A look back at arcade rail shooters

If you don’t know what an arcade rail shooter is you are probably far too young to remember the good old days!


Back when I was a kid there was always one type of machine that people of all ages flocked around as people showed off their skills. No not DDR machines! I’m talking about the world of arcade rail shooters!

In my younger days (and admittedly still now!) rail shooters were what I always looked out for in arcades. Now as the arcade scene in the UK dies slowly every day the arcade rail shooter machine has kind of become somewhat of a relic. With similar games now being easily playable on console with the likes of PlayStation Move and the Wii controllers you can see why rail shooter arcade machines have disappeared.

But lets not forget the originals that got us this far, the machines that allowed us to as we grow older not fear looking like a total moron, slinging small plastic guns around looking like Dante from Devil May Cry. Back in the day these machines had people lining up pound coins wherever they could to claim their place in line, its only right these machines of old get the recognition they deserve!

House of the Dead Series

House Of The Dead II

Might as well start with my favourite rail shooter of all time House of the Dead. This zombie shooting game has been going for a good while now with the original game released in in 1996. What makes this one so special? Some say its the games design or the high standard it set for rail shooters, personally I think its all this and the amazingly bad voice acting!

House of the Dead has still somehow survived the arcade Armageddon. Over here in the UK House of the Dead 4 and other games in the series were made available on PlayStation 3 in 2012 using PlayStation Move. Which I must say is a fantastic port!

Unfortunately in the wild most of the earlier machines now have faults. Faulty gun sensors and discoloured screens seem to be rampant across the arcade land for this old legend. Regardless House of the Dead is and will always be one of the strongest rail shooters of all time!

Time Crisis Series

Time Crisis 2

Another heavy hitter here which I really couldn’t call if it is more or less popular than House of the Dead. Some people think HotD, some thing Time Crisis, who knows! What we do know is that these 2 games are the heavy hitters of the rail shooter world, with Time Crisis (somewhat) keeping its feet on the ground in the realms of realism.

This is not to say that the Time Crisis series didn’t sometimes come across as cheesy as a House of the Dead sometimes. Although this was more of an action packed James Bond kind of cheese. Buildings exploding everywhere, super human leaps, the main character in a leather jacket and an evil European villain, it doesn’t get more 90s than that!

What Time Crisis did bring to the table is well, time. Most enemies take one shot to down or kill so the game tests your accuracy and reflexes with time limits.

Star Wars Trilogy

Star Wars Trilogy Arcade

Its not really a look back unless we mention something Star Wars related in the arcades.  In 1999 Star Wars Trilogy Arcade hit the scene and it got kids (and adults too!) in awe at the machine and even the graphics at the time.

The game consisted of 3 missions, each mission came from one of the original trilogy of movies. The first mission playing as Luke Skywalker fighting in an X-wing against TIE fighters over Yavin, the last main scene in Star Wars: A New Hope. The second mission places the player on Hoth trying to take down AT-ST walkers and later on shooting snowtroopers while trying to escape to the Millennium Falcon, this being from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. The final mission reenacts the scene from Endor on a speederbike taking down other scout troopers, from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. There is also some bonus levels which I wont spoil!

There doesn’t seem to be many of these machines out in the wild, but if you do come across one get yourself on it! Its an amazing experience to relive these scenes from the old movies and just being able to pilot an X-wing alone makes
it worth it!

Silent Hill Arcade

Silent Hill Arcade

Yes, there is an actual Silent Hill Arcade rail shooter! I only found this out a few years ago wondering around the arcades at Blackpool. You would have thought that a Silent Hill rail shooter wouldn’t really work, but surprisingly it does a very good job of keeping the games original creepiness.

If Star Wars Arcade is rare to find in the wild, this machine is ultra rare, with me only seeing one face to face once. The story is your standard original Silent Hill gubbins, your in Silent Hill, there is some weird as hell monsters, the walls/environment inexplicably turn a different colour when they feel like it, etc. What is pretty interesting is the boss battle, majority of rail shooters have them, so in for Silent Hill arcade there could only be one choice for a boss, Pyramid Head…

If you’re a fan of rail shooters and you like them with a side of weird and horror then try to find one of these out and you wont be disappointed!

Jurassic Park: The Lost World Arcade

Jurassic Park Arcade

So how many of you can remember this one then? This was in quite a few arcades as I can remember when I was younger but now they seemed to have all but vanished!

The game was set in the second Jurassic Park film taking some of the biggest scenes such as the dinosaur capture scene where all the hunters give chase through a field. This is one of the best rail shooters I have ever played. It is mightily satisfying to be shooting dinosaurs, not because I have anything against them! Its just different than shooting humans plus as you would expect they are harder to kill, making the kill ever more challenging.

The scene everyone seems to remember is where you are in a car and a huge dinosaur starts crapping on you, upon which the game thinks its a good idea to have a quick time event for your life, shoot the dinosaur in the arse as many times as you can before time runs out. Must have missed that part in the films!

So that’s the majority of rail shooters I can remember from my childhood, is there any you think I’ve missed out? Is there one that you distinctly remember hordes of children crowding around in the arcade days? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter!

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https://twitter.com/porrittpunk

Founder of Geekpress UK. Deeply in love with most forms of Games, Video and Technology since a young age. Lover of puns and a white belt in innuendo.

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