Bullet hell is a challenging subdivision 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. So if you love the thrill of dodging fireballs and bullets, you’ll want to check out these best bullet hell games on Steam.
1. 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!
If you’re new to the bullet hell genre, Furi serves as a great introduction. Unlike a traditional bullet hell, this game is a combination of the twin-stick-shooter, hack-and-slash, and bullet hell genre.
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 that you won’t want to quit.
3. 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.
4. Enter the Gungeon
Although I recently ranted about why I dislike roguelikes, Enter the Gungeon has really grown on me. 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.
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.
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.
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.
They’re Called Bullet Hells for a Reason
Bullet hells are designed to frustrate you. Patience and commitment go a long way with this genre—bullet hells take a long time to master, and that’s part of the charm.
For more shoot ’em ups, try out these great modern shmups that prove the genre isn’t dead.
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