Platform shooter

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Contra was a popular early platform shooter.

A platform shooter, often referred to as a run and gun, is a video game genre hybrid which combines the shooter and platformer. The player controls a character who must shoot enemies with projectiles — like a shooter — but is also gravity-bound and must jump over obstacles and onto platforms — like a platformer. Famous archetypes of the platform shooter genre include Contra, Mega Man, and Metal Slug.

Personal

The platform shooter is one of my favorite video game genres. I grew up on the Contra and Mega Man franchises. However, as the Metroidvania genre began to expand, I gravitated toward it because the game play is less dependent on fast reflexes and more about adventure. These are often based on platform shooters as seen in the Metroid games.

Definition

As a hybrid genre, a platform shooter should have strong elements from both platforming and shooting. If a game only has limited elements from one, it probably doesn't belong. Consider Rush'N Attack, which is clearly platformer and it has a military theme that involves shooting, but most of the game's combat is hand-to-hand with shooting being relegated to limited power-ups. This makes the game far closer to a beat em up than a platform shooter. On the flip side, Gun.Smoke has plenty of shooting and running around, which could make the adjective "run and gun" apply, but, since your character never climbs ladders or jumps across platforms, the game plays much more like a scrolling shooter.

There are plenty of elements that are common to platform shooters, but not necessary. Scrolling backgrounds, for example, are seen in most platform shooters, but Bubble Bobble is a good example of a platform shooter which lacks scrolling. Also, as games moved from the arcade to the home, more complex elements were expected like exploration and storytelling. Games like Metroid and Blaster Master both have strong elements from platforming and shooting, but are expanded into the Metroidvania genre. Also, while most platform shooters have a war theme, one of the very first platform shooters, Ghosts 'N Goblins, uses a Gothic fantasy theme. This causes the game to frequently get lumped in with "hack and slash" titles, but the actual game play is much closer to Contra.

Terminology

Many gaming databases use the term "run and gun," but that describes the content of the game rather than the game's mechanics. The term "run and gun" equally describes Gun.Smoke and Contra where the player's character both runs and shoots a gun, but Gun.Smoke has more in common with a scrolling shooter like Gradius than Contra. In my opinion, the inclusion of jumping mechanics creates a significant enough difference in game play to warrant a distinction.

History

Despite its theme, Ghosts 'N Goblins is one of the very first platform shooters.

A prototype for the genre which mixes elements of shooters and platformers is Moon Patrol, released in 1982. You shoot at enemies while also moving along the ground and occasionally jumping over obstacles. However, unlike subsequent platform shooters, there are no platforms beyond the lunar surface to which the player can jump. The first popular platform shooter I have been able to find which really fits the mold is Ghosts 'N Goblins. Platform shooters became very popular in the mid-to-late-1980s.

Examples

This is a list of platform shooters that are important to me, for all platform shooters, see the category.

Title Released Developer
Bionic Commando 1987-03-20 Capcom
Black Tiger 1987-08-?? Capcom
Bubble Bobble 1986-06-16 Taito
Contra 1987-02-20 Konami
Contra (NES) 1988-02-09 Konami
Ghosts 'N Goblins 1985-07-07 Capcom
Kid Icarus: Angel Land Story 1986-12-19 Nintendo
Mega Man 1987-12-17 Capcom
Mega Man II 1988-12-24 Capcom
Mega Man III 1990-09-28 Capcom
Rolling Thunder 1986-11-09 Namco
Shinobi 1987-11-16 Sega
Super C 1990-02-02 Konami
Wrath of the Black Manta 1989-11-17 A.I

Links

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