It can be difficult to know whether you can play your favorite light gun game and if it is available and playable then what the best emulator to play it on is.
I say emulator because that’s how I tend to play them but there are obviously 2 ways you can play. You can get the original consoles and games and hook them up to a CRT screen (for now) or you can emulate. If you are collecting the original consoles then you need to know what’s available for each and what’s worth buying. If you are emulating then you just need to know the best version of each game. I’ll try to supply that here.
This list is not intended to be a complete list of all light gun games (that is available elsewhere – This wiki page is an excellent starting point or that although it is missing a lot of arcade titles: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_gun_games), but rather a list of what I consider to be the best games from the original consoles that work well in current emulators.
It will be a work in progress as I add each system and should keep evolving as new games come out especially in the Arcade section.
If you would like anything added to it, particularly when new games become playable then please let me know in the comments and I will update it.
The order is more to do with my preference of games and systems than anything else, reflecting my personal opinion of the best systems first If you have a different opinion or if you would like other games considered then I’d love to hear it in the comments.
Sony PlayStation 2
The playstation 2 probably had some of the best light gun games ever and it came with probably the best light gun in the form of the GunCon 2.
You can play ps2 games on the pcsx2 emulator using the nuvee plugin. Click the link for full instructions on getting set up.
First off, my personal favorites:
Virtua Cop: Elite Edition
As far as I am concerned,this is the absolute best way to play the virtua cop games. The ports are very close to the arcade originals but also include some other fun modes and training games.
There are not that many options for playing the virtua cop games and so having both 1 and 2 in one place is really convenient. Add to that that they are easy to set up (once you know how) on the pcsx2 emulator and it makes for a perfect combination.
Oh yeah, and The Virtua Cop games are among the original and definitive light gun games that helped form the genre so they are an essential addition to any collection.
Time Crisis II, Time Crisis 3 and Time Crisis: Crisis Zone
The Time crisis games are some of the best light gun games and always worth a look. The PS2 had 3. TIme Crisis 3 is my favourite of the bunch but the others are good too.
This is a great collection and the only way you can play Virtua Cop on the playstation. The game contains both Virtua Cop and Virtua Cop 2.
Gunvari Collection + Time Crisis
This Disc contained all 3 Point Blank games as well as Time crisis. Those games were all only available on the PSX so it’s good to have them all in one disc but there is absolutely nothing different from the psx versions so not really any advantage if you have them for that.
Other PS2 light gun games worth mentioning:
- Cocoto Funfair -GunCon 1 only
- Ninja Assault
- Death Crimson OX
- Ninja Assault
The PS1 (or PSX) is a close second for me. It had my all time favourite light gun game which was Point Blank. I had so many great times playing that over the years that it’s great to get it up and running again.
I personally use the pcsxr emulator, again with the nuvee plugin to set up the light gun input. A lot of people would point to ‘better’ ps2 emulators as there are others that may be faster etc. That’s the only one that has consistently managed to get light gun games working with. If you know differently then please let me know in the comments and I will reply/ update this article.
Not only does the PSX have a great selection of games but its also one of the easiest to get up and running with emulation. The instructions are all in the pcsxr link above but there is very little tinkering required to get it running well.
First my favorites:
- Time Crisis – Time crisis was the game that got me hooked on light gun games. I’d played Duck hunt on the NES earlier but I started playing this in the arcades and got hooked. I eventually bought it on the playstation because I thought it would save me money over pumping coins into the arcade machine! This and Point Blank were my favourites growing up.
- Time Crisis: Project Titan
- Lethal Enforcers 1&2
- Point Blank
- Point Blank 2
- Point Blank 3
- Rescue Shot
And then the rest:
- Judge Dredd
- Area 51
- Crypt Killer
- Die Hard Trilogy
The Nintendo Wii represents one of the best catalog of shooting games on any console. The Wii Motion controllers offered a way to play shooting games that was close enough to light gun mechanics to be fun even if it wasn’t really the same. Nowadays though with emulation and light guns that work well, you can take those games and make them even better.
Ghost Squad is hands down one of the best Light gun games on any platform. The Wii version captures some of the best features of games like Time Crisis and Virtua cop but adds better graphics and brings replay ability with multiple paths, hidden objectives and customization. This is one of my go to light gun games and right up there with my top picks for your collection.
There isn’t much to say really. If you like light gun games then you already know about the House of the dead games. They made it to virtually every platform but the wii was one of the last and when you are emulating it, you have great options to further improve the graphics. This is one of your best choices for playing these two versions.
Overkill was a bit of a departure from the traditions of this series. The tone of the game was changed and much more humour introduced. It’s hugely gorey and a lot of fun despite a few annoying quirks. Because it was a much more modern game than the original trilogy, the graphics are a lot better making this game a definite candidate for any collection.
Link’s Crossbow Training
It’s Link and that gets it on this list for me! It’s a fun game with a few modes. It is intended to be played with the motion plus and the nunchuck because it involves movement, so its not a strict light gun game (probably the only one on this list that’s not), but if you already have all of the top games and want to add something new then its worth playing. Remember that you will either need a nunchuck or some way to emulate it though.
Mad Dog McCree: Gunslinger Pack
A collection of 3 Mad Dog Mcree games in one package. If you like this simplistic style then this is one of the best ways to play this series.
Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles and The Umbrella Chronicles
These two were an interesting departure from the normal Resident Evil format and are rails type shooters. If you’re emulating them then you will need a decent amount of power for these two. They are difficult but good fun and have great graphics if that’s important to you.
Big Buck Hunter – This is a game that’s been around for a long time in the arcades. I saw one the other day in a bowling alley and so I’ve included it here because it has obviously stood the test of time. It’s not my favorite kind of game but people obviously like them.
Cabela’s Series – The Cabela series is another one that has been around for an age. There are 7 or 8 cabela games on the WII so you should be kept occupied for a fair while if you like these!
Nintendo Entertainment System
I prefer more modern light gun games to be honest but there is one game that started it all for me. Duck Hunt on the NES is the first light gun game that I can remember playing. It was very simple, two ducks would fly up and you had to shoot them. If you got them then an animation of a dog would run out to collect them and if you didn’t, it would just shake its head at you. Its about as basic as it gets but it played well, the NES Zapper was accurate and it was fun. YOu could feel yourself getting better and more accurate and more importantly, it was the first real taste of what could be done. Any collection needs to have it in just because it started it all.
There are quite a few more shooting games for the nes that all used the Zapper. The one other that I’m including here is Operation Wolf. It’s an iconic game of the genre. Side scrolling with an almost endless supply of soldiers to target with a machine gun and some grenades. It’s totally pick up and play and a lot of fun.
Sega Master System
There were quite a few games on the Master System. Its not one of my favorites but I’ll call out Rescue Mission and Operation Wolf (which you can play elsewhere).
Sega Genesis / Sega CD / Sega CD 32X
There were some good games on the Genesis. For me the stand out ones are Mad Dog , The Lethal Enforcers games and Terminator 2 for the carnage! The best versions tend to be on the Sega CD
- Crime Patrol
- Lethal Enforcers
- Lethal Enforcers 2
- Mad Dog McCree
- Mad Dog II: The Lost Gold
- Terminator 2: The Arcade Game
The Sega Saturn had a small but quality list of light gun games. It was right at that sweet spot of light gun games when they were on their way up. It’s also the only place that you can play Virtua Cop 1 and 2 as separate discs as far as I know.
The Dreamcast was a revolutionary console at the time. It has arcade level graphics being almost exactly the same as the Sega arcade machines of the time. It was also one of the first home consoles to seriously do online play – something that has shaped how we game now.
It didn’t have the biggest catalog of light gun games but there were definitely some gems
Confidential mission was a game that was clearly inspired by virtua cop and time crisis. Its a solid game and if you like those others then you will probably enjoy playing this.
You can play the House of the Dead games in a lot of places as it was released on almost all of the classic consoles. If you have a Dream case then this is a great place to play it.
On the Dreamcast, Virtua Cop 2 was only released in Japan. This is less of a problem now when you could get an imported console and game or if you are emulating it then it’s no problem at all. Remember that the test etc will all be in Japanese though.
If you are going to play Virtua Cop 1 or 2 then I would recommend just playing the elite edition on the PS2 as the easiest way to play it.
Sony PlayStation 3
I hesitated to include the PS3 here because emulation is still in its early ish stage. RPCS3 is great but its not ‘finished’ and there are still a lot of issues that are constantly being worked on and improved. I also haven’t had the chance to teat these games to see if lightgun support (PSMove support) is there – Last I checked it was still very buggy.
On the other hand, you can still play these games on the actual PS3 console and in fact its only one of the consoles in this list where you can play out of the box on modern TV’s
Plus, these games are really good. They have modern graphics and look amazing. If you like playing light gun games then you will enjoy these so I had to include them.
- Time Crisis 4
- Time Crisis: Razing Storm
- Deadstorm Pirates
- The House of the Dead 3
- The House of the Dead 4
- The House of the Dead: Overkill – Extended Cut
- Resident Evil: Chronicles HD Collection
The list of arcade Light gun games is huge. Almost all of the great games started in the arcades and then got ports to the consoles when they were successful and well received. That means that there are loads of great games in the arcades that never made it over to the consoles.
The good news is that they are still making these games and they are almost all playable with a bit of a tie lag while emulators catch up.
The bad news is that I haven’t got time or space to list them all here so I am going to create another list just for them soon. Let me know in the comments what your favorite ones are or if I have missed your top games from the above lists.