50 greatest shooters ever bang
They'll be waiting to cheer
Your life re-lived

17. Tempest 2000 (Jaguar)

Now this is what we’re talking about. A stone-cold ‘80s classic dragged into the ‘90s with care and love and a deep understanding for the eloquence of the source gameplay. A cheerful and lurid remake with all the original spirit, but plenty of modern style and humour. Evil Dead II to Tempest’s Evil Dead.



16. Star Force (Arcade)

Star Force is a game that has probably been overlooked by many. It isn’t loud, it isn’t flashy and it doesn’t look particularly special. But it simply does everything right. You always feel in control, and if you happen to lose a life, you feel as though it’s your fault for not being good enough, rather than the game taking a cheap shot by throwing too much at you. Each game sees you progressing just a bit further, and then you start finding the hidden bonuses so you play some more and get further still. It’s the perfect blend of balance, playability and seat-of-pants excitement.



15. Sinistar (Arcade)

“Beware. I live!”

Shitshitshitshit! Where the fuck is he?

“Run, coward, run!”

Chrissakes! I’ve only got eight fucking sinibombs!


Make it stop. Please. Mummy.

In space, no-one can hear you scream. But in the arcade, it can cause embarrassment.



14. Missile Command (Arcade)


No, really. Unique and unflinchingly frantic gameplay aside, what made Missile Command special was the fear of failure. Making it onto the high-score table is a cause for celebration on most games, but here it’s relief; relief that nobody will witness your humiliation in a screen-consuming fireball. Just be thankful that the designers chose not to give the cities under attack real-world names. A valid argument that reality is not necessarily a good thing in videogames.



13. Centipede (Arcade)

Clear the insects and vermin from your precious, er, black garden. Like its theme, Centipede creeps up on you. In the early levels, the default auto-fire seems a tad generous. But, further in, it’s essential. As with its predecessors, the game sends enemies straight down the screen – the difference being, when they hit the bottom, the bastards just turn around and come right back at ya. The driving ‘Thud, thud, thud…’ effects as the ‘pede winds its way down screen is the perfect soundtrack to the increasing mayhem.



12. Doom (PC)

Yeah. Whatever. Not absolutelo-pedantically an out-and-out ‘shooter’, but Doom is the game that rescued the PC from knuckle-gnawing flight-sims and beard-cultivating RPG installs. After years of standing slightly removed from the action, I was suddenly there – dumped right inside the gameworld. It was like walking into a nightmare and Christ, how the sound, the scares, the scripted “FUUUUUCK!” moments made me want to suspend disbelief even more (lights off, headphones on, something sinister trickling through my system…). Yes. I once played Doom under the influence of a well-known hallucinogenic drug. Honestly. I… don’t want to talk about it.



11. R-Type (Arcade)

It's the baseline shmup for so many people. When my (casual gamer) friends see a shoot-'em-up, they automatically compare and contrast it to R-Type. They grew up on the 8 and 16-bit versions and they will never forget it.


Its rubbish, but I love it.


Because it fucked me over 5 screen-widths in EVERY TIME and I STILL went back for more. Masochistic gaming with a cool soundtrack.


That wibbly laser was teh r0x0r.


Thinking about R-Type makes my clockwork brain whirr excitedly for several reasons. Mostly, though, it's because The Force remains one of gaming's greatest power-ups. The feeling of satisfaction upon firing it straight into the black heart of another Bydo Empire minion is second to none. Eat THAT, you heathen!


Apart from the fact that I was in charge of serious damage, it was the fact that I spent most of my time concentrating on where my add-on droid thingy was. In fact I was only flying my ship to keep the drone in the best positions.


Instead of having normal power-ups, it had a special weapon as well as the speed-up that made a metal thing come on the screen and go on the front of your spaceship. It stopped bullets, and you could also press a button that made it go forward. It was cool.


"That'll be playable then, for 10p."



10. Asteroids (Arcade)

The ice maiden. No game has captured the lonely chill emptiness of space like Asteroids. It’s just you and the rocks. And that bastard little saucer. Asteroids’ genius is making you, the player, the protagonist of your own downfall. As the rocks split and split again, the screen becomes awash with criss-crossing chiselled vectors. A maze of trajectories which neatly foreshadowed the complexities of bullet hell some twenty years later. Iconic and much-copied, simple but blessed with demanding physics, Asteroids stands tall as the game that proved Space Invaders was only the beginning of an incredible journey.



9. Ikaruga (Dreamcast)

You’re thrown, unforgivingly, into a beautiful world of yin and

Yang; a contrasting environment full of elegance and terrifingly brutal gameplay. From the opening intro which sees you swooping like a swan into the oncoming enemy hurricane, to the heart-wrenching, slow-motion explosions of the final ‘stone-like being’, the game flows like no other. It has a pace and style that evokes the feelings of a mountain river, calming transitional pools and eddies of gameplay that lead back and forth between the torrents of seemingly inescapable attack-pattern rapids and set pieces.

While Ikaruga is often described in passing as a pattern based, muscle-memory shooter, it’s also a game that is uniquely reactive and challenging to the best of players. Ikaruga is Gaming Zen; the Buddhist influences are apparent in every aspect of the game, but most uniquely in the way it can take you into a zone of almost meditative and clear thinking. Breathing steadily, clear of thought, the world fades away and all that remains is Ikaruga and you. A beautiful game that deserves all of the respect it commands.



8. Gradius (Arcade)

A compulsive little space odyssey, Gradius was the tipping point where designers realised they could throw a more complex, all-round challenge at a player, provided they gave him the tools to fight back. Evolving the Vic-ship from weedy peashooter to pumped-up, shielded, multi-laser death-dealer is only half the battle. It’s all about wielding your power precisely and effectively; concentrating that extra-beefy laser-strength to maximise score; and, of course, holding onto the tools once you’re tooled up. And there be the rub: die during a tricky bit, and you’ll probably die and die again. But I’m strange. I like the tension of that; the uncompromising demand of perfection. And there’s an enormous glow of satisfaction that comes with taking your vanilla/no speed-up/no missile ship and jinking your way through a smug, bullet-riddled section that you’re really not supposed to survive. It’s one of gaming’s most thrilling, chest-beating moments.



7. Galaxian (Arcade)

Galaxian may be notable for adding a flourish of colour to the arcades, but it’s always been much, much more than that. There are many who prefer the follow-up, Galaga, but Galaxian has a purity and fluidity that none of the spiritual sequels can match. It still stands out in any arcade due to its distinctive sounds, and once you’re drawn in, those hypnotic, swooping insects will happily drain all the silver from your pocket.

Part of the joy comes from the simplicity of the challenge. You know exactly what the baddies are capable of, and what your limitations are, with survival depending purely on your skill and wits. Once they get the better of you, you’re dead, and it’s staying one step ahead of them that keeps you hooked.



6. Star Wars (Arcade)

So, I used to wriggle into the seat… zap zap, dodge dodge... Beautiful, abstract, high-definition vector violence – with the added thrill of immersive and – for the time – surprisingly coherent movie samples and FX. But the real kicker was when I glanced up in between waves and saw one or two faces reflected in the screen, as a couple of spectators gathered to peer into the window at the back of the cab. It wasn’t just like someone loitering over your shoulder as you played. Coccooned away like that, there was a definite distinction between gamer and watcher. Suddenly, the zapping and dodging became more urgent, more showboaty… Ah, the clever bastards who designed the sit-down version; they were trying to cultivate an audience-performer vibe and I still want to kiss them for it.



And in reverse order...

50 to 40 - Oooh the suspense.
39 to 29 - Wow, if only we had Paul Ross to present.

28 to 18 - Time for a cup of tea in the break?

17 to 6 - Nearly there, so you get just a bit more meat.

5 - Into the legends...

4 - Is this the Bobby Moore to no.1's Paul Gascoigne?

3 - 3-2-1 quipped Ted Rogers. He wasn't wrong.

2 - We argued and agonised for months over this list - we really did.

1 - But of the number one slot, there was never any doubt

Disagree with our selections? - Be wrong in the Forum!

They'll be waiting to cheer


© 2003 Smart Circle Limited