Bullet hell is a challenging subgenre of the shoot-em-up (or shmup) genre. These games pit you against enemies whose only weapons are waves of bullets.
You need two things to get through a bullet hell: the ability to find the patterns behind the bullets, and a strong desire to win.
It's called "bullet hell" for a reason—they're designed to frustrate you. Patience and commitment go a long way in this genre as bullet hells take a long time to master, which is part of the charm.
If you love the thrill of dodging bullets and fireballs, here are the best bullet hell games on Steam or Humble Store.
In this top-down shooter, you'll travel through an abandoned facility as a ship, with the goal of becoming as powerful as possible. The facility has several floors packed with dangerous foes that get stronger as you play.
When you're not dodging bullets, you can buy weapon modifications and other upgrades. Although you might not be a fan of the procedurally-generated elements, the pleasant, pixelated graphics, and spooky enemies make up for that.
12. Neon Abyss
In Neon Abyss, you'll find a mix of dungeon crawling and platforming mechanics as you jump, dodge, and shoot your way through the intense side-scrolling adventure.
Tasked by Hades himself, you'll explore a strange and brightly colored underground region known as the Abyss. The levels are procedurally generated so you'll never run into the same layout twice in a row.
This bullet hell game involves hunting down and destroying the New Gods and their followers in a uniquely difficult adventure.
Neon Abyss gives you a selection of randomly generated weapons and items that can do almost anything, from merely increasing damage to altering the way the game's rules work.
Because of how many different equipment and combinations there are, you can play this game for dozens of hours and never feel like you're repeating yourself.
Not only is Cuphead one of the most challenging video games in modern gaming, but it's also a satisfying bullet hell. Cuphead utilizes a style reminiscent of old-school cartoons, and plays like a run and gun/bullet-hell hybrid.
The game focuses heavily on boss fights—you'll have to confront a difficult boss at the end of each level. Like some of the other bullet hells on this list, you can play with a friend and endure the torturous gaming session together.
The farming sim genre rarely crosses over with the bullet hell genre, which is why Atomicrops stands out so much.
In this post-apocalyptic world, you must survive by growing crops. However, that's easier said than done—not only is the soil difficult to work, but waves of giant insects and other monsters stand ready to steal your hard-earned food.
If you're after a bullet hell game on PC with a unique twist, this is one to add to your wish list. Atomicrops is fun and chaotic, with a firmly tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. In true farming sim tradition, you can even marry one of the NPCs that visit your growing farm!
Ikaruga is an exceptionally difficult bullet hell game. It was originally released for Japanese arcades, but it soon made its way to GameCube in 2003. You play as the pilot of an aircraft, navigating the vertically-scrolling map.
As bullets come towards you, you'll notice that the bullets (and the enemies who shoot them) are either black or white—when bullets of the same polarity hit your ship, you won't receive any damage.
With the touch of a button, you can swap polarities to absorb bullets and deal more damage to enemies of the opposite color. Once you absorb enough energy, you can shoot off epic homing lasers.
8. Enter the Gungeon
Although we sometimes think roguelikes suck, Enter the Gungeon is a clear exception. This game has a retro style with an awesome soundtrack, and it comes with its fair share of challenges.
After choosing between one of the four Gungeoneers, you'll crawl your way through the Gunegon, a dungeon consisting of five chambers.
Let's just say that you'll quickly get used to dying in this game—each room has bullet-shooting enemies that become more aggressive as you (attempt to) progress.
7. Just Shapes & Beats
Just Shapes & Beats is literally a bullet hell that consists of shapes and amazing music. You can play by yourself or with a friend, as you attempt to survive stages that fling deadly shapes at you.
The biggest draw of the game isn't its complexity or graphics—it's the music. With tons of EDM and chiptune tracks, Just Shapes & Beats will have you tapping your feet while you play.
6. The Knight Witch
If you're looking for a visually impressive bullet hell game to invest all your precious free time into, The Knight Witch is one to check out. As Rayne, you're sent on a quest to save her world from the waves of enemies that threaten it.
The art is all hand-drawn, making it look unique among other bullet hell games for PC, while the inclusion of Metroidvania and deckbuilding elements ensure that you've never played a game quite like it before.
There's more story here than is typical in the bullet hell genre, and that only helps The Knight Witch stand out further from the pack. You'll quickly become invested in freeing the people of the village from the dangers that are bearing down on them.
The only downside is how freely Rayne floats around the screen. There's a sense of weightlessness to her that can be frustrating until you get used to her movements. Still, the excellent visuals and unique gameplay make this well worth picking up.
5. Nuclear Throne
While the visuals in Nuclear Throne won't blow anyone away, the actual gameplay is one of the most rewarding bullet hell experiences you'll ever see. It's an oldie but a classic for good reason.
In this post-apocalyptic world where mutants struggle to gain power over each other and survive in the harsh wastelands, there's no shortage of creatures to kill—or ways to die.
You can unlock up to 12 different characters to control, each with their own unique powers and abilities. The controls are tight and the action is relentless in Nuclear Throne.
The game also features a co-op mode for when you want to work with your friends to try to survive through the multiple levels of chaos. If you can get past the simple graphics and presentation, there is plenty to love about Nuclear Throne.
If you're new to the bullet hell genre, Furi serves as a great introduction. Unlike traditional bullet hells, this game combines the twin-stick-shooter, hack-and-slash, and bullet hell genres.
You play as the Stranger, an enigmatic man who's been tortured inside of a prison. When he suddenly gets released, he must traverse the several islands that make up the jail.
The colorful, futuristic environment, intriguing story, and exciting gameplay make Furi a unique bullet hell you won't want to quit.
3. Realm of the Mad God
What's better than a bullet hell game that doubles as an MMO? In Realm of the Mad God, you join forces with dozens of other players online.
You have the choice of playing as a character from 15 different classes—an archer, rogue, priest, warrior, knight, assassin, and necromancer are just some of your options.
As you move through the game, you'll get to face monsters, collect, weapons, and dodge plenty of bullets. This game is also completely free!
2. Risk of Rain 2
Risk of Rain 2 is one of the few bullet hell games built with a 3D engine, forcing you to contend with dangers from every direction. Each level is procedurally generated, bringing together a fascinating and addictive mixture of roguelike and platforming elements.
Weapons are randomly dropped for you to pick up as you try to clear the game as quickly as possible. The number of weapons you can pick up—with each giving your character a different twist—is truly staggering.
When you're ready, you can trigger one of the epic boss fights that will test your reflexes and skill. But if you take too long, it'll drastically increase the difficulty of later levels. It's a delicate balance to strike, but that's a big part of the challenge here.
While you can play Risk of Rain 2 on your own, it's much more fun when you play with friends, communicating either over voice chat or by using the game's waypoint features.
1. Vampire Survivors
If you're an avid fan of the bullet hell genre, you've probably heard of Vampire Survivors, which burst onto the scene in 2022.
Players can choose from different characters and tackle wave after wave of randomly generated enemies. Surviving for more than either 15 or 30 minutes—depending on your settings—is considered a successful run, but that isn't the end of your torment.
After all the enemies are cleared, an impossibly strong enemy named Death will appear. Not only that, a new Death spawning every minute until the player dies.
Vampire Survivors received a huge number of awards and accolades, from BAFTAs to the New York Game Awards. It was one of the surprise hits of the year because of how addictive and fun it is.
Don't let the simple graphics fool you: this game is well deserving of every award it has pulled in. Be prepared to lose yourself to this game if you're not careful with your time.