The games that shaped a generation: GameCube

19. Ikaruga
Treasure | Atari | 2003

The toughest of the tough-as-nails shooters. Surviving its endless waves of missiles, lasers and enemy ships will test even the hardest hardcore maniacs

What made it so great?
In a time when shoot 'em ups no longer mean a thing, to see one arrive on consoles at all is a rare occasion. To see one so beautiful, so intoxicatingly vibrant is another thing altogether. The game's focus on duality gives your ship its two distinct colors (black and white). One color can absorb like-colored bullets and store them for your own screen-clearing assault, but the other can deal double damage to enemies of opposite color. It all boils down to a flurry of black and white pellets flying across the screen in a seemingly inescapable frenzy of action. When it's all in motion, your eyes will glaze over and raw instinct takes over. For those watching from afar, Ikaruga looks like a piece of flowing art. It really is that amazing.

Ikaruga barely made a splash when it was released, but its legacy lives on. Despite low sales and even lower awareness, those in the know will defend the title and its obscure import-only Sega Saturn brother, Radiant Silvergun, as the pinnacles of twitchy shooter insanity.

Get ready to play
From the first second your white ship blasts out of its hangar, be prepared for the fight of your life. Ikaruga doesn't spend any time weaning the uninitiated. If you can't switch back and forth between colors fast enough, you're toast. If you can't memorize enemy patterns, you're toast. And even if you ace both of those skills, you still stand a good chance of getting killed. Also, the game can be displayed vertically, so if you want to turn your TV sideways and have a go that way, feel free.

Been there, done that?
If you thought a shooter released on an ailing platform went unnoticed in 2003, try to imagine how Chaos Field felt when it hit the GameCube just last year. It's nowhere near as good or captivating, but its Chaos/Order realms brought back memories of Ikaruga's mind-numbing brilliance.