I’ve been thinking about arcades a lot recently. Well, I think about arcades a lot most of the time. But especially the past month or so. I got really nostalgic (and relatively drunk) a few weeks ago and bought a bunch of my old favorite arcade title on XBLA. It was super fun, but I really felt like something was missing that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. But then it hit me, like a hollow point straight to the dome zone: I was missing the light gun games. A big part of the joy of arcade games is the feeling that they can only be played in the arcade, and true light gun classics are the epitome of this.
Sure, I guess you can buy some peripherals for your console, but especially with some specific titles (which I’ll get to) it’s just by no means going to recreate the fun, the heft, the immersion, the je ne sais quoi of the light gun experience. Those bad boys munched down many of my monies and hundreds of my hours, and I definitely would not have it any other way. They were epic, extended battles and stories the sunk their talons into your little Mountain Dew-ed brain because you were fucking playing them man. You were holding a gun and when you pointed it at a bad guy it went bang and his head popped off. Real talk: light guns are the shit. Here are the High Five.
I wanted to start things off with two games that are non-traditional takes on what we consider to be light gun play. Also, yes, this High Five is going to have seven games on it because I was feeling saucy and by saucy I mean I was feeling irrationally bad about leaving games that I love off this list. The first is Point Blank, the candy colored goodness you see above. This game was a series of very brief shooting mini games that were sorta carnival like and generally gonzo. In my mind it’s a direct precursor the the Wario Ware series, which also holds a special place in my corazon.
The second is Silent Scope, a game that is incredibly badass in concept and yet leaves something to be desired in the execution (zing!) department. Nonetheless, the idea of having a giant sniper rifle with a little screen in the scope, and instead of mowing down enemy after enemy having to really take your time and line up one perfect shot from like a mile away: awesome. It’s pretty short, but the level where you try to get the guy running across the football field without hitting any bystanders still sticks very vividly in my mind.
I can’t say the name of this game without imitating the announcer at the title screen. I played this game a ton (too much, perhaps) and it is probably the purest expression of a light gun game. You’re a cop, you have a gun, there’s a reticle onscreen and you shoot it at anonymous baddies (usually with sunglasses) and… yeah. There’s not much more than that, but the naivete of the whole operation is part of what endears me to it. Also the first light gun game I remember (I’m saying for me, I’m sure it isn’t actually the first) where you get to choose your own adventure.
There’s a part where you’re driving (the driving level in this game is actually super duper fun) and you come upon a fork in the road and you shoot the street sign for where you want to go. I dunno, I just always liked that. Despite the fact that it’s the opening “tamest” level, the signature level of this game for me is still the Jewelry Store shootout. There were bonuses and stuff hidden in vases and chandeliers which were everywhere in the level, so while you were gunnin’ down baddies your were also going after the wares like a armed bull in a china shop. Bad policing, fun gameplay.
The first of two licensed titles on my list (foreshadowing!) T2 is one of the better movie games out there, and it also has one of the best guns. This bad boy didn’t detach from the machine, oh no, it was way too hefty for that. This fucker was locked down and brawny as fuck. I loved getting my pizza grease smeared fingers on this weapon to mow down Skynet’s finest. It also had an alternate fire (grenades? rockets?) that you could control with a button on the side, which I thought was really cool.
This game did a really great job of taking you through the movie scenes you wanted to play without being so beholden to the plot that they didn’t also inject totally new scenes to make the game way more badass. The climactic battle with the T-1000 (pictured above) was also epic as fuck, complete with liquid nitrogen dousing and splitting Rober Patrick in half like a piece of string cheese.
I imagine many of you (you all have strong opinions about light gun games like me, right?) thought this would be at the top of the list, and I will concede that it is pretty technically flawless. The seemingly simple addition of a pedal that crouches your character actually makes a world of difference in gameplay (not to mention the aggressive timeclock that put you in a – wait for it – crisis).
I remember having oodles of fun playing this game, but it never quite sucked me in like the top two did. Specific set pieces don’t necessarily stand out, but I do remember an overall really polished and professional experience, and also it was one of the few machines that didn’t seem like it was trying to eat your quarters like a hungry hungry hippo. You could get through this game on one credit if you really tried.
Suffer like G did? Perhaps my favorite gaming quote of all time, and a perfect example of why I love this game so much. Something about it got lost in translation in the best way, making for one of the inadvertently strange zombie tales ever. Seriously, this thing makes absolutely no sense, is constantly surprising, and achieves a bizarre tone between terror and comedy that could no way be created on purpose.
Though parts of it come off as accidental, House Of The Dead 2 really is the perfect storm of gameplay and design elements – from the zombie design (look at those fuckers!) to stage layout, varied boss fights, and cool skill challenges where you tried to save other pursued survivors. I also really liked those enemies with blade hands that crawled on the wall. And the flesh-eating frogs. Why were those things in a zombie game? Why not, it’s House of the Motherfucking Dead. I will also accept Typing of The Dead, by the way.
If you walk into an arcade and you see that InGen Jeep “cabinet” that you get to sit in while it bounces the fuck around, please drop everything you are doing (even if it’s your own children and it’s their birthday at Chuck E Cheese) and get in the damn truck. Prepare to have one of the most fun 60-80 minutes you’ve had in a while. I love this game so much. I love Jurassic Park, and this game honestly does such a good job of recreating the wonder that movie provides. Plus shooting.
Sure, there are the big awesome moments – emptying thousands of rounds into T. Rex’s face, jumping like a little girl when Raptors pop out of nowhere, trying not to get stomped out by lumbering brontosaurus – but some of my favorite moments are also, oddly, the quiet ones where you aren’t even shooting shit. Just sitting in that car (which, as a kid, felt really real) and waiting for that big, iconic wooden Jurassic Park gate to open… when I get rich I’m buying one of these.- Whole Milk