What? An entire Weekend Download dedicated to shooters? Has someone gone mad? Apparently, yes! The shmup genre has a loyal fanbase of dedicated players, eating up crazy-difficult releases like they were candy and picking on the finer points of swarm-based action gaming. Casual players can enjoy a good shooter or two as well, and the games below will provide some challenge without alienating the less, shall we say, reflexually impared amongst us!
Gravity Box (Windows, 12.3MB, free) - Rotating boxes. Swarms of enemies. Gravity that doesn't really care about you. Gravity Box is an arena shooter that sticks you in a small room that periodically shifts gravity, dropping out portions of the floor while enemies creep in from all sides. You're limited to platform-style controls, meaning you can walk, jump, and shoot, but not fly, but fortunately your gun can penetrate blocks, so you aren't quite as limited as it seems. The blurry visuals will either make or break the experience for most players, but if they work for you, Gravity Box will provide a good arcade experience that gradually becomes more and more frantic.
Rhythmical (Windows, 4.6MB, free) - Why shoot tons of enemies when you can shoot them to the beat of a song? This visually intense shooter becomes virtually impossible to play if you do nothing but spam the fire button. Instead, shooting in time with the music produces visual and aural bliss, plus it gets rids of the enemies! Try to keep your head when the colors shift and the angle rotates. It's all about the music, remember?
NORD (Windows, 3.9MB, free) - A vertically scrolling shmup that places just as much emphasis on defense as it does offense. As a NORD, you're flying along when suddenly ANTI-NORDS start attacking you. Move with the [mouse] and attack with the [left] mouse button. If you survive long enough, your weapon automatically upgrades itself, switching from powerful single beams to multi-shot cannons. It's an interesting concept having your weapons upgraded but changed on the fly, and you'll spend almost as much time avoiding things as you will shooting them. A good one to kill a few minutes when you need a good, shooter-based distraction!
The Mushroom and the Saw (Windows, 9.6MB, free) - Remember how this article was supposed to be about shooters? Well, this game sort of makes that a lie. You see, there's plenty of shooting going on. But it's the stick figures who carry guns that shoot, not you. You get to control a spinning sawblade that destroys those who would attack your giant mushroom. Which sounds more awesome? (Hint: the saw thing.) Buzz around keeping the mushroom alive for four minutes and you're a big winner. Fail, and you're the opposite of that. A tiny loser?
Note: All games have been confirmed to run under Windows 7 and are virus-free. Mac users should try Boot Camp, Parallels, or CrossOver Games to play Windows titles, Linux users can use Wine. If you know of a great game we should feature, use the Submit link above to send it in!