For quite a while now, iOS devices (smartphones and tablets in general for that matter) have been considered as simply ‘casual’ devices when it comes to gaming experiences. That might be true for the most part, but the truth is that there are quite a few niches of extremely challenging genres that will test the skill of even the most experienced gamers out there.
One of these niches is ‘Shmup’ games. Shmup stands for ‘Shoot ’em Up’, which is a genre of games where the player usually controls a character (a spaceship most of the time) that engages in a lone assault against a large number of enemies while at the same time avoiding their attacks.
In short: Shoot everything in sight and avoid getting killed.
There are quite a few of these in the App Store, and not only are some of them extremely challenging, but some of them are even straight ports from those popular arcade games of old.
Let’s take a look at five of the best and most daunting shmup games you can test your skills against right now on your iOS devices.
1. DoDonPachi Resurrection HD
Almost everyone who has ever played a shmup of old knows about DoDonPachi Resurrection ($13.99/Free), the legendary vertical shooting game where you control a fighter that is pitted against hordes of enemies and countless bullets (a sub-genre often referred to as ‘Bullet Hell’).
The iOS version of the game features two game modes, Arcade and Smartphone as well as two different scoring systems.
DoDonPachi Resurrection HD is as hardcore as it gets and will challenge even veteran players of the genre in its highest difficulty level.
2. Bug Princess 2: Black Label
Don’t let yourself be fooled by the cute looks and voice acting of this one. Bug Princess 2: Black Label ($13.99/Free) for iOS is in fact a perfect port of the original arcade classic that features insane vertical shooting action as you ride a giant beetle (yes, you read that right, a giant beetle) that shoots magic bullets.
Besides the frenetic action and hellish bullet patterns you have to avoid, Bug Princess 2: Black Label boasts a few additions in its iOS version. There, you can access a new ‘God’ mode, an alternate scoring system and most importantly, a new Boss Rush mode which pits you against all the bosses from both the original Bug Princess and Bug Princess 2.
3. Sine Mora
Imagine this: On an alien planet, a race hunted by a genocidal empire is involved in an Eternal War – a war that never ends because this race has the unique ability to time travel. Thus, they are constantly time-jumping in order to avoid extinction.
If you are surprised by the sheer potential of this plot, you are not alone. In a genre where plot is usually skimped over, Sine Mora ($5.99) provides not just some of the most beautiful visuals of any iOS game, but also a deep story that makes players actually care for the game’s characters in this great vertical shooter.
The classic shmup action is there as well, but with a twist: Since you control the race that can time-jump, time is the main currency here as timer is displayed at the top of the screen. If the time runs out your character dies. Taking damage from enemies subtracts from the times, while destroying enemies adds precious seconds to it.
The game also features four difficulty levels, with the two most difficult ones providing a full on arcade experience without any story to interrupt the gameplay. Controls are not 100% fluid though, which is sad and definitely makes facing the harder levels almost impossible.
4. Sky Force 2014
Originally released in 2004, Sky Force 2014 (Free) is a full blown remake of the original, with colorful graphics that just shine on iOS devices and that really highlight simple and straightforward mechanics.
You control your ship with one finger as its automatic cannon blasts through waves of enemies while trying to fend countless bullets and at the same time trying to save as many hostages as possible. As you successfully progress through a level, you will upgrade your bullets, but at the same time, enemies will increase both their strength and numbers, making Sky Force 2014 play like a bullet hell game at times.
There are a couple of mechanics that hinder the otherwise neat and fluid gameplay though: the most noticeable of these is a wait timer for your upgrades, which literally forces you to wait to become stronger. Besides that though, Sky Force 2014 plays like a quite competent shmup, and I’d say it is a great entry point for those interested in vertical shooters, even if it might not be everything a hardcore shmup fan would hope for.
Considered to be a classic among hardcore fans of shooters, R.Type ($1.99) is a game you can not miss if you like entries in the genre with a unique feel. The iOS version of this classic horizontal shooter, is a faithful incarnation of the game’s original entry, which is known for featuring a slower pace, but that demands that players memorize the attack patterns of enemies.
This, along with exclusive iOS features, such as improved touch controls and the addition of two difficulty settings, makes this great but difficult game a bit more accessible for newcomers. But don’t deceive yourself: R.Type, even in its iOS version is a hard game meant for long time fans of shooters. The feeling of reward once you master it is just as unique though, so it is definitely a game worth trying.
There you have them. Whether you are a long time fan of shooters or are looking for a new challenge on your iPhone or your iPad, you should definitely consider trying out these games. You won’t be disappointed.