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Light Gun Lives: 10 Games That Ruled The Light Gun Genre

Light Gun Games Best of including virtua cop, operation wolf and point blank

As much as we try to ignore it, videogame violence and cruelty are fun. Nothing beats the thrill of punching a scantily clad, teenage Japanese girl in the nose. Perhaps you are a person of simple pleasures, who tortures Grandma by locking her in a cupboard on the Sims. However, once you hold a gun in your hands, power becomes an addiction.

Enter the light gun. Dating as far back as 1930, these vacuum tube games allowed you to shoot crude targets on a screen.

Since then, we have had games that hunt ghosts and let us gun for grouse. Read on as we give our top ten light gun games.

Duck Hunt

Duck Hunt Title Screen from the NES light gun game

While Duck Hunt may not have been the first game to use a light gun, it is one of the most well known. Beautiful in its simplicity, Duck Hunt had you using the Nintendo Entertainment System zapper to take down ducks and clay pigeons. This is made harder by an over-enthusiastic hunting dog that appears during bonus rounds.

The game was not the first Duck Hunting game Nintendo had made. They had experimented with an arcade game in the seventies, that had used an overhead projector. A paired down version had helped them pull themselves out of bankruptcy during the Japanese recession.

Duck Hunt was a pack-in title with the original NES system. It has since had numerous re-releases and updates, mainly on family-orientated consoles like the Wii-U.

Time Crisis

Two time crisis arcade flyers from the light gun  game

Namco has released a multitude of classic games, but Time Crisis has to be one of their crowning glories. It combines all-out action and guns with a futuristic, anime-style aesthetic. There is a storyline, but no one cares or could tell you what it was about.

From the get-go, you are assaulted from all sides. The offscreen reload and pedal-operated cover function gets you moving more than Wii Olympics. On its release in 1995, it was one of the few arcade games to actually get you sweating.

Its first console release was on the original PlayStation in 1997. This used the Guncon attachment, the first light gun for the system. While it did well, it did not hold up to the awesome arcade version.

There have been spin offs and sequels ever since. Extra guns have been added and even advanced cover systems were refined. The last release was Time Crisis 5 from 2015.

House Of The Dead

House of the dead opening title screen arcade

House of the Dead was the first real rail shooting zombie game. In fact, let’s say it was the first one that was genuinely scary. Created by Sega it was released in the arcade in 1996.

Although the game has been playable with other controllers, it is the arcade light gun version that is the only way to play. You take on hoards of the undead, and at the end of each stage have to fight a horrific demonic boss creature. Each iteration of the game has featured different characters, along with a unique storyline.

The most interesting thing about House of the Dead is its spinoffs. Typing of the Dead and Darts of the Dead do actually exist.

Virtua Cop

Virtua Cop Gameplay screen two terrorists are firing guns

Virtua Cop is one of the few games on the list in which the console versions can hold up against the arcade. It was one of the first ‘Virtua’ games that used polygon-type graphics, along with Virtua Fighter. However, Virtua Cop pushed the boundaries of shooting games in ways people had not before thought imaginable.

For example, enemies reacted differently depending on where they got shot. You could clip them with one bullet between the eyes, or blow off their kneecaps to be a real sadistic bastard. You could also smash the scenery, including glass, which left a heavenly tinkle reverberating through the speakers.

In essence, Virtua Cop lets you reap gun-soaked mayhem. Its popularity increased when it was released not just on the doomed Saturn console, but Windows PC. It had numerous sequels but arguably does not hold up as well as other titles on the list.

Area 51

Area 51 Atari arcade game a commando is shouting on screen

In 1995, the fortunes of Atari were not looking good. In a last-ditch effort to turn things around, they jumped on the virtual graphics craze. Area 51 was the fruits of their labour.

The game is a mishmash to say the least. It mixes 2D sprites with 3D levels and vehicles. Although it is about the Area 51 facility and your mission is to destroy an alien invasion, no aliens appear until later in the game. In addition, everyone explodes when you shoot them.

Despite this weirdness, the game was a smash hit. It was ported to PC and consoles and even got a follow-up. That one featured voiceovers by David Duchovny and Marilyn Manson, though even that could not save Atari.

Hogans Alley

Hogans Alley Light Gun game on the NES featuring a line up of gangsters and one civilian

Hogans Alley, along with Duck Hunt, was one of the first light gun games released on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was named after a shooting range used by the National Guard. The game follows this concept, as you take down a series of targets in the fastest time possible.

Failing to shoot a gangster target, or shooting a civilian, costs you a life. Later levels put you into a city and give you five targets instead of three. It is simple and while the graphics are dated now, at the time it was a lot of fun and still is.

Point Blank

Point Blank arcade game title screen light gun arcade

Point Blank is a standout light gun title, due to its silly and fun nature. Unlike most light gun games, it got rid of violence and replaced it with family-friendly shooting games. When on two-player, things get very competitive.

The games work around six concepts; Accuracy, Intelligence, Speed, Memory, Simulation, and Visual Acuity. Each stage has four missions, which you can attempt in any order. Passing them is based on the score you accumulate during the game.

Originally released on arcade and PlayStation One, its last outing was in Point Blank X for the arcade. With a version released on the Nintendo DS in 2006, it must be due a revival on the Switch sometime soon.

Operation Wolf

Operation Wolf light gun game featuring two screen shots of enemies firing at the player

Operation Wolf could be the most successful light gun game of all time. It was first released in arcades in 1987 and was then ported to numerous consoles and home computers. It spawned three sequels, re-releases and was critically acclaimed.

You take on the character of Roy Adams, a special forces operative. Your mission is to rescue five hostages captured by enemies, in a number of different stages. These include everything from concentration camps to dense jungles.

The NES version of the game gave you a number of different endings. In each, you would meet the president, but how he responded would depend upon how many hostages you had rescued.

Terminator II: Judgement Day Arcade

Terminator II judgement day arcade game for light gun. Arcade flyer and screen shot are side by side.

There have been many Terminator games, but none of them let you take up an Uzi and cause untoward violence like the arcade game did. Containing digitized graphics, it featured actors who starred in the actual movie. The storyline of the game mirrored the plot of the movie almost to the letter.

The arcade cabinet had two guns, so you could be two Terminators working in tandem to protect John and Sarah Connor. While ammo is unlimited, constant firing causes the gun to slow down. You also suffer huge penalties if John Connor dies. Oddly, the Gameboy version took its soundtrack from the game NARC.

Laser Ghost

Laser Ghost arcade game double screen

Laser Ghost is the Ghostbusters game we all wanted and but never got. Most people know it from the Master System release, which was a different game and average at best. However, the arcade shooter is a phenomenal title that oozes charm and playability.

The cabinet has three guns, and you take the place of one member of an elite ghost hunting team. Your mission is to save a small girl from a gargoyle and on the way, you intercept all manner of wonderful, ghostly creatures. The restaurant level when you are attacked by phantom burgers is a highlight.

On its release, reviews for the game were tepid at best. Over time, its imagination and style have made it a hidden arcade classic.


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