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Top 10 Arcade Style Run and Gun Games

VO: Dan Paradis
Script written by Kurt Hvorp Once upon a time, dodging and returning gunfire was the name of the game. Join WatchMojo.com as we countdown our picks for the Top 10 Arcade style Run and Gun Games. For this list, We'll be taking a look at the finest in games all about blasting waves of enemies and running from danger. Our focus is on run and gun games that would feel at home in the arcades but DO NOT need to have been released in the Arcades to qualify – sporting everything from high difficulty, to plentiful weapons, to a focus on fast-paced action. Special thanks to our user David Ram for suggesting this topic on our Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Kurt Hvorp

Top 10 Arcade-style Run and Gun Games


Once upon a time, dodging and returning gunfire was the name of the game. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 Arcade-style Run and Gun Games.

For this list, We'll be taking a look at the finest in games all about blasting waves of enemies and running from danger. Our focus is on run and gun games that would feel at home in the arcades but DO NOT need to have been released in the Arcades to qualify – sporting everything from high difficulty, to plentiful weapons, to a focus on fast-paced action.

#10: “Narc” (1988)

Remember those “Winners Don’t Use Drugs” messages that would appear in arcade screens? Well Narc took that anti-drug message to ludicrous levels. In this 1988 classic, you play as one of two narcotics cops, Max Force and Hit Man, sent on a mission to bring down a drug trafficking ring. This means blasting through a cavalcade of drug dealers, addicts,and assorted kingpins in brutal fashion, all the while confiscating drugs and money for points. The game is most remembered for its extreme violence, and given the fact that most of your enemies look like homeless people, that was certainly rather disturbing to some.

#9: “Alien Hominid” (2004)

Although bizarre in some ways, this game has plenty of charm. Based on a popular Flash game on Newgrounds, “Alien Hominid” stars a yellow alien who has crash-landed on Earth and seeks to go home. Unfortunately for him, government agents want him captured and the road ahead is treacherous. On top of that, enemies come in heavy waves and the alien can only take one hit before dying. It's a good thing that the game offers special moves, power-ups and two-player gameplay tobalance the experience – to say nothing of the amusement we got from seeing an alien bite off heads.

#8: “Super Star Wars” (1992)

The Force is strong with this one, as they say. Taking the classic 1977 film “Star Wars” into the realm of side-scrolling action, “Super Star Wars” offers a more intense take on its source material. Controlling the hero-to-be Luke Skywalker and his allies, players are guided through an abbreviated version of the original film's story. Across the game's fourteen levels, you go from traversing Tatooine’s desert plains to hopping through the Death Star's innards. There's a good balance between fun-to-play moments and consistent challenge, essential for a run and gun game.

#7: “Super Turrican 2” (1995)

Who says being shipwrecked means the job can't be done? That seems to be the thinking in this action game, about a lone soldier carrying on his objective of stopping galactic conquest. Wearing the titular Turrican assault suit, our hero battles past mutants and cybernetic foes on a devastated planet. What's most striking is the game's look, a mix of post-apocalyptic locales and vibrant colours. It also offers a grappling arm as a fun gadget and serves to showcase the Super Nintendo's Mode 7 effects.

#6: “Broforce” (2015)

While still in early access at the time of writing, we felt “Broforce” deserved a moment in the spotlight. Acting as both a parody of action movies and an homage to classic shooters, this title puts players in the role of a bro – a commando sent to rescue his comrades and prisoners of war. Everything about the experience is goofy and over-the-top: the “Bro” puns extend to the thirty-plus playable characters, boss battles end with a raising flag and dramatic explosion, and the levels deteriorate thanks to destructible environments. Bottom line, it looks like fun.

#5: “Alien Soldier” (1995)

Colourful and unorthodox, but no less fun. In “Alien Soldier”, you are Epsilon 2, the good half of a terrorist organization's leader tasked with hunting down the organization's members. What the game has going for it is genre subversion - short levels instead of lengthy ones, plentiful boss battles rather than a measured handful, an extra reprieve from fatal injuries, andso forth. Match these distinctive elements with a pleasant colour scheme, and you have a delightfully different game from the norm.

#4: “Sunset Riders” (1991)

Speaking of deviating from the norm, here's a fun combination: side-scrolling gunplay meets the American Old West. That's the premise of “Sunset Riders”, wherein players select one of four bounty hunters and fight off countless bandits on the way to a given outlaw. Each level plays off some aspect of the traditional cowboy experience: saloon shootouts, horseback chases, train top escapades, and the thrill of the hunt. Remember when Konami used to be cool * sigh *.

#3: “Metal Slug” (1996)

Although there went on to be six more entries in the series, the original still remains beloved for a reason. Perhaps it was the story, an action narrative focused on two soldiers battling a rebel army and destroying experimental tanks. Maybe people were drawn to the large boss characters, the beauty of the game's hand-drawn animation, and the little details like destructible scenery. Or it could be the trademark humour – after all, how many games give you enemies relaxing by a campfire, just waiting to be startled and scared off?

#2: “Contra III: The Alien Wars” (1992)

Let's be clear here: the original “Contra” helped define run-and-gun games for years to come. But “Contra III” was the force needed to keep the sub-genre, and the Contra series, moving forward. It took the technology of the SNES and used it to deliver visuals on par with its arcade predecessors, while leveraging the Mode 7 technology for several experimental top-down levels. The game also added new gameplay mechanics – the ability to climb walls and ladders, motorcycle sections, a increase to two useable weapons – to its own series, ensuring its continued existence. Truly, it's impressive.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“Midnight Resistance” (1989)
“Rapid Reload” (1995)
“Dinosaurs for Hire” (1993)
“Cyber-Lip” (1990)

#1: “Gunstar Heroes” (1993)

In a time when the run and gun game was growing tired, this was the one to bring new life. The story is oddly simple: you're a hero seeking out gems that the villainous Colonel Red intends to use to awaken an evil robot. Yet the surrounding game is unbelievably innovative; it eschews one-hit deaths for a multiple-hit system, shows the life count as numbers, offers bosses with smooth animations, and features a neat weapon combination mechanic. Matching different guns for different shooting styles meant that you had up to 10 possible firing combinations to experiment with. We don't know how this came to be, but we're thankful it did.

Do you agree with our list? What arcade-style run and gun game is your favourite? For more action-packed Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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