Highlights #2 – Six Free Shmup Games! Highlights #2 - Six Free Shmup Games


Although shoot-em-ups (shmups) are notorious for their difficulty (thanks to requiring quick reflexes or effective placement and shooting), they are very satisfying to games to practice and play, and very rewarding when cleared. With this Highlights, we take a look at six free shmup games you can download and play right away, including bullet hell, retro, and experimental!

Digital Soul Data Highlights #2 Shmup - Digital Soul Data

Developer: Prifurin
Released: 10th April 2021
Price: Free

Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac
Available on:
Engine: O.H.R.RPG.C.E

Digital Soul Data is a short, vertical, bullet hell shmup, inspired by Japanese indie hit series Touhou Project. After the government has passed a law allowing its use, Digital Soul Data (DSDs) are used to keep digital versions of people working at companies, including fired or deceased employees, leading to overwork and abuse, and therefore profitable use of DSDs. The Knights of the Western Calculus group mount an attack on the Modeus Corporation’s database to destroy DSDs, although the player character Mia joins for other reasons.

Mia’s avatar is equipped with a digital weapon and the Power Blast bomb and must use them to destroy the digital defenses and survive the bullet curtain, or you can stop shooting and try doing a pacifist run. As well, Mia must collect power-ups to increase her weapon strength, charge her bomb and gain extra lives. The game also rewards extra points for grazing bullets without getting hit. Digital Soul Data isn’t easy for newcomers but will not prove too difficult for shmup veterans especially with its short length, and its plot is a well-done take on the horrors of futuristic workspaces and gray moralities of hacker groups. You can also submit screenshots or videos of your highscore to the itch page where it will be displayed for everyone!

Sunflower Bullet Hell Highlights #2 Shmup - Sunflower Bullet Hell

Developer: remtaine
Released: 15th November 2020
Price: Free

Platforms: Windows, Mac, HTML5
Available on:
Engine: Godot

Sunflower Bullet Hell is a vertical shmup game where a disgruntled sunflower up and decides to seek revenge against the Sun for the heck of it. On your way to the sun, you will meet hostile birds and enemy spaceships, all of whom will shower the screen with a curtain of bullets!

Unlike most bullet hell shoot-em-up games, the hitbox is not in the center of the sunflower, but rather it is the mole on the bottom-left, which needs a little bit of getting used to. The sunflower can take up to three hits before dying and forcing you to restart the level. You can also slow time down with a brief cooldown, letting you dodge oncoming spaceships and squeeze into the sometimes extremely tight gaps between bullets. Even though the game is three levels long, the interesting and fluid artstyle, quirky idea, and unconventional hitbox make Sunflower Bullet Hell a unique shmup game, and you can use time slowdowns to learn how to go through the bullet showers. Not to mention, the game is open source!

Resquid Highlights #2 Shmup - Resquid

Developer: Rhadamenthe
21st January 2019

Platforms: Windows and Mac
Available on:
Engine: Unity

Resquid is a fresh, “pacifistic” take on the shoot-em-up genre by Rhadamenthe and team. You play as an octopus, but instead of shooting and destroying enemies, you shoot bubbles that ‘capture’ your squid friends. You then push them up and out of the way from the chasing kraken who will otherwise devour them.

Read the full review here.

Starfighter 77 Highlights #2 Shmup - Starfighter 77

Developer: papptimus
Released: 19th November 2019
Price: Free

Platforms: Windows
Available on:
Engine: Game Maker

Starfighter 77 is a retro shooter game, inspired by early 80s video game space shooters. While on-duty near an interstellar outpost, hostile alien forces relentlessly attack the outpost and your Starfighter ship. Not long after, you receive a garbled transmission from your fleet’s HQ, implying an attempted invasion on the distant Outpost Omega. You’ve got no choice but to show up there and end the attacks!

The game is composed of several stages of differing goals: outposts where you defend buildings from alien attacks in a horizontal sidescroller view, warps where you survive the enemy onslaught in a vertical view, and a challenge stage wherein you destroy as many ships as possible within one minute. The only powerup in the game gives you two more shots and a wider spread, allowing you to hit targets more easily and efficiently. Although Starfighter 77 is mildly challenging with the power-up, losing a life is easy and causes you to power down, increasing the game’s difficulty due to the lackluster firepower. Although brief, the game won’t disappoint fans of retro shooters and a good crash course for new players.

Hunter’s Path: Rebirth Highlights #2 Shmup - Hunter's Path: Rebirth

Developer: Harley Wilson
Released: 26th October 2021
Price: Free

Platforms: Windows
Available on:
Engine: GameMaker

Hunter’s Path: Rebirth is a top-down, on-foot, shoot-em-up game based in a medieval fantasy world, chronicling the dangerous trek of a band of hunters trying to cleanse the land from unholy creatures! Hired by the Crusader-General, they must seek the source of the demons and stop it without losing any of the hunters!

Read the full review here.

Twinkle Witch ~save the sweets!!~ Highlights #2 Shmup - Twinkle Witch

Developer: jocelyn
Released: 31th October 2018
Price: Free

Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac
Available on:
Engine: Unity

Twinkle Witch ~save the sweets!!~ is a shmup game that is heavily inspired by retro side scrollers and more accurately described as a cute-em-up, sporting an anime art style and a lighthearted tone. The frightening Countess Dracula and her minions stole the village kids’ candy, threatening to ruin a perfectly jolly Halloween and forcing the sleepy Twinkle Witch to get to work.

Each of the game’s three levels is broken up into three sections: a horizontal one to fend off enemies, a vertical one for boss fights, and a bonus section for grabbing candies for extra points. The horizontal stages are far from difficult since enemies don’t shoot and they rely on bumping you with their sheer numbers, but the boss fights will put up some resistance. Overall, Twinkle Witch has a great art style and isn’t too tough, especially for newbies to the genre.

In Conclusion

Although short, these six highlights are a good summary of indie shmups that you can download and play for free. They also serve as good starting places for the easier end of shooter games, letting you learn the ropes of dodging bullets, obtaining powerups and landing hits on enemies. The games also include highscore boards and scoring systems for veterans to try their best!

Want to push yourself harder? Here’s some shmups we recommend!
Sine Mora EXMetavaxxStarcrossed

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