Codex Gamicus
Shooter role-playing video games
Basic Information

Shooter role-playing video games, also known as role-playing shooters (RPS), are role-playing video games featuring elements of both shooter video games and action role-playing video games.[1] The term '"RPS" was initially coined as a reference to Borderlands (2009), but the term can also refer to earlier video games that combined shooter and RPG elements.

Early history[]

An early example was Magical Zoo's The Screamer,[2] a 1985 post-apocalyptic sci-fi RPG released in Japan for the NEC PC-8801 computer, set after World War III and revolving around cyberpunk and biological horror themes.[3][4] The gameplay switched between first-person dungeon crawl exploration and side-scrolling shooter combat, where the player could jump, duck and shoot at enemies in real-time.[2] That same year, the action role-playing game Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu allowed the player to shoot projectile magic attacks at enemies.[5] The earliest to feature 3D polygonal graphics was the 1986 game WiBArm, released by Arsys Software for the NEC PC-88 computer in Japan and ported to MS-DOS for Western release by Brøderbund. In WiBArm, the player controls a transformable mecha robot, switching between a 2D side-scrolling view during outdoor exploration to a fully 3D polygonal third-person perspective inside buildings, while bosses are fought in an arena-style 2D shoot 'em up battle. The game featured a variety of weapons and equipment as well as an automap, and the player could upgrade equipment and earn experience to raise stats.[6][7] In contrast to first-person RPGs at the time that were restricted to 90-degree movements, WiBArm's use of 3D polygons allowed full 360-degree movement.[7]

In 1987, Shiryou Sensen: War of the Dead, an MSX2 title developed by Fun Factory and published by Victor Music Industries, was the first true survival horror RPG.[8][9] Designed by Katsuya Iwamoto, the game revolved around a female SWAT member Lila rescuing survivors in an isolated monster-infested town and bringing them to safety in a church. It was open-ended like Dragon Quest and had real-time side-view battles like Zelda II. Unlike other RPGs at the time, however, the game had a dark and creepy atmosphere expressed through the story, graphics, and music,[8] while the gameplay used shooter-based combat and gave limited ammunition for each weapon, forcing the player to search for ammo and often run away from monsters in order to conserve ammo.[9]

In 1988, The Scheme, released by Bothtec for the PC-8801, was an action RPG with a similar side-scrolling open-world gameplay to Metroid.[6] Compile's The Guardian Legend that year was a successful fusion of the action-adventure, shoot 'em up and role-playing game genres, later inspiring acclaimed titles such as Sigma Star Saga in 2005.[10] That same year, Arsys Software released Star Cruiser for the PC-88. This innovative game is notable for being a very early example of an RPG with fully 3D polygonal graphics,[11] combined with first-person shooter gameplay,[12] which would occasionally switch to space flight simulator gameplay when exploring outer space with six degrees of freedom. All the backgrounds, objects and opponents in the game were rendered in 3D polygons, many years before they were widely adopted by the gaming industry. The game also emphasized storytelling, with plot twists and extensive character dialogues.[11] It was later ported to the Sega Mega Drive in 1990.[12] The game's sequel, Star Cruiser 2, was released in 1992,[13] for the PC-9821 and FM Towns computers.[14]

In 1990, Hideo Kojima's SD Snatcher, while turn-based, introduced an innovative first-person shooter-based battle system where firearm weapons (each with different abilities and target ranges) have limited ammunition and the player can aim at specific parts of the enemy's body with each part weakening the enemy in different ways. Such a battle system has rarely been used since,[15] though similar battle systems based on targeting individual body parts can later be found in Square's Vagrant Story (2000), a pausable real-time RPG[16] that uses both melee and bow & arrow weapons,[17] as well as Bethesda's Fallout 3 (2008) and Nippon Ichi's Last Rebellion (2010).[18] In 1996, Night Slave was a shooter RPG released for the PC-98 that combined the side-scrolling shooter gameplay of Assault Suits Valken and Gradius, including an armaments system that employs recoil physics, with many RPG elements such as permanently levelling up the mecha and various weapons using power-orbs obtained from defeating enemies as well as storyline cut scenes, which occasionally contain erotic lesbian adult content.[6]

Other early shooter-based action RPGs include the Parasite Eve series of survival horror RPGs (1998 onwards) by Square (now Square Enix),[19][20] the Deus Ex series (2000 onwards) by Eidos Interactive (now Square Enix Europe), Ancient's vehicular combat RPG Car Battler Joe (2002),[21] Konami's solar-powered stealth-based Boktai series (2003 onwards),[22] Irem's Steambot Chronicles (2005),[23] Square Enix's third-person shooter RPG Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII (2006)[24] which introduced an over-the-shoulder perspective similar to Resident Evil 4,[25] and the MMO vehicular combat game Auto Assault (2006) by NetDevil and NCsoft.[21] Other action RPGs featured both hack & slash and shooting elements, with the use of both guns (or in some cases, bow & arrow or aerial combat) and melee weapons, including the Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner series (1995 onwards) by Atlus,[26] tri-Ace's Star Ocean series (1996 onwards),[27][28] Cavia's flight-based Drakengard series (2003 to 2005),[29][30] and Level-5's Rogue Galaxy (2005).[31]

Recent history[]

Recent RPS games include the Mass Effect series (2007 onwards), Fallout 3 (2008), White Gold: War in Paradise (2008), and Borderlands (2009).[1] Borderlands developer Gearbox software has dubbed it as a "role-playing shooter" due to the heavy RPG elements within the game, such as quest-based gameplay and also its character traits and leveling system.[32] Sega's Valkyria Chronicles series (2008 onwards) features a unique blend of tactical role-playing game, real-time strategy and third-person tactical shooter elements (including a cover system), for which it has been described as "the missing link" between Final Fantasy Tactics and Full Spectrum Warrior.[33] Half-Minute Hero (2009) is an RPG shooter featuring self-referential humour and a 30-second time limit for each level and boss encounter.[34] Other recent action role-playing games with shooter elements include the 2010 titles Resonance of Fate by tri-Ace,[35] Alpha Protocol by Obsidian Entertainment, and The Last Story by Mistwalker which uses crossbows (instead of guns) in a manner similar to cover-based third-person shooters.[36] Square Enix's 2010 release, The 3rd Birthday, the third game in the Parasite Eve series, features a unique blend of action RPG, real-time tactical RPG, survival horror and third-person tactical shooter elements.[37][38] 2010 cult hit NIER is a multi-genre action-RPG with a heavy emphasis on 2D and 3D Bullet hell game mechanics. Knights in the Nightmare is an RPG with Real Time Strategy/Bullet hell gameplay.

Other recent shooter-based RPGs include Imageepoch's post-apocapytic Black Rock Shooter which employs first-person shooter elements,[39] as well as third-person shooter elements,[40] Square Enix's Final Fantasy Versus XIII which will feature both hack & slash and third-person shooter elements,[41] and Final Fantasy Type-0 which plays similarly to the The 3rd Birthday but is not limited to shooting.[42]

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 A Visual Guide To The Role-Playing Game. (2010-05-25). Retrieved on 2010-10-25
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Screamer at MobyGames
  3. The Screamer. (2006-12-26). Retrieved on 2011-03-29 (Translation)
  4. The Screamer, Legendra
  5. Kurt Kalata, Xanadu, Hardcore Gaming 101
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 John Szczepaniak. Retro Japanese Computers: Gaming's Final Frontier. Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved on 2011-03-18 (Reprinted from Retro Gamer, Issue 67, 2009)
  7. 7.0 7.1 【リリース】プロジェクトEGGから3月25日に「ウィバーン」発売. Retrieved on 2011-03-05 (Translation)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Kevin Gifford, Shiryō Sensen: War of the Dead,, November 10, 2009
  9. 9.0 9.1 John Szczepaniak, War of the Dead, Hardcore Gaming 101, 15 January 2011
  10. Thomas, Lucas M. (2005-08-18). "'Sigma Star' Combines RPG, Shoot-Em'-Up Action". Evansville Courier & Press: p. D11. Archived from the original on 2009-06-25. Retrieved 2008-06-25. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 スタークルーザー (translation),
  12. 12.0 12.1 Shooter role-playing video games at Allgame via the Wayback Machine
  13. でんげき~別館~ (Translation), Dengeki
  14. 日記(バックナンバー) (Translation), Dengeki
  15. Kurt Kalata, Snatcher, Hardcore Gaming 101
  16. Jeremy Parish (2006-03-18). Retronauts: Volume 4 - Yasumi Matsuno. Retrieved on 2011-04-09
  17. Vagrant Story - Retroview. RPGamer. Retrieved on 2011-04-09
  18. European date fixed for the action / RPG Last Rebellion (Translation),
  19. Parasite Eve, GamePro
  20. Sean Ridgeley (March 15, 2011). Parasite Eve released on PlayStation Network. Neoseeker. Retrieved on 2011-04-09
  21. 21.0 21.1 Kaiser, Joe (July 8, 2005). Unsung Inventors. Archived from the original on 2005-10-28 Retrieved on 2010-04-02
  22. Retroactive: Kojima's Productions (Page 2), 1UP
  23. Steambot Chronicles, Siliconera
  24. JAPAN: Final Fantasy VII PSP and Potions, Edge
  25. Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII. Siliconera. Retrieved on 2011-03-29
  26. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner – Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army, Siliconera
  27. Star Ocean: Second Evolution, GamePro
  28. Preview: 'Resonance of Fate' (360, PS3), Digital Spy
  29. Drakengard (PS2),, accessed 2011-02-27
  30. Drakengard 2 Review, GameSpot, February 15, 2006
  31. Rogue Galaxy: charming and cel shaded, Siliconera
  32. Borderlands: Game Of The Year Edition, Inside Mac Games
  33. IGN: Valkyria Chronicles Review. IGN (October 29, 2008). Archived from the original on 2 November 2008 Retrieved on 2008-11-05
  34. Keith Stuart (4 March 2011). 2D Forever: the fall and rise of hardcore Japanese game design. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2011-03-23
  35. Resonance of Fate out March 26,
  36. Tom Goldman, Sakaguchi's Last Story a Wii RPG To Anticipate, The Escapist
  37. Patrick Kolan (March 25, 2011). The 3rd Birthday Review: Manhattan just can't catch a break these days. IGN. Retrieved on 2011-04-01
  38. David Wolinsky (April 7, 2011). The 3rd Birthday review: New year's Eve. Joystiq. Archived from the original on 4 May 2011 Retrieved on 2011-04-09
  39. Tom Goldman (24 Nov 2010), Imageepoch Unveils New Wave of JRPGs, The Escapist
  40. Black Rock Shooter: The Game In Development For PSP, Siliconera
  41. Final Fantasy Versus XIII trailer leaks out, Gamertell
  42. Parish, Jeremy (09/14/2011). TGS: Final Fantasy Type-0 is Dark, Ambitious, Promising (PSP): The game formerly known as Agito demos well on the show floor. Retrieved on 17 September 2011