Better Know a Genre: Bullet Hell


It seems that nearly everyone i’ve met who fits into the category of “hardcore gamer” (whatever that means) is quite privy to playing SHMUPS, or “shoot em ups” for the uninitiated. I’ve never really been a fan of the genre, but it’s popularity dates all the way back to coin-op classics Space Invaders and Galaga, so I can certainly understand the almost cult status some shooters have today.

To put it simply, most games in this genre are hard, they require intense pattern recognition abilities and quick reflexes, two qualities that years of alcohol abuse have robbed me of. Beyond this glass ceiling of difficulty lies a strange creature, the person who is bored with the variety of standard SHMUPS available and decides to turn to a more difficult genre to fulfill their gaming fancy. What incredibly niche genre is this you ask? Oh wait, you already know because you read the title, *ahem* none other than bullet hell!

Oh the colors

the colors man

See all those colored bullets? They will all kill you, and if you couldn’t surmise how difficult it is to traverse the game environment without getting hit from the image, maybe you should see your optometrist. This bright idea of throwing even more shit in your face originated in Japan in the 90’s, we’re I could only imagine the taedium vitae the nation’s nerds of the time were going through. Thus, the trend of bullet hell emerged and secured the sub genre’s place in the history of extremely difficult games that are accessible to virtually no one.

Let’s see one of these ridiculously difficult games in action. This clip is from a Japanese game called Mushihimesama, try your hardest to ignore the annoying screams of what I can only assume is the pilot’s distressed girlfriend whose along for the ride.

So if you’re the type of person who loves spending hours memorizing bullet patterns, sound cues, and enemy spawn points, bullet hell might just be the genre for you. Be prepared to go hunting for some of these games though, as most of the notable iterations are imports. Thankfully you don’t need a translation to play, just point, shoot, and try not to die.

Castle of Shikigami


Perfect Cherry Blossom

Don Pachi


Castle Shikigami

Warning Forever

filed by Drew.


2 Responses to “Better Know a Genre: Bullet Hell”

  1. 1 jd

    Hi, not so bad, but you should do more research when you want to write about anything, these games Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun and Don Pachi are not even close to bullet hell. The opossit is actualy true. These games are the few which have been designed to be playable even tho you’re not shooting master. I can play all three of them and do 3 leves for 1 coin and I’m not good with shooters at all.

    • hello and thanks for reading! i’ll give you ikaruga and radiant silvergun, although i still think those games are kind of difficult! I guess they don’t fit so well into “bullet hell” though. The reason I chose Don Pachi is because it was one of the early bullet hell games, and while it may not live up to the craziness we expect now from developers like Cave and Treasure, it’s still worth noting for the historical value. But hey thanks for the criticism, and I readily admit my mistakes, Ikaruga and RS have been taken down.

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