The Best Xbox Shoot 'em Up Games Available in 2018

By Mark Delaney, 10 months ago
What no one tells you about the shoot 'em up genre is just how helpful the Five Ds of Dodgeball can be. In the words of the immortal Patches O'Houlihan, "dodge, duck, dip, dive and... dodge" can go far in the breakneck gameplay of shmups and bullet hell. The genre isn't as well represented as it once was decades ago, but there remains a passionate niche for this type of game, and with that in mind we decided this week's best of genre story would look at what's out there these days. Below are our picks for the best shoot 'em up games available on Xbox in 2018.

Sine Mora

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Sine Mora is, on one hand, a lovingly crafted homage to the genre it looks to pay tribute to. On the other hand, the game easily shines on its own, providing solid gameplay and stellar visuals thus earning it the right to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best shoot ‘em ups available. If you are a fan of the genre, you simply have to buy this game. There hasn’t been one quite like it and it deserves every bit of your attention for the time the story takes to complete and beyond. For newcomers, especially those of you who are wary due to the difficulty these games are known for, Sine Mora at least deserves a try, time-basede based mechanic can serve as an equalizer once you get accustomed to using it.

Download from Microsoft Store

Cuphead

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Cuphead is likely to reveal its deliberate frustrations too late for some people. It's hard not to become infatuated with the game's visuals, leaving uninformed buyers lured in by those blatant strengths to discover only then that it revels in its own relentlessness. This, in turn, could leave some wanting a refund and needing a new controller or two. However, for those that go into it with a co-op partner and with the knowledge that its design is as unforgiving as it is beautiful, it will be a unique and rewarding game. Always unabating but never unfair, Cuphead is tough to overcome but even tougher to put down.

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Ruiner

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Ruiner is a whirlwind of shooting, dodging and dying that falls just shy of true greatness. The shaded cyberpunk environments are depressing but beautiful, inviting you into a seedy criminal world where challenging enemies and badass weapons abound. Death is always one misstep away; you'll come to embrace it and take it in stride as you figure out what makes every opponent tick. The frenetic, fast-paced combat is a blast, especially if cyberpunk themes are your jam, and the opening levels of Ruiner are some of the best gaming experiences to be had in a while.

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Sky Force Anniversary

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While Sky Force Anniversary may have a simple premise of flying through the air, killing enemies and collecting stars, the game as a whole offers hours of fun. The game is quick and easy to jump into, pretty to look at whilst you fly through the air and knock out enemies, and offers a lot of replayability, even with the limited number of levels that are on offer. An annoying voiceover and the occasional struggle to see bullets are minor problems that you'll have compared to the overall enjoyability of the game, and this shouldn't be something that puts off any potential purchasers. Couch co-op offers you the chance you play with a friend, too, so whether you play alone or not, the time that you sink into this game will not be wasted.

Download from Microsoft Store

Mr. Shifty

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Mr. Shifty is a comic book-style adventure that uses the simple mechanic of teleporting in short bursts to great effect. Fast-paced and fun, the game is amazingly easy to pick up and play but will require a lot of skill to complete. The game's core simplicity is its greatest strength but can also be a hindrance at times given the few number of ways to advance through the game. All in all, however, Mr. Shifty is a real blast to play, and anyone who enjoys arcade action should consider giving it a try.

Download from Microsoft Store

Enter the Gungeon

Enter the Gungeon

There is a lot to like here: the armory of unique and fun weapons and items, a variety of objectives to work toward, and convenient features like teleportation, automatic money collection, and the ability to reload while dive rolling. Every run can be worthwhile, which is a good feeling in a genre that is often so punishing.

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Neon Chrome

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The futuristic sound and appearance is fantastic and definitely one of its most appealing features, but the fact that you'll probably spend a lot of time struggling through the floors and ultimately dying means that the graphics and musical aspect will only keep you entertained for so long. Couch co-op means that there's the opportunity for some fun when playing with a friend, but it's still recommended in short bursts. Fans of the top-down shooter, however, will no doubt feel right at home here.

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Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

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Here's the deal with Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime: As a single-player experience, the game drags. While your AI companion is actually helpful and surprisingly competent, having to man the ship on your own is a cumbersome and sometimes boring experience. The game takes on a whole different spin when a second person is involved, becoming a rewarding romp where players can celebrate successfully completing their shared goals. As a game meant for a couch co-op experience, it checks the right boxes and then-some as the two of you work to replace the anti-love in the room with something more positive, like love or perhaps a high-five. If playing on your own is the way you tend to roll, however, you'll still enjoy the game's presentation, but the luster of what moves this game from good to great territory will sadly not be present.

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Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is the host of the community game club TA Playlist. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his family. He almost never writes in the third person.