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Top 10 Run ‘N Gun Games

After writing a list about babies last time, my mind was blank. I had a bunch of ideas in my head, but no strong feeling about which list I wanted to do next. I left it up to my Twitter followers by posting a poll. The results were a tie between Top 10 Licensed Games that Wasted Their Potential (which will be done eventually) and Top 10 Run ‘N Gun games which I’m doing today. I thought this would be the easier list, but I was wrong.

The hardest part of writing this list was defining the Run ‘N Gun genre. Technically any game in which you move around and fire a weapon can be considered a Run ‘N Gun game, so I had to narrow it down.


Run ‘N Gun refers to a horizontal sidescrolling game (not a top-down game), the player can aim and shoot in different directions (usually 8 directions), platforming and exploration can be in the game but not the focus of the game (so no Earthworm Jim), it has to basically be a beat em up, but with guns.


I think and hope all games in this list follow those rules, but if they don’t or I forgot one, then I’m sure you’ll tell me in the comments. Also one game per franchise, and only retro games can be in this list (PS1, N64 era and prior).


So after that longwinded explanation, let’s begin.


10.) Cyber-Lip


We’re going to start this list off with an SNK classic. Cyber-Lip was released in 1990 for the Neo-Geo MVS and later ported over to the Neo-Geo CD where it was enhanced with improved voice acting and a brief introduction video that explained the plot.


What is the plot? Well it’s basically Terminator… or maybe T3, I don’t know. You play as Rick or Brook, two U.S. veteran soldiers who are sent by the federal government to destroy a supercomputer. This supercomputer went rogue and took control of all the military androids and is attacking the human race.


The gameplay is very similar to Contra or Metal Slug which makes sense because the people who made this game will eventually go on to make Metal Slug. However, Cyber-Lip is not as good and that’s why it’s in the number 10 spot. The gameplay is slow and a bit too repetitive.


9.) Super Turrican 2

I was seriously debating if this game counted as a Run ‘N Gun game and I think it does, but I will understand why people might disagree. Super Turrican 2 is a fantastic game. It’s bright, has fantastic music, and great gameplay. However, the majority of the weapons only shoot straight, except for one. So I think technically it counts as a Run ‘N Gun game.


The story is simple. An alien horde known as The Machine is trying to transform a destroyed galaxy into a new army stronghold. It’s your job with your Turrican suit to stop it.


Super Turrican 2 was developed for the SNES by Ocean and Factor 5. It took advantage of the Super Nintendo by having Mode 7 graphics and  Dolby Pro-Logic surround sound. Unfortunately, this also means Super Turrican 2 doesn’t have the gigantic levels of the original and this leads to less exploration… but who wants exploration in a Run ‘N Gun game anyway.


8.) Dinosaurs for Hire

This is one of the greatest video game premises of all time. It’s basically a combination of We’re Back a Dinosaur’s Story, Jurassic Park, and the A-Team. They’re aliens who resemble smaller versions of Earth’s dinosaurs who crash landed and decided to make their livings as mercenaries for hire. It started off as a comic book but was later developed into a SEGA Genesis game Run ‘N Gun Game.


Sounds like it would make an amazing game, right? Well kinda. When the game focuses on non-stop/run and gun action and the humor that made the comic so enjoyable it succeeds in being a great game. However, the game tries to include contra-like difficulty with oddly placed turrets and also tries to include way too much platforming for a run ‘n gun game.


If you ever wanted to play a slightly inferior version of Contra 1, but with dinosaurs, this is it.


7.) Rapid Reload/Gunner’s Heaven

Rapid Reload aka Gunner’s Heaven is often compared to Treasure’s Gunstar Heroes. Some even call it a spiritual successor. So why did you never hear of it? Well that’s because it was only released in Japan and Europe. Us Americans were deprived of this great game. As I mentioned before, I had a modded Playstation 1 when I was a kid, and I don’t remember where I got it, but I had this game.


In Rapid Reload you play as either Axel Sonics and Ruka Hetfield. They’re treasure hunters looking for the legendary stone known as the Valkiry. Unfortunately, terrorists known as the Pumpkin Heads are also looking for the stone and will take down anyone in their way.


Rapid Reload has the bright graphics, four weapons, six stages, and a ton of bosses. The weapons are weak though so you need to power-up your guns by defeating enemies. This power level will constantly be going down except for boss fight, so it’s essential  to keep collecting power ups and keep moving fast. The big problem with the game is IT HAS NO CO-OP! That’s terrible.


6.) Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa

This might be the greatest Run ‘N Gun game that you’ve never heard of. Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa started off as an American cartoon created by Ryan Brown who you may know from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The show lasted two seasons and has one of the catchiest theme songs of the 90s.


Then Konami decided to make an arcade Run ‘N Gun game based on the characters. The characters from the show are Cowlorado Kid, Dakota Dude, and Marshall Moo Montana, but a fourth character by the name up Buffalo Bull was created so there could be four-player action.


The game itself is fantastic, the controls are smooth, the colors are bright, but it’s a bit too easy. In addition, I have no nostalgic feelings toward this game cause I haven’t played it until very recently. Nevertheless, if you can find it somewhere play it. You might be shocked and you might find it quite similar to another game on this list.


5.) Alien Soldier

Alien Soldier is actually another Run ‘N Gun game developed by Treasure. A physical copy of the game was never released in the United States however if you were cool and had the SEGA Channel, you were able to play Alien Soldier.


In the distant future of 2015, there was a convulted plot about terrorists, aliens, space-time continuum, genetic experiments, a tiger, an eagle, and the murder of a little girl. The plot doesn’t matter and it’s difficult to explain, so let’s shoot stuff!


Alien Soldier is your typical Run ‘N Gun game made by Treasure with a few twists. Most Run ‘N Gun games have a long level with a boss at the end with the possible side-boss thrown in somewhere, but Alien Soldier has 25 short levels and 31 boss fights. It’s in Guinness World Records Gamers Edition 2010 under the category “Most boss battles in a run and gun game”. The other change is that if you are hit with a bullet that should be fatal, your health drops to 1, so you have a second chance to recover.


Nothing else to say except Alien Soldier is really solid.


4.) Metal Slug

Metal Slug is probably the wackiest Run ‘N Gun game ever created. It has such character and atmosphere that many people consider it their favorite of the genre, and I can’t blame them. I just don’t have enough nostalgia with the series to rank it any higher.


The original Metal Slug is the only one I played and it’s awesome. Cpt. Marco Rossi and Lt. Tarma Roving of the Peregrine Falcon Strike Force are sent to destroy the evil General Morden and his army before they can use tanks known as “metal slugs” to take over the world.


The story is simple, but it’s the presentation and gameplay that makes Metal Slug stand out. The game is gorgeous with bright and gigantic sprites and hand-drawn animation that give the game a cartoony look. There is constant action with a hail of bullets, but the game also has a fantastic sense of humor. The best thing about Metal Slug… fluent co-op action.


3.) Contra III: The Alien Wars

When I started this list I knew a Contra game would make an appearance somewhere, but the question was which one. The original Contra on the NES is nostalgic for me, while Super C is technically superior, Contra: Hard Corps for the Genesis I rented and played solo a bit, however Contra III: The Alien Wars for the SNES is my favorite in the series.


Contra III: The Alien Wars is the opposite of Metal Slug in many ways. Both are Run ‘N Gun games with tons of bullets and weapons, but that’s where the similarities end. Metal Slug is fun, but ultimately an easy game. The Contra series in general is tough, and Contra III is no exception. In addition, Contra III is a dark game without Metal Slug’s sense of humor.


That’s kinda why I like Contra III more than Metal Slug, it takes itself more seriously and offers more of a challenge. You feel better about beating Contra. I remember playing Contra III with my friend almost every day after school. We’d get a little bit further each time. We’d learn the levels and enemy placement and develop lightning fast reflexes.


Plus Contra III had a mecha-death turtle and a double spread gun…



2.) Gunstar Heroes

I had a really tough time ordering the final two entries on this list. Should I go with the game I think is technically better, or the game I like better for no logical reason? I chose the latter but consider Gunstar Heroes and the game in the number 1 spot to be a tie.


Gunstar Heroes is one of the greatest games ever made. It’s the only game that Treasure made a sequel to, and they NEVER make sequels, but this time we’re talking about the original.


The story of Gunstar Heroes is actually interesting, which is surprising for a Run ‘N Gun game. The Gunstar family is in charge of protecting the planet. In his youth, Professor White Gunstar defeated the resource stealing robot Golden Silver and took away the robot’s source of power (four gems). Now years later Colonel Red (M. Bison look-a-like) brainwashed Green Gunstar and acquired the four gems. He plans on reviving Golden Silver and ruling the world. It’s up to Red and Blue Gunstar to save their brother and the world. There’s an entirely different story for the Japanese release of the game that’s considered canon, but I don’t care. AHMURRICAH!


Gunstar Heroes is another brightly colored games with large sprites. The highlight of the game is the giant bosses that are made up of multiple sprites that allow fluid movement. The game is also very fast paced with bullets and explosions everywhere. It’s action that will get your heart pumping.


Gunstar Heroes has four weapons force (normal shot), lightning (which goes through enemies, flame (which is effective at close range), and chaser (which homes in on enemies). The best thing about these weapons is that they can be combined. Lightning and chaser will give you a homing lightning attack while chaser and chaser will be completely OP.


The game is tough, it takes more than one shot to kill but bullets are difficult to avoid. You’ll have to master the slide maneuver. Also, prepare yourself for the boardgame section… it’s evil.


1.) Sunset Riders

I seriously love Gunstar Heros, but Sunset Riders is my absolute favorite Run ‘N Gun game. I don’t have any logical reason for this decision, it’s based purely on emotion and personal preference. As I said before though, consider them both to be in the number 1 spot.


Sunset Riders was originally developed by Konami for the arcades. It was then ported over to the SEGA Genesis and the Super Nintendo a few years later. The SNES version is nearly identical to the arcade except Nintendo censored a lot (the women are dressed more conservatively, the dialogue was changed to be less offensive, the Native American enemies were mostly taken out, and chief Scalpem was renamed to chief Wigwam). The Genesis version was inferior with less levels, bosses, and inferior sound. Since its release it never had as much popularity as the Contra or Metal Slug series, but spawned a few memes and is my favorite Run ‘N Gun game.


In any version of Sunset Riders you play as a cowboy bounty hunter in the American Wild West. Your goal in each stage is to defeat the boss’s minions and then take him down. On your way you’ll collect power-ups like a stronger weapon or points. These power-ups are mostly collected by entering saloons and other buildings and getting a kiss from the ladies that reside within.


Sunset Riders is best played with a friend because it’s a competition. It’s one of the few games where the points matter. You get points for collecting power-ups, killing enemies, and defeating bosses to collect the bounty. If playing multiplayer whoever deals the most damage to the boss, gets the bounty. This had me and my friends sabotaging and competing with one another over everything.


Sunset Riders is just a fun game, it’s been in my Genesis more than any other game I own. Plus, you get to run across a stampede of bulls, and that is just brilliant.



I hope you thoroughly enjoyed the list, I’m sick of mentioning the best in gaming so next time will be a Top 10 Worst. Until then, just bury me with my money.