“Guns don’t kill people,” so some NRA members like to claim. These folk obviously haven’t played many video games, where digital guns have been responsible for the deaths of billions of people... and monsters, of course.
Virtual ethics aside, there have been countless video game guns over the years that have made even the most ardent anti-firearm pacifists jump up and yell “YES! Eat hot fiery death, mother*******!,” while blowing the head off yet another henchman who probably only works for an evil corporation because it pays well and has a good health plan.
So what video game guns are regarded as the best? Which are the weapons that stick in your memory more than the actual game itself? Bringing together firearms such as shotguns, sci-fi rifles, and miniature nuke launchers, here are the ten greatest guns in video game history.
Why are games set in post-apocalyptic futures so much fun? Because of the home-made weapons. The Duplet is one such gun - a firearm built from scratch in the Metro's tunnels. It may have been put together by a depressed, drunken Russian, but it still has enough stopping power to make a Nosalis think twice about eating you.
Despite the limited ammo capacity and slow reloading time, once you have the quad-barrel upgrade for this shotgun you’re ready to take on the worst this radiation-soaked world has to offer. With four barrels firing simultaneously, nothing offers more close-range firepower in a single blast.
By their very nature, video game shotguns are intense powerhouses of death. But sometimes they can be so insanely powerful that their very use could be considered a war crime.
This was the case with Call of Duty’s Winchester 1887, a gun that was initially so overpowered, Infinity Ward had to release two patches to fix it. With its beautiful, lever-action reload and magnificent stopping power, few shotguns could match the original Winchester 1887.
Personally, I really enjoyed Bulletstorm, although its lack of depth has resulted in it being called the video game version of Pacific Rim - shallow, but fun.
One of the most enjoyable, OTT weapons in the game is the Flailgun - a weapon that manages to brings together death, destruction, and comedy. This fantastic example of badassery fires two grenades linked together by a chain. The grenades explode after a few seconds, but can be detonated quicker by the player. Is it sadistic to laugh as an enemy frantically tries to escape a chain wrapped around their neck, only for the grenades to explode and turn their head to mush? Probably, but maybe they deserved it.
You can even use the Flailgun to turn an enemy into a human bomb by wrapping them up in a projectile and kicking them into a crowd. If all that still isn’t enough for you then there’s an alternate fire mode that superheats the chain itself, causing it to cut through bad-guys like a hot chainsaw through squishy butter.
It's surprising to think that the third biggest selling Nintendo 64 game of all time, Goldeneye, was originally designed to be a Virtua Cop-style on-rails shooter. Thankfully, someone believed that making a brilliant free-roaming FPS on a console in 1997 was possible, and so the legendary Goldeneye was born.
One of the coolest and most memorable weapons from the game is the Golden Gun, made famous by assassin Francisco Scaramanga in James Bond’s The Man with the Golden Gun (played by Christopher Lee, the real-life step-cousin of James Bond creator Ian Fleming). In the game, this weapon requires a reload every time it fires a single bullet, but that bullet kills with one hit. Very handy in the solo missions and even better in multiplayer. In fact, an entire multiplayer scenario - The Man With The Golden Gun - is based around the weapon.
The trouble with a lot of shotguns in video games is that they all fire a similar type of ammo. The Flak Cannon from the Unreal series changed this by introducing a gun that uses ionised flechettes as projectiles. This gives enemies on the receiving end of the Flak Cannon the same sensation as having a bucketful of hot coals blasted into them, which is never a nice experience. Using this gun is simply one of the most enjoyable experiences in video games.
The flechettes are launched in a spread pattern that can bounce off walls, or as frag grenades that radiate the terrifying ammo in all directions - although managing to hit anyone with this secondary fire mode is another matter. And the cannon works perfectly within the short corridors and verticality of Unreal Tournament 99's levels.
I realise that classifying a shoulder-mounted launcher that fires eight miniature nukes at once as a ‘gun’ may be pushing it, but it’s not the only weapon on this list that takes liberties with the term. Anyway, it’s absolutely awesome, and whether it’s a gun or a terrifying weapon of mass destruction, it deserves a place here.
Fallout 3’s experimental MIRV is a unique version of the Fat Man (mini-nuke launcher) that essentially turns it into shotgun able to deliver eight nukes simultaneously. The MIRV deals more damage than any other weapon in the game, as you would imagine. Using VATS with this beast so you can watch the carnage unfold in glorious slow motion is truly wonderful.
Quake’s Railgun is an absolute monster of a weapon, but one that takes a fair bit of skill to use proficiently. It's essentially a sniper rifle without the scope that fires depleted uranium shells. Its awesome killing power and perfect accuracy making up for the painfully slow firing speed.
The Railgun is excellent against some of Quake II’s monsters; it can even take out the Makron, supreme leader of the Strogg, with 20 direct hits. And nothing beats that feeling when a few bad guys line up perfectly, enabling one Railgun shot to travel through them all.
But where this weapon really comes into its own is in Quake III Arena. Hitting another player in this multiplayer-focused game may not be the easiest feat, but achieving it means instadeath for them and a great sense of satisfaction for you.
Have you ever thought that a sharp projectile ripping through a person’s body just isn’t a gruesome enough way to kill someone? If so, maybe you should seek help; but you may also be able to satisfy your bloodlust by trying out Turok’s Cerebral Bore, one of the most brutal guns ever seen in video games.
This weapon works by locking onto the brainwaves of a nearby target. Once fired, the homing projectile will seek out the enemy and attach itself to the hostile’s head, killing them by drilling into their skulls and exploding once it reaches the brain.
Even with Turok’s very dated graphics, the site of an enemy’s blood and brain tissue pouring out of the projectile’s suction channel isn’t for the squeamish. The noise of the drill adds to the effect, and the explosion – which decapitates the unfortunate target – is the icing on the blood-covered cake. Truly one of the coolest and most imaginative guns of all time.
The grandaddy of all video game shotguns and arguably still the best incarnation of the double-barreled weapon. Doom 2’s super shotgun actually made you pity all those demons, but not enough to stop you shredding them like blood-filled balloons. The BFG may be the most powerful weapon in your arsenal, but nothing matches the feeling of the Super Shotgun.
The rhythmic click-snap-bang of the firing and reloading sequence is mentally ingrained on all those who played the game - few weapons use sound in a way that invokes such feelings of power. It may seem like it takes an eon to reload, but that's the price you pay for having such a monstrous gun. And from what we've seen so far of the new Doom game, it appears that Id Software is set to introduce a new, even more awesome Super Shotgun to the world.
I realize that putting the Zero Point Energy Field Manipulator - more commonly known as the Gravity Gun - at number one in a list of game weapons may seem a bit lazy, but there are plenty of good reasons why it beats all others to become the greatest video game gun of all time.
Firstly, much like the Super Shotgun in Doom 2, it’s one of those guns that is mentioned almost straight away during conversations about the game it appears in. And considering that Half-Life 2 is possibly the greatest single-player shooter of all time, it’s a testament to the gun’s quality that it’s so often singled out as one the game’s best elements.
Secondly, it was the immensely popular Gravity Gun that influenced the physics-based gameplay present in titles such as Bioshock, Dead Space and, most famously, Portal.
And, of course, it’s simply a brilliant Half-Life 2 weapon. In addition to being able to move/throw objects, it can also release an energy blast that forcefully propels a targeted object backwards. Everyone who's played the game remembers the joy of throwing an explosive barrel into a group of combine soldiers, or blasting a saw blade into one of Ravenholm’s many zombies.
But the Gravity Gun reaches peak awesomeness once it becomes supercharged after exposure to the Citadel’s Confiscation field. Not only can it now pick up and punt any organic matter (i.e. bad guys), killing it instantly, it can also move much bigger, heavier objects.
The fact that the Gravity Gun is still regarded as the greatest video game gun of all time, eleven years after Half-Life 2’s release, speaks volumes. More than just a weapon, this gun is a tool, a toy and one of the biggest influences on a generation of similar game weapons that followed.