The Best Shoot ‘Em Ups On Switch To Play in 2024 – Cave, M2 STG, Taito, and More Shmups – TouchArcade

Welcome to the first SwitchArcade Special of 2024. It has been almost two years since Shaun wrote about the best shoot ’em ups (or shmups) on Switch, and a lot has changed since then, mostly for the better. With multiple fantastic collections, standalone releases, boutique gourmet (I’ll get to this) standalone titles from M2, indie games, and more, the Switch is in a fantastic place for shmups of many kinds. I’ve been enjoying loads of them over the last two years specifically, and have put together a list of the best ones which I keep going back to, and some bonus ones that are worth considering as usual.

Ever since I got into shmups years ago through Dariusburst and the Psikyo releases, I’ve been learning more about the genre and trying out the many games veteran players recommend across platforms. I also started playing many of them with the 8BitDo Arcade Stick on Switch, and have enjoyed playing in handheld mode with the Hori Split Pad Compact recently. Playing shmups from different platforms ported to Switch has also been eye opening with learning about how input lag varies and also discovering how amazing M2 ShotTriggers is since I bought ESP Ra.De. Psi. on Switch.

I initially wanted to keep this to just 10 games as the “top 10″ list for 2024 so far, but just like an M2 ShotTriggers release, I’ve decided to include more than I should, in addition to bonus games and things to give you enough shmup games to add to your wishlist or buy and play for years to come. I’ve played all the games below on Switch and also play them on other platforms when possible. As usual, this list is in no particular order.

Mushihimesama ($19.99)

Let’s start this thing out strong shall we? Cave’s 2004 arcade classic Mushihimesama is an awesome game on its own that happens to also be one of the developer’s more beginner-friendly titles. This release on Switch from Live Wire feels great to play, and includes a plethora of modes. I’ve enjoyed playing this on both Switch and Steam Deck, and it really shines on the good OLED display if you have one. Mushihimesama is also a very influential game with its unique insect-themed setting, and it happens to look gorgeous. I’ll be covering more of Live Wire’s Switch ports here, but I think Mushihimesama is the perfect entry point into a fantastic developer’s library, and one that is essential for any Switch shmup enthusiast or newcomer.

Deathsmiles (Deathsmiles I + II) ($39.99)

While this isn’t available on its own on the Switch, I’ve included only Cave’s 2007-released Deathsmiles here. Deathsmiles, available as a part of the Deathsmiles I + II collection on Switch, is one of the best horizontal shmups of all time. Horizontal shmups usually suit the Switch better for portable play, and while Deathsmiles isn’t as responsive as the best ports to the system when it comes to input lag, it is fantastic with its plethora of content included, and is still worth getting. Deathsmiles is one of my favorite horizontal shmups ever, and I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit on Switch. This bundled release is a bit more expensive compared to other shmups in this list, but there’s no denying the value offered even without taking Deathsmiles II into the equation. Deathsmiles is a great shmup to replay each year as we get into the holiday season and Halloween.

DoDonPachi DaiOuJou Re:Incarnation (Import)

Already an import game? Well, doing a best shmups list and not including DOJ (DoDonPachi DaiOuJou) would be doing a disservice. This game on its own would’ve been worth making a Japanese eShop account for, but having it brought to Switch through M2 ShotTriggers is like a dream come true. It is a fantastic release of one of the best shmups of all time. DOJ AKA DoDonPachi Blissful Death, is considered nearly perfect, and barring one menu issue on Switch, I have no complaints with it. The hyper system, chaining score system, bees (for score), and difficulty rank system all come together to give you a game that’s worth your time and money on any day.

G Darius HD ($29.99)

ININ’s release of G Darius HD in the West (published by Taito in Japan and developed by M2) was actually my first taste of this game. Originally released in 1997 by Taito in arcades, G Darius hit modern systems in the West through ININ Games and was priced at $29.99. I wondered why this was priced so high compared to the Darius collections since this was a single game. I ate my words soon after because G Darius HD ended up being a game I liked enough to the point where I’d pay $60 for it. M2 even went back and patched a massive 2.0 version as a free update making it even better. While not an M2 ShotTriggers release in name, this is basically as close as one can get. The horizontal shmup with its amazing music, capture ball mechanic, twists on classic Darius flavor, and more really is a brilliant release.

Darius Gaiden (Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade) ($44.99)

Another Darius M2 release, the Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade, includes many Darius games, but the standout is Darius Gaiden (1994). Another game I hadn’t heard of (I wish I had gotten into shmups earlier!) until the Switch collection was announced, Darius Gaiden is quickly climbing up my top games of all time list, not just shmups. It has a legendary soundtrack, superb gameplay (that we see built on in G Darius), and is exactly the kind of creativity I love seeing from Taito. If you’ve never played a Darius game, this collection is definitely worth the asking price, but Darius Gaiden is pure bliss with its branching paths and replay value.

Espgaluda II ($19.99)

I haven’t played the first Espgaluda, but Espgaluda II (2005 arcade game) with its lovely gameplay featuring risk reward mechanics and plethora of features included makes for an easy recommendation. It is another great Cave Switch release from Live Wire, and one that isn’t on any other modern platform as of this writing. I liked Espgaluda II so much that I imported the Japanese limited edition physical on Switch. If the look of this one appeals to you, it even has a novice mode that eases you into things, and is worth its low asking price. I love the look, music, and gameplay. There’s no downside to this release really.

Radiant Silvergun ($19.99)

Most shmup fans or newcomers seem to know of Treasure’s Radiant Silvergun. The 1998-released arcade game was ported to Sega Saturn and Xbox 360 before seeing a Nintendo Switch port. I played this on Xbox originally, but have enjoyed Live Wire’s Switch release a lot more. If you’ve never heard of it, Radiant Silvergun isn’t the usual shmup mechanically. It blends a few genres together and makes for a more engaging experience than you’d expect. It is definitely one of the more unique shmups I’ve ever played, and I’m glad to see it available on a portable with such a good conversion (after patches).

Crimzon Clover World Explosion ($19.99)

I first heard of Crimzon Clover through its PC release from developer Yotsubane and publisher Komodo (previously Degica), but when it was released on Switch as Crimzon Clover – World EXplosion, it felt like brilliant madness distilled into a shmup. I played an hour non stop and was in love when I got it. While it has a few small issues with its technical side on Switch compared to Steam, it remains one of the best shmups on the platform and one of the best of all time in the genre. Crimzon Clover – World EXplosion also happens to be a great entry point into the genre despite its daunting screenshots. Some consider this a greatest hits of the best shmup mechanics, but Crimzon Clover – World EXplosion does enough to be its own thing. The developers definitely love the genre and understand what makes a great shmup here.

Danmaku Unlimited 3 ($14.99)

TouchArcade readers will be familiar with this one, and I first played it on iOS as well. Danmaku Unlimited 3 debuted on iOS over half a decade ago with its kickass soundtrack and amazing bullet grazing mechanics. Doragon Entertainment’s shmup is another fantastic entry point into the genre, and it was one of the first few games I played in TATE mode on Switch. There are multiple difficulty options and a good curve that ramps things up without being unfair. The visuals might feel a bit lacking to some, but I love everything about Danmaku Unlimited 3, and was glad it finally got a physical release thanks to the Switch port. I play this regularly on iOS, Switch, Steam Deck, and even PS5 now. It is special, and I can’t wait for the developer’s next game.

Ray’z Arcade Chronology ($49.99)

So far, the games I’ve included here are all top tier games that I’d recommend at full price. Ray’z Arcade Chronology, on the other hand, is a fantastic collection I recommend at full price, but the games aren’t as good on their own. This set includes RayForce (1994), RayCrisis (1998), and RayStorm (1996) together. I’d say 2/3 of this trilogy is worth it, but the whole package is more than the sum of its parts thanks to M2’s amazing work bringing three unique Taito games to modern systems. RayForce itself is worth the lion’s share of the asking price for me, but I do enjoy dipping into RayStorm & RayCrisis as well. Just make sure you don’t buy the wrong collection here because there is another one that has only two games priced at $39.99, and also another release titled Layer Section & Galactic Attack which is also not worth buying. The one to buy is Ray’Z Arcade Chronology ($49.99) with three games included by Taito, M2, and ININ Games.

Drainus ($19.99)

Drainus won several awards in our TouchArcade GOTY 2023 features on Switch, and it is Team Ladybug’s masterpiece. The shmup blends in a few mechanics from the shmup greats, but delivers superlative visuals in the Team Ladybug style and even has an interesting story. I love the power-up system and how accessible it is, but veteran players might be turned off by the difficulty not being as consistent. I’ve adored Drainus on Steam Deck and Switch, and it is one of my favorite horizontal shmups of all time. The weapon system makes replaying it a lot more fun despite it being a bit easy.

Rolling Gunner + Overpower ($19.99 + $9.99)

Rolling Gunner with its Overpower DLC makes for a fantastic shmup package, albeit one that is a bit lacking visually. Barring the visuals feeling generic in certain aspects, it has an amazing soundtrack, brilliant gameplay mechanics, and is super addictive. While the Switch version offers Rolling Gunner on its own, I’d really consider the Overpower DLC as a part of the main game to give it a lot more meat. The combined package and the unique gameplay movement system with attacks makes this an easy recommendation at full price. It also is one of the rare games I can recommend on Switch with no caveats. In fact, I’m certain you will grab it on other platforms as well because Rolling Gunner + Overpower is worth owning everywhere.

Eschatos ($26.99)

Qute’s Eschatos on its own is a brilliant shmup packed full of great modes and features, but the Switch version also ships with Judgement Silversword and Cardinal Sins making it even better. It is an amazing addition to the Switch’s library, and yet another great entry point based on how I found it when I first played it. It definitely excels for its scoring and weapon systems, but the Eschatos soundtrack is legendary. I also love how the perspective changes across the gameplay in Eschatos.

DoDonPachi Resurrection ($19.99)

DoDonPachi Resurrection AKA DoDonPachi DaiFukkatsu debuted back in 2008 in arcades by Cave. It saw its Switch debut through Live Wire, and was a content-packed release that I loved getting into after playing it on other platforms before. DoDonPachi Resurrection was one of the first few shmups I fell in love with, and I’m glad it has such a great package on Switch. In addition to the normal game, there are arranges, black label, and more all with amazing music included. Novice modes are also available to make things easier for newcomers. While most people consider DoDonPachi DOJ (featured above) as the best game in Cave’s DoDonPachi series, DoDonPachi Resurrection is still an essential.

ESP Ra.De. Psi (Import)

ESP Ra.De. Psi is actually what got me to break away from doing a top 10 Switch shmups and just go with the flow and include all the games I consider worth full price and worth playing. When I discovered the M2 ShotTriggers lineup of releases online, I ended up buying ESP Ra.De. Psi on Switch as the first taste of the series. I fell in love with not only ESP Ra.De. from Cave through ESP Ra.De. Psi, but also M2 as a developer with this. I was familiar with M2 through SEGA Ages and SEGA 3D Classics, but ESP Ra.De. Psi through M2 ShotTriggers is amazing. ESP Ra.De. Psi’s music, visuals, and power gauge mechanic all combine for a refreshing shmup that I only wish had more recognition in the community. I have no regrets buying ESP Ra.De. Psi twice at full price, and hope to get into it on PS5 soon as well where I have a better arcade stick.

Raiden IV X Mikado Remix ($29.99)

Despite owning developer MOSS’ Raiden IV on Steam, I never really spent too much time with it until Raiden IV X Mikado Remix hit Switch and eventually came to more platforms. Raiden IV X Mikado Remix, Raiden IV’s newest version, doesn’t offer much over the existing release, but is still a fantastic release for newcomers and the most accessible version of the game available today. It is my favorite Raiden game by far with its strong design, new modes, soundtrack and excellent Switch release. I don’t see it in many shmup lists for some reason, but it deserves more attention. If you were turned off by Raiden V, Raiden IV is the one to get.

Raging Blasters ($14.99)

Terarin Games is definitely one of the most underrated developers in the shmup scene today. I’ve played most of their releases on both Steam and Switch, but have spent a lot more time with the Switch releases. Out of the games available, I flip flopped between going with Raging Blasters or Moon Dancer here. I decided to go with Raging Blasters because I’ve put more time into it, and think it is a fantastic shmup. You really should play both of them though. Terarin Games manages to make Raging Blasters feel like a blend of a throwback shmup and a new experience with some quality of life improvements and an easier difficulty curve. The PC Engine aesthetic shines, but it even has a lovely soundtrack.

Sophstar ($12.99)

Back in 2022, Shaun said that Sophstar might have been one of the best value propositions for a shmup on Switch. I bought it soon after and definitely agreed. It is packed full of great stages, modes, and lovely visuals. It has some good unlockable content and online leaderboards as well. I still can’t get over the quality content here at its low asking price. Sophstar is one of the best recent releases in the genre. Go buy it now.

Progear (Capcom Arcade Stadium DLC) ($1.99)

If you like horizontal shmups, Progear (available as Capcom Arcade Stadium DLC) is the best shmup in that collection, and a fantastic experience for fans of Cave. It was Cave’s only horizontal shmup until Deathsmiles, and while it doesn’t have the visual flair as the developer’s later releases, it is a fantastic and challenging experience. It is absolutely worth getting at its low asking price. The accessibility options in the Capcom Arcade Stadium will also help make it more playable for newcomers. I’m glad Capcom finally allowed me to play this on every modern platform through the Arcade Stadium release.

Cotton Reboot ($39.99)

Cotton Reboot was my first taste of the Cotton franchise of cute ’em ups. It includes two versions of the original game (the X68000 port of the arcade game and a remake of the first game with upgraded visuals and mechanics). I found them both worth playing, and the colorful visuals and great music come together to make quite an impression here. The gameplay mechanics are also really good. If you’ve never heard of Cotton or played a game in the series, this is worth your time. It also feels superb on Switch.

Bonus

M2 ShotTriggers’ Toaplan Arcade Garage Releases

While a lot of the M2 ShotTriggers lineup is very much a gourmet multiple course meal experience, the three Toaplan Arcade Garage releases are a bit harder to recommend unless you know what you’re getting. I bought both the Tiger Heli and the Hishou Same Same Same collections because I trust Shaun, and I ended up liking them. I can’t recommend them as much as the games featured above in this article at full price, but I think they are worth keeping an eye on, or grabbing if you’re interested in them. The Zero Fire release from this series is probably the one most people know about the most. We might see these hit the West, but I don’t like waiting too long so I just grabbed them from the Japanese eShop.

Hamster’s ACA NeoGeo and Arcade Archives Releases ($7.99 each)

Hamster’s excellent Arcade Archives and ACA NeoGeo series have brought a combined multiple hundreds of games to Switch and PlayStation over the years. On Switch, there are some notable shmups in this series, but not all of them are worth your time. From the many shmups in the Arcade Archives and ACA NeoGeo series, games like Terra Cresta, Metal BLack (Also in Taito Milestones 2), and Blazing Star have stood out for me, in addition to others like the Darius and Gradius games included. I’m including these as a bonus so that you check out the plethora of games available.

The Future and Games I Missed

There are still some shmups I want to see hit Switch like M2 ShotTriggers’ Battle Garegga and Ketsui that I enjoy playing on PS5. I’d even get Dangun Feveron from M2 if it makes its way here, but barring those, I’d love to see Zero Ranger and Blue Revolver (spoilers for my Steam list) make their way to Switch. Beyond the games I’d love to see ported, there are also games I haven’t played yet on Switch, but have played on other platforms like Hazelnut Hex, or games I haven’t played at all on any platform like Gunvein.

I’ll be making time for them this year for sure, alongside the Aleste Collection from M2 that is probably the biggest blind spot in my shmup library on Switch right now. Hopefully the next time I do this feature on Switch, I also have another arcade stick for the system with a Seimitsu lever, but I’ll save that discussion for another time.

There you have it. My aim with this feature is to help you discover a shmup you hadn’t heard of that is worth your time and money, or to remind you to get back to a classic you’ve enjoyed before. If you think I missed something notable here, please let me know in the comments below. Make sure to check Shaun’s older list from 2021 as well. Thanks for reading.

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