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A sub-genre of Shoot'Em Up games, which replaces the spaceships, Starfish Aliens, robots and lasers with kittens, fairies, squirrels, candies, and all things Lighter and Softer. The stark space setting becomes Wackyland, and Moe Anthropomorphism abounds.
But the gameplay is otherwise intact, including the difficulty. Yes, despite the facades, these games are still very difficult, and need a lot of skill to beat (especially when they overlap with Bullet Hell). If you think otherwise, be prepared for a good smack in the face with Surprise Difficulty.
Sometimes these games have stories, and others just have Excuse Plots, just like any other game.
Also, as with many Widget Series, this isn't considered that odd in Japan, since cute is seen more as an artistic style, rather than being considered strictly for young children. That means these games are rarely Guilty Pleasures. In fact, these games have found a solid niche among gamers.
- The "Pure White Lover Bizarre Jelly" mini-game in No More Heroes was a regular shoot-em-up. In No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, it is now a Cute'Em Up.
- In the same vein as this trope, the Vista version of Minesweeper has an option to replace the minefield with a flower garden. The explosion sound effects turn to chimes.
- It is also possible to mix and match the mines and sounds, leading to a minefield chiming as it detonates, or a field of flowers exploding as they bloom.
- Touhou Project mixes this with Bullet Hell. The plots are also more intensive than typically expected for this genre. Because of this, and the sheer amount of Memetic Mutation, Touhou gets a lot of fans that aren't all that interested in the Bullet Hell aspect.
- Speaking about Bullet Hell games, Bullet Heaven (an Epic Battle Fantasy Spin-Off).
- Pocky and Rocky
- Trouble Witches
- Twinkle Star Sprites and other Twinkle Star games.
- Air Zonk
- Harmful Park
- Magical Chase
- Akkanvader (better known as Space Invaders '95: Attack of the Lunar Loonies!)
- Otomedius, Konami's combination of their own series, Parodius and Gradius. Silliness + Plot + Boobs - Drugs.
- Star Parodier, a cute'em up entry in Hudson's otherwise serious Star Soldier series.
- Rabio Lepus and Rabio Lepus Special
- The Cotton series
- Fantasy Zone
- Gun Nac
- Game Tengoku by Jaleco qualifies as this, along with being a both of Crisis Crossover (between Jaleco's old arcade games) and Affectionate Parody of the arcade gaming history and tropes around it.
- King And Balloon (the original cute-'em-up!)
- Death Smiles is a downplayed example, with a fairly serious plot and a major case of Vile Villain Saccharine Show
- Cosmo Gang: The Video is an interesting example, in that it's a comical version of Galaga, but the characters and bonus stages are based on the "Cosmo Gang" redemption arcade machine.
- Strato Patrol EOS, a minigame featured in Kirby Mass Attack.
- Space Bomber
- Gundemonium Series
- Muchi Muchi Pork
- Ibara Pink Sweets
- Insector-X plays it straight on the NES, but downplays it on the arcade and is an outright subversion on the Genesis