hamsters Arcade Archives line of retro re-releases currently consists of hundreds of games, spanning decades of arcade gaming history. It’s only natural that one of the most popular genres of the arcade scene, the shoot-em-up, is a big part of the lineup. There are nearly a hundred shoot-em-ups all over the area Arcade Archives, which presents a huge challenge for someone coming in fresh. We’ve selected ten of our favorites that we think represent the best of the best in the line. This is just our opinion and the titles are not in any particular order. If you have any favorites you’d like to call out, comment below.
Multiply X ($7.99)
For any reason, R-Type is not part of the Arcade Archives line. That’s a shame, but it means we get a chance to broaden our horizons a bit with some of Irem’s other great games. Scrolling sideways X Multiply is perhaps the best of the famed publisher’s lesser-known shooters, replacing the Force power-up with massive tentacles that can be used to attack the enemy and protect your ship. In terms of atmosphere, it feels like a mix between R-Type and Konami’s Spiritleading you into a body infected by an alien queen.
Life Force ($7.99)
Spirit has always been a cult favorite, offering both side-scrolling and vertically-scrolling stages and a fun multiplayer feature. There are substantial differences between the Japanese and foreign versions of this game, and this Arcade Archives covers almost all variants. Whichever version you play, you’re in for a fantastic time. The usual Konami-quality presentation and snappy gameplay put this head and shoulders above most of the competition.
Thunder Cross ($7.99)
There are many Konami games in this list, but what can I say? The publisher had some of the best of the best in arcades in general. Thunder Cross is another side-scrolling shooter and the like Spirit it offers simultaneous play for two players. It shares many elements with Step-by-step, including the options that help spread your offensive power. It’s a friendlier game then Step-by-step to make your way with coins if that’s your preference. Note that the Japanese version here is much better than the foreign version, with many features removed for whatever reason. You can choose any version you like in this Arcade Archives let go so you know what to do.
Bells and Whistles ($7.99)
Okay, we’re leaving Konami soon, I promise. Bells and whistles is part of the GeminiBee series of vertically scrolling shooters, and it’s part of the cute-em-up subgenre. Vibrant colors, cartoonish enemies and a rock-hard level of challenge, with the tough yet compelling bubble-juggling launch system the series is known for. This is arguably the best game in this series and another fantastic co-op shooter to add to your collection. Definitely the most adorable game on this list, but underestimate it at your peril.
Taito is another heavy hitter in the shoot-em-up genre, though it has reserved many of its games for its own collections. Indeed, Darius is available in pretty excellent Darius Cozmic Collection with many interesting extras. If you’re willing to put down the cash, you’ll get a great one Darius so experienced. But if you just want to enjoy the original classic on its own, this is it Arcade Archives release is a solid way to do it. The extremely wide screen and excellent soundtrack give this game an atmosphere that is different from other shooters, although it is best played on a larger screen rather than a handheld one.
Terra Cresta ($7.99)
The Comb series was recently revived with the impressive sun comb from Platinum Games, but if you want to see why this series was worth reviving then this is the game to turn to. It is a vertically scrolling shooter with a unique formation system that allows you to build on top of your ship and eventually temporarily transform into an invincible fiery phoenix. There’s a great sense of risk versus reward in this game, and the shipbuilding results in a surprising amount of variety.
Dragon Ghost ($7.99)
I will fully acknowledge that this is a personal bias. I love Dragon Spirit. It’s actually a supercharged take on it Xeviustrading spaceships and lasers for dragons and breath of fire, but doesn’t that sound great already? The presentation is excellent and the power-up system makes the game somewhat smooth compared to some of its peers. This one Arcade Archives release comes with two versions of the game, with the newer one fixing bugs, making the gameplay smoother and changing the music a bit. A great atmospheric vertical shooter.
Image Battle ($7.99)
Here’s Irem’s entry into the vertically scrolling shooting field, and one that gained a bit of popularity in its day via its various home ports. If you think the R-Type games are hard Image fight will send you into the sun with an uppercut. More than half of the game takes place in a holographic simulation, which is where the name comes from. You need to get an average kill percentage of 90% or higher if you want to go straight to the later stages of the game. If you don’t, you first have to fight your way through a penalty zone, which is exactly what it says on the tin. In terms of power-ups, you get a Force system similar to R-Type along with extra pods to increase your firepower. Not one for the faint hearted, but worth banging your head against.
Speaking of extremely heavy vertical shooters, Seibu Kaihatsu’s Raiden is another game that will have you sinking your teeth into it. This one was popular enough in its day to create a small cottage industry of homages and clones, and it’s easy to see why. Despite not really doing anything new or groundbreaking, it’s just a fun, well-polished game with just the right amount of action and excitement. It’s another one with a two-player simultaneous option, and you should definitely practice it if you can. It also has excellent music, which is an essential ingredient for a really great shooter.
Level 2 ($7.99)
It’s a shame that Step 2 is probably the least known feature in Konami’s legendary series, because it’s arguably the best. With more advanced hardware under the hood, it raises the bar from the first Step-by-step in just about every way. The seven stages take you on a real journey, with an impressive array of creative locations that will dazzle your eye as they wreak havoc on your craft. You can now choose your armor from four different options, adding new weapons to the series. It’s a hard game, and it’s just as bad to recover from dying here as it is in others Step-by-step installments, but it’s probably the fairest and most fun of the lot.
That’s the list, friends. Gosh, Konami has made a lot of great arcade shooters. Honestly, I could probably list thirty games before I get to something I’d consider even slightly less than awesome, so consider this a stepping stone on your journey to find your next favorite shoot-em-up. As I mentioned above, if you have a Arcade Archives shooter you want to boost, comment below. It’s always nice to hear other opinions about this beautiful genre.