The humble 2D shooter may have fallen out of favour with the mainstream these days, but it's certainly one of the most important genres in the world of video gaming. Were it not for Space Invaders – the shooter that arguably birthed a genre – then our industry may well have evolved in an entirely different fashion. During the '80s and early '90s consoles gamers were inundated with a series of excellent horizontal and vertically-scrolling blasters which tested reactions and supplied thrills in abundance; perhaps that's why the genre has managed to carve out a niche for itself even in today's market, via fringe titles like DariusBurst: Chronicle Saviours, Steel Empire and Raiden V. Not only do these games provide instant gratification, they're also an excellent means of showing off your skills.

If you've ever had any interest in this type of game then you'll almost certainly want to check out the latest book from the excellent guys over at Hardcore Gaming 101, which is focused on celebrating shooters of all shapes and sizes. Like the Hardcore Gaming's other publications – which cover topics such as Sega's arcade history and the entire Castlevania lineage – Hardcore Gaming 101 Presents: The Guide to Shoot-em-Ups Volume 1 lifts a lot of its content from the site, but embellishes it with new information and fresh screenshots. The site has created a pretty impressive line in coffee table reads, and this latest release is no exception.

Because previous Hardcore Gaming 101 books on Taito and Konami have covered some of the other famous shooter brands such as Gradius and Darius, this new publication doesn't mention them and instead focuses on companies such as Irem, Compile, Tehkan and Technosoft, all big names in the shooter genre during the so-called "Golden Era" of arcade gaming.

There's a fair amount of ground covered here, with the book looking at titles as varied as Cotton, Air Zonk, Insector X, Blast Wind, Cloud Master and Mystic Riders, as well as the better-known examples of the genre such as MUSHA Aleste, Lords of Thunder, Space Megaforce, R-Type Delta, Gleylancer and Star Soldier. What's surprising from a Nintendo fan's perspective is how well serviced we've been in terms of excellent shooters over the past decade. Many of the tiles mentioned in this book are available for download on one of the Virtual Console portals, including the superb Summer Carnival '92 Recca, which was released on the Nintendo 3DS eShop in the west despite being exclusive to Japan back in the day. Sadly, the vast majority of the really cool shooters released on the Wii Virtual Console have not been made available for the Wii U – one can only hope that this changes when the Switch is released this year.

It's almost become customary for us to end reviews of Hardcore Gaming 101 books with a hearty recommendation, and it goes without saying that this particular appraisal isn't going to buck the trend. Like the site's other releases, this guide is exhaustively researched, brilliantly written and lovingly illustrated, making it utterly essential to anyone who has ever entered bullet hell and come out the other side.


You can order Hardcore Gaming 101 Presents: The Guide to Shoot-em-Ups Volume 1 from Amazon US and Amazon UK.