Shoot ’em ups arguably didn’t really enjoy their golden age until the 16-bit home consoles, but that didn’t stop game developers for home computer platforms having a damn good crack at the genre.
The Extirpator for Atari 8-bit is an impressive example, featuring some slick parallax scrolling, some interesting enemy formations and a decent sense of structure. While there are areas that the genre refined considerably as the years went on, this is definitely a valiant effort for 1988.
River Raid is probably my favourite game on the Atari 8-bit. The Atari 2600 version is arguably more well-known, but the Atari 2600 version — which also appeared on the ill-fated Atari 5200 — is superior in pretty much every way.
For the unfamiliar, River Raid is one of the original vertically scrolling shoot ’em ups, and made use of some clever programming techniques to squeeze the entire game into a tiny amount of space. It’s one of Activision’s finest games of the 8-bit era, and a game I still enjoy on a regular basis today.
Who doesn’t love a good shoot ’em up? And if you’re after some top-notch modern shoot ’em ups, you can’t go far wrong with Astro Port’s work.
Satazius Next is an update to the company’s popular Gradius homage Satazius, and features improved visuals, a new soundtrack and the same solid horizontal shooter action that the studio has become so known and loved for.
It’s really interesting to go back to some of the games of my youth and discover that creators who became much more well-known later in their careers worked on them.
Jug from Microdeal is one game where this happens: its graphics were the work of one Martin Kenwright, who subsequently became much better known for his flight simulations under the Digital Image Design (DID) banner, and later the World Rally Championship and Motorstorm games for Sony platforms.
Jug, meanwhile, is an interesting action-adventure with a touch of shoot ’em up about it. Does it, as the box proclaims, offer the best graphics the ST has to offer? Well, no, but it’s still worth a look!
SNK had some top-notch arcade hits throughout the ’80s and ’90s, and many of them came home in one form or another.
One great example was Ikari Warriors, which saw several different home ports over the years. The one we’re concerned with today is Elite’s Atari ST version, which remains surprisingly true to the arcade original despite lacking SNK’s iconic “loop lever” control scheme.
It’s a solid top-down run-and-gun that still holds its own well today, and back then it demonstrated that the ST was more than capable of providing a convincing “arcade at home” experience!
Dave Theuer’s Missile Command is an absolute classic of the “golden age” of arcade games, and still puts up a formidable challenge today!
Embodying the paranoia many people were feeling towards the Cold War and potential nuclear conflict in the early ’80s, Missile Command is a relentless, frantic affair. Despite that, it’s more important than anything to stay calm and take careful, strategic shots rather than just blasting away in a mad panic.
I am bad at Missile Command, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy playing it! So let’s get on and do just that, shall we?
Horizontally scrolling shooters are perhaps most commonly associated with the 16-bit Japanese consoles, but there were some great ones on offer on earlier home computers.
One such example was Laser Hawk from Red Rat Software, developed by Kiwi programmer Andrew Bradfield with graphics by Harvey Kong Tin. This was an enjoyable, speedy, helicopter-based horizontal scroller with a cheeky line in fanboy-baiting — the structures you had to destroy at the end of each level all bore an uncanny resemblance to rival, non-Atari computer manufacturers’ logos!
It’s a game that I greatly enjoyed revisiting, and was very pleasantly surprised to discover still plays rather well today. Give it a shot!
Reckon you’re good at shoot ’em ups? I certainly don’t, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to quantify exactly how bad you are at something.
Enter Shmups Skill Test by Triangle Service, then, a game that attempts to analyse your performance in a selection of common shoot ’em up skill areas, including avoiding bullets, avoiding obstacles, shooting things and TANK TANK TANK TANK TANK.
It’s an unusual one for sure, and a great title to bust out for an impromptu tournament, particularly if you’re all as bad as each other!
While there’s much to be said for a traditional shoot ’em up in which you simply blast everything while trying not to get blasted in return, sometimes it’s nice to enjoy something a bit different.
Triangle Service’s Minus Zero, part of the Shooting Love. 200X collection, is a great example. Consisting entirely of “lock-on” shooting and a nifty invincibility gimmick, it’s a highly enjoyable game that is great for a quick fix of making things explode should you feel the need — a single game is done and dusted in a matter of minutes, even if you can clear the whole thing!
Today, you can enjoy it either as part of the Shooting Love. 200X compilation on Xbox 360 (which is not region-free in its physical incarnation, but is available via the Games On Demand download platform in North America and Europe) or on PC via its Steam release.
Well, we’ve done Eschatos and we’ve done Judgement Silversword… we might as well complete the set, right? What’s that you say? “NO!”? That’s the spirit.
Cardinal Sins, also known as Judgement Silversword Recycle Edition, is a remix of Judgement Silversword into a different style of shoot ’em up. Rather than simply working your way through stages and trying to survive as long as possible, here you’re challenged with a variety of different objectives, each loosely themed around the Seven Deadly Sins.