In a surprising turn of events, one of the classic gaming genres that turned out to be best-suited to mobile gaming was the humble shoot-em-up. And hey, why not? The granular control touch movement offers and the vertical alignment of screens of mobile devices are obvious advantages, and there isn’t really a need for mapping a whole bunch of buttons. The genre flourished on mobile, both in terms of ported classics and great new games. I’ve gathered up ten of my very favorites and put them in a list, as my kind does. Do note that these are simply my favorites, so if you have any that you feel should be on this list please comment below and help others find them. Oh, and the list is in no particular order. With all that said, let’s get on with it!
AKA TO BLUE, $7.99
Tanoshimasu’s Aka to Blue feels so much like a proper full-sized arcade game that it’s hard to believe it was born on mobile. I suppose others agreed because this game eventually made the hop to arcades on the exA-Arcadia system. You can still play on mobile, and it’s as hot as it ever was. This developer was founded by former members of Cave, and it truly shows. It looks and sounds great, it has a deep, rich scoring system, and it’s a huge amount of fun.
Phoenix 2, Free
One of the kings of the genre on mobile, Phoenix II is a technical showpiece that plays as good as it looks and is busting at the seams with content. Unlocking all of that content is either going to take deep pockets or a lot of time, but it’s a credit to the game that you can fully enjoy the game without breaking the bank on IAPs. If you do choose to indulge, you’ll find the new ships to offer plenty of new ways to enjoy the game. It’s free to try, so why not give it a go and see what the fuss is all about?
Bullet Hell Monday, Free
Bullet Hell Monday is but one of several mobile shooters from developer Masayuki Ito, and it is telling no lies with its title. Except for the fact that you can play it on any day of the week, I suppose. Visually, this one is a bit more abstract than most of the other games on this list, but it has a nice look to it and everything is very clear at a glance. You’ll need to play well to earn mission points if you want to make progress in this game, giving it a distinct flavor that also helps teach you the ins and outs of its systems. Another one that is free to try, so do that little thing.
Danmaku Unlimited 3, $4.99
Sheer, unbridled chaos. That is how Danmaku Unlimited 3 feels the first time you play it, and part of the magic of this game is that you will eventually feel completely comfortable wading through that chaos. You’re certainly not lacking in fire power in this game at any moment, but none of that matters as much as precise dodging and grazing bullets to crank up your score. Danmaku Unlimited 3 doesn’t fool around, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
DoDonPachi Resurrection HD, $5.99
For how often bullet hell-style shooters appear on this list, we’d be remiss if we failed to include one of the major pioneers of that style of shooter. Cave’s name is legendary in shoot-em-up circles, and most of its games have stood the test of time with absolute grace. DoDonPachi Resurrection is a fantastic mobile port of the fifth game in the company’s flagship series, and it has everything people tend to love in a bullet hell shoot-em-up. Great bullet patterns, a deep scoring system to master, exciting boss battles, and some great tunes to blast along with. It’s also available on Apple Arcade if that is your preferred way to go about things.
Okay, there has been a certain, shall we say, theme to this list so far. Sorry, there are just a ton of great vertical bullet hell games on mobile. But if your preferences lean in a different direction, you may want to check out Steredenn. It’s a roguelite take on the genre where your ship powers up more as you play. It’s also side-scrolling, which I know some players favor. Due to how the game is structured, this one doesn’t come blazing out of the gates like some of the other games in this list, but those who put time into it will likely find it rewarding.
Sky Force Reloaded, Free
If you like the sound of what I just talked about in Steredenn but prefer vertical scrolling, then you’ve got to give Sky Force Reloaded a go. This one also sees you dying, upgrading, and trying again, but with more of a focus on trying to complete special missions on each stage. It’s a bit of a tough nut to crack at times, but you’ll keep coming back to try again and again. It sure doesn’t hurt that it looks gorgeous. While this is another free-to-start one, the IAPs are few and affordable here if you want to go premium.
Okay, this list could use a couple more classics to round it out. So let’s throw in Taito’s superb RayForce, the beginning of a trilogy of games that are all available on mobile and all worth your attention. The key feature of this game is the lock-on laser that allows you target enemies on other planes. You need to keep your eyes open for opportunities to use it, not only to increase your odds of survival but also to boost your score. A fine conversion of a great game from the company that more or less popularized the genre back in the day.
BLAZING STAR, $0.99
BO-NUS! SNK’s NEOGEO platform was mostly known for fighting games and the Metal Slug series, but it had a few very strong entries in other genres as well. Arguably its best shoot-em-up is the side-scrolling Blazing Star, which was brought to mobile by DotEmu some time ago. The detailed graphics and mesmerizing action are the big features of this one, but it’s also something of a reprieve for those seeking a more classic-style shooter than the somewhat frenzied bullet-dodgers that are most popular today.
I’m slipping in one last one of those anyway, though. ZeroVector, true to its name, uses vector-style graphics. That gives the game a very distinct look, but don’t take that to mean that the action is old-fashioned. No, this is a very busy, challenging game with lots of interesting systems to learn. It may not have the fanciest graphics of the games in this list, but if you give it some of your time you’ll find that it shines just as brightly as the rest. Another one that is free to try, this time with a very affordable IAP to remove ads. Try it out!
And that’s the list, friends. Do you have any mobile shoot-em-ups that you love that you don’t see on this list? Comment below and let us all know! I’m sure anyone would be happy to have more great shooters to play. Thanks for reading!