Gleylancer (Switch eShop)

Gleylancer (Switch eShop)Gleylancer (Switch eShop)
Publisher: Ratalaika Games / Developer: NCS
Release Date: 15th Oct 2021 (USA) / 15th Oct 2021 (UK/EU)

Gleylancer's fantastic use of parallax scrolling adds not only speed but excitement to its varied eleven stages of 16-bit shmupness, which takes you down through icy depths, weaves between small gaps in tight tunnels, slowly loops around a gigantic battleship, or hurtles through an asteroid field. The ways your Movers — the floating gun turrets that follow your ship — can behave are so different from one another they have a direct impact on how you tackle everything from “popcorn” enemies to level bosses, and the newfound flexibility of Modern Mode feels like the perfect twist on an already brilliant idea. Gleylancer is as fresh and thrilling as it’s ever been, only now it’s as authentic — or accessible — as you want it to be too.

Gynoug (Switch eShop)

Gynoug (Switch eShop)Gynoug (Switch eShop)
Publisher: Ratalaika Games / Developer: Masaya
Release Date: 12th Nov 2021 (USA) / 12th Nov 2021 (UK/EU)

Gynoug hasn’t quite got that special extra spark that turns a great game into a spectacular one, but even so it’s still a unique and thoroughly enjoyable thirty-year-old shmup capable of standing proudly next to any other sold on the eShop, and yet another affordable retro re-release sitting in that perfect middle ground between modern convenience and hardcore authenticity.

Deathsmiles I & II (Switch)

Deathsmiles I & II (Switch)Deathsmiles I & II (Switch)
Publisher: City Connection / Developer: Cave
Release Date: 30th Dec 2021 (USA) / 30th Dec 2021 (UK/EU)

Although there’s nothing here that hasn’t been seen previously, this is still a package bursting at the seams with content, and the sequel’s novelty Christmas theme is perfect for memorable December gaming. Driven by an excellent set of punchy organ arrangements and murky musical notes, Deathsmiles I & II is a very large Halloween-themed cake; an exuberant, gothic flourish punctuated by enduring bosses and a unique route-and-rank structure that encourages experimental replays. With little middle ground between casual and concerted professional play, it might not be Cave’s most balanced piece of work, but there’s no doubt it has something for everyone, no matter how you choose to approach it.

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DoDonPachi Resurrection (Switch eShop)

DoDonPachi Resurrection (Switch eShop)DoDonPachi Resurrection (Switch eShop)
Publisher: Live Wire / Developer: Live Wire
Release Date: 25th Nov 2021 (USA) / 25th Nov 2021 (UK/EU)

DoDonPachi Resurrection is arguably one of the best of its genre even after all these years and a lot of competition (plenty of it coming from developer Cave themselves). It’s relentlessly challenging, breathlessly inventive and exhilarating to play; an essential purchase for confirmed shmup fans. But it’s also one that needs you to do a lot of homework to get anything meaningful out of it.

Eschatos (Switch eShop)

Eschatos (Switch eShop)Eschatos (Switch eShop)
Publisher: Qute / Developer: Qute
Release Date: 13th Jan 2022 (USA) / 13th Jan 2022 (UK/EU)

The ultimate M-KAI package, this three-strong historical evolution is the purest distillation of the developer’s vision for the shoot-em-up. Eschatos’ beautiful bombast will suck you in, fire up the adrenaline, and spit you back out with an instant just-one-more-go mindset. If that’s not worth diving into, why are you playing games at all?

Toaplan Arcade Garage: Hishou Same! Same! Same! (Switch)

Toaplan Arcade Garage: Hishou Same! Same! Same! (Switch)Toaplan Arcade Garage: Hishou Same! Same! Same! (Switch)
Publisher: M2 / Developer: Toaplan
Release Date: TBA

Toaplan Arcade Garage: Hishou Same! Same! Same! is wonderful, historical stuff, conserving two beautifully designed roadmaps for the future succession of the genre. Antique, yet savagely modern in their viciousness, there are few titles that brew with as much energy beneath a late-'80s vintage aesthetic, driven intrepidly by Tatsuya Uemura and Masahiro Yuge’s incredible soundtracks.

Despite this, it would be misleading to cite the package as something for everyone. It’s a perfect addition for people collecting M2’s series, and for those with an interest in the preservation and best possible representation of notable arcade titles. As shoot-em-ups, Flying Shark and Fire Shark require a specific approach and methodology, and won’t necessarily be to all tastes. If you revel in the thrill of old-school hardcore gaming, it’s a duo that potentially offer years of service. For everyone else they may feel a bit samey, samey, samey.

Layer Section & Galactic Attack S-Tribute (Switch eShop)

Layer Section & Galactic Attack S-Tribute (Switch eShop)Layer Section & Galactic Attack S-Tribute (Switch eShop)
Publisher: City Connection / Developer: Taito
Release Date: 28th Apr 2022 (USA) / 28th Apr 2022 (UK/EU)

Layer Section will always be a high-roller, and if you’ve never played it, you’re in a ride like few others. As a Switch port, on the other hand, the relatively bare-bones production is the only real negative. Notable historical works deserve the gold standard: a bigger, bolder package that offers the best possible representation. To that end, City Connection has failed to do this game the justice it deserves, which makes it very lucky that Layer Section & Galactic Attack S-Tribute is still so damn good.

Cotton Fantasy (Switch eShop)

Cotton Fantasy (Switch eShop)Cotton Fantasy (Switch eShop)
Publisher: ININ Games / Developer: Success, Studio Saizensen
Release Date: 20th May 2022 (USA) / 20th May 2022 (UK/EU)

While staying true to the series that it extends, Cotton Rock ‘n’ Roll / Fantasy brings so many different experiences in a single shmup that it may as well be a compilation release — and unlike the arcade versions, it is all presented in English language. The more time you give it, the more the replay value snowballs. The faults to be found are few and far between, while sharp level design and a joyful, even mischievous personality define Success’ latest. Simply put, Cotton Fantasy has a lot of fun to give.

So there you have it — an excellent selection of the finest shmups available to humanity. There are plenty more to discover, of course, but the games above represent the best shoot 'em ups the console has to offer (anything that received a review score of 8 or above).

Which are your favourites from this list? Are there any that you'd add given the chance? Share your thoughts in the the usual place...

This article is one of our Switch Essentials guides which cover a wide variety of genres, including the Best Switch FPS Games, the Best Switch RPGs, the Best Switch Games For Kids, the Best Switch Couch Co-Op Games and the Best Switch Fitness and Exercise Games. We can also help out hunting down the Best Switch Horror Games, the Best Switch Racing Games, the Best Switch Action-RPGs, the Best Nintendo Switch Roguelikes, Roguelites and Run-Based Games, the Best Free Switch Games, the Best Remakes And Remasters, the Best Switch Music And Rhythm Games, Best Feel-Good Switch Games, Best Switch Open-World Games, Best Switch Soulslike Games, Best LGBTQ+ Switch Games, and even Games to Play After You've Finished Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Whatever your favourite genre, we've got you covered: Strategy Games, Metroidvanias, Puzzle Games, Party Games, Online Multiplayer Games, Local Wireless Multiplayer Games, Shmups, Twin-Stick Shooters, Visual Novels, Kart Racers, Fighting Games, Football Games, Funny Games, Golf Games, 'Walking Sims' And Narrative Games, Switch Games For Lovers And Lonely Hearts, Detective Games, Hidden Gems, 2D Platformers, 3D Platformers, Puzzle Platformers, Tabletop Mode Games, Run and Gun Games, LEGO Games, Sports Games, Survival Games, Beat 'Em Ups, Camera Games, Chill Games, Family Games, Retro-Inspired Games, Short Games, Card Games and Deck-Builders, and Life Sims And Farming Games.

Still hungry for more? Elsewhere we look at Wholesome Games, TATE Mode Games, Flight Sim and Space Combat, Point and Click Adventure Games, and the Best Switch Exclusives, as well as Every Arcade Archives Game, Every ACA Neo Geo Game, Every SEGA AGES Game On Switch, plus the Best Switch Ports, Best Wii U-To-Switch Ports, Best Switch Collections And Compilations, Best Cheap Switch Games, Best Switch Demos, Games That Are Better On Switch OLED, Switch Games Under $10, $20, $50, and Switch games with the Best Soundtracks and the Best Graphics. Phew!

If you're looking for the best Switch games regardless of genre, our reader-voted selection of the Best Nintendo Switch Games should help you out, and you can also find the Best Nintendo Switch Games of 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. And finally, if you're interested in other Nintendo consoles and retro games, check out the Best Game Boy Games, Best GBC Games, Best GBA Games, Best Nintendo DS Games, Best Nintendo 3DS Games, Best NES Games, Best SNES Games, Best N64 Games, Best GameCube Games, and Best Wii Games, and Best Wii U Games, as well as Every Available Nintendo Switch Online Retro Game, and ranked lists of Every Nintendo Switch Online NES, SNES, N64 and Sega Genesis / Mega Drive Game.