Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Top Five Master System Light Phaser Games

Lightguns, huh? Nintendo were making them before they even made videogames but when the gaming boom arrived the arcades were suddenly adorned with impressive-looking cabinets with guns mounted on the front or in holsters on their sides as well. As always though, companies quickly sought to replicate arcade frolics on home machines. Nintendo, fittingly, were the first with the Zapper for their Famicom/NES and Sega soon followed suit with their cooler-looking Light Phaser. This was of course the one I owned - my Master System was actually bundled with it since I had the spiffing Master System Plus package which meant I had the mildly amusing Safari Hunt with which to test my trigger finger. It didn't take long until I had other games in my sights though, and here are the five best.

Special Note: These games obviously can't really be emulated properly so the screenshots are all from the attract mode or the first few seconds of the first stage!

5. Assault City (1990)

Surprisingly, this game is one of the only sci-fi games that could be used with the Light Phaser, and even more surprisingly it didn't originally even use the device at all. For some reason, Sega released it as a normal pad-controlled game before later re-releasing it with a Light Phaser mode. Apart from that though, both versions are the same and pit you against a hostile robot horde as the last human warrior, Joe (must've taken the R&D department a while to come up with that name). The game begins with a short target-practise challenge which will determine the difficulty of the main game before challenging you with six side-scrolling, first-person stages, the high-point of which is the lovely graphics, but the robotic onslaught provides a satisfying and enjoyable Phaser work-out too.

4. Wanted (1989)

There just had to be a Wild West game to make adequate use of the Light Phaser and Sega did not disappoint! Wanted predictably sees you cast in the role of a sheriff charged with cleaning up a series of towns and locations and earning reward money in the process. The game is unusually viewed from a third-person perspective this time with your sheriff shuffling along the bottom of the screen as it slowly scrolls and the bandits pop out of windows and from behind a variety of scenery. You have to be careful to shoot only the bad guys and avoid the innocent bystanders so it's not just aimless blasting, and there's also a bonus round, or 'challenge scene', between some stages to mix things up a little. Wanted may be a little clichéd but its six stages are also great fun. It's just a shame it doesn't come with a six-shooter!

3. Rescue Mission (1988)

Unlike all the other games on this list, and probably unlike all lightgun games on every system, Rescue Mission is actually an overhead-viewed game. It has a fairly interesting premise too - your unseen character (who must be high above the action in a helicopter or hot-air balloon or something) is responsible for protecting an army medic who moves around five small stages on a rail-cart rescuing injured friendly soldiers. There are three difficulty levels and each of your lives is represented by a different character. Enemy soldiers converge on the rail-cart from all directions and fire bullets and missiles at them, and there are mines on the rails too, which must be destroyed before the medic reaches them. I've always been very keen on this great-looking game which, unusually for a lightgun game, has actually had a bit of thought and creativity put into it. It could've been a bit longer and had a larger variety of enemies but it's still an original and highly enjoyable little game.

2. Operation Wolf (1990)

Ah, the mighty Operation Wolf - devourer of so many of my silver coins when I was younger, and recipient of so few decent home conversions as well. Actually, that's a bit harsh as some of them were pretty good (I had a lot of fun with the version for my Speccy, for example) but it's a game that was made to be used with a lightgun (a bloody great Uzi, no less) and playing it without one just doesn't feel right. Thankfully, the Master System provided one of the few opportunities to play Taito's classic 'properly'. Doing so will probably wear out your poor old Light Phaser though, as there's no auto-fire option. Graphically, there's quite a bit of sprite flicker but the stages do look nice here and all the intro screens are intact as well. It's not perfect but the chance to play Op Wolf with a lightgun means it can't be passed up!

1. Rambo 3 (1988)

Beating Operation Wolf to the punch, however, was this. Games based on Sly death-fest, Rambo 3, were made for most systems of the day with Sega producing two themselves - one for the imminent MegaDrive and this effort which was made very much in the style of Taito's game. That means it's filled with machine-gun-toting soldiers who either stand right in front of you or pop out of various hiding places, some soldiers with more powerful weapons like mortars, and the occasional helicopter gunship. It's not very original and it doesn't take too long to finish, but the graphics are pretty good and far less flickery than Op Wolf, and I've always greatly enjoyed playing it anyway. Plus it only appeared here on the MS which makes it even more special! If you have an actual Master System and Light Phaser, this is the one to go for if you ask me...


  1. I do miss using light phaser - I guess thats the only negative thing about those very heavy crt's disappearing. I missed out on most of these but have very fond memories of wanted.... :)

  2. It is possible to emulate the Phaser.
    Meka ( is a quick and easy way, as it'll let you use the mouse to control the crosshair and shoot. That doesn't quite replicate the feel of using a gun, but there are PC lightguns around that will work with modern displays (such as the EMS Top Gun 3). Failing that, its possible to bind a Wiimote to PC.
    If you do happen to have a Wiimote, odds are you also have a Wii. That being the case, you might want to consider (soft) modding it for emulation and installing SMSPlus ( This supports the Phaser using the Wiimote to control as you'd expect. One visit to Poundland for a gun holder and you're much closer to the real experience.
    This doesn't stop Rambo III from being rock hard though!

  3. Very true, Luke. I still have a CRT of course, as well as an MS with Light Phaser, but the latter is at my parents house at the moment :(

    Hi Mr Ant, it's been a while! Thanks for the ultra-helpful info :) I do not have a Wii, or indeed a Wiimote, but I didn't realise that any light guns worked with flat-screen monitors. I'll give Meka a try too - I currently use Fusion which supposedly offers the crosshair option, but it didn't seem to work :(

  4. Non-CRT guns have been available for a while, there's a few for the last gen systems ( ) . They work in much the same way as a Wiimote, taking positional info from a sensor bar instead of reading the screen.

    Fusion doesn't support SMS Phaser emulation, only the Mega Drive's Menacer and Justifier guns. Hence the ability to control the crosshair but not actually shoot anything.

    Incidentally, Nintendo were far from the first to market a lightgun for a home console - you're forgetting the mass of Pong clones in the 70s that came with pistols/rifles to support what was usually a very basic 'shoot the dot' game.

    I do enjoy a good gun game, its quite satisfying to blast away for half an hour now and then. If you have an interest in them, the PS1 has a healthy number compared to most systems. They don't look so hot now, but they playability is still there.

  5. Oh well, shows how out of touch I am with this new fangled technology! Thanks for the info regarding Fusion/Meka :)

    And yes, I remember the light gun games you speak of but they weren't really the kind of games that I was thinking of when making this list - Nintendo were the first ones to make that kind and Sega were close behind. Usually the way I suppose!

    The PS1 does indeed have some decent light gun games (Point Blank is a favourite) and the Saturn is no slouch either - Virtua Cop rules :)

  6. No love for Laser Ghost (totally different from the arcade game)?

    Antiriad is mistaken about Fusion 3.64's light phaser support - you can select it from the drop-down section (note that SMS and GG configuration is a separate section, under the MD / MCD section). However, I wasn't able to make the on-screen cursor in Laser Ghost move, even with the mouse captured. I was able to shoot things by pressing my mouse button, though.

  7. Fake edit - Fusion's phaser emulation might be partial, then. I wouldn't say it's totally unsupported though.

  8. Arrived here trying to find the name of the western shooter (Wanted!)
    I'm surprised Gangster Town is not on your list. That was my favorite.

  9. Hi Rafael - thanks for dropping by :) You're right, Gangster Town is a pretty decent game too. The MS probably has more decent light gun games than any other system now that I think about it.

    Hi Edwin - sorry for missing your comment until now. I doubt you'll see this after so long now though! I was never very keen on Laser Ghost, it tried to be a bit too fancy in my view. Still, any additions to the light gun library are welcome :) Hope you still drop by now and then!