The Best Light Gun Arcade Games of All Time

Previously on this blog we had a face off between Sega and Namco to discuss which is the Best Driving Game Manufacturer of All Time. Not everyone agreed with my choices, nor my conclusion that both had equal merits (that’s a little spoiler for anyone who was about to go back and read it for the first time). Since I don’t like to upset people, even when I’m right and they’re wrong, I thought I’d structure this post a little differently, and so that way we can all discuss today’s games without having to argue about why my opinions are “wrong”, or which games I missed out, or which of us have questionable parentage.

As you’ll no doubt be aware (at least from last time’s blog post), Sega and Namco are two giants of the arcade, especially when it comes to driving games. When light gun games are under scrutiny, however, a third player needs to be considered: Konami. Though they’re now primarily a home console game developer, Konami have been in business since 1969 (when they set up as a jukebox repair company) and have been making arcade games since 1978.

Sega vs Namco vs Konami

In 1981 Konami came out with a string of arcade hits such as Frogger and Scramble, and have kept that winning streak going up until the present day with titles such as Dance Dance Revolution and Beatmania. They’ve also variously made toys, trading cards, slot machines and anime, as well as operating a chain of health and fitness clubs in Japan, for some reason. For today, however, we’re just going to focus on their light gun games, as we also will for Sega and Namco.

I’ve chosen two of each manufacturer’s best light gun games, which I think will represent each company’s ethos, style and commitment to making games that teach us that guns are cool.

Guns Are Cool

Please note that guns are not really cool. However, games with guns in them most definitely are! So, let’s shoot our way into my list, and see if it can trigger any new debates or provide ammo for old ones.

Gun-related puns end here.


Time Crisis II (Namco, 1997)

Time Crisis 2 Twin (Refurbished)

Although arcades are dying off in the wild, and most arcade machines to be found are usually in bowling alleys, cinemas and the like, you can still almost always find a Time Crisis machine. There’s a simple reason for this: they’re absurdly fun.

Time Crisis revolutionised light gun arcade games by introducing the pedal that allows you to pop in and out of cover, but it was Time Crisis II that made the game what it is today, by offering link-up play between two machines. Suddenly you weren’t a lone wolf shooting through hordes of bad guys, you were part of a team, and would have to offer cover to your partner or wait while they took out someone that had you pinned down. This led to countless arguments over whose fault it was that they got shot, or who’s standing too close and getting in the way, or which pound coin belongs to whom, but the combination of great shooting mechanics, the well-designed cover system, multi-player and the hilariously abysmal story made Time Crisis II a mainstay of arcades for a long time.

Fun Fact: The most fun to be had from this game was in shooting your partner whenever they were visible on-screen. No-one lost any lives, just points, and yet it still managed to cause more than one argument among my friends.


Lethal Enforcers 3 (Konami, 2004)

Lethal Enforcers 3 (Refurbished)

Usually shooting games have you playing a secret agent, or a soldier, or a rogue element in a war or other conflict. No-one said games have to be imaginative to be fun. The Lethal Enforcers series, however, takes a different tack: you’re a policeman with apparently free reign to shoot anyone that disobeys the law.

Unlike many other gun games, Lethal Enforcers 3 features a competitive rather than co-operative two-player mode, so there’s no helping each other out like in the Time Crisis games. Rather, you have to be the best shot and compete for promotion within the police force. I’m pretty sure promotions aren’t usually handed out to whoever shoots the most criminals in the real world, but perhaps I’m wrong.

Combining the shield system of previous games by Konami (aim the gun away from the screen and you’re protected), the ranking system and the fast-paced action, Lethal Enforcers 3 deserves a place in any arcade. Please note that I don’t encourage shoving your partner when they’re trying to aim, but it’s always a possibility.

Fun Fact: The original Lethal Enforcers was taken off Toys ‘R’ Us shop shelves during the early 90s uproar over video game violence, while Mortal Kombat remained. Apparently cops shooting armed criminals is much worse than people tearing each other’s heads off.


The House of the Dead 2 (Sega, 1998)

The House of the Dead 2

Zombies. So many games feature them (check out this list!), and while the beginning of this trend can be traced back to Zombie Zombie on the ZX Spectrum in 1984, it’s the combination of Resident Evil and The House of the Dead in 1996 that really made them into the video game staple they are today.

The House of the Dead 2 is commonly held to be the best of the series (though I have a weakness for HotD 3 which featured shotgun controllers), building on the foundations of the first game. The fact that those foundations are things like awful dialogue, an incomprehensible story and idiotic characters matters not a jot to players, as the game is all about shooting zombies and other monsters, and a good story would just get in the way of that.

The House of the Dead and its sequels have been a staple of arcades for a long time now, partly due to the appeal of the graphics and setting, and partly because everyone loves shooting zombies.

Fun Fact: House of the Dead 2 was the game that gave rise to spin-offs The Typing of the Dead, English of the Dead and The Pinball of the Dead, all of which we’ve covered in previous blog posts, and all of which are totally insane.


Point Blank (Namco, 1994)

Point Blank

Point Blank is a rare creation among light gun arcade machines, in that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Although it’s a shooting game, the style is that of a collection of mini-games, ranging from shooting cardboard targets to counting by targeting the correct numbers.

Point Blank was the first shooting game released by Namco; without it we might never have had Time Crisis, and while that would have reduced arguments, the gaming world would have been impoverished as a result. It’s also a great game in its own right, which distills the shooting concept down to a point of comparability with a duck shooting air rifle stand, or even other fairground games like throwing balls at stacks of bottles. There’s no 18-rating here, no headshots and no zombies, so it’s fun for kids as well as adults. I’ve certainly pumped my fair share of 20p coins into it in my time.

Fun Fact: As well as being ported to the PlayStation (which made sense, since a gun controller was available for the PS1), Point Blank was ported to the Nintendo DS handheld over 10 years after its first release. Somehow, stabbing at targets with a stylus just isn’t as fun.


Silent Scope (Konami, 1999)

Silent Scope

Sometimes all it takes to turn a mediocre game into a great one is a good gimmick, and Silent Scope has a fantastic one. The machine features a humungous sniper rifle controller, and a separate screen within the scope so that looking through the rifle gives you a zoomed-in view.

The predictable plot is predictably predictable: the President and his family have been kidnapped by terrorists and you have to help rescue them. You do this by shooting people. I think by now you must have realised that no-one plays these games for the story, however, and so the only thing that matters is how the game feels to play. Silent Scope (and its sequels) make you feel like a real sniper; looking at the view ahead of you, checking your scope, looking again and then taking your shot. It’s almost certainly nothing like being a real sniper (I’m using the movie Jarhead as my reference point for that) but it makes you feel like one, and that’s the important bit.

Konami managed to create a franchise that has since been ported to the Game Boy Advance and iPhone, but we try to ignore those versions as they don’t have you looking through a massive sniper rifle controller while shooting terrorists. All of the Silent Scope arcade games are definitely worth playing, and prove that Konami can stand alongside Sega and Namco in making light gun games.

Fun Fact: The game ends with you trying to shoot the terrorist leader on a swaying boat, a long way off, and you only get one bullet. Missing means an instant Game Over. I thus conclude that Konami are sadists, and if you’ve managed to complete the game, you’re a better gamer than I am.


2 Spicy (Sega, 2007)

2 Spicy (Refurbished)

You can be forgiven for never having heard of 2 Spicy. You can also be forgiven for thinking it’s a terrible name for a game, but in 2007 Sega, the masters of keeping things going far longer than advisable (I’m looking at the extensive list of add-ons for the Megadrive, and Sonic the Hedgehog games) came up with a brand new arcade shooter and not only was it great, it managed to innovate within the genre too. Who’d have thought?

Instead of shooting your way through hordes of enemies, gunfights take place one-on-one in an arena. This leads to much more tactical play than just “shoot as fast as you can at the bad guys” as you dodge, duck and move behind cover to get the edge on your opponent. If you link two machines together, 2 Spicy can be played head-to-head with a human opponent instead of the AI, and then the game really shines.

2 Spicy is an under-appreciated classic of modern arcade gaming, though obviously it’s completely bonkers: “The time is early 21st Century: The underworld is in turmoil after the death of a big boss. Agents have come out fighting for the territory that he has left behind. Gun battles & mysteries will cut them down one by one”. If that doesn’t sound like a game you want to play, I think there could be something wrong with you. Or maybe me. Maybe both!

Fun Fact: There’s only one Sega game in the top ten highest-grossing arcade games of all time, and it’s a dreadful piece of rubbish called Time Traveler. It must gall them to put out quality games like 2 Spicy and have them ignored in favour of games with terrible acting, and pointless gimmicks like cheesy holograms.


We’ve now looked at two of the best light gun games from each of three of the best arcade game makers: Namco’s Time Crisis II and Point Blank, Konami’s Lethal Enforcers 3 and Silent Scope, and Sega’s The House of the Dead 2 and 2 Spicy (Sega make good games with “2” in the title: Shenmue 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 spring instantly to mind). Personally, I’d give the light gun award to Sega’s machines for their variety and innovation, but I’m sure plenty of you out there will have differing opinions. I want to hear them!

Do you think I’ve missed any essential shooting games off this list? Do you think there’s a case for including another manufacturer apart from these three? Do you think guns are cool? Get in touch with me through the comments below, via Facebook, Twitter, Google +, or email [email protected] and let me know!

Written By: Dave Morgan

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