Light gun video game

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Duck Hunt was a very popular light gun game in the 1980s.

A light gun video game genre of video game where the player uses a light gun to shoot targets on a video screen. Light gun video games typically use the same perspective as a first-person shooter, and, from the 1990s onward, they are typically rail shooters, however, the addition of a light gun makes their play unique enough to warrant an individual category. Although the fact that the player is shooting something implies that it is derivative of the shooter genre, since the game lacks projectiles, it's not actually related.

The technology for light guns was invented in the 1930s, and electro-mechanical games were made shortly thereafter, but they didn't make the shift into video games until 1972 when Magnavox released a light gun rifle and a few games for their Odyssey. In 1973, 8-bit home computers saw the release of light guns, and, in 1974, Atari and Sega were producing light gun arcade video games. Prior to entering the video game market, Nintendo got their start with electro-mechanical light gun games in 1973 which used 16 mm film projected onto a large screen. However, it wasn't until the mid-1980s when the light gun became ubiquitous when Nintendo released the Zapper. Light gun video games are still released in arcades, but they have always been a niche market with usually only a handful of games ever being released on any individual console.

Most light guns made in the 1990s and prior are unusable on projection, LCD, and plasma televisions. Light guns require very precise timing to work, and, while cathode ray tube televisions all functioned with very similar timing, the subsequent television technologies have varying delays in their display due to picture processing, which prevents light guns from registering hits. However, similar shooting games saw a minor resurgence with the Wii because of the Wii Remote's visual tracking. Although these are not technically light guns, the premise is similar.


I enjoyed Duck Hunt when I first got my NES, but the game's appeal wore off pretty quickly and it became the first and only game I ever bought which used a light gun. I did play three other light gun games on the NES when they it still popular: The Adventures of Bayou Billy, Hogans Alley, and Operation Wolf, but I wasn't impressed by any of them. Most of my friends concluded that there just weren't any good games for the Zapper, and, though I still defended Duck Hunt a little, I pretty much agreed with them. So, when my brother cut the cord off our Zapper so that it could be used as a toy gun, I didn't protest too much.

I was vaguely aware of the light gun for Sega consoles, and I saw several other light gun games in the arcade, but nothing ever really stood out to me. When the Super Scope 6 came out for the SNES, I thought it looked interesting, but had no interest in buying it. In the mid-1990s, I enjoyed the games Mad Dog McCree and Mad Dog II: The Lost Gold, but I played them in Windows with mouse support instead of a light gun. Through the late 1990s and 2000s, I played several light gun games in the arcade, like Time Crisis, Lethal Enforcers, Police Trainer, and The House of the Dead, but I never really enjoyed them because they all used the same game mechanics from decades earlier. Every light gun game I've played depends on either the memorization of a scripted battle or fast reaction to a randomized event, and I don't find either mechanic to be very interesting. I would be interested in seeing someone come up with a novel use of light gun technology.


These are the light gun video games that are important to me. For the complete list, see the category.

Title Released Notes
The Adventures of Bayou Billy 1988-08-12 I typically used the controller input instead.
Duck Hunt 1984-04-21 NES port.
Mad Dog McCree 1993-??-?? I used the mouse on the Windows port.
Mad Dog II: The Lost Gold 1994-??-?? I used the mouse on the Windows port.
Operation Wolf 1989-05-?? NES port.


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