Best Light Gun Games

The 'light gun' genre is one of the oldest in the world of video games, but it's a sub-set of gaming which has sadly faded from view in recent years due to the decline of arcades and the widespread adoption of flat-panel LCD TVs, which mean the traditional light gun technology that has been used since the 70s no longer functions.

However, with the arrival of devices like the excellent Sinden Light Gun, many retro enthusiasts are rediscovering their love for the humble light gun shooter – and for that reason, we've compiled the following list of the best games of this type.

Time Crisis 2 (Arcade)

Sega and Namco often went toe-to-toe in the arcades during the '90s; Virtua Fighter took on Tekken, while Ridge Racer and Daytona USA would compete for coinage. When it came to light guns, Sega had Virtua Cop and Namco had Time Crisis, both of which attracted their own fans for different reasons.

However, Namco's offering was unique in that it introduced a foot pedal which not only caused your gun to reload but also allowed you to duck into cover. The catch is in the title; spend too long hiding, and you run out of time. The single-player original is so good we almost included it in this list, but the 1997 sequel – which allows two people to get involved – is arguably superior.

The most recent entry – the Unreal Engine-powered Time Crisis 5 – arrived in 2015, proving that the series still has legs in the arcades.

Operation Wolf (Arcade)

One of the quintessential light gun games of the 1980s, Operation Wolf takes a storyline you'd normally see in an action movie of the period and recreates it in video game form. The cabinet even features a life-sized Uzi, which will certainly have added to its appeal at the time of release.

The big, bold visuals helped to turn Taito's 1987 coin-op into a money-spinning classic, not just in arcades but also on home formats, such as the PC Engine, Master System, ZX Spectrum and Commodore Amiga.

Sequels followed, but they predictably failed to have the same impact. The game is about to be updated again this year, in the form of Operation Wolf Returns.

Silent Scope (Arcade)

By the time Konami released Silent Scope in arcades, the light gun genre was in danger of becoming somewhat stale. This title – which came with a huge sniper rifle attached to its cabinet – gave it a shot in the arm (pun not intended).

The rifle has a tiny LCD display inside its scope, and the idea is that you use the main screen to locate your target and then use the scope screen to fine-tune your zoomed aim – just like a real sniper would do.

While it was impossible to replicate this setup in the home, Silent Scope received successful ports on the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Two sequels followed in 2000 and 2002, with the third game being exclusive to the PS2.

Virtua Cop 2 (Arcade)

Sega's Virtua Cop, very much like Virtua Fighter and Virtua Racing, really did feel like a groundbreaking release. It took the light gun shooter into the realm of 3D, building on the good work done in the company's scaler-based shooters (like Jurassic Park and Alien 3: The Gun) to offer the kind of depth and perspective that was often absent from 2D shooters like Operation Wolf and Duck Hunt.

Its sequel was even better, and that's why it makes this list. Great design, a stern challenge and some fantastic set-pieces make Virtua Cop 2 a rollercoaster ride from beginning to end – and one you shouldn't miss at any cost. The Saturn version is also excellent.

The House Of The Dead 2 (Dreamcast)

Sega's House of the Dead series has to rank as one of the most successful in the realm of light gun games, and that makes picking the 'best' entry tricky.

We've gone with the second outing, which feels like the one where Sega really found its zombie-slaying groove, but all of the HotD titles are worth a look. House of the Dead 2 is notable for its arcade-perfect Dreamcast port, which came with its own light gun accessory in some regions.

Lucky & Wild (Arcade)

One of the most fun arcade games of all time (no, we won't hear otherwise), Namco's Lucky & Wild isn't just a light gun game – it's also a driving game.

The idea is that one player takes the wheel while the other mans the gun, but it's possible to play both roles at once (if you're skilled enough, that is). Boasting amazing 2D visuals and a keen sense of humour, Lucky & Wild is one heck of a ride – but sadly, it was never ported to any home system (although it is playable today via MAME).

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Arcade)

Movie tie-ins are often a mixed bag, but this one is something of an exception. What could be cooler than blowing away advancing T-800s using a massive machine gun?

Showcasing impressive 2D visuals and plenty of links to the box office giant that was James Cameron's film, Terminator 2 Judgment Day is one of the most recognisable light gun shooters ever made. Its home ports are less impressive, of course, but they show just how huge this game was at the time.

While they've not been quite as acclaimed, Raw Thrills' more recent Terminator Salvation light gun shooter is also worth a look if you're a fan of the franchise.

Duck Hunt (NES)

Yes, there have been far superior light gun games for home consoles since Duck Hunt arrived on the scene in the '80s, but it earns its place on this list thanks to the fact that, for many people, it was their first introduction to the genre.

Outwardly simplistic but boasting more depth than you might at first think, Nintendo's NES shooter is still fun to play today – even if it has long since been overtaken in terms of mechanics and content. It will go down in history as one of the foundational examples of this game style.

Lethal Enforcers (Arcade)

Games which use digitised sprites fell in and out of fashion quite swiftly, but Konami's Lethal Enforcers arrived just as the boom was taking place and therefore earned its way into the hearts of many an arcade-going light gun fan.

For the standards of the time, it was as realistic as it got, and it was fun to brandish the 'Justifier' light gun – a blaster which would make the transition to home consoles when the domestic ports were released. Lethal Enforcers 2, which took the action back in time to the Wild West, is also good fun.

The House of the Dead: Overkill (Wii)

We've been a bit cheeky here and included a second House of the Dead entry, but hear us out on this one – Overkill is seriously good. In fact, it's such a crazy, rollercoaster ride of a video game that it stands alone, even by the zany standards of the rest of the series.

Not only is the action exciting, gore-filled and challenging, but there are also segments in Overkill which make the game feel like some kind of fever dream. It really has to be seen to be believed; it's a good job, then, that it was also released on the PlayStation 3.

Point Blank 3 (PS1)

Namco's Point Blank series (known as Gun Bullet in Japan) is effectively a shooting gallery-style experience which challenges players to blast as many targets as possible within a set time limit.

The colourful visuals, zany vibe and catchy music make all three Point Blank games worth a look, but this third outing is perhaps the best place to start.

Point Blank X (2016) is the latest entry in the series and remains exclusive to arcades – but at least it proves that Bandai Namco hasn't completely forgotten about the franchise.

Elemental Gearbolt (PS1)

One of the most unique entries on this list, Elemental Gearbolt is a mixture of light gun shooter and RPG, and one of the best examples of the genre on the PlayStation.

Bolstered by lavish anime cutscenes directed by Shigeyuki "Rintaro" Hayashi (Metropolis, Galaxy Express 999) and a wonderful orchestrated soundtrack, Elemental Gearbolt is a must-play if you're a fan of this kind of game, purely to see how a humble light gun shooter can be expanded and enriched by adding in role-playing mechanics and AAA production values.

It also looks a lot like Sega's Panzer Dragoon series, which is no bad thing in our book.

Rambo (Arcade)

Sega and Rambo go way back, with the character appearing on both the Master System and Mega Drive.

However, in 2008 the company decided to rekindle its relationship with Stallone's famous movie alter-ego in this Lindbergh-powered epic. The cabinet's 62-inch screen remains impressive even by modern standards, but it's the typically over-the-top Sega gameplay which really keeps you glued to the gun.

It's not all shooting, either; there are segments involving close-quarters combat and stealth missions. Tragically, Rambo was never ported to any home console – so if you're lucky enough to see a cabinet out in the wild, make sure you give it a go.

Vampire Night (PS2)

Sega and Namco may have been rivals in the light gun space, but with this gothic-themed blaster, the pair joined forces.

Developed by Sega's Wow Entertainment (which began life as Sega AM1 and these days is known by that name once more) and published by Namco, Vampire Night feels like a companion piece to House of the Dead (it even uses the same game engine), with blood-sucking enemies replacing flesh-eating zombies. It's also blessed with a surprisingly deep storyline for an arcade light gun shooter.

Because it was built on Namco's System 246 arcade hardware – which is based on the PlayStation 2 – a home port to Sony's system was quickly forthcoming at the close of 2001.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Arcade)

Following on from Sega's earlier Jurassic Park light gun game released in 1994, The Lost World: Jurassic Park would update the 2D scaled sprites with full-3D models for a more convincing (not to mention terrifying) experience.

With boss fights against such huge monsters as the Tyrannosaurus Rex and Carnotaurus, it's little wonder this particular game proved incredibly popular with arcade-goers, and it's not unusual to see cabinets still doing the rounds today.

It was housed in a huge pod-like cabinet which boasted a 50-inch screen and four-speaker surround sound, which also added to its popularity.