The 8 Best Shoot 'Em Ups for Android

These intense games will test your skills

The shoot 'em up genre is full of fantastic games: it's hard to narrow down a list of the best to just a handful. Read on for a list of some especially fun and exciting "shmups."

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'Sky Force 2014'

Skyforce 4
What We Like
  • Beautiful graphics.

  • Slower pace demands more skilled play.

  • Boss fights are exciting.

What We Don't Like
  • In-app purchase system can be unclear at first.

  • Playing for free can feel like a grind.

  • Boss kill doesn't necessarily unlock the next level.

Developer Infinity Dreams returned to their 2004 shmup that predates the modern App Store era of gaming with this 3D reboot. It's a great shmup that delivers gorgeous visuals and a slower pace of play than many entries on this list, with objectives that force you to play well. If you have an Android TV device, it's recommended to play "Sky Force Anniversary" — the game is virtually the same between the two platforms, but the TV version allows you to just buy the game outright instead of the separate IAPs it offers.

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'Danmaku Unlimited 2'

Danmaku Unlimited 2
What We Like
  • Excellent production quality.

  • Easy for first-timers to learn to play.

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't innovate much in the bullet-hell genre.

One of the finest examples of Japanese-style bullet hell shmups; bullet hell is described as a kind of game where you have to dodge massive hordes of bullets, though you have a small area of vulnerability for your ship. That's about the only thing you have going for you.

Massive numbers of enemies, gigantic lasers, and all the bullets you can possibly imagine await you in this shmup. Oh, and the production values in this game are second-to-none in the genre. 

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'Super Crossfighter'

Super Crossfighter
What We Like
  • More challenging than its predecessor.

  • Supports MOGA controllers.

What We Don't Like
  • Gameplay doesn't change much throughout.

  • Slider control can feel awkward and unresponsive.

This shmup lets you flip between two different sides of the screen to fight, allowing you to get the jump on enemies and hit their specific weak points. Meanwhile, you have to ration your upgrade points wisely in order to dominate your enemies. With controller support to boot, this game is an amazing must-have.

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'Raiden Legacy'

What We Like
  • Simple schmup gameplay.

  • Includes four games.

  • Good variety of enemies keeps it interesting.

What We Don't Like
  • Graphics are not great in earlier games of the set.

  • Unforgiving gameplay may be too frustrating for some.

This collection of classic shoot 'em ups from SNK are perfect examples of the kinds of games that inspire modern games to this day. This one features controller support and five different coin-guzzlers that will test your shmup skills to their limits.

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'Glorkian Warrior'

What We Like
  • Retro feel and great hand-drawn graphics.

  • Fun one-liners and silly humor.

What We Don't Like
  • Becomes a bit repetitive after a while.

Comics artist James Kochalka teamed up with "Potatoman Seeks the Troof" developers Pixeljam Games to make this fun "Galaga"-esque shoot 'em up that has you running around and taking out enemy patterns. One of the key differences is that the game has you playing a character that can run and jump, which comes into play with enemies that will attack you on the ground.

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'Plasma Sky'

Plasma Sky
What We Like
  • No in-app purchases; 99¢ purchase gets everything.

  • Vibrant colors and effects.

What We Don't Like
  • Control with fingers can block view sometimes.

  • Challenging for beginners.

This glowy shmup stands out a lot thanks to its variety. You have all sorts of types of levels to play through, with different formations, bosses, and whatnot to try and fight through. You never quite know what's coming next, and it's quite the fun little game.

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What We Like
  • Completely free, no in-app purchases.

  • Classic game and a faithful port.

What We Don't Like
  • Controls are complex and clunky.

"Tyrian" is a game that was well, well ahead of its time. In an age where shoot 'em ups were coin munchers, it featured a story with branching paths, ships with upgrades, and just plain great action. This was in the early 1990s, well before these features became seen in modern games. "Tyrian" holds up quite well to this day, and "OpenTyrian" brings this classic to mobile in great form, as a port of the now free and open source game.

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'Shooty Skies'

Shooty Skies
What We Like
  • Casual gamer appeal.

  • Great graphics and style.

  • Multiple playable characters.

What We Don't Like
  • Ads can feel disruptive to pace of the game.

  • Can be slow to start up initially.

Two-thirds of the team that made Crossy Road partner up with a couple other Australian developers to make this fun shmup that's actually aimed at a casual audience. That's not to say that it isn't challenging, but that everything about the game is designed to get even people who aren't well-versed in the genre to have fun with this.

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