• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

A common level type in games already relying on the Unexpected Gameplay Change, and almost expected in Gameplay Roulette titles, the Unexpected Shmup Level is a Sub-Trope where your character ends up having to go through an unexpected Shoot'Em Up based level, usually of the 2D side scrolling space shooter kind (think Gradius or the like). This is very common in the Space Zone or underwater levels, and for some reason unknown, a relatively common gameplay style for final levels and Final Boss battles.

As the example list shows, there are two very distinct forms of this level, and they are as follows:

  1. The standard space shooter game where your character is automatically moving down a left to right or bottom to top path, shooting down numerous enemy spaceships and collecting power ups. Think say, Gradius, R-Type or Ikaruga, and this is the exact gameplay style used. There will always be a boss battle at the end against either a giant UFO/space ship/mecha or a reactor.
  2. A 3D Rail shooter type of level.
Examples of Unexpected Shmup Level include:

Side Scrolling/Up Scrolling Space Shooter Examples

  • The games in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, following Sonic and Knuckles, tend to have a True Final Boss battle that plays like this as a reward for collecting all of the Green Rocks/getting Hundred-Percent Completion/etc. The main character goes Super Saiyan and flies off to fight the Big Bad by either shooting at it or ramming into it. Or in one case, letting it shoot at you and then ramming the things it shot.
    • Sky Chase Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is an odd borderline case, as you're on a biplane and the level is arranged like a horizontal shooter, but you still control and attack like in the normal platforming levels.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Special Edition[1] has a side-scrolling shooter level (blatantly "borrowed" from Segagaga) in which you fight various Sega game systems. By that point, it's probably the most sensible thing that's happened.
  • Levels 2-3 and 4-3 in Super Mario Land were this kind of level.
  • The first part of Super Paper Mario's Outer Space chapter and the battle against Brobot had elements of this.
  • Wario Land The Shake Dimension's Subwarine underwater levels were this type of level.
  • Kirby games have a habit of playing this for penultimate battles, in conjunction with an Eleventh-Hour Superpower, starting with the second game in the series, Kirby's Adventure, and reaching an apotheosis in Kirby Super Star (and again in Kirby Super Star Ultra).
    • Kirby's Dream Land, the first game, used it for the level 3 boss fight with Kaboola instead. This boss was left out of the rehash of the game in Kirby Super Star, but finally made a comeback in Kirby Super Star Ultra.
    • They also used this for the last final boss fight in Kirby and the Amazing Mirror.
    • And again in Kirby 64.
    • And again in Kirbys Epic Yarn.
    • And again in Kirby's Return to Dream Land.
      • Are we sure this still counts as 'Unexpected'?
  • The Turrican games had this a lot, most notably in Turrican II where the entire third world was played as rather excellent 2D space shooter, lampshaded with a Force power-up from R-Type seen hanging by the world 2 exit.
  • Some of the underwater levels in Bomberman Hero apparently.
  • Level 2 of Battletoads for Game Boy is a horizontal-scrolling shmup level. Level 7 of the original Battletoads would be this, except that you can't shoot anything. Level 4 of Battletoads and Double Dragon is a turn-and-thrust shooting stage clearly based on Solar Jetman (a previous Rare game for the NES), and the final level of the arcade Battletoads is best describable as a 2D side-view rail shooter.
    • Speaking of Solar Jetman, its final act, after you complete the Golden Warpship, is a side-scrolling shmup.
  • Jade Empire has these kinds of minigames.
  • Gunstar Heroes features a spaceship level near the end. Interestingly, your weapons still work the same way as they normally do.
  • Stinkoman 20 X 6 has this happen on level 9.
  • No More Heroes fills the time to one of the boss fights by having Travis fall asleep on a train and dream that he's playing a vertical shooter based on the Show Within a Show Pure White Lover Bizarre Jelly.
  • The second-to-last boss in Beyond Good and Evil puts you in an on-rails spaceship boss fight to take down The Dragon's Tripod Terror.
  • The boss game for Dribble and Spitzs level in the original Wario Ware is a sudden scrolling shooter against a group of very geometric aliens. In WarioWare: Twisted!, in Kat & Ana's boss stage, you play as a robot who shoots out hands with fingers extended, destroying noses by picking them (nose-picking is Serious Business at Wario Ware Inc.)
    • Seeing how the game is based around Gameplay Roulette, there are 3-second SHMUP sections in all of the games in the series
  • Burning Rangers a game for the Sega Saturn was a third person game based around a firefighter putting out fires, saving people, performing acrobatic movements with jetpacks and fighting giant monsters. However at one section of the game you controlled their spaceship and flew through a crumbling spacestation before it got crashed into a massive spaceship that just came through a wormhole. Now that I think about it, that game didn't make a whole lot of sense.
  • Happened near the end of I Wanna Be the Guy when you jump into the Vic Viper.
  • The final level in the first Kid Icarus game.
  • The game SeGaGaGa ends with a shoot-em-up segment straight out of Thunder Force V, despite the rest of the game being an RPG/corporation sim. You fight various Sega game systems: the SG-1000, the Master System, then the Megadrive with the Sega CD reader and 32X.
    • You can play this sequence as a minigame afterward, and you can select from two ships: the R-360 cabinet you use in the story mode, and the Syrinx, which was meant to be the main ship for Thunder Force VI on the Dreamcast before it got scrapped. The final boss theme, The Justice Ray Part.3 is also on the "Broken Thunder" soundtrack for Thunder Force VI.
  • Lunar Knights is a surprisingly enjoyable Zelda/Diablo clone, with a rather unfortunate design decision to cap off every boss fight with a ten minute long unskippable really freakin' hard space shooter level. Making the shooter levels even harder is that the DS stylus is used to move your ship and to fire your guns, so you can only do one or the other at any given time.
  • La-Mulana's battle against Palenque (complete with a graphical reference to Gradius 2 MSX.)
  • Dynamite Headdy has not one, but two consecutive shoot-em-up levels. At the start of the first, and at regular intervals throughout both, you can select one of three different flight heads for Headdy. The Air Head turns Headdy's head into an airplane and lets him fire 3-way bullets either left or right. The Feather Head gives him a bird head, letting him spit projectiles which arc downward. The Rocket Head turns his head into a missile, letting him fly faster than normal and shoot penetrating lasers straight forward, but he can only face to the right.
    • This act also has two bosses (only counting bosses that have their own scene, otherwise three). Non-shmup fans, prepare for a Difficulty Spike.
  • Rocket Knight Adventures has at least three true Shmup levels I can think of. One leading to the castle, one through the enemy city, and another through space.
  • Cave Story turns into a Horizontal Scrolling Shooter for the Boss Battle against Ironhead. (This is a Shout-Out to a previous Studio Pixel game, Ikachan, which is however not a shmup but a Metroidvania.)
  • Mega Man series:
    • V (GB) has a Shmup level right before the final stage.
    • Mega Man 8 has this happening twice during the course of the game, first during Tengu Man's stage and then in Wily's Castle.
    • And the jet ski section of Wave Man's stage in 5.
    • Mega Man X 8 has two of the 8 maverick stages as behind the rail shooters. Whilst the game was generally well recieved, these levels weren't.
    • Rock Man 4 Minus Infinity has the second half of Cossack Castle Stage. Mega Man rode on the Balloon Adaptor until Shadow Man ambushed him. Rush saved him and Mega Man defeated Shadow Man, enabling the usage of the Robot Master Weapons for the rest of the stage.
  • Drawn to Life has a shmup level once you draw the Rocket Ship.
  • 20th Anniversary Pac-Man World has a Galaga-like space shooter level.
  • Metal Slug 3 has a vertical space shooter level accompanied by Crowning Music of Awesome as an intro to the last level.
    • Another Metal Slug game — possibly 4, though I could be mistaken — has a level that starts out as a normal one, but becomes an Unexpected Shmup Level in the final section just before the level's boss (which is a giant airplane with turrets and missile launchers).
  • Most of Sin and Punishment is a third-person rail shooter, but one level turns the perspective into a side-scrolling affair.
  • The Saturn game based on Magic Knight Rayearth ends with two brutally hard vertical-shooter bosses.
  • Shockman, normally a poor-man's Mega Man clone, becomes an R-Type-style shmup in its third and sixth levels.
  • Viewtiful Joe and its sequel allow you to pilot the Six Machine through part of a level.
  • The NES game for Felix the Cat has one of these when Felix is flying his spaceship in order to get The Professor's lair on an alien planet. This is also one of the more difficult levels, as you HAVE to keep on collecting powerups in order to keep your spaceship going; unlike the other levels, Felix can't survive without his spaceship.
  • Mushroom Kingdom Fusion was going to have a whole world based on this, but it was replaced with a fantasy/mythological world and the Shmup gameplay system was scrapped due to being an example of Author Appeal.
  • While it's tough to consider it "unexpected" given the Bullet Hell franchise it's based on, the World 6-2-4 boss in the mostly Mario-like fan-game Super Marisa World, Kaguya, is, well, pretty much a side-scrolling version of the Kaguya fight from Imperishable Night. (The level itself is based on the aforementioned Super Mario Land 4-3, as despite the title suggesting its a straight Super Mario World knockoff, every pre-64 Mario game is referenced at times--even Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island and Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins.)
  • Super Spy Hunter 's fourth stage is an Auto Scrolling Level on a highway in the sky, and the fifth stage is one-third boat shooter and one third airplane shooter, complete with spreadfire vulcan and missiles. The boat levels in the first game also count.
  • The "Chase" and "Armada" levels in The Rocketeer for the SNES. Then again, it's a Gameplay Roulette.
  • In the Super Story Mode of the PS version of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the fight against Lovers and its drones is the side-scrolling version of this.
  • Machinarium has an in-game walkthrough, but every time you access it you must first complete a shmup Mini Game. Perhaps intentionally, the game is incredibly boring, with one enemy type, no powerups or alternate attacks, slow movement speed, and controls of limited responsiveness.
  • In Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, of all things, completing the game would let you choose one of a number of rewards (though the game wouldn't tell you what they were until you picked one). They included character bios, fatality demonstrations, particularly hard bonus fights... and a Galaga-themed shoot-em-up minigame.
  • In the second Digital Devil Saga there is a bonus where you can play a 2d shooter with Cielo.
  • There is a side-scrolling shooter level in the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure videogame's story mode, which also takes place inside one of the protagonists. Though by that point in the game, you've had so many non-standard levels (it's supposed to be a Fighting Game) it doesn't come as much of a surprise.
  • The PS (and assumedly PSP) version(s) of Tales of Phantasia have a pretty elaborate shooter minigame available a broken-down hi-tech town called Groovy Arche, starring the resident Black Magician Girl, you guessed it, Arche, complete with 3 weapons that can be powered up and used simultaneously, bombs, complex scoring system and lots of voice clips unique to the minigame. Too bad it's only 2 levels long and to get to the second one, you need to score high enough in the first one, which is no easy feat. It was popular enough to be made into a separate cellphone game.
  • Non-videogame example: Keima form The World God Only Knows plays a horse racing game that suddenly becomes Bullet Hell.
  • Dark Nebula 2 has one right at the end of the game in which you link up to a space-ship and fly into the sky to do battle with the final boss and escape.
  • In Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc the second phase of the final boss fight Rayman jumps into a plane and has to fight the boss to win the game.
  • Captain America and The Avengers turned into a horizontal shmup at two points: the middle of Scene 2, flying above a city, and the beginning of Scene 5, flying through space.
  • The Konami crossover platformer Wai Wai World has one towards the end, where the player is given the choice of flying either Vic Viper or Twinbee. The sequel has a short one in the middle of the first world and then later stages in the style of Twinbee and Gradius.
  • Quite a number of Mini Games from Mini Robot Wars are like this.
  • The "Gotham City Street" stage in the Batman Licensed Game for the Sega Genesis is a horizontal shooting level made to look like a driving level. The later sky stage is a more normally styled example, aside from the Monster Clown inflatables.
  • Takeshis Castle has the hang-gliding level, a horizontal scrolling stage which is made all the more infuriating because of the inability to gain height without clouds that can fall victim to shots.

Rail Shooter Examples

  • The first Devil May Cry, after hack'n'slashing your way through the entire game, ends with two of these. The first one is the first battle against Mundus, then, after battling his second form, going through a Timed Mission that has you escaping the place, and then throwing down with his third and final form, Dante and Trish escape on a biplane in the second and final rail shooter level.
    • Bayonetta, the Spiritual Successor to DMC, turns into a rail shooter for Chapter 14. True to the game's mood, you're not flying a jet, spaceship, or even unassisted; you're riding a missile toward the next area.
  • The battle against N.Gin in Crash 3 was basically a rail shooter.
  • Star Fox Adventures was mostly a Zeldalike--but being a Star Fox game, included shoot-em-up mini-games between The Hub and the different dungeons. Oh, and the final boss as well. Hope you practiced!
    • Of course, this may be an inversion: people expect the space shooter levels in a Star Fox game, while the Zelda-esque bits are the aberration. Played straight in the level where you're shooting down missiles from the back of a sauropod, though.
    • The game was originally called Dinosaur Planet and got shoehorned into the Star Fox universe. The shooter levels were added in an attempt to make it more like Star Fox.
  • The credits of Super Smash Bros Melee is a shooting game.
    • Brawl does this too when you beat Classic or All-Star mode. It also features the Coin Shooter minigame that lets you collect trophies and stickers, and is a great source of distraction.
  • The two Pegasus segments of God of War II might feel familiar to those who played Star Fox 64. Of course, without Peppy saying "Do a barrel roll!".
    • Or Slippy. So infinitely preferable.
  • One of the minigames from Final Fantasy VII is a rail shooter.
    • Literally. You're firing from a roller coaster car and you can see the tracks.
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Crystal Bearers has this right at the beginning.
  • Again, Kirby — this time, the final boss of Kirby 64.
  • Third-person graphical Adventure Game Cyberia included a first-person rail shooter segment near the end of the game.
  • The Prague Countryside and Colombia Helicopter Extraction rail shooter levels in Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix.
  • Call of Duty has few rail-shooter segments. Prominently featured in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare are: Death from Above, Shock and Awe, and Game Over (the final mission).
  • A rare case of a shmup having an Unexpected Different Kind of Shmup Level: Gradius III (Arcade version) had a 3D rail shooter sequence pop up in the fourth stage, the difficulty here being using the impossible controls to avoid walls.
  • Red Faction 2: "Shrike's Wild Ride" and "Tank on the Town".
  • Konami's Ajax alternates between a top-down helicopter Shoot'Em Up and a 3D jet rail shooter. A form of Gameplay Roulette, actually.
  • Driver features a rather scrappy rail shooter mission in France.
    • And then again in Istanbul, only here, you have a BFG No more needing to burst the police cruisers after you with a machine pistol!
  • The Medal of Honor series does this several times, e.g. the jeep level in Allied Assault, and the truck ride and Minecart Madness sequences in Frontline.
  • Kingdom Hearts does this with the Gummi Ship, which is used to travel between worlds. Kingdom Hearts II plays the trope even straighter: while the Kingdom Hearts example was essentially a 3D standard "moving forward" shmup, Kingdom Hearts II updates it to be a full rail shooter. It even adds a Battleship Raid complete with a Reactor Boss. And then there's the random rail-shooter segment during the final battle which does not involve the Gummi Ship. And that's leaving out the minigame in Christmas Town...
    • In Kingdom Hearts coded, the entire ending stage of Wonderland, including the boss, is a rail-shooter.
  • Super Mario Sunshine has a literally on-rails mission in Pinna Park where one must get water rockets while on a roller coaster to aim and fire at Mecha-Bowser while avoiding Bullet Bills from behind. This is repeated in the same world except with shooting down balloons under a time limit.
  • The 3D Grand Theft Auto games every now and then include a mission where you're gunning enemies from a moving vehicle.
  • In Super Star Wars:
    • Two early levels have the player shooting Jawas in a landspeeder (third-person view) in order to head to a destination. The second-last level is similar with the player in an X-Wing having to shoot TIE fighters and Death Star towers that one-hit-kill the player. The final level is a first-person rail shooter, in the Death Star trench, of course.
    • The trend continues in Super Empire Strikes Back (Battle of Hoth, Asteroid Field in the Falcon after escaping Hoth, and in Luke's X-Wing approaching Cloud City), Super Return of the Jedi (Speeder Bike chase on Endor and the fleet battle above Endor / Death Star II bombing run).
    • The trend also continues in Shadows of the Empire where literally every other level is some sort of vehicle based mission. Two of these, the Asteroid Field and the first half of the Skyhook Battle, are rail shooters, one is a speeder bike race, and the last two are flight combat.
    • Star Wars platform games have a love for this trope dating back to the 1987 Famicom game, prior to which every Star Wars Licensed Game was a Shoot'Em Up of one sort or another.
  • Bomber Jet and Bomber Marine levels in Bomberman Hero, with the exception that the Marine is capable of stopping and moving backwards.
  • Jak II has a couple of levels like this, shooting down Krimzon Guards with jetpacks or flying Metal Heads and at one point destroying a tanker. Jak 3 also has a couple stationary rail-shooter type missions, using Spargus City's turret gun to shoot targets or Dark Makers out of the sky before they make landfall. Of course, this series is one of the kings of the Unexpected Gameplay Change.
  • The Final Boss battle of Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow is a Rail Shooter.
  • The final stage of the Genesis version of Michael Jackson's Moonwalker is a space sim style level.
  • The 3D Spy Hunter games occasionally have Rail Shooter levels where you control the Weapons Van's turret.
  • Scaler tosses a couple of Rail Shooter segments in at the start of a couple of stages, where you control Reppy. There's also a boss battle consisting of this.
  • Quake IV features a scene where you go between two towers on a monorail which is slightly damaged, so it doesn't make full speed. Other rails are constantly catching up...
    • There are also Rail Shooter (the convoy level) and vehicle combat sequences.
  • Assassin's Creed Brotherhood has this happen when Ezio steals the Machine Gun.
  • Gears of War 2 has a brief rail shooter sequence when you first get your flying mount.
  • Just Cause 2 has a few missions that the player is expected to complete primarily like this. All are escort missions where you car-surf on the protectee's vehicle. However, you are still free to complete these as you like. One, done on a car, relies on your own finite ammo supply, and so practically requires jumping from car to car. Another is for a boat with a mounted minigun, so it's a bit more sensible to stay put.
  • By combining a mine cart, Bullet Hell, and magical ranged attacks in Nie R... and you get a shoot-em up. While you can attack with your melee weapons, the bulk of the enemies are well outside their range, forcing you to use magic.
  • Darksiders has a Panzer Dragoon-esque rail shooter section as you ride on a griffin to a dungeon inaccessible by land. The trophy/achievement for killing a certain number of enemies during it is considered That One Achievement by some, especially since you can't replay it unless you knew to make a save right before it or you start a new game.
  • The World Is Not Enough (N64) has Cold Reception, a ski shooter based on the parahawk battle from the movie.
  • In one chapter of the Tip of the Spear mission from Halo: Reach, during your ride to the Spire, you use the Falcon helicopter's mounted grenade launcher to take out ground targets.
  1. an Affectionate Parody of Sonic, taking the form of a Let's Play of a fictitious Updated Rerelease