The DNA of a Good Shooter: What Makes a Good Top-Down Shooter Great

Mega Cat Studios
4 min readApr 4, 2024

What makes a good top-down shooter? As we previously discussed in our retrospective on SHMUPs, top-down shooters are a spin-off genre from the SHMUP. Born from games like Space Invaders and Gradius, top-down shooters have come far. Games like Enter the Gungeon and The Binding of Isaac make up some of the best that the genre has to offer.

Let’s dissect what makes up a good top-down shooter and find out what keeps this genre relevant even today.

Tight Controls, Responsive Movement

A game is nothing without good controls; every good top-down shooter knows this. If the movement feels wrong and the gunplay feels off, a top-down shooter will never succeed.

Enter the Gungeon | Courtesy of

To this end, a good top-down shooter must be fluid and responsive. Every button press needs to have an instant reaction, and movement must be quick and precise. It needs to give its players the impression that they’re under complete control of their movement and aim. After all, the genre is known for its decisive combat and the high intensity its stages can get. If the games aren’t responsive enough to keep up, why would anyone want to play them?

Hotline Miami 2 | Courtesy of

Great Visual Spectacle

Games don’t just have to play great; they must also look great. Good visual design is an integral part of any game and is even more important in a good shooter. The graphics must entice players to keep playing.

Touhou Mystic Square | Courtesy of

Whether basking in their surreal visuals or marveling at the cool, clear theming it has, shooters, mainly top-down shooters, must be visually appealing and a feast for the eyes.

Synthetik | Courtesy of flowfiregames

Addictive Music

The music has to be good as well! It’s not enough for the games to look good; the soundtrack and sound design must also keep up. Just listen to one of Touhou game’s songs. Its fast, intense melody is the perfect accompaniment to its intense combat.

Touhou Project | Courtesy of tenor

Polished Experience

All these aspects blend together and form the core reason why the genre still manages to stay strong. The best games in the genre present a polished, enjoyable experience that captivates its target audience.

Nuclear Throne | Courtesy of

A good shooter checks all these boxes. If these seem like the game you want, check out Lethal Wedding. This little top-down shooter tries to embody all the positive qualities that make a good shooter great. Consider giving it a look if you wish to have smooth combat, a nice art style, and a throwback to good old retro top-down shooters. You won’t regret it.

Lethal Wedding

If these are the games you love playing, consider dropping by our Discord and telling us what other games interest you. As game developers, we love more than knowing the types of games you love playing!

About the Author

Alexander Cuaycong is a writer with a passion for history and video game. When he’s not busy buried in dusty books, he’s out there trying to make his fantasy worlds come true. For him, gaming isn’t a hobby so much as a calling, and it’s one he’s been doing his best to follow. Whether it’s reviewing games, or writing about their history, he’s on a mission to spread that love with others.

Originally published at on April 4, 2024.



Mega Cat Studios

Mega Cat Studios is a creative first company based out of Pittsburgh, PA. We love creating games. From retro cartridges to PC & VR, come play with us.