The Top Five Twin-Stick Shooters to Scratch That Itchy Trigger Finger

1 of 6

Arcades have always been places of wonder. Within those bewitching neon caves stood cabinets that ate our quarters and fed our imaginations.

Though many genres of games made their homes within arcades, one has gotten a great deal of love from indie game developers as of late: the twin-stick shooter. The name is fairly self-explanatory; a twin-stick (also often called top-down) shooter makes use of two joysticks: one for movement and the other for aiming/shooting, utilizing a top-down perspective to allow for omni-directional movement.

Unlike many other arcade shooting games, these titles offered infinite ammo in exchange for upping the number of enemies on screen. The idea more or less what that the player would need to play methodically to eliminate all of their enemies at their own pace; rather than being a sheer test of timing, aim, and ammo management. It's this chaos of mindless yet smart gameplay that made games like Smash TV such cult hits.


For the uninitiated, Smash TV is the granddaddy of all twin-stick shooters. On a basic level, it pitted players against massive waves of rival contestants in a twisted life-or-death gameshow ala The Running Man. Levels were broken up with scoring screens that showed the marvelous prizes the player has earned thus far. That is the spirit of twin-stick shooters. Yes, the thrill of the gunplay makes for a solid experience of its own, but it's the spirit and tone of the game that wrap it all together. It's this reliance on story that makes this genre so well-suited for modern indie titles.

With all that said, there are quite a few twin-stick shooters on the market, so let's take a look at some of the best and most popular titles in the industry today.

*Fair warning, some find it difficult to actually play twin-stick shooters with actual twin sticks (IE, left and right analog sticks on a controller). If mouse and keyboard is more your speed, by all means give it a try.

Published Aug. 27th 2016
View Comments

Cached - article_comments_article_44153