/v/'s Recommended Games Wiki
Blast off and strike the evil Bydo Empire.
Flyer Title Year Description Screenshot
1943Flyer.jpg 1943: The Battle of Midway 1987 Sequel to 1942, you control the P-38 "Lightning" to take on the hordes of Japanese Kamikazes, who come from everywhere. It features various different weapons and a charged blast which call upon tsunamis and lightning bolts. Instead of lives, you have a fuel meter which lowers slowly, and getting hit depletes it until you run out of fuel and explode. Thankfully there are plenty of items to recharge it. It later got a Japan-only remake called 1943 Kai, which change most of the game's graphics and cranks the difficulty up to eleven. 1943Screenshot.png
19XX game flyer.png 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. 19xxScreenshot.png
1944Flyer.jpg 1944: The Loop Master 2000 The last Arcade entry in the series, this one returns back to it's roots, with the classic fuel meter and lots of stages. You can charge your shot, which renders you temporarily invulnerable, so smart use of it is essential. The bosses are HUGE, with the last one being some nine screens large. It was made by Raizing instead of Capcom, which just licensed it. 1944Screenshot.png
SonicWings2Flyer.jpg Aero Fighters 2 / Sonic Wings 2 1994 Badass sequel to Aero Fighters, and still the best of the series. Choose from many crazy characters and blow up stuff all around the world. SonicWings2Screenshot.png
Afterburner flyer.jpg 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.

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Air Buster: Trouble Specialty Raid Unit 1989 Classical shooter from Kaneko. Play as a blaster fighter to venture through six tough stages. Ported to the Sega Genesis and Turbografx-16. A Sharp X68000 version was in development but never released.
Batrider flyer.jpg 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.
Batsugun flyer.jpg Batsugun 1993 One of Toaplan's final titles, this is often called the first bullet hell. This is especially clear in the "Special Version" that adds a smaller hitbox and more powerful bombs. Also on the Saturn. Batsugun screenshot.jpg
Bbakraid Flyer.jpg 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. BattleBakraidScreenshot.png
Bgaregga.jpg 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.
BlazingStarFlyer.jpg Blazing Star 1998 Spiritual sequel to Pulstar, it ditches the R-Type-style gameplay for more fast-paced action. It has six selectable ships, including the one from Pulstar. BlazingStarScreenshot.png
Boogwing Flyer.jpg 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. Boogie wings.png
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Cyvern: The Dragon Weapons 1998 A shooting game with Cyber Dragons!?

And a darn good one to be exact. Play as three dragons, it feels like a Raizing and CAVE game at the same time. Such as shame it never left the arcades.

DFeveron Flyer.jpg 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!

Darius Flyer 01-1-.jpg Darius 1986 While only remembered nowadays for its impressively large 3 screen display, the original Darius was a fairly groundbreaking title back in the day, featuring branching paths for higher replay value beyond scoring, some seriously avant garde music, upgrades that do not disappear after death, bosses with destructible parts (which can also limit their attacks) and surprisingly unique levels that are often designed to snipe your foes through walls with the almighty wave shot! Obviously not as good as later titles but it did lay a pretty solid foundation, especially from a historical perspective. Darius 08-1-.png
DariusGaidenFlyer.jpg Darius Gaiden: Silver Hawk 1994 The fifth Darius game, and arguably the best in an already tight series. Power-ups are now plenty, the visuals are stunning and you get the most amazing smart bomb ever, where you create a black hole which sucks up all enemies on screen then shoots lightning everywhere. You can now capture the mid-bosses, being able to control them for a brief time, which is really cool! DariusGaidenScreenshot.png
DetanaTwinbeeFlyer.jpg Detana Twinbee / Bells & Whistles 1991 Amazing sequel to Twinbee, which adds the characters who became staple of the series. Fly the Twinbee to blow up all those cute critters and shoot those goddamn bells! DetanaTwinbeeScreenshot.png
Gmahoudai.jpg 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 Flyer front.jpg 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.jpg 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 flyer.jpg 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.
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Dragon Blaze Flyer.jpg 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. DragonBlazeScreenshot.png
EDF Flyer.jpg 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.

Esprade 02.jpg 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.
One of the few Cave games to see no localization or ports whatsoever.
Espgaluda.jpg 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.
Fixeight flyer.jpg FixEight 1993 The sequel to Out Zone. Upgrades the weapon system tenfold by introducing a third tier of power and adding multiple rainbow "change pads" throughout the level to cycle through your arsenal. Still requires a bit of strategy but not as intense as Out Zone. It's even got multiple characters: Mike Tyson, Johnny 5, Doctor Manhat-das Gandhi, a ninja and a goddamn lizardman restaurant manager. How's that for variety? Fixeight.png
GDariusFlyer.jpg G-Darius 1997 Remember how cool it was in Darius Gaiden to capture the mid-bosses? Now you can do this with every single enemy, and they remain with you until you die or dispose of them! You can use a captured enemy as a screen-clearing smart bomb, or you can absorb it to fire the Alpha Beam, which is a huge ass lazor that grows up the more it absorbs enemy fire. The bosses are bigger than ever, and they got their own big lazors, which you can make a Kamehameha duel with your own laser. GDariusScreenshot.png
Gigawing Flyer.jpg 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.
Gokujo Parodius arcade flyer.png 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 Art 01.jpg Gradius / Nemesis 1985 "Destroy 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.
Rereleased all over the place, including the Wii's Virtual Console and the PlayStation Network.
Gradius II Flyer.jpg 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.
GradiusIII J.jpg 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 flyer.jpg 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).
Ikari flyer.jpg Ikari Warriors 1986 Ever wanted to be John Rambo? Want to put some hair on your chest? Well now you can! Ikari Warriors cashed in on Rambo and the Commando top-down run-and-gun craze of 1985. Unlike Commando, however, the game features limited ammo, further emulating the resourceful Rambo mindset. There is no forced scrolling so you can carefully prey upon the hapless neo-Nazi soldiers at your leisure, JUST LIKE RAMBO! It also has tanks and multiplayer. Did I mention Rambo?
The NES version is near unplayable, stay away from it. and also had a few badass sequels.
Ikaruga arcade flyer.jpg Ikaruga 2001 A small nation unearths an artifact that grants them unlimited power, which they use to conquer the world. And if you've played Radiant Silvergun, you know what it is. But the ever-upgrading multi-weapon system of its predecessor is completely ditched for a polarity system based on another Treasure game, Silhouette Mirage. Now, you only have one weapon and no upgrades ever, but you can swap between light and dark freely. Attacking an enemy of opposite polarity causes double damage, but touching enemy fire of equal polarity charges your homing special. Knowing what you must be at any given moment is crucial. Go zen or die! Hands down, one of the best shmups ever.

Also on Dreamcast (JP-only), Gamecube, Xbox 360, and Windows.

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Image Fight Flyer 01-1-.jpg Image Fight 1988 Irem's attempt at making a vertically scrolling shooter. Surprise! It's claustrophobic as all hell and it's loaded with cunningly placed enemies and hazards! However, you have control over your speed and you can aim your pods in 8 directions when orange by moving in the opposite direction of where you wanna shoot. Your pods can also be launched like yo-yos to clear out tight corridors that would normally destroy you swiftly. This game is the inspiration for Radiant Silvergun, so yeah you better believe it's damn good. Image fight 03-1-.png
InTheHuntFlyer.jpg In The Hunt 1993 Cool submarine shmup, this game don't have the traditional auto-scrolling screen, thus allowing you to go at your own pace. It was made by the crew who would later make the Metal Slug series. InTheHuntScreenshot.png
Ketsui Flyer.jpg 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)

Smahoudai.jpg 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.
Mmatrix Flyer.jpg 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!
MERCS arcade flyer.jpg Mercs 1990 Capcom's top-down run-and-gun sequel to their own "Commando". One of the more badass Commando-likes (it's like itself, yes), and has pretty damn cool aesthetics on top of solid gameplay. Be sure to play co-op, if you can.
Has a pretty cool Mega Drive port that has two modes, one being a remixed mode with some new stages and also weapon shops. In that mode, you can also switch between characters, somewhat similar to SNK's "Shock Troopers". Unfortunately, the port is one-player only.
MERCS also had a sequel, "Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3", on PS3/360, but opinions are a bit mixed on that, so be wary before you give it a shot.
Metal Black arcade flyer.jpg Metal Black 1991 Successor to Gun Frontier and predecessor to Border Down, this is a less-known piece of Taito weirdness. In fact, it is mostly remembered for its striking gritty aesthetics. But it also has solid gameplay (including a beam system that surely inspired Border Down) and a trippy soundtrack that helps set the ominous mood.
Also on the Saturn, and in the compilation Taito Legends 2 for Windows, Xbox, and PS2.
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Nitro Ball arcade flyer.png Nitro Ball 1992 A truly insane combination: top-down shooting a la Mercs, mixed with... pinball?! NitroBallScreenshot.png
Out Zone arcade flyer.jpg Out Zone 1990 A challenging run and gun in which you're a cyborg soldier tasked to repel an alien invasion. You can swap between an automatic, all-directional rifle or fixed-forward spread. Knowing when to swap weapons is half the challenge. Has an improved sequel above, FixEight, but it's still a good game with some very slick controls. Outzone.png
Progear Flyer.jpg 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. ProgearScreenshot.png
Pulstar Flyer.jpg 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 Flyer.jpg 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 II Flyer 01-1-.jpg R-Type II 1989 Incredibly underrated sequel to the timeless masterpiece, R-Type. Most people know this game through its remixed SNES port which isn't all that great, but this game certainly is! Does everything you'd expect from a suberb sequel being faster, harder and featuring more impressive spectacles than ever before!, including the first and last high speed segment seen in the series!! Has new weapons introduced here that were unfortunately never seen again such as the anti-ground missile and homing laser. Thankfully level 2 charge shots stuck. Twosix-1-.png
Rtypeleo Flyer.jpg 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.
Rsilvergun thumb.jpg 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, adding a touch of puzzle to the shooting. The game rewards the player greatly when weapons are used intelligently for bonuses.
Japan exclusive. Also on Saturn and XBLA.
Raiden Flyer.jpg Raiden 1990 It's Raiden, I ain't gotta explain shit. RaidenScreenshot.png
Raiden 2 Flyer.jpg Raiden II 1993 This is how you make a sequel, see? Better graphics, better sound, huge badass bosses, and the now classic toothpaste laser! Raiden2Screenshot.png
Rfighters Flyer E.jpg 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.
Rfighters2 Flyer.jpg 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.
Rfjet Flyer.jpg 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 Flyer.jpg RayForce / Gunlock 1993 Pseudo-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.
Also on the Saturn, Windows, iOS and Android; in the compilation Taito Memories II Joukan for PS2; and in the compilation Taito Legends 2 for Windows and Xbox, but not the PS2 version.
RayStorm Flyer.jpg 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 Flyer.jpg 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 Flyer.jpg 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. Salamander2Screenshot.png
Sexy Parodius arcade flyer.png 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.
ShockTroopersFlyer.jpg Shock Troopers 1997 The ultimate evolution of the Commando/Ikari style run'n gun, choose one of eight commandos or make a team of three and go take down those evil terrorists. You can choose from three different routes, which adds a lot of replayablity. It got a sequel which is just not as fun as this one. ShockTroopersScreenshot.png
Smash TV arcade flyer.jpg Smash T.V. 1990 BIG MONEY. BIG PRIZES. I LOVE IT.
A game show where you're given the chance to earn millions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of toasters, VCRs, automobiles and enough vacation passes for ten generations. Sounds good, right? All it asks for is your QUARTERS! This is seriously overwhelming in solo play, but with two-players you are assured a great experience. Utilizes two joysticks, one for movement and the other to fire with. Totally inspired by The Running Man, dude!
Rereleased as Super Smash TV on the SNES, and a bunch others.
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Sokyugurentai flyer.jpg 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. SokyugurentaiScreenshot.png
Mahou Daisakusen flyer.jpg Sorcer Striker / Mahou Daisakusen 1993 The first in the Mahou Daisakusen series, it has a fantasy setting mixed with steampunk elements, which gives us wonders like dragons with mechanical wings and turrets, tortoises with fortresses mounted on their shells and so on. You choose from four fantasy warriors (among them MIYAMOTO THE SAMURAI DRAGON) who must take down the evil Gobligan Empire. SorcerStrikerScreenshot.png
SpaceHarrier Flyer.jpg 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 Saturn as the 32X version is only 30 frames per second when the Saturn version runs at the full 60.
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S1945 Flyer.jpg 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.
S1945II Flyer.jpg 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.
S1945III Flyer.jpg 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. Strikers19453Screenshot.png
S1945Plus Flyer.jpg 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.
TengaiFlyer.jpg Tengai / Sengoku Ace Episode II 1996 The second in the Sengoku Ace series, it ditches the planes from the first as your warriors now fly through the skies Dragon Ball-style, also moving into a horizontal orientation. Each character has his own familiar which can do a charged attack to help defeat enemies. TengaiScreenshot.png
Truxton2.png 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 triumph it with your sanity intact, congratulations! you're ready for Truxton II. R9FbR.png
256px-TwinCobra arcadeflyer.png Twin Cobra 1987 This is the game where Toaplan really started to hit its 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. Twin cobra 08.png
V-five japan.png 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.
VaporTrailFlyer.jpg Vapor Trail: Hyper Offence Formation 1989 Nice Data East shmup with rocking hard music. Enemies are all sorts of imaginative, such as a tank which you blow up only for it's top cannon to detach and start flying. VaporTrailScreenshot.png
ViperP1 Promo.jpg 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. ViperPhase1Screenshot.png
Xevious Flyer.jpg Xevious 1982 Legendary scrolling shooter that pretty much defined the vertical play style from then after. Xevious Arcade.png
XexexFlyer.jpg Xexex 1991 It is just a damn shame that this game is forgotten, because it is so damn awesome! You pilot a ship with a R-Type style device which you can use to defend yourself or attach into the enemies for continuous damage and fly through amazingly detailed and seizure-inducing stages. The Japanese version has many different weapons, which got cut from the American release, though the later alleviates the difficulty and adds a lifebar. XexexScreenshot.png
ZedBladeFlyer.jpg Zed Blade / Operation Ragnarok 1994 Cool Neo-Geo shmup, you choose from three ships and can customize your weaponry. It's got a fucking amazing soundtrack, which was composed by none other than Manabu Namiki, King of Shmups. ZedBladeScreenshot.png
ZeroWingFlyer.jpg Zero Wing 1989 A cool horizontal shmup by Toaplan, this game got really famous for ALL THE WRONG REASONS (yeah, that "All Your Base" crap). You have three different weapons, as well as a tractor beam which allows you to capture enemies, which can be used as shielding or be tossed at other enemies. ZeroWingScreenshot.png