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?