Rail shooters can be a lot of fun, but by design they are not the ideal games for exploration or experimentation. Whether you’re an experienced rail shooter looking for a bit of a twist, or you’re a newbie looking for an accessible and interesting introduction to the genre, you’re in the right place!
Originally made for the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2, Rez is a musical rail shooter that sends players into a malfunctioning AI not only to fight off enemies like viruses and firewalls, but to be confronted with technological singularity, and the meaning of life itself. The gameplay is synced to music, with projectiles hitting to the beat.
Drawing inspiration from European disco music and rave culture, Rez aims to create a sense of synaesthesia with vibration feedback for different controllers. As the player shoots down enemies, the impact syncs with the background track to add layers and depth to the music. Pretty amazing for a game first released in 2001 – it’s understandable why many have called Rez one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time.
The remastered version of Rez, Rez Infinite, is available now on Steam and is VR compatible!
This game is unique to this list as it does not only include on-rail movement, but also incorporates action-adventure and FPS mechanics. You play as a “group” of elite assassins on an alternate version of Earth, tasked with facing invisible enemies called “Smilers”, which can only be revealed by switching to a first-person viewpoint (which disables movement). Once killed, Smiler blood can be used to upgrade stamina and experience.
The plot follows an elderly man named Harman Smith who has a condition that allows him to physically transform into one of seven personae, contracted by the US government to aid in the elimination of the the “Heaven Smile” terrorist group. If that hasn’t grabbed you, I’m just not sure what will.
Killer7’s striking arthouse graphics and noir-inspired plot have been raved over by critics since the game’s initial 2005 release. While the gameplay largely follows action-adventure mechanics, Killer7 provides a unique gameplay blend that fully utilises the conventions of the rail shooter genre, and is sure to satisfy any gamer. Check it out today on Steam!
Say No! More
According to its retail description, Say No! More is the world’s first NPG, or No!-Playing Game. You play as an overworked intern who has discovered an amazing ability – the power to say ‘no’ to ridiculous requests. Instead of shooting bullets, you shoot ‘Nos’ into your colleagues, supervisors and bosses. The ‘Nos’ can even be charged up or said with different emotional inflections for maximum effectiveness.
Say No! More is a great example of an accessible introduction to the rail shooter genre, with simple controls that are ideal for newbs. You can customise your character, make friends on your lunch break, and cause general havoc in the workplace. It’s an offer that’s hard to refuse!
If you’re looking for a game with fun, poppy visuals and a comedic inclination, this is the game we recommend. Check it out on Steam now!
New Pokémon Snap
Maybe I’m just thick, but I didn’t realise that Pokémon Snap counted as a rail shooter! Instead of shooting to kill, you’ll be going from island to island to snap cute pics of your favourite pocket monsters and build up your very own Photodex, with over 200 wild Pokémon to capture (photographically speaking).
The game guides you through various locations in the Lental region by giving you your very own hovercraft, the NEO-ONE. It’s up to you to scan the environment and take the perfect shot before the Pokémon in question moves out of frame – of course, you can always use a fluffruit treat to coax shy Pokémon from their hiding places.
Pokémon Snap was originally released on the Nintendo 64 in 1999, but has since gotten a serious makeover for the Nintendo Switch. In the reboot you can edit and customise photos, and even share them online. Your photos will even be ranked out of four stars by Professor Mirror!
Check the game out for yourself on the Nintendo store.
Gal*Gun Double Peace
Well, I imagine most of us are already familiar with this one, but Gal*Gun obviously deserves a spot on this list. This unique rail shooter (the second in the Gal*Gun series) has been covered extensively by influencers and content creators, no doubt due to its unique ecchi mechanics.
When a mishap between a cupid and a demon leaves an entire school madly infatuated with high-schooler Houdai, he has to fight them off with a pheromone shot, which overwhelms girls with… “euphoria”… (If I’m being too subtle, you have a gun that makes girls instantly cum).
Fun fact – this game is banned in New Zealand!
There are over seventy girls in the game to interact with and experiment with in order to find Houdai’s “true love” before sunset and avoid a lifetime of loneliness. This game is perfect for the gamer who likes a bit of spicy VA action in their rail shooters. Check it out on Steam here.
The original Panzer Dragoon game was released in 1995, and is unique for the simple and delightful fact that you get to ride dragons.
Spanning six levels and a variety of boss battles, the player controls a flying dragon and his rider as well as shoot down a plethora of fantastical enemies. Instead of fire, the dragon shoots a “homing laser” which can lock on to up to eight enemies (badass). Though the dragon flies on a predetermined track, the player can move an aiming reticle that can guide the dragon to avoid projectiles and enemy attacks.
Panzer Dragoon has been followed up by three sequels and some spin-offs, as well as a remake that was released in 2020.
Did we miss anything out?
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