Beating games with a controller is one thing, but being able to wave around a big, plastic gun at a TV screen is so much more satisfying in comparison. Light gun games aren’t too big of a thing these days due to a lack of consoles or controllers that can pull this sort of thing off. The genre may be (mostly) gone, but certainly not forgotten, whether they be classic titles from yonks ago, or the addictive arcade machines you’d find in the arcades at the beach.
Available on: Arcade, Wii
Japanese developers sometimes create unintentionally corny games. Ghost Squad is no exception. Yes, the writing and voice acting is very campy, but there’s a lot of replay-ability on offer, considering the fact that the game only has three missions. Replaying missions would increase your rank, which would unlock new weapons, outfits to wear during cutscenes, and increase the level of each stage. Often, you’ll be given branching paths, allowing you to enter different areas in certain ways. Certain routes are available only in the higher levels, which may offer surprises like quicktime events and new areas to battle in. Each of the three stages ends with a tricky showdown against a boss.
The Wii version, however, brought more to the table, like four-player mode, party games, a training mission, and the ability to save your data on the console (arcades had ID cards to save data on, but these are beyond out-of-date and are never used these days), thus making it the go-to version, unless you’re desperate to swing around the arcade booth’s plastic SMG.
House of the Dead: Overkill
Available on: Wii, PS3, PC
Heavily inspired by ‘video nasties’ and blaxploitation horror films from decades ago, House of the Dead: Overkill took the series in a new direction. Instead of straight-faced cheesiness like the series have done in the past, what you get is a blood-soaked, ultra-violent shooter wrapped in B-horror movie tropes. An inexperienced secret agent is paired up with a foul-mouthed cop as they shoot their way through hordes of zombies in the hunt for a crazed madman. Hilarity ensues.
Racking up combos, upgrading weapons and hunting for collectables may be par for the course, but Director’s Cut mode ramps up the difficulty and lets you travel through different parts of the level. A batch of party games – target practice, civilian escort, and survival mode – are all available for up to four players. Best of all, its funk-induced soundtrack is an underrated masterpiece. The PS3 port pimps up the visuals and adds new levels and weapons, while the PC version lets you battle it out with a keyboard instead! Simply put, House of the Dead: Overkill is smutty, gruesome, and very enjoyable.
Time Crisis 3
Available on: Arcade, PS2
Two generic dudes versus a battalion of multi-coloured, feeble soldiers dressed up in fluorescent clothing – sounds like the plot of near-enough every entry in the series. Time Crisis 3 was the first to introduce additional equippable weapons, however. Leaping in and out of cover by pressing on the pedal at the bottom of the arcade booth never gets old, especially when you’re popping grenades or blasting baddies with a boomstick.
The levels get pretty crazy at times. Players must fend of mercenaries parachuting onto a beach, shoot their way through a freighter ship being tipped sideways, and take on numerous wacky bosses spamming attacks. The PS2 packs in a bonus game mode, where you can wield a sniper rifle in between gunfights set in a new story chapter. No matter how seriously it likes to take itself, Time Crisis 3 is still a blast.
Available on: Arcade, PS1
Point Blank is a bit like the WarioWare series, as you’ve got a short amount of time to complete various minigames, e.g. perforating a car, hitting a UFO with one shot, knocking down a tower of glasses in order, and much more. On occasions, you have a limited amount of ammo, or have to look out for things like bombs that’ll cost you a life if you hit them, but all of these things ultimately make the Point Blank games all the more tense.
The eclectic mix of creative minigames go hand-in-hand with its cartoon visuals and silly mascots, thus making it a make it a real gem of a shooting game. The same can be said about its numerous sequels and their brilliant PlayStation ports, too. It’s difficult to pick out a favourite – they’re all amazing.
Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles
Available on: Wii & PS3
The second light-gun shooter from the Resident Evil series retells the events of Resident Evil 2 and Code Veronica X. In between these flashback missions are levels featuring former cop Leon Kennedy and his buddy Jack Krauser (i.e. that mutated army dude from the fourth game, who appears without any context) as they attempt to stop a zombie epidemic in South America. Great visuals, engaging storytelling and some polished shooting mechanics made it a must-have title on either console.
This spin-off was less of a survival-horror game and more of an action-packed slug-a-thon. Popping zombies, lickers, and other mutated creatures is far from a cakewalk, though. Good thing you can upgrade your weapons to ridiculously-powerful proportions. Replaying the numerous missions on offer to perfect your scores and earn collectible artwork, 3D models and the like give it a lot of replayability, even if some of the boss encounters are a bit lengthy and riddled with quicktime events. It’s great fun when played either alone or in a pair, and the cutscenes are a lovely watch as well. It’s easily one of the best spin-offs in the series – Capcom’s previous attempts at light gun games were utter pants before this one came along.
What are some of your favourite light gun games? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!