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Top 10 shmups we want to come to the Virtual Console

Posted by Darren Calvert

Every good retro gamer enjoys a good shmup (shoot-em-ups to the uninitiated). During the late 80s and early 90s almost every other game was a shmup. They were very much the FPS of the day! The gaming history books are littered with many failures and uninspired clones but we'll cut through the crap and bring you the cream of the crop that we one day hope to see on the Virtual Console.

10. Side Arms (NEC Avenue) - TurboGrafx-16
Based on the 1986 Capcom arcade classic you control a hero with a jetpack as he takes on the alien hordes who would seek to destroy earth. Unlike most horizontally scrolling shmups you can shoot both left and right. The graphics for the time were outstanding and the gameplay is fast and furious. There are loads of different power ups to collect along the way. A nice touch is you can morph into a super robot if you collect a alpha symbol.

9. Life Force (Konami) - NES
The NES wasn't flooded with shmups like the TG-16 and Megadrive but this more than makes up for it. Known as Salamander in Japan this was a brilliant NES conversion despite many differences to the arcade original. The action takes play on horizontally and vertically scrolling levels and you can play simultaneously with a friend. For the time the graphics and sound were amazing but the best thing about this is the great level design. Organically growing walls, flame arcs and tentacle arms all conspire against you in this stellar shooter.
Life Force review from Mean Machines

8. Hellfire (Toaplan/NCS) - Megadrive/Genesis
It's a testament to the quality of this title that people still speak highly of it even today. It's one of the Megadrive's finest shooters and is an essential purchase for any fan of the genre. Although the visuals are decidedly average when compared to stuff like Thunderforce IV and Gyoung, Hellfire's weapon system must rank as one of the greatest in any game of this type - and it's thanks to this system that the game is so damned playable.
Hellfire review from Mean Machines

7. Axelay (Konami) - SNES
The SNES has a reputation of being a poor host to shooting titles, but games like Axelay helped change the minds of several doubters. Mixing vertical and horizontal action, Konami really pushed the machine to its limits here. The vertical sections have a neat 'rolling' effect which gives a rather crude sense of depth but look cool all the same. Excellent graphic design and a memorable soundtrack round things off nicely, although the game does suffer from some horrible sprite flicker at times - something we thought we'd seen the last of with the Master System!

6. Aero Blasters (Kaneco) - TurboGrafx-16 + Megadrive/Genesis
On the face of it this looks like a very generic side scroller, and although it doesn't do anything out of the ordinary it remains bloody good fun. Bold, colourful visuals coupled with some amazing high-speed tunnel sections mean this is one of the more entertaining titles of this type. It was released on both the Megadrive and PC Engine, and both ports are excellent.
Areo Blasters review from Mean Machines

5. Gynoug / Wings of War (NCS Corp) - Megadrive/Genesis
A wonderfully bizarre side-scrolling shooter from the guys who did the whacked-out Cho Aniki series on the PC Engine Super CD. This game contains some of the most inventive end of level bosses you're ever likely to see on the Megadrive, including a demonic steam train, a ghostly viking ship and something that looks uncomfortably like a devil baby!
Gynoug review from Mean Machines

4. U.N. Squadron / Area 88 (Capcom) - SNES
Although the SNES has a reputation of being a bit of a duffer when it comes to shooters, there are plenty of stunning blasters on the console - UN Sqaudron being one of them. The player has the ability to pick their attack plan, and although there are only a set number of levels this does give the impression of freedom - something usually lacking in this type of game. The graphics are simply gorgeous, with some brilliantly designed enemies. The action is thick and fast, too. Some shooter purists will no doubt be put off that the player has an energy bar, thus removing the tension of one-hit kills, but everyone else will enjoy what is one of the best 2D shooters of the 16-bit generation.
UN Squadron review from Mean Machines

3. Parodius (Konami) - TurboGrafx-16 + SNES + NES
The SNES version has the edge on the TurboGrafx version but both are very competent conversions of Konami's crazy parody of the popular Gradius series. The NES version is good fun despite its limitations and has a all new level set in a carnival not featured anywhere else! This horizontally scrolling shooter has a crazy sense of humour. Where else can you take out a flying pirate ship with the head of a cat playing as a penguin armed with a microphone?
Parodius review from Mean Machines

2. Bakuretsu Muteki Bangaioh (Treasure/ESP) - N64 (Japan only)
It is doubtful that Treasure's fruity little shmup will ever make it on to the Virtual Console outside of Japan but we live in hope for a localisation for the N64 version. The Dreamcast port has the most amazing Japlish since Zero Wing's 'All Your Base'! This is unlike any shmup you've ever played - it rewards kamikaze tactics, stupidity, reckless charges and encourages you to fly as close to enemy fire as humanly possible - the closer you cut each manoeuvre, the more you get to blow up! The closest thing I can compare it to nowadays is Geometry Wars on Xbox 360 Live Arcade but it is so much more entertaining.

1. Thunderforce 4 (Technosoft) - Megadrive/Genesis
Technosoft really did pull out all the stops to craft one of the most gorgeous looking games ever to grace the Megadrive. The visuals are out of this world and proved that the MD could match the SNES in this regard. The speed of the game is also breathtaking, with loads of sprites and bullets on screen at once - yet there is very rarely any slowdown. The techno soundtrack compliments the action perfectly. The likelihood of seeing this on the Virtual Console is slim as the developers Technosoft were purchased by a company that makes pachinkos in 2001.
Thunderforce 4 review from Mean Machines

It should be noted if Soldier Blade, Blazing Lazers and R-Type were not already out on the VC they would have probably all made this list. Good old Hudson, they couldn't wait to spoil gamers rotten with some of the good stuff!

Let's hope the powers that be at Nintendo get some of the above on the Virtual Console soon. What shmups would you like to see on the Virtual Console?

From the web

User Comments (33)



RMA said:

Ah, always forget the shmup / run'n'gun differentiation..,



Jazzem said:

Nice to see Thunderforce IV getting a mention. I picked that one up in my local indie shop a while ago for £7. Great game =]



Dazza said:

RMA@ Haha yeah no posting run n' gun games! Stuff like Starfox, Sin & Punishment, Gunstar Heroes aren't shmups either

junkeR@ Musha Aleste would have been a good choice indeed! It's got a killer soundtrack.




How about 1942 for NES, and since the Neo-Geo is making its way onto the VC eventually, how about Aero Fighters 2?



JD1 said:

I once had a fun game called 'raptor' for my PC, does anyone know if there was a console version?



TheNintendoBoy said:

Now this is better! I'd switch aero blasters for super aleste/space megaforce or MUSHA though.. too many horizontals in this list

Star Fox is most definitely a shooter.



TheNintendoBoy said:

Yeah, well the rail shooters have been around since after burner and the like so it's not really "new".

__The Otaku


The Otaku said:

What a great list, Thunderforce IV would certainly be on the top of my list too. Great to see Parodius and Hellfire get a mention too. I think you must be like me and prefer horizontal scrolling shmups more than vertical scrollers also! ^_^



VCnovice said:

I'd like to see Zero Wing (Genesis) and Space Megaforce (SNES) make it to Virtual Console someday.



Cataclysm said:

Um, Dazza, all shmups are on rails. It isn't like you can change your direction or anything (except with the Braywood shmups like Paradroid and Uridium of those two are far superior to anything on this list. But they are on C64 so alas).

Anyway, where the hell is Guardian Legend? It is considered one of the best NES games (a feat awesome in itself). It is also unique in that it is much like a shmup + zelda + Blaster Master type game. Knock off Side Arms and put Guardian Legend up there.



Rman said:

Good mention with Life Force. That was one of my favorite NES games. There was another decent NES one called Gaurdian Force (I think). It was half shooter/half overhead blaster master syle (like when you were out of the tank).



Steve said:

@Cataclysm: I agree with your comments about Uridium, but Paradroid is NOT a "shmup" by any stretch of the word. =/



SKTTR said:

@Cataclysm, I also dream of the C64-shmups (if they ever come out with that)... i grew with them.
For me it's Armalyte, 1942, Katakis/Denaris, Into Oblivion and X-Out.
Of course Paradroid and Uridium are classics as well
But Paradroid really is something completely different.
Anyone remembering Sega's Zaxxon? That was a fine shmup in the very old days.



romanista said:

@dazza, thanx for the list, still, think S&P could fit the bill.. hope it will be on the VC anyway, Gunstar Heroes has given us hope.. (at thye rate the n64 games are coming, probably in 2011 though )



Damo said:

Guys, Sin and Punishment (and Starfox) are NOT shooters. Yes they feature shooting, but as we all know, videogame classification can be a bizarre thing at times.

The term 'shmup' usually refers to 2D vertically or horizontally scrolling shooters.

And as much as I'd like to see Sin and Punishment on the VC, it's unlikely. It never got a release in the West and Nintendo seems to be sticking to officially released games for the time being.



-K- said:

I really think that Zero Wing should be first. I mean everyone wants a little taste of "All your base are belong to us"



Mirokunite said:

Cho Aniki kicked ass! We need that game on the VC!
Also Zero Wing would be really great.

But Cho Aniki needs to be in the VC. Every game from Cho Aniki to Chō Aniki Bakuretsu Rantō Hen.



Haze said:

Where is Gate Of Thunder for the PcEngine Duo?
Good list however



Bishamon said:

Actually Bangai-o was published in America, look it up.


ALIEN SOLDIER. And yep it's a shmup, so is Contra (it has been made official).



Dazza said:


To my knowledge the N64 version of Bangai-o was only ever released in Japan. Wikipedia agrees with me:

"Nintendo 64 Version.... The original version of the game, released only in Japan (Limited only to 10,000 carts)"

Alien Soldier and Contra are run n gun games in my books. It depends how widely you define the term shmups I suppose.



Randy said:

Great list, only game I would add is Musha Aleste on the SNES, which was a superb shmup.

However, Hellfire is my favourite ever shmup - I will cream my shorts if that appears on the VC!



CanisWolfred said:

All of them, I want them all! Except the N64 version of Bangai-O, would rather just hope for an XBLA rerelease like Ikaruga.



dfalco said:

my top five shooters
aero fighter
life force
thunderforce 3
thunder force 4
if i had to chose 2 more it will be zanc and thunder force 2

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