Light gun games don’t seem to exist any more thanks to the advent of HD TV’s, motion controls and the state of arcades in the West these days. It’s a sorry state of affairs, and it got me thinking about my favorite light gun games.
Ahead of you is my own personal list of the best light gun games that have ever existed. Some of these are from home consoles, while others are only found in the arcade.
It’s a list that you may disagree with, and you may not even have heard of a few of the games. It goes without saying, but the only stipulation I had was that I must have played these games, so it could be that your favorite simply passed me by somehow.
I’ve had to split the list into two parts, for dramatic effect even though I’m not presenting these to you in actual order. That said, I will tell you my favorite light gun game of all time in part two as there is a clear winner for me.
Without further ado and in no particular order, I bring you the top ten light gun games, or at least the first 5:
1.) Duck Hunt
Released for the NES in 1984 (1985 in the States and 1987 in Europe) Duck Hunt would prove to be many peoples first foray into the world of light guns. The joy of plugging in the NES Zapper and blasting away at ducks as they flew across the colorful screen was unique and pretty mind-blowing back in the ‘80s.
By modern standards, Duck Hunt is simplistic, and some players may find it repetitive, but for me, it easily earns a place in my top ten thanks to how groundbreaking it felt at the time. The music also feels pretty special.
The fact that the Duck Hunt dog and ducks are still around meant that many people hold the same views as I do.
2.) Time Crisis 2
Everyone has their own favorite Time Crisis game, and I wouldn’t be offended if you’d rather see the first game in the list instead of the sequel. I almost put the original in here myself. Almost. To me, Time Crisis 2 is the greatest game of the franchise, and it still stands the test of time.
Following the 1997 arcade release, Time Crisis 2 made its way over to the PlayStation 2 in 2001 along with Namco’s GunCon 2. I will admit right now that I preferred the first GunGon (Gcon 45 over here); however, as a game, the sequel is superior, especially in the arcades.
This time around, our precious coins could be fed into the machine alongside a friend as co-op play was introduced. The arcade cabinet featured two screens and two guns side by side, allowing a friend to team up. This meant you could cover each other or just race to shoot the bad guys first; either way, it was tremendous fun.
The arcade gun was also brilliant to use and featured fantastic recoil. I can still hear the noise when I close my eyes. Playing at home was almost as satisfying, and I still own a copy, but pressing that big pedal to go in and out of cover will always be a fond memory for me.
Time Crisis 2 is excellent, end of the story.
3.) Silent Scope
Konami’s Silent Scope made it to the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, IOS, and even the Game Boy Advance. For this article, I’m concentrating on the 1999 arcade release, and if you’ve played it before, you’ll know why. The giant plastic sniper rifle.
Once again, any of the franchise titles could be on the list, that’s not important here. What is vital for Silent Scope is that giant sniper rifle nestled into the arcade cabinet. The premise of the game was simple, shoot the bad guys before the timer runs out. The more you shoot, the more time you get, with extra points given for multiple kills and headshots.
The enemies were easily viewed on the cabinet’s screen; the challenge came in using the rifle. Looking through the scope (silently, I’d imagine) shows a zoomed-in portion of the screen as if you were looking through an actual scope. Having to manage the screen and maneuver the rifle into position was an absolute joy.
It wasn’t always easy, and I have probably spent a small fortune on the various versions of the game, but Silent Scope more than deserves a place on my list. If I had the room, I would own a cabinet.
4.) Luigi’s Mansion
I know what you’re thinking, I’ve gone mad and have included Luigi’s Mansion here by mistake. That is not the case. Luigi’s Mansion actually released in the arcades of Japan in 2015 as an on-rails light gun experience, featuring two giant vacuum cleaner controllers for co-op play.
I’ve yet to see it in the West, but I had an absolute blast playing it when I was over in Tokyo, I’m just annoyed I haven’t been able to put as much time into it as I would have liked. There’s always my next trip, I guess.
Anyway, Luigi’s Mansion as a light gun experience does exactly what you’d expect. Players clutch their giant vacuum light gun, stun ghosts with a flash of the lightbulb and then suck them up while pulling in the opposite direction to their struggles.
Complete with the trademark Luigi charm that we’ve come to expect from the series, the whole package is great fun. As I’ve said, I have yet to see it in the West, but it is here, having released in 2017. I did mention the state of our arcades, and, to be honest, I’d struggle to find any of the titles on my list anywhere near me these days, which is a crying shame.
5.) The Lost World: Jurassic Park
I’ll admit this to you now, dear reader; I haven’t played The Lost World in years. It has made it onto my list purely from memory and feelings of nostalgia. It may not hold up well today, I don’t know, but I’m confident I’d still love it.
The main memory I have of this is the actual arcade unit itself, which made its way to the wild in 1997. You sat in a jeep-like cabinet that even had a roof. The whole thing would rumble and move as the dinosaurs chased you, and it felt immersive. Air would even blow at you when the T-Rex roars. This is what I want from my light gun games.
Further research tells me that this version was actually the 1998 Special edition of The Lost World, and I need it back in my life.
Developed by Sega, the actual game was, from memory, pretty terrifying. Dinosaurs would chase you as you frantically try to put enough bullets into their tough hides in order to bring them down. At the time, the graphics were outstanding if a little dark, the sound effects were fun, and the voice acting is just as terrible as you would expect from a Sega game in the arcades.
I loved it.
Just like that, we are at the end of part one, see you next time for the conclusion and revelation of my all-time favorite light gun game. In the meantime, let me know your own favorites in the comments, who knows, you might see them in part 2.