Pulstar  42  Battle Squadron  41  Thunderforce IV
 40  Side Arms  39  Swiv  38  Delta  37  Gorf  36  Gunhed
 35  Viewpoint  34  Vanguard  33  Drop Zone  32  Bangai-O  31  Phoenix
 30  Juno First  29  Radiant Silvergun  28  Commando  27  Xevious  26  Jet Pac
 25  Afterburner  24  Scramble  23  Geometry Wars  22  Metal Slug  21  Uridium
 20  Llamatron  19  Moon Cresta  18  Galaga  17  Tempest 2000  16  Star Force
 15  Sinistar  14  Missile Command  13  Centipede  12  Doom  11  R-Type
 10  Asteroids  09  Ikaruga  08  Gradius  07  Galaxian  06  Star Wars
 05  Rez  04  Tempest  03  Defender  02  Space Invaders  01  Robotron
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:12 PM on September 26, 2004


Ridiculous. I'll accept Robotron because of the required respect for origin, but to even suggest Metal Slug isn't the reason video games are still fun is blasphemy.

I don't remember my first day of school but I remember when I first saw Metal Slug at the second-run movie theater. That game has art that 3D will never be able to reproduce.

Also, Raiden deserves to make the list. And if Metal Slug is considered a shooter, then so is Earthworm Jim.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:19 PM on September 26, 2004


So many years are spanned, and so few of us have played video games throughout those years (my experience is at the start and near the end of the list, but I've got big gaps in the middle years), that it's hard to know enough not to be too biased just because of limited experience.

But I'm totally in agreement with the inclusion of: Pheonix, Galaga, Missile Command, Centipede, Doom, Asteroids, Galaxian, Tempest, Defender, and Space Invaders. I was never a big Robotron fan but the fact that just looking at the screencaps made me feel claustrophobic and tense is proabably the explanation for why that is.

My own list would probably have Galaga, Tempest, Centipede, and Defender at the top. Doom I just can't quite fit into this genre. And I'm obviously biased toward the arcade classics.

Tempest, though, always comes to my mind when I think of the most well-designed, insidious arcade games. The combo of the sheer, perfect tension of it with the feel of the controller, and the "put another quarter in to continue where you left off" option (which emptied my pockets the first time I ever tried the fame), is just beautiful. I'd play Tempest in my living room (or wherever) if I had the real thing. I'm not sure I'd bother playing any of these other games. Maybe Centipede.

I notice that Rez is high on this list. Given the recent Rez vibrator add-on post, and that I have both a DC and a PS2, I think I should get a copy.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:35 PM on September 26, 2004



What, no Pleiades?


(Arcade version, not talkin' 'bout the lousy Atari version.)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:40 PM on September 26, 2004


You've hit upon #4 on the All-Time Top Problems with Arbitrary Top-X-Of-All Time Lists, XQ (and on preview, Ethereal Bligh): How do you decide what qualifies for the list? I mean, the list authors' notion of what constitutes a shooter seems to mostly imply 2D, but there's DOOM in there at #12. So should, say, Max Payne be on there? I'd say yeah, in terms of its overall awesomeness, but a modern-day first (or third) person shooter, with actual savefiles and the ability to continue endlessly rather than die after three lives, is a vastly different experience from yer classic '80s arcade games or their faithful home computer ports.

And where is Zaxxon, dammit? Or (to stretch the genre even further) Spy Hunter?
posted by arto at 8:47 PM on September 26, 2004


No Tail Gunner/TailGunnerII, my favorite game EHHH-VARRR in 1980?

And... no Zaxxon? Zaxxon, inventor of the mythical THIRD DIMENSION?

Pah. Phooey.

[comic book guy] Now for a rousing game of Dungeons of Daggorath! To the CoCo, ahoy! [/cbg]
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:48 PM on September 26, 2004


Pleiades

Oh, yeah, definitely! Spent a lot of time with it. Does "Star Castle" count as a shooter? Or was it "Space Castle"? Spent a lot of money on it, too.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:51 PM on September 26, 2004


Who else remembers that the song played by "Pleiades" was Fur elise? Dammit, for me, it's like the "Lone Ranger" theme. Tainted a perfectly good classic. :)
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:54 PM on September 26, 2004


No Xenon 2?
posted by bobo123 at 9:02 PM on September 26, 2004


Pac-Man is not a shooter. It's an....eater.

Ok, fine, I'll accept that.

But Gyruss had the greatest music of any 80's shooter. Fur elise? Fuck Fur Elise. This badboy had a techno version of Bach's Toccata en Fugue, man. This was years before techno music.

Duh nuh nuuuh! Duhnununununuuhhhh nuhhh...

I feel so childish.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:07 PM on September 26, 2004


The music behind Gyruss is Toccata & Fugue in D Minor, and sounds quite lovely. And yes, Star Castle (and no knockoffs) should be in there, although once you let in one vector 2D playfield game, you need to add Rip Off and Omega.
posted by majick at 9:11 PM on September 26, 2004



Or (to stretch the genre even further) Spy Hunter?

At first I thought you were talking about this game, that featured a secret agent.

I'm (sorta) ashamed to admit that this shooter game totally blew me away when it first came out in the arcades.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:11 PM on September 26, 2004


No, I meant the vertical-scrolling driving & shooting game. Which, speaking of fantastic theme music, used the theme from "Peter Gunn". (Cue twangy Duane Eddy riff and/or the C64 recreation of same...) And, yeah, Gyuss rocked hard.
posted by arto at 9:18 PM on September 26, 2004


Robotron!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:38 PM on September 26, 2004


Oh, and just to be an annoying pedant: It's much more commonly called a "P1 START" or "1P START" button.
posted by majick at 9:48 PM on September 26, 2004


Aah, I remember playing Defender (or a clone of it) on the ol' Amstrad. Infuriating high-speed fun. One of my faves, St Dragon, is missing though - nice smooth gameplay, fun powerups.
posted by Jimbob at 9:51 PM on September 26, 2004


It's much more commonly called a "P1 START" or "1P START" button.

Only in some alternate universe moon-language crazy-land, which must be where you come from, you crazy moon-language person!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:01 PM on September 26, 2004


I remember looking down at the video arcade carpet after a 45-minute game of Robotron and being pleased at the rugby-ball-sized sweat stain.

In the day, one game of Robotron would send me out of the arcade doors buzzing like I'd just done a bump of meth.

I've downloaded emulators, but you really need the joysticks for the screaming adrenaline Robotron effect. Like the Tempest spinner dial, its controls just don't translate to a PC.
posted by sacre_bleu at 10:30 PM on September 26, 2004


I only have one complaint:

If Commando qualifies, where's Contra?
posted by neckro23 at 10:40 PM on September 26, 2004


I wasn't kidding that looking at those screencaps of Robotron made me anxious and claustrophobic. I didn't play Robotron enough to remember it very well, but the memories of it I do have are saturated with anxiety. There is something about its metaphor that really freaks me out.

It's like one of those real-life, awful, boxed-into-a-corner moments translated into a video game. It's always skin-of-the-teeth with no big payoff, IIRC. Argh!
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:45 PM on September 26, 2004


Here's the Peter H desert island shooter collection: xevious #2, galaga #1
posted by Peter H at 10:50 PM on September 26, 2004


This list is shamefully missing two of the very best shooters ever to appear on the PC, Tyrian and Zone 66.
posted by kjh at 10:51 PM on September 26, 2004


on, and robotron (arcade) and the heavily underrated still amazing ROBOTRON 64
posted by Peter H at 10:51 PM on September 26, 2004


that was in response to my desert island collection. for any need of clarifying, that is.
posted by Peter H at 10:52 PM on September 26, 2004


"It's Saturday night, I have no date, a two-liter bottle of Shasta and my all-Rush mix tape. Let's rock."

On the subject of Robotron, I noticed an interesting thing: I've played a few other Robotron-esque games (SmashTV, for one), but for some reason, none of them have caused me to feel the same panic, anxiety, and existential despair that Robotron did. Nightmare of a game, Robotron.

I was also gratified to see Galaga on the list. Now there's a classic. I'm always pleased to go into an arcade and see a Galaga machine tucked into a corner. I can only assume it's a sop to all the parents of the teenagers who are bouncing around like lab monkeys on the Dance Dance Revolution machines.
posted by MrBadExample at 10:53 PM on September 26, 2004


existential despair

Yeah, that about nails it. It might as well have been the name of the game. (Existential Despair: The Arcade Version) Why would someone want to play that? Not me.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:10 PM on September 26, 2004


When I was a kid ... there were no multiple levels or screens.
It was just ONE screen, forever,
and you could never win.
The game just kept getting harder and faster and until you died.
Just like LIFE!
posted by seanyboy at 12:15 AM on September 27, 2004


Yeah, if a top 50 shooters list doesn't include Xenon 2, then it's not really worth discussing.

Meanwhile, Biohazard Battle is a pretty sweet shooter. Twin Cobra jumps to mind too. How about Cabal. Or Slapfight. Or Heavy Barrel.

Sidearms and SWIV should have been way higher too. What about the original Silkworm?

And the Atari 2600 version of Pleiades is worth picking up from AtariAge.
posted by krisjohn at 1:02 AM on September 27, 2004


Mutant Storm! Seriously.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 1:42 AM on September 27, 2004


Good to see Defender somewhere near where it should be. No Smash TV? Turrican?
posted by ed\26h at 1:46 AM on September 27, 2004


You guys are weiners. Robotron was all about kicking some motherfuckin' ass against overwhelming odds. Pure adrenalin rush!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:35 AM on September 27, 2004


I actually preferred Xenon 1 over Xenon 2 on my trusty Atari ST.

The term "Shooters" needs to be defined. If Doom is in there, then there are a whole lot of FPS that ought to be there as well: Unreal, Half-Life, even Duke Nukem 3D. Where does something like Chronicles of Riddick fit in?
posted by salmacis at 3:21 AM on September 27, 2004



If Commando qualifies, where's Contra?


I worry that too many awful sequels have tarnished the good name of Contra, but I consider Metal Slug to be a worthy successor to it. Also, Galaxian > Space Invaders.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:26 AM on September 27, 2004


> I was also gratified to see Galaga on the list. Now there's a classic. I'm
> always pleased to go into an arcade and see a Galaga machine tucked
> into a corner.

Isn't Galaga actually about the last commercial-out-there survivor on this list? I can think of three functioning galaga machines in this relatively small town; none of the others exist except as fond memories.
posted by jfuller at 3:32 AM on September 27, 2004


I've been tempted to buy a Gyruss arcade machine, I loved that game. The graphics were decent and it was the first arcade game that I saw that didn't feature beep-boop-buzz as a soundtrack.
posted by substrate at 6:02 AM on September 27, 2004


Even though was only released this year, Gradius V for the PS2 easily belongs at least halfway up that list.
posted by Prospero at 6:06 AM on September 27, 2004


They forgot about all those great games that used light guns too. What were they if not shooters? I wasted many nights at university playing Time Crisis with drunken friends after all the pubs had closed.
posted by cell at 6:07 AM on September 27, 2004


You've hit upon #4 on the All-Time Top Problems with Arbitrary Top-X-Of-All Time Lists, XQ (and on preview, Ethereal Bligh): How do you decide what qualifies for the list?

The rather arbitrary nature of the list is discussed on their forum.
posted by ZippityBuddha at 6:22 AM on September 27, 2004


it's a sop to all the parents of the teenagers who are bouncing around like lab monkeys on the Dance Dance Revolution machines.

Ha ha, you're old.
posted by majcher at 9:13 AM on September 27, 2004


defender should be no. 1, galaga no. 2, robotron no. 3, tempest no. 4, zaxxon no. 5 - right?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:00 AM on September 27, 2004


The first and still the best, Spacewar!.
posted by euphorb at 1:54 PM on September 27, 2004


I have glorious but vague memories of Space Harrier.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 2:07 PM on September 27, 2004


No Wizball?

Martin Galway's music for that game was the finest sound ever squeezed out of a C64.

And the game was as adictive as crack.
posted by davehat at 2:50 PM on September 27, 2004


Robotron! Ah, sweet Robotron. Imagine my excitement at learning an original Robotron arcade machine was going to be at the Game On exhibition at the Barbican in London a couple of years ago. Imagine my massive chagrin when I got there and it was bloody well broken! Playing it on MAME just ain't the same - you need those twin sticks. Man.

My top 5:

1) Robotron
2) Defender
3) Gradius/Nemesis
4) R-Type
5) Vanguard - yay!

Mad Planets was fun, too.

Zaxxon, however, is shit.
posted by rikabel at 7:32 PM on September 27, 2004


This comment is just opinionated ranting. Feel free to skip it.

There were some omissions - a couple of them unforgivable.

Zaxxon, of course - that extra half-dimension - well, I remember how excited I was at the time. (I was what, 12? I had bad acne.) It sucked to actually play it, but it whispered of better things to come.

Star Castle - heck, I can think of two GREAT knockoffs for this on the Apple ][ platform alone: Galaxy Gates and the estimable Jim Nitchals' Raiders of the Lost Ring. In fact, there was nothing from the Apple platform at all; in the various lists that Softline Magazine used to publish, Bug Attack *always* showed up. (Deservedly so!)

Smash TV and Time Pilot both deserve better than honorable mention - and what about Two Tigers? Not even on there! That's a great game - it doesn't MAME well because of its eccentric control system. And how about Front Line and Elevator Action?

And what about Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters? (If you had an Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters - with mint sideart and the original, working lighted marquee - and your mother went into your apartment one day while you were in class at med school, had it loaded into a van and gave it away to your cousins who sold it for $75 before you even had a chance to get it back - how postal would YOU go? I'm proud - I only had a 3 hour screaming-crying fit and sulked for a month or two. I'm not bitter anymore! Really!)

Also, Solarian II for the 68K Mac deserves a kind word.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:39 PM on September 27, 2004


No Sexy Parodius? Bangai-O listed so low?

I call foul.
posted by stx23 at 6:00 AM on September 28, 2004


Let me second the inclusion of Rez. I spent months recently hunting that game down. Finally found it used in a crappy New York City video game store (and I'm nowhere near NYC). I'm so happy the list included it up so high. It really is a unique shooter, addictive, psychedelic, etc. Just watching it makes your eyes bleed a little. Man, I love that game. Worth finding if you can.

And yay for Robotron. I still dream of having a standalone version of that in my game room. Someday...
posted by Dantien at 8:28 AM on September 28, 2004


My top 30 (not in order):

PC: Kamui, Parsec47, Storm Calibur, rRootage, Warning Forever, Creature Jungle, Tumiki Fighters, Space Tripper, Mutant Storm, Perfect Cherry Blossom, Samidare,

PS1: Raystorm, Darius Gaiden

Arcade (MAME/RAINE/Kawaks): Layer Section, DonPachi, DoDonPachi, ESP.Ra.De, Dangun Feveron, Guwange, GigaWing, Mars Matrix, Strikers 1945, 19XX, Robotron, SmashTV, Darius

N64: Sin and Punishment, Robotron 64

Sega Genesis: Thunderforce 3, Gunstar Heroes
posted by straight at 10:36 AM on September 28, 2004


I would really like to play sin and punishment
posted by ZippityBuddha at 4:47 PM on September 28, 2004


Zippity, send me an e-mail (straight at gmail) to discuss S&P.
posted by straight at 12:39 PM on September 29, 2004


Yeah. Get a room. Funboys.
posted by ed\26h at 6:14 AM on October 1, 2004


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