Codex Gamicus

Run & gun video games
Run and gun contra gif.gif
Basic Information

Run & gun video games, also known as run & gun shooters, are a sub-genre of shoot 'em ups, particularly side-scrolling shooter video games, in which the player generally controls a lone gunman as they travel on foot through levels defeating enemies. Run & gun games are often defined as a mix between platformers and shoot 'em ups, are generally side-scrollers, and are notable for often featuring enjoyable co-operative gameplay. Run & gun video games have essentially faded into obscurity with the evolution of 3D video games, but in a sense, still live on in the widely-popular genres of first and Third-person shooters.


Run & gun describes a shoot 'em up in which the protagonist fights on foot, perhaps with the ability to jump. Run & gun games may use side-scrolling, vertical scrolling or isometric viewpoints and may feature multidirectional movement.[1][2][3] These types of games may also be termed "scrolling shooters".[4]

Notable run & gun shooters[]


In 1975, Taito released Western Gun (Gun Fight), designed by Space Invaders creator Tomohiro Nishikado.[5] It was an early two-player, on-foot, multidirectional shooter, which was also the first video game to depict a gun on screen,[6] introduced dual-stick controls with one eight-way joystick for movement and the other for changing the shooting direction,[6][7] and was the first known video game to feature game characters and fragments of story through its visual presentation.[5]

Nintendo's Sheriff (designed by Shigeru Miyamoto), released in 1979, was a run & gun multi-directional shooter that featured dual-stick controls, with one joystick for movement and the other for aiming, and a large number of enemies shooting many bullets, paving the way for dual-stick shooters such as Robotron: 2084 and later Geometry Wars.[8]

The first side-scrolling run & gun shooter was Jump Bug, released in 1981.

In 1982, several early vertical-scrolling run & gun shooters were released, including Taito's Front Line, an early military-themed multi-directional shooter to have players control foot soldiers rather than vehicles,[9] Taito's Wild Western, where the player character on a horse must defend a moving train from robbers,[10] and Jaleco's Naughty Boy, about a boy who throws rocks at monsters to destroy them, with the longer the fire button held down, the farther the character can throw rocks, while featuring boss encounters and bonus rounds.[11]

1983 saw the release of Enix's Kagirinaki Tatakai, an early run & gun shooter for the Sharp X1 computer that featured fully destructible environments, a convincing physics engine, and a choice of several different weapons.[12] That same year also saw the release of another early run & gun shooter for the Sharp X1, Hover Attack,[12] which freely scrolled in all directions, allowed the player to shoot diagonally as well as straight ahead,[13] and let the player fire in any direction independent of the direction the character is moving. Hover Attack (1983) is known for inspiring the later more famous Bangai-O.[12] In 1985, Game Arts released Thexder, a breakthrough title for run & gun shooters on home systems.[13]

In 1985, Konami released Rush'n Attack, also known as Green Beret, one of the first side-scrollingrun & gun shooters, paving the way for franchises such as Contra, Bionic Commando, Metal Slug. Another 1985 run & gun shooter was Baraduke, which inspired Metroid (1986).

SEGA's Space Harrier, a rail shooter released in 1985, broke new ground graphically and its wide variety of settings across multiple levels gave players more to aim for than high scores.[14][15] It was one of the first arcade games to use 16-bit graphics and SEGA's "Super Scaler" technology that allowed pseudo-3D sprite-scaling at high frame rates,[16] with the ability to scale as many as 32,000 sprites and fill a moving landscape with them.[17] It was also an early example of a third-person shooter.[18]

Shoot 'em ups such as SNK's Ikari Warriors (1986) featuring characters on foot, rather than spacecraft, became popular in the mid-1980s in the wake of action movies such as Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985).[19] The most influential game of this type was Commando, released in 1985.[3] Commando also drew comparisons to Rambo[20] and indeed contemporary critics considered military themes and protagonists similar to Rambo or Schwarzenegger prerequisites for a shoot 'em up, as opposed to an action-adventure game.[3] In 1986, Arsys Software released WiBArm, a shooter that switched between a 2D side-scrolling view in outdoor areas to a fully 3D polygonal third-person perspective inside buildings, while bosses were fought in an arena-style 2D battle, with the game featuring a variety of weapons and equipment.[12] In 1987, Square's 3-D WorldRunner was an early stereoscopic 3-D shooter played from a third-person perspective,[21] followed later that year by its sequel JJ,[22] and the following year by Space Harrier 3-D which used the SEGAScope 3-D shutter glasses.[23] Also in 1987, Konami created Contra as an coin-op arcade game that was particularly acclaimed for its multi-directional aiming and two player cooperative gameplay. However, by the early 1990s and the popularity of 16-bit consoles, the scrolling shooter genre was overcrowded, with developers struggling to make their games stand out (one exception being the inventive Gunstar Heroes, by Treasure).[24]

In the 1990s, while shooter games featuring protagonists on foot largely moved to 3D-based genres (such as first-person shooter and third-person shooter video games), popular, long-running series such as Contra and Metal Slug continued to receive new sequels.[4][25][26]


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  8. Where Were They Then: The First Games of Nintendo, Konami, and More (Nintendo), 1UP
  9. Front Line at Museum of the Game
  10. Wild Western at Museum of the Game
  11. Naughty Boy at Museum of the Game
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 John Szczepaniak. Retro Japanese Computers: Gaming's Final Frontier. Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved on 2011-03-16 Reprinted from "Retro Japanese Computers: Gaming's Final Frontier", Retro Gamer (67), 2009 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Travis Fahs. The Leif Ericson Awards - Retro Feature at IGN. Retrieved on 2011-09-06
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  18. Relayer71 2/20/11 6:02 PM  . Top 10 SEGA Franchises That Deserve Platinum Treatment. Retrieved on 2011-09-06
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  20. Segre, Nicole, "Commando," Sinclair User, February 1986 (issue 47)
  21. Run & gun video games at Allgame via the Wayback Machine
  22. Run & gun video games at Allgame via the Wayback Machine
  23. Run & gun video games at Allgame via the Wayback Machine
  24. IGN's Top 100 Games, IGN, July 25, 2005, Accessed February 19, 2009
  25. Staff, Contra Q&A, GameSpot, October 1, 2002, Accessed February 17, 2009
  26. Bozon, Mark, Metal Slug Anthology Review, IGN, December 20, 2006, Accessed February 17, 2009