Massachusetts is Banning Light Gun Games…But I Can’t Forget Them

Recently, Massachusetts made the decision to ban light gun arcade shooters from its state operated rest stops, due in no small part to the Sandy Hook shootings, and the renewed attention they have brought to violent video games.

It’s a knee jerk, most likely ineffective, but sympathetically understandable move that is sure to inspire all kinds of debate. Not to make light of the move, or the situations surrounding it, but mostly what the initiative got me thinking about was how awesome light gun shooters were. Along with fighting games and side scrolling brawlers, the light gun shooter genre is one that is immediately associated with arcades, and is sure to unleash a torrent of memories when you invoke its name among the proper group

As that’s exactly what happened with me, I couldn’t resist and had to take the opportunity to highlight some of the greatest the genre has to offer.

House of the Dead 2

Believe it or not, there was a time the argument could be made that there weren’t enough zombie games on the market.

Even in that dark age, there was still “House of the Dead”. The zombie invasion light gun shooter was a breath of fresh air with its old school gothic atmosphere and intense horror chokepoints. The worlds of horror and light gun shooting didn’t clash very often, and while that’s a shame, it might just be because this series did it perfectly to begin with. The best entrant was “House of the Dead 2”, as its branching storyline, great boss fights, inspired overall design, and awesomely bad dialogue and story provided an all time classic that was so enjoyable it made a successful port to the Dreamcast, and inspired an unlikely, and incredible, keyboard skills based spin-off in “Typing of the Dead”.

Even in the now overcrowded zombie video game market, “House of the Dead 2” remains one of the best of all time.

Time Crisis 3

A staple of arcades, rest stops, and movie theaters everywhere, the “Time Crisis” series is the rockstar of the arcade light gun shooter market.

While its pedal based cover system was particularly innovative, at its most basic it did everything that every light gun shooter did well, but just better and more intense. “Time Crisis 2” may have been the most important of the series with its two player mode that would split the players along separate paths in a stage, it’s “Time Crisis 3’s” multi weapon system, and best of everything mentality, that gets the nod here.

“Time Crisis” is the poster child of everything great about light gun shooters, and to this day warrants dropping a quarter or two into when you pass one by.

Silent Scope

Konami’s light gun shooter series took an inspired approach to the genre by placing the player into the role of an elite sniper.

Sporting one of the most incredible light gun peripherals ever, players would move around the screen and use the LCD scope of the rifle controller to zoom into an area and eliminate the target. The sensation was exactly that of being an elite sniper, as you oversaw an area with extreme prejudice at your disposal, and the feeling of overwhelming power you enjoyed was only possible thanks to the arcade experience provided chiefly by the functionality of the  rifle controller. Thankfully, it also retained the over the top story and situations of traditional light gun shooters.

The console ports of this one just never worked without the rifle controller, but if you got the chance to try it in its native format, you were lucky indeed.

Virtua Cop

For many, this was the first light gun shooter series they played, and the first that pops to mind when considering the genre.

There’s a very good reason for that, as it would establish a basic template of the entire genre, due in no small part to its polygonal graphic style, which would be copied over to “Time Crisis” and “House of the Dead”. “Virtua Cop” not only made huge strides for light gun shooters, but is often cited as an influence for the (at the time) growing FPS market. The developers of the N64 all time classic “Goldeneye” are particularly adamant in citing “Virtua Cop” as an influence, as they originally intended for “Goldeneye” to be a “Virtua Cop” style shooter, and kept some of those same elements in the final game.

If there can only be one entry for arcade light gun shooters in the gaming hall of fame, it should be “Virtua Cop”

Mad Dog Mccree

From a sheer design standpoint, “Mad Dog Mccree” is an odd duck as it combined a graphic style that never really worked (live action motion capture) with a genre that never really got a chance (westerns).

Yet it’s very, very memorable to gamers who experienced it. Playing as “The Stranger” you are tasked with wiping out the outlaws in a town filled with some of the worst actors ever employed. Using real footage for its people and locales, the technology that powered the game was mind blowing back in the day, but painfully simple now. Yet there is an undeniable charm to “Mad Dog Mccree” for that very same reason, and also brings people to the stark realization that had more developers made the effort, the light gun shooter would have been the perfect genre for the western.

Even if the entire appeal of “Mad Dog Mccree” is based off of nostalgia or in viewing it as an oddity, it remains one of the most significant entrants into the genre and a high noon trip down memory lane to boot.


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