What are Light Gun Games

Light Gun games are games that let you use a “gun” controller to shoot at the screen. They were hugely popular in the arcades and  on home consoles from the NES with games like Duck Hunt right up to the PS1, PS2 and Dreamcast with games like Time Crisis and House of the Dead using guns like the Gcon45 and the brilliant Gcon2 (probably the best light gun ever made).

There were some examples on the next generation of consoles like the PS3, but they had started to die out at that point because of changing technologies.

The big problem was that traditional light guns used line of sight aiming by actually “seeing” what was on the screen. That worked brilliantly on CRT televisions with a fast refresh rate but, the same technology did not work on the modern LCD, Plasma and LED TV’s. It’s a bit complicated but it boils down to those TV’s buffering the images and displaying them all at once rather than line by line as soon as the data reaches them. It’s barely noticeable to the human eye but to a computer the difference is huge.

Here is a good video that explains why this is:

The new TV’s were a lot better in all other regards so hardly anyone kept the old ones around just for shooting games and the genre died out.

There were some attempts to continue this type of games on the PS3 and others using LED sensor bars (with Guns like the Gcon 3 and then the PS Move) but this didn’t work nearly as well as the old line of sight guns and the genre died out.

Fast forward to today and there is still a community of people who love these games (mixed quite heavily with the retro gaming movement) and would like to be able to play them properly.

The good news is that it’s still quite possible and cheap to play these games and depending on how you want to go about it you have a lot of options.

The first and puerest option is to pick up an old CRT TV and get the original consoles. You can pick up a CRT TV very cheaply or often for free if you are prepared to pick it up (most people just want rid of them as they don’t have much use apart from this).

If that is the route that you want to go down then there isn’t much to it really. Get the TV, mount it at a good height for your playing, pick up the console of your choice with the games and guns and get playing.

That approach works great but it is a bit limited compared to what you can achieve in other ways. Some of the problems are:

You need many different consoles and the associated guns to play the whole range of games. – That can get expensive and take up a lot of space.

You are limited to the size of TV you can find and find a space for.

You will always be limited by the display capabilities of the TV. Very few CRT TVs reached a decent size by modern standards and they were all standard definition or 480p.

The other approach is emulation. For that you need something to run the games on – a PC is the easiest but other platforms such as the Raspberry Pi and even android based solutions such as the Nvidea Shield are becoming a reality.

You need a light gun that works. It’s going to be a IR based light gun that uses a sensor bar. These are not as good as the old line of sight light guns but with a bit of playing around, you can get hem working very well.

Once you have that, you just need to install and set up the emulators and get the games.

That has been a tricky process because working out how to do it can be complicated. All of the information is out there but you have to search for it. A big goal of this site is to collect all of that information and put it in one place so that it is a simple as possible to get going.

There are a lot of advantages to this approach.

You only need one device to play pretty much all available light gun games. Almost every light gun games created can be played on a PC and the few that cant will be available soon as emulation technology improves.

The games can look MUCH better. Using an emulator, most games can have their graphics improved. At the very least, the resolution can be improved to match your HD TV and you can do that on very modest hardware. (I have been playing everything up to and including PS2 and Wii games at 1080p on an I5-4750 from 2013 with integrated graphics. Adding in a seperate graphics card can make them look amazing!)

You only need one light gun (well 2 for 2 player) instead of 2 for each console.

At the minute he best light gun for this is the Aimtrak light gun with a sensor bar. As I said above, this does not work as well as the old light guns, but it does work pretty well when it is setup properly and is certainly good enough for you to enjoy the games.

One thing that I am very excited about is a project called the Sinden Light Gun. It’s not available to buy yet (hopefully soon), but this promises to use image recognition to allow real line of sight aiming on any TV. This could be a game changer for light gun fans.

How to use this site.

The best way to use this site is to start with the game that you want to play. Each game page will have all the systems that that game is available on as well as the best choice for playing it (in my opinion). You will also find instructions for getting it working as well as specific configs etc for that game.

If you want to go the other way and pick a system that you want to play, you can start with the emulators section and get the emulator set up for that system first, then look at the games or that one.

This is a work in progress and as much a place for me to store my research and notes as for, you, so if you have anything to share,  guides or questions that you need help with then please get in touch