Game Reviews

Guns, ships and lasers

The vertical action shooter – genre has been around almost forever. Initially there was asteroids on early Atari systems – which though it didn’t “scroll” was possibly the earliest action shooter on the market. Calling it an early twin stick shooter may be more accurate.

Titles like R-Type and Tyrian 2000 may be familiar to you as well, and are certainly one of the better known classics in the vertical shooter genre. Some more obscure but certainly noteworthy names include Raptor, Project-X (for the music if anything), Swiv, Silk worm and even Turrican 2 had some side scrolling shooter action. No links for those I fear, but feel free to look them up on YouTube and enjoy the music.

For twin stick shooters you may or may not (depending on your age) have heard of Smash-TV. Most early games were a mess in one way or another but this one was certainly fun in multiplayer.

Around 1990+ a sub genre “bullet hell” entered the market, and features more bullets to dodge. Perhaps because horizontal/vertical shooters were getting too easy, and some masochist decided “let’s change that”. The games labeled “Touhou” are probably some of the more well known ones, but searching for that tag quickly shows the name is used/abused for more than just bullet hell.

No screenshots this time – a video can show you ever so much more, and these games just happen to have pretty decent intros to watch ^_^

Vertical shooter – Jamestown+

Jamestown, and later Jamestown+ is a vertical shooter that gets progressively harder – right up there in bullet hell territory. The best part is that you can play it with 2 player cooperative on the same screen (or remote). But it goes beyond that. Up to 4 players cooperatively. Unfortunately the difficulty scaling is a bit “off”, and the game is near impossible to solo. Well, it was to me. Jamestown+ brings you two more levels, four more ships and a few graphical improvements. It’s a shame it wasn’t a free DLC / patch, but if you get the choice – ignore the older version and go straight for the plus edition.

Vertical shooter – Sky force reloaded

Sky force was (to my knowledge) originally a game released on phones/tablets. And it did good there, was quite enjoyable and actually free to play. Later on the reloaded version was released and it’s only a few dollars during steam sale. Make sure you get “this” version and not the anniversary or other older versions if you decide to give this one a spin.

Graphically it’s top notch for a vertical shooter. The difficulty scales pretty steep, and it’s quite noticeable that this was a mobile game initially. Still, good game, and supports two player mode. Or twin stick it on your keyboard + mouse if you need a little extra firepower for free.

Twin stick – Assault Android Cactus

Assault Android Cactus is a friendly anime-ish twin stick bullet hell. It’s also a multiplayer same screen couch game. Controller preferred, or at least keyboard+mouse for one of the players.

It thrives on some lighthearted comedy and narration as you complete the missions – you can skip most and go straight for the bosses to unlock the other androids. Each has their own set of weapons and playstyle.

Twin stick – Rive

Rive actually touches on the Metroidvania genre as well. But it’s on this page because it’s a good fun and narrated twin stick shooter. It’s cheap too, and been bundled a few times so it shouldn’t be too hard to get a copy.

Many more bullets to dodge

Steam’s page filter houses many more. What are your favorite games in this genre?


  1. The earliest shooter you could call “vertical shooter”, tho it was fixed, was Space Invaders by Taito, 1978. Predates by more than one year Asteroids (November 1979). Just trivia for the arcade lovers.

  2. Not my genre so I can’t name any specific games that come to mind – hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes are not in my repertoire xD – but this was a really interesting article. I liked that you touched on some history of the genre too.

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