Where have all the spaceships gone?

When did you last play a space shooter? Better yet, if you’re under the age of 20, have you ever played a space shooter? Back when it was a popular genre, we used to run to the local 7-11 with a fistful of mom’s laundry money, eager to plow through a hectic sea of deadly asteroids and insect-shaped enemy craft.

Since those days when high scores meant something, it seems every other genre that existed at the time has grown and evolved into something amazing. Rally-x paved the way for Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport. Pitfall became Tomb Raider. Even other classes of shooters like Contra have led to great games like Gears of War

Why, then, have space shooters hit a darwinian roadblock? If Metroid can move through generations and still be fun, why can’t Galaga? Hit the jump for a closer look at this possible extinction and a chance to tell us what you think. 

It’s no surprise that some games have a longer shelf life than others. Looking back at your library of Atari 2600 and NES titles, it’s a good chance there aren’t more than a handful of cartridges you’d consider dusting off and spending more than 5 minutes with. Shuffle through them long enough, though, and you’re bound to find a gem or two that might be worth a bit of your precious gaming time.

For me, it doesn’t matter how old I get or how much I enjoy the shimmering splendor of this current console generation, I can always run through a few worlds of Super Mario Brothers or try to beat my old Galaga score when I’m in the mood to kick it old school. One is a platformer, one is a space shooter. The bigger difference, however, is that I can turn on any other console or handheld in my collection and play any number of platformers.


So if everything from the racing game to the block puzzle has grown and held its place in the industry, what the hell happened to this old favorite? Sure, there was Star Wars: Rogue Squadron and a few crummy follow-ups, but most of what we’ve been handed lately is nothing more than prettier versions of the same old tired crap. Is there some unwritten law that confines space shooters to up-scrolling 2-D? Is that horrid Gummi Ship minigame from the Kingdom Hearts series really all we get? 

Don’t get me wrong here. I’ll be the first to stand up alongside Dtoid’s finest like Aaron and Colette to applaud new and original ideas like ICO, Shadow of the Colossus and Katamari. Give me something fresh that I haven’t played before and you’ll find me in a state of gaming nirvana. By the same token, though, I still enjoy “More of the same, only better” just like many of you might. If developers can get away with releasing Mega Man 5000 G and pile after steaming pile of Sonic the Hedgehog, why don’t we have a new Axelay? Imagine what might be possible on today’s hardware, which is fully capable of rendering colorful galaxies where you could blow up entire planets or dogfight with hundreds of enemies at once.

What do you think, robot friends? Would you jump at the chance to play a 3-D spaceship game built for the 360, or do you think this genre is no longer viable and should be forgotten about?

Topher Cantler