Shooting games are a sub-genre of action games. Since fun shooting games we like so much make the majority of action games, it is rather a wide sub-genre, which in turn has much sub-genres of its own, each dedicated to certain aspect of the “shooting game” idea. I will be focusing mostly on those shooting games sub-genres that could be done in 2D graphics. Shooting games have many sub-genres by themselves, and the one I want to cover in this article is “Shoot ‘Em Up”, also know as “Shmup”.
Shoot ‘Em Up has its own sub-genres:
- Fixed shooter
- Scrolling shooter
- Multi directional shooter
- Run and gun
Fixed shooters in most of the cases have level in the size of the screen. Player can move in only 1 axis and shoot in one direction. In scrolling shooters the player is constantly moving through the level, and th process looks like the level is scrolled towards the player with all enemies and object. The player usually has the ability to move in one axis which is perpendicular to the axis level is scrolling and one shooting direction. Also player may be allowed to move in both axis, but he can not manipulate the level scrolling speed. In multi directional shooting games player often placed in some sort of arena, where he faces waves of enemies. Player can move and shoot in any direction he wants. Run and gun mostly features scrolling levels with platforms. Player can move, jump and shoot in any direction. Run and gun games mostly consist of running through the levels and shooting down enemies and turrets. The process explains the sub-genre name perfectly.
All shmups have common elements amongst themselves, though in most of the cases with a lot of variations. Those common elements are:
Lets cover in detail these basic elements.
Enemies. Now these are present in all shooting games, I mean, if there aren’t any enemies, who are you gonna shoot at? Enemies mostly come in waves in shumps, which you should shoot down or avoid in order to proceed to the next level. There are of course shmups where there is a single level, and you can play and play and play until you’re dead. This game mode is mostly referred to as “Survival”. Enemies mostly differ by their size, toughness and behavior. The biggest, toughest and smartest ones are mostly called bosses or minibosses. All bosses mostly have a unique way to defeat them.
Power-ups. While they may not show up in all shmups, power-ups are a very common element. They are present to boost player’s performance somehow, either by granting him new abilities or boosting existing ones, like speed boost or damage boost. They usually have a time or supply limit. On some occasions, like if the game allows player leveling up, the power-ups serve as perks or skills.
Death. The death concept in most shmups is mostly expressed as end of level. For survival shmups death means game over. Though there are exceptions, where player carries lives, which are decremented when he dies. In many shmups you can replay the level after being killed, and some even offer a possibility to continue from the place of death.
Some notable fun shooting games from the past for each sub-genre: Space Invaders for fixed shooter, Gradius for scrolling shooter, Robotron: 2084 for multi directional shooter, and Contra for run and gun. All these games heavily influenced Shoot ‘Em Up sub-genre. In fact, they are the founding fathers of Shoot ‘Em Ups.
If you are a fond of latest hardware-accelerated graphics, playing all these old fun shooting games could result in immediate eye bleeding and severe brain damage 🙂 But for gaming history fanatics these games aren’t seem like a bunch of dancing pixels, and if you are interested in that stuff go ahead and check them out in Wikipedia.