Can you survive An Unholy Return: The 31 Games of Halloween?
30 Genres of Christmas
On-Rails Shooters
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on December 13, 2009   |   Episode 18 (Show Archive)  


It's that time of year again, a time when Defunct Games celebrates the holidays by posting a daily theme article that should inform and delight gamers all over the world. This year we're counting down the days until Christmas by looking at 30 different video game genres. From the most popular games to the tiniest niche titles, everything fits into a genre and we're going to be there to shed absolutely no new information about that genre in this month-long feature. Join us as we celebrate this joyous season with the 30 Genres of Christmas!

I know it's silly, but I have an emotional connection with the Panzer Dragoon series!
How Do You Know You Are Playing an On-Rail Shooter? To the uninformed, it's hard to tell the difference between a regular old shooter (which we covered on Day 2) and the On-Rails Shooter. After all, aren't most shooters forcing you in one direction? In an On-Rails Shooter you have no control over your characters movements, instead spending your time controlling the crosshairs of the gun. For many this sensation feels like a rollercoaster ride ... only instead of sitting back and enjoying the ride, you're constantly having to shoot people that jump out in front of you. Many people refer to this genre as the "Light Gun Game," but games like Panzer Dragoon and Rez prove that a light gun is not always required to make a solid On-Rails Shooter.

Patron Saint: Rollercoaster rides and target practice.

Typical Story: You play Jonathon Fox, an elite member of the FBI tasked with taking down The Vipers, the biggest crime organization in the United States. And even though The Vipers have hundreds of guards on their payroll (as well as a few gigantic helicopters and a

The cover art and the game - Two things that should never have happened!
submarine), the FBI feel that it's important that you take down this organization all by yourself. In this story you rush into their secret compound with only a handgun at your side. You hide behind boxes and shoot anybody that gets in your way. But beware, because towards the end of your adventure things turn super-natural and you eventually have to fight the ghost of Fidel Castro. At least, I think that's the ghost of Fidel Castro. Either way, it doesn't make any sense because Fidel isn't dead and the game takes place in Colorado.

What Your Pacifist Aunt Says: "Now Billy, you know better than this. Guns aren't safe, no matter if they are plastic. One day some gangbanger is going to drive by, see you with your gun and then target your house for a fire bombing. Mmmm kay? You're better off gardening and learning how to knit a sweater. I don't know what it is about your generation, but gardening is worldly skill that everybody should know. Plus, it impresses the ladies. Imagine how excited your little girlfriend will be when she sees that you grew a flower and made her a sweater. You're just the cutest little dumpling, aren't you?"

Not an On-Rails Shooter: The moment I typed the words "Light Gun Games" I knew I was opening myself up to a lot of fair criticism. After all, not every light gun game is an On-Rails Shooter and, likewise, not every On-Rails Shooter is a light gun. However, enough light gun games fit into this category to warrant

I wasted so much money buying multiple guns for the Point Blank franchise!
mention. The good news is that there are a few that buck the trend. One of my favorite PlayStation -era shooters was Namco's brilliant Point Blank, a competitive shooter that had you competing with friends to answer math questions, hit the right amount of sheep and other wacky light gun-infused mini-games. Another game that isn't an On-Rails Shooter? Duck Hunt! Hey Nintendo, it's been 25 years since we were first introduced to that annoying dog, where's our proper Duck Hunt sequel?

Then vs. Now? If we're talking about games that use light guns, then there's no question that On-Rails Shooters were better back in the day. After all, modern day shooters don't even have light guns. I'm sorry, but the Wii remote is a lousy alternative to the real thing. On the other hand, a game like Rez HD shows us how good an On-Rails Shooter can look on a brand new game system. What's more, the recent Resident Evil and Dead Space shooters have been solid, even if they do feel like throwbacks to another time. There's enough potential with the new shooters to give me pause, but there's no question that On-Rails Shooters were better back in the day.


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