Announcing the Shmup Community Game-Along

Ah, September… When the seasons start to change and suddenly it feels like we’re rapidly hurdling towards the end of the year. Last month we celebrated a very classic, and still widely praised, game genre: the platformer. This month, however, it’s time to turn our attention toward a genre that hasn’t seen a whole lot of love on recent consoles, but is still very near and dear to many: the humble shmup.


Shoot ’em ups, affectionally known as shmups, are considered shooters but have a couple of distinct characteristics that set them apart from other games in the shooting genre: namely, an emphasis on fast reflexes and chaotic screens filled with enemies. Shmups are some of the oldest games around, and can be traced all the way back to 1962’s Spacewar!, though the most commonly known retro shmup would undoubtedly be Space Invaders. Nowadays, shumps are somewhat of a dying breed, partially due to the industry’s focus on first person shooters and graphical prowess, which is why we’re going to dedicate the whole month of September to remembering some of the classics and uncovering new shmup gems!

As always, the “rules” of the Community Game-Alongs are simple – just play any game that fits the theme and share your experiences with others! Feel free to post write-ups of your game(s) of choice on your own site, record a podcast, or use #Shmuptember on your preferred social media. Of course, how you choose to share your experiences (or not), is up to you! If you’re having a hard time picking something to play, here are a few suggestions that hopefully won’t be too difficult to obtain if you don’t already own them:


Gradius (3DS Virtual Console) – It’s hard to talk about shmups without mentioning one of the most famous shmup series to date, Gradius. If you want to go back and experience the game that started it all, you can do so on the 3DS Virtual Console, but be warned, the original is quite dated, and will likely seem even more so for those who have never played it before. If you want to play what are considered fan-favorites in the series, try to get your hands on Gradius Gaiden (in the PSP title Gradius Collection) or Gradius V (PS2).


ETHER VAPOR Remaster (PC) – If it hasn’t already become apparent, I actually know next to nothing about shmups and thus have very little in the way of personal recommendations in this genre! One recent game I have played, however, is ETHER VAPOR Remaster, a 3D doujin shmup that was localized by Nyu Media. While I have no idea how it’s viewed within the shmup fan community, I quite enjoyed my time with it, and there’s even a free demo on Nyu Media’s website, so you can try it before you commit.


CAVE shmups (various) – CAVE has carved itself out a nice niche within the already niche genre of shmups by focusing on what has been coined “bullet hell” shooters. While only a fraction of their games have been released outside of Japan, popular releases such as Deathsmiles can be found on Xbox 360 or iOS/Android, along with Akai Katana (Xbox 360) and Mushihimesama (iOS/Android). Their DonPatchi series is also a shmup classic, and the great thing about shmups is you don’t really need to know any Japanese to be able to play them! If you don’t want to shell out lots of cash to pick up physical console versions of these games, quite a few CAVE titles are available on smartphones. Check out the full list on their website.

Do you have any other shmup suggestions for newcomers to the genre, or those looking for something a little less mainstream? Share your picks in the comments, and let us know what you plan on playing!

About Anne Lee

Also known as apricotsushi. Anne can be written with the kanji for apricot (杏), and sushi was the most quintessentially Japanese thing I could think of when I was 13, resulting in my goofy, albeit memorable, nickname.