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by Burkhart von Klitzing

The App Store is the epitome of the term "mixed bag". If you're willing to dig deep enough you can find just about anything in there and the store is still growing rapidly. The offering ranges from useful apps that have you ask yourself again and again how you could have ever lived without them before as well as possibly somewhat less useful apps like virtual whoopee cushions, pimple poppers and kebab skewers slowly rotating on the screen. With the gaming section being by far the biggest on the App Store, variety there is obviously just as big, if not bigger, both in terms of contents and quality. There are all kinds of seemingly haphazardly tucked together monstrosities born out of a boring lunch break, uninspired clones of clones of clones of old clones of games that once might have been regarded as being creative in a way, some more uninspired clones done by big companies trying to make a quick buck by tacking on some of their franchises, (sometimes bizarre) ports of older games (Alpine Racer? Really, Namco?) for the most part without any consideration as of whether a button-less device is even up for the task, genuinely great indie games, neat diversions for boring lunch breaks (take note, shoddy app developers. This might be a better way for you to spend your time.), huge big-name apps with amazing visuals that even play a lot better than they have any right to do with a virtual d-pad, etc.

Amidst the huge selection of games there is more than enough space for a few niches, which even allows genres mostly dead on other devices to somewhat bloom again. Take Beat 'em Ups for example. Sure, Final Fight was an anticipated release when it finally hit XBLA and there's also the inexplicably popular Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Castle Crashers, but otherwise the genre unfortunately is mostly a relic of old days, with once prolific companies like Konami, Sega and Capcom shunning away from it or others like Technos simply not being around anymore. On the iPhone on the other hand we not only have some ports of old classics, but also quite a lot of newly developed titles (if only rather bland ones, for the most part) and a brand new Double Dragon. Or text adventures. The only prominent appearance they have made outside of the iPhone was as a gimmick in Call of Duty Black Ops, which was probably a waste considering your standard Call of Duty demographic. On the iPhone though we have at least an absurdly overpriced port of Mystery House as well as Frotz, which features myriads of new text adventures as well as old classics. Arguably the most prolific genre of the old days on the App Store, though, is the good old Shoot 'em Up. Heck, even Electronic Arts of all companies has a shooter in its catalogue.

Of course there are your standard Space Invaders clones (another product of those boring lunch breaks?) and some shoddy game collections priced at a mere buck feature even shoddier shooters and the dual-stick hype made popular by Geometry Wars delights us with a lot of me-toos, but you can also find some competent ports, good games obviously inspired by true classics and best of all: Except for the Cave games they're mostly dirt cheap. An interesting tidbit about iPhone shooters is that a considerable amount of them are made by Chinese for whatever reason.

This article is split up into eight parts: The first one covers all vertical scrolling shooters, while the second one focuses on the horizontally scrolling ones (go figure). The third section will take a look at dual-stick shooters, which is first followed by other arena-based shooters, then by restrictive shooters and then by a section about anything else in the genre usually with games mixing different styles or genres. The second to last part covers game collections that happen to among others also contain retro shooters. I originally intended to cover every single collection with shooters in them, until I came to realize that there are way too many of these and basically none of them are truly interesting, since they are shoddily designed and executed fillers, scraping the bottom of the barrel even more than some of the worst stand-alone shooter releases. The final part covers other apps with a shooter theme. Wait, bear with me! You'll come to understand.

While the first two groups of games should be easy to classify for the most part, others can prove to be more difficult, especially dual-stick shooters, which easily border on action games like Gauntlet, Commando and so on. Some people will possibly disagree on some of my decisions as to what qualifies as a Shoot 'em Up and what doesn't, but I'm always open for discussion on the forums. As of now, games such as Minigore, iDracula, Battle for Cydonia and Bug Heroes are not included, simply for not feeling like a shooter, even though, yeah, you actually shoot in them. And quite a lot at that. Plus, the majority of a game has to be in a shoot 'em up style, so no Choplifter-style games as they tend to equally focus on keeping your craft under control, rescuing people and shooting and also no Metal Slug Touch, despite its sidescrolling flying stages, sorry. What's more, I don't count games such as Gunner Galaxies or Chromanoids where you control a static gun turret leaving you unable to move like in Missile Command. As a general rule of thumb, the later a game is listed in its section, the less worthwhile it is. So for example the first horizontal shooter is arguably the best one and the last vertical shooter is least likely to set your gaming world on fire. I try to pack sequels together for the most part, though, so sometimes there might be a game listed a bit higher than it actually deserves just for the reading convenience. Also, as it is nigh impossible to keep track of the whole App Store, I will probably have missed a few shooters, so I'd appreciate any heads up on other games for me to add to the article.

Ok, as of now, I do have left out a couple of games, mostly because they are too expensive for how (un-)interesting they look, but I will eventually cover these as well: Ace Omicron / Fast Striker / PewPew 2 / Alien Invaders 2 / BattleSquadr1 / MetalAngel / Ultranium 4 / Chromium ES / Air Combat / AeroNauts / Cave Shooter 2

Hot Field


Dodonpachi Resurrection

Vertical Shooters

Your avatar usually follows a route either upwards or downwards, which is mostly visualized either by a scrolling background or enemies mostly entering the screen from said direction or often even both. Another rule of classification necessary for the sake of the comprehensiveness of this article is that you have to be able to freely move on both the x-axis and the y-axis, excluding classic examples like River Raid. It's not the be all and end all way to do it, but trust me when I say I tweaked the whole categorization progress a couple of times and this is the best way I could come up with. Your average Gametrailers or GameFAQs user would describe a vertical shooter as "Hey, that totally looks like Ikaruga" and others would follow suit by adding "yeah, that's exactly what I thought".

Page 001:
Espgaluda II
DoDonPachi Resurrection
Bug Princess / Mushihimesama
DoDonPachi Blissful Death
Bug Princess 2

Page 002:
Space Invaders Infinity Gene
Super Laser: The Alien Fighter
Danmaku Unlimited

Page 003:
rRootage Online
EXEXE Rebirth

Page 004:
Wave: Against every BEAT!
Space Ship Ion
Sky Combat
Sky Force
Sky Force Reloaded

Page 005:
Roswell Fighter
A Space Shooter For Free
A Doodle Flight
Absolute Instant

Page 006:
Hypership Out of Control
Shooting Game KARI
iStriker: Rescue & Combat
Boss Battles
Buster Red

Page 007:
Shoot the Magic
1945 Air Strike
Sky Knight Ex
Lightning Fighter
1942: First Strike

Page 008:
Centipede: Origins
ISUD: Bullet Hell Action!
Techno Trancer

Page 009:
Mortal Skies
Doodle Arcade Shooter
Mortal Skies 2
Jet Fighter Ace
Neocell Fighters Evolution

Page 010:
Star Soldier
Bunz Fighters
Goku Flight

Page 011:
Siberian Strike
Sky Thunder
AstroWings Returns
AstroWings 2: Space Odyssey

Page 012:
AstroWings: War has begins
Aeronauts: Quake in the Sky
SkySmash 1918
Shoot it
Cosmic Birds

Page 013:
Aerial Assault
Ace Doodle Fighter
Ace Fighter
AsciiArt Wars Free
ArcadeGuardian PRO / iGuardian

Page 014:
Angel Rush
Sky Fighter!

Page 015:
Metal Angel
River Raid F22
iFighter 1945
Magnetar: Space Fighter

Page 016:
BSquadron: Battle for Earth The Orbital Hive
UFO Attack!
Point Blast Free
Space Falcon Commander

Page 017:
Jet Pilot
Ace Shooter
Flare Elite
Pacific Wings

Page 018:
Galaxy Wings
UFO Invader
Star Aliens Wars
Stellar Blast
Retro Shoot

Page 019:
Doodle War
Space War
xFighter 2
Ace Striker

Page 020:
Above the Sky
Fish V Monsters
Strikers 2045 Lite
Earth Invader
SpitFire Pilot

Page 021:
Galactic Battle Strike
Ace Fighter Plane !!
Alpha Combat: Defend Your Country
Fantasy Night of TouHou Project
Fast Striker

Horizontal Shooters

Roughly the same as vertical shooters by definition, with the only (obvious) difference being your movement mostly leading left or right. Gradius and R-Type would be the most prominent classic examples that also happen to be available on the App Store.

Page 101:
Cell War
Physics Shoot

Page 102:
Earth Defense Force
Blazing Arc: Magical Shooting Game
Flying Hamster

Page 103:
Platypus: Squishy Shoot-em-up
Cobra Strike
P-47: The Phantom Fighter
Blazing Star
Space Storm

Page 104:
Seawolf Attack
Neon Wars
Falcon Raider
Apache Overkill
Room War Deluxe

Page 105:
Codename Cobra: Desert Storm Deluxe
Codename Cobra Classic DX
Orion Fighter
Chopper Desert Storm
Blast Fighter

Page 106:
Space Cadet: Pedometer RPG Edition
Invader War
Zombie Skies
Sky Warriors
Sky Warriors 2

Dual-Stick Shooters

Shooters in which one stick controls movement and another one controls the weapons. All of these also have you play inside some sort of confined arena which can be traversed as you wish. Other arena-based shooters differing in their control scheme usually have a very different feel to them which is why games like Asteroid are part of another section. Prime examples for dual-stick shooters would be Robotron and Geometry Wars.

Page 201:
Pew Pew
Critical Wave
Particle Wars
Last Line of Defense

Page 202:
SpaceBoss Free
Amoebas Attack
Meteor Blitz
Geometry Wars: Touch

Page 203:
Nano Fighter! 2.1
AbstractWar 2.0
Infinity Field

Page 204:
Vertex Blaster
Asteroids Gunner
Violet Storm
Red Storm Survival
Glow Shooter

Page 205:
Super Cyclone
2079 Tilt!
Star Blitz
Alien Space
Alien Space Retro

Page 206:
Astro Bang
geoFighter: Light Wars
Shape Shooter

Other Arena-Based Shooters

This section covers all kinds of shooters with a level design similar to dual-stick shooters, though using different controls like for example confining acceleration to a simple thrust button rather than giving the player a second stick for precise movement, resulting in a vastly different feel. The best classic example for this would have to be Asteroids.

Page 301:
MiniSquadron Special Edition
Space Miner Blast
Space Junk

Page 302:
A.C.E.: Air Combat Elite
Asteroid Dust
Retro Dust

Page 303:

Page 304:
Warp Fighter
Air Combat
Aero Masters

Page 305:
Asteroids: Classic Arcade Game
Advanced ROX
Metero Blaster

Page 306:
Near-Earth Objects

Restrictive Shooters

On first look it might seem like this section could for the most part just as well be labeled "Space Invaders clones", although there are a few different classic examples like Galaga, Phoenix and Galaxian, but it turns out there are a lot of interesting efforts to be found in this subgenre on the App Store. In restrictive shooters the background usually remains static and enemies usually stay on-screen for good as opposed to vertical and horizontal shooters where ground based enemies disappear as you fly by or air based enemies enter the screen mid-game and leave it again. A simple, moving background alone would still allow a game to be included here if its gameplay isn't affected by that. The most important aspect, though, is to limit your movement to either the x-axis or the y-axis. In the beginning, this section bore the moniker „static shooters“, being a common term for Space Invaders and its brethren, but for whatever reason iOS developers seemed fit to cram standard vertical and horizontal shooters into this category by restricting the player's movement. This made it pretty painful to differentiate between different sub-genres, thus leading to this new term. It might be stupid and it will probably never catch on, but that's not all that important as it's only really necessary for iOS shooters. At least there don't seem to be any vertical or horizontal shooters that take away control over either the y-axis or the x-axis on any other system.

Page 401:
Super Crossfire
Space Inversion
Space Inversion 2.

Page 402:
Cave Shooter
Cave Shooter 2
Bullet Boy
Space Patrol

Page 403:
Buggy Blaster
Galaga Remix
Super Blast
Super Blast 2
Valentine's Day Sucks

Page 404:
Aero Wings
Shark River Raid
AirFox HD
AirFox Halloween Edition
Space Deadbeef

Page 405:
Space Phoenix
Space Falcon Reloaded
Doodle Galaxies
Chalk Fighter

Page 406:
Space Invaders
Sky War
Pew Pew Starblast
Space Monsters 2D 2011
Flight Attack

Page 407:
Floating Space Rocks
Alien Invaders
Space Cadet Defender

Page 408:
Space Cadet Infinite
Ancient Invaders
Thunder Tank Deluxe
Blaster Tank
Jelly Invaders

Page 409:
Space Raid
Doodle Invaders
Death From Above: Space
Earth vs Aliens
Doodle Galaxy

Page 410:
Dead Center
1941 Air Combat
1943 Tank Assault
Sky Heroes HD
Alienintruders v1

Page 411:
Deadly Space
Galaxy Crusaders
Retro Invaders
Alien Attack

Page 412:
SpaceJet: Galaxy Conquest
Space Monsters Mini
Aerial Gun
Sky Fighter!
AAA Sector

Page 413:
Polar Wing
Jet Raid
Alien Intruders
i-Nvaders Special
Cartoon Invaders

Page 414:
Hurricane 1
Star Blast
Aircraft Combat

Other Shooters

Any game one wouldn't argue about not being a shooter that still fails to fit into any of the aforementioned categories. These could be games mixing vertically and horizontally scrolling stages as well as mashups of different genres, for example.

Page 501:
Space Inversion Puzzle
Puzzle Bot Blast
Sketch Nation Shooter
Galaga 30th Collection
Assault Squadron

Page 502:
Weird Space Game
Liberty Wings
Starship Shooter HD
Space Tripper

Page 503:
Retro Fighter
A Glow Fighter
Geometry Fighter

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