The Pervert Guide to Shoot’em Ups

Now that In Extremis is (believe it or not) nearing it’s launch date, I though it would be a good idea to warm you up, my phantom audience, with a sample of interesting, challenging, or just plain weird shoot’em ups that I played in the last couple of years. Some are free, some are not, some are hidden in dark corners of the internet. I’m focusing on more obscure or overlooked stuff, so don’t expect Jamestown or Ikaruga on this list (even though is you duty as a decent human being to play Ikaruga). Onwards to the shmuppery, then:

Cho Ren Sha
What is:

About as pure as a shoot’em up as it gets, Cho Ren Sha is a perennial freeware classic of the internets.I drops pleasantries and get straight to the action, presenting strong enemies and fast patterns; its more of and old school challenge than a most modern one, but is surprisingly accessible. The only problem is the need to keep on smashing the button to shot, but aside from that, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Where can I get:
Here

Cactus Arcade
What is:

Before he sold out went mainstream with the highly successful Hotline Miami, the indie developer Cactus was responsible for some of the most intense, thrilling and batshit insane games you can imagine. Among those, that is the clever Fractal Fighter, the spasm-inducing Burn the Trash, and the wonderful and complex Clean Asia. There is a lot of other bizarre, non-shmupy-but-definitely-shmup-inspired-stuff; that speaks of a sadly long gone era where indie gaming was more provocative and less-profit concerned.
Where can I get:
Here

Varia


What is:
Another example of a very simple game, that is tremendously fun; a top down scroller with some R-Type style options and vector graphics, it is more accessible than most shmups, and good, crunchy fun. Possibly that game that made me realize, almost ten years ago, that shmups we actually awesome.
Where can I get:
Here

Garden of Coloured Lights

What is:
A highly unique game with a unique title, GCL presents a wide variety of weapon options that you can combine and upgrade by using, a large variety of enemies, and music generated by play. It is also though as nails, but is highly enjoyable nonetheless. Note that on modern versions of Windows the colors might be blown up to hell; the disadvantages of slightly old games.
Where can I get:
Here

Hello Panda

What is:
This one is another good example of the daily insanity that was following indie games in the latter years of last decade. Hello Panda is a bullet hell that riffs on Kill Bill and has a very Newgrounds-esque type of sense of humor; a bit shallow, and very 13-years-old-esque, but it’s level 3 boss still makes me laugh, after all these years.
Where can I get:
Here

Genetos

What is:
Another wonderful hidden gem, Genetos has a high concept; it starts as simple, Space-Invaders clone, and goes on to be a trip through the eras of shoot’em ups, from the arcade classics to modern bullet hells, as your ship also evolves to match those challenges. But it does not stops there, becoming a analogy to the evolution of human consciousness and beyond.
Where can I get:
Here

Motherfucker Galaxy

What is:
“Punk as fuck” would be a good descriptor for this one.It’s developer relates its development to dealing with violent trauma in her life, and it shows; garish colors, simple, merciless mechanics and an aggressive soundtrack makes a hell of a package; not a traditional shmup, but a must play nonetheless.
Where can I get:
Here

One-Two

What is:
Another overlooked wonder, it is a more traditional shmup, but with dazzling shiny graphic effects and backgrounds, elegant UI and an insanely good soundtrack. Also has clever scoring system that might offset its strong difficulty for beginners.
Where can I get:
Here

Galshell

What is:
A horror shmup? Believe it, son. Containing nudity, maggot-shaped bullets and flesh corridors, might be a traditional side-scroller if not for its disgusting enemies and its creative, Cronembergian bosses. Just the shock value alone makes it worth playing.
Where can I get:
Here

Hellsinker

What is:
So, I left the best for last.This game. This goddamned game. Hellsinker, as these baffled Youtubers say, “is part shump and part riddle”. This game have been confusing and entrancing shmup fans for almost a decade now. For starters, it does not play like a regular shmups; its characters have distinct attack then a regular shot, and enemies need multiple actions to be destroyed. The game has multiple interlocking systems with complex and unexplained nomenclature, making scoring not just a task of reflexes, but also research.To top it off, it is incredibly though, giving you just a couple of lives and not allowing you to pratice until you beat the whole game.

That said, it is also *amazing*. The art is bizarre and brilliant, it offers a ton of very distinct challenges and patterns (some ideas, like the maze stages, and the special level Shrine of Farewell, were great inspirations for In Extremis), it has a gorgeous soundtrack, and and unpenetrable storyline, with some of the most endearing and evocative uses of Engrish ever recorded (hell, I use its opening as my Facebook cover for years and no one asked what the hell was that).

Too strange and unacessible to even become a cult hit, Hellsinker is the kinda of thing that deserves to be know more than it is.

Where can I get:
Here (and its totally not piracy, as the only legal ways to obtain this game is to import a CD from Japan, or buy it in a bundle that closed 3 years ago – told you it was obscure)

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