"Also, at this time, we would like to make a few corrections: Shotguns are actually not hilariously, stupidly inaccurate. Also, getting shot with one is lethal and does not, as depicted in the game, merely tickle."
In the real world, shotguns are a weapon with an effective range anywhere from 20 to 40 meters (66 to 131 feet), depending on the choke used and amount of charge in the shellnote A shotgun of very good quality is regarded as able to hit a target the size of a rabbit or pheasant with most pellets from the first shot at 50 meters. This is laughably short compared to any rifle or carbine (even a tiny .22), but comparable to the effective range of a standard, non-custom semi-auto handgun or revolver (usually about 25 to 50 meters), enough to be lethally dangerous for game or whichever people happen to be in vicinity.
But in Video Games, this range is invariably about five to ten meters or less. Anything farther away will rarely ever receive more than Scratch Damage, but anything inside this range will be quickly reduced to the consistency of chunky salsa. Shotguns in video games also tend to be stupendously inaccurate, but this too is the opposite of reality; the purpose of the wider spread of a shotguns shot is that it increases the chance of hitting the target. Extreme examples will enforce the shotgun's short-range specialisation by giving it an Arbitrary Maximum Range — that is, the shot doesn't do less damage at long range, but physically ceases to exist.
There is also a 'sub-trope' at play in games which have automatic shotguns as well as pump action shotguns. For some unknown, illogical reason, pump action shotguns are massively more powerful, often being 'one hit kill' at short ranges, while automatic shotguns require two or even three hits at close range. The obvious reason why this happens is because no-one would ever use a pump shotgun when an automatic shotgun is just as powerful, and that automatic shotguns that kill in one hit would be incredibly overpowered.
This trope is largely the result of weapon balancing mechanics in shooter games; in many cases, the shotgun has its own niche in a game's Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors, outclassing all other weapons at point-blank range but losing everywhere else. Some games have your choice between a weak shotgun blast that has better range, and a more powerful attack that has virtually no range. Others have a choice between a Sawn Off Shotgun with a huge spread and an intact one with longer range.
In Real Life combat, the advantages of the shotgun became obvious in World War I, as the wide spread of large pellets was almost as deadly as a submachinegun salvo, and the short range prevented hitting unintended targets like one's own comrades.
Although "realistic" shooters are something of a current trend, the trend-setter follows this trope to the letter, assuring that it will remain common despite other attempts at realism; even when some games try to create a more accurate shotgun, it is often decried as "unrealistic" or over-powered.
A subtrope of Short-Range Long-Range Weapon. May affect whether Shotguns Are Just Better.
Doom has some history with this: The original game's shotgun was depicted fairly realistically, with a reasonable range and a fairly tight spread that made it a very versatile gun, and most players stuck to it through the whole game. Doom 2, however, introduced the Super Shotgun, which fires two shells at once for triple damage, but with the accuracy of a blind man in a hurricane, being quite possibly the earliest example of this type of shotgun in videogames.
Doom 3's shotgun has a shot pattern of 10 feet at a distance of about two yards. Needless to say that it's pretty much worthless outside of point-blank range. Fortunately pretty much every encounter for 2/3rds of the game happens within a two yard radius, where it's often an instant kill.
It's one of the main reasons why mods for Doom 3 are so popular. Interestingly enough, if only the spread angle is reduced and the number of pellets/damage per pellet aren't balanced as well, you get what pretty much amounts to the spread gun from Contra (one blast manages to be stronger than a rocket!)
The SNES release of the original Doom didn't have individual pellets, so the shotgun was more like a sniper rifle - if were aiming at something it would take the full force of the shot. This lead to situations with enemies so far away you could only see them as a couple of alternating pixels in their idle animation suddenly becoming a non-alternating pixel with one shot.
The Quake shotguns follow the same pattern, with the normal shotgun having good range but the double barrel being a short-range gun.
Quake II is even worse, with the super shotgun having an effective range of about two yards. For the enemy to take the full brunt, you literally have to be touching him.
On the other hand, Q2's standard shotgun is a decent medium-range weapon that remains useful throughout the whole game.
Serious Sam follows the Doom example. The basic shotgun has a tight spread and can one-hit-kill a basic human soldier from several dozen feet away (assuming the headless soldiers are supposed to be equivalent to a human). Unfortunately, the vast majority of the enemies Sam faces are hardly basic or human; fortunately, most of them also love to run up to close range, which makes the Coach Gun (essentially the exact same weapon as Doom 2's Super Shotgun) so useful.
Contra has the Spread Gun, which fires five bullets in a 45 degree arc to either side. It's useful at all ranges, but becomes a Game Breaker if used at point-blank range. It got Nerfed in the second arcade game by reducing its rate of fire when too many bullets are on-screen, which gets worse with the upgrade.
Halo is a prime offender here, though the first game was an exception - the shotgun was notoriously overpowered in range and reach. In later games though, it's an absolute joke. Supposedly, it was nerfed to balance the energy sword.
One of your NPC allies in Halo: Reach, Emile, uses a shotgun as their signature weapon, but seems to believe that it has a much further range than it actually does, shooting at enemies from a range where the shotgun will do absolutely no damage.
Lampshaded in Red vs. Blue when Sarge tries to play the Firefight game mode in Halo: Reach with his usual shotgun:
Sarge: Uh, someone really needs to improve on the range of this weapon. Take that, take that! Come closer, and take that! Alright, nevermind, just take this (throws grenade).
Lampshaded earlier when Grif is mocking Sarge (Neither is able to move since they are surrounded by mines) and Sarge shoots at him, but Grif is completely unharmed, even though they're just standing one-warthog apart from each other.
Grif: And you favor a weapon that has a much shorter range than most weapons.
Pretty much all Resident Evil games feature this, but because the vast majority of enemies in those games are close-range attackers (zombies, specifically), the shotgun remains a sound choice for its crowd-controlling capability and incredible stopping power compared to other conventional weapons. Most games also include a shotgun with a tighter choke for more concentrated shots.
Resident Evil 4, however, includes an exclusive upgrade for the initial shotgun, making its power at *any* range equal its power up-close. Worthwhile for a gun you get for free.
Resident Evil 5 pretty much falls squarely into this trope, however, one of the pellets will always go exactly where the players aims it, so accurate players can effectively use a shotgun to pick off ranged-attack enemies in spite of it.
A game-breaker in Soldier of Fortune 2. A close-range shotgun blast was instant death, but all other firearms were pea shooters by comparison. Thus, the best multiplayer strategy was to run straight into a hail of gunfire and get shot repeatedly in the chest, so long as you got to squeeze off your one lethal shotshell.
Ditto for the first game, where you were better off using the 9mm or Hand Cannon for medium range shots. Partially averted in the second game's single player mode, where it has a sizable lethal range, but still much less than in real life.
Golden Eye 1997 has two shotguns, but the only real difference between them is cosmetic (one is supposed to be a pump-action, but Bond's left hand isn't rendered so there's no reload animation). Both are extremely powerful at close range and have a wide spread, firing five pellets per shot.
Devil May Cry. Dante's shotgun fires shot, and packs far more punch (damage-wise andsheer knockback force) within ten feet. Given that it's explicitly a hunting shotgun, the spread pattern is realistically tight, and it still does okay damage for a DMC gun at range (the demons Dante fights being fairly bullet-resistant to begin with), the range limit makes some sense.
Killzone — which is remarkable, since weapons are already inaccurate as it is.
The shotgun in Killzone 2 actually has an okay range, but you can't go into aiming mode with it... so it's still most effective at extremely close ranges.
Played straight in Half-Life, but Valve seems to be shifting away from this, as the shotguns become more capable long-range weapons in Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2, and Left 4 Dead (though they're still outclassed at long range by other weapons).
The chrome shotgun in Left 4 Dead 2 in particular has a tight enough spread that it can quite easily kill at long ranges.
Half-Life and Half-Life 2 allows you to fire two shells at once, for more firepower at the cost of less range, fitting this trope a bit better.
As for the Team Fortress 2 versions, most classes have much more effective weapon choices at longer ranges (except for the Pyro, whose main weapon has an even shorter effective range) and the class updates so far have shifted several classes away from shotguns by making the alternate weapon something completely different such as the Flaregun and the Sandvich. The Scout remains loyal to his shotgun-ish Scattergun, though. Shotguns actually can be used at the same ranges as other medium range weapons with the "technically" same damage – the problem is that each pellet from the shotgun deals its own damage when it hits a target. While natural spread will brutally weaken each shot's effectiveness, it is still quite possible to use a shotgun to finish off a low health enemy or mess with the aim of a sniper from a reasonable distancenote in fact, it does a better job at this than most, due to the chance of hitting being multiplied by the number of pellets.
Partially averted in the Counter-Strike series. The pump-action shotguns are basically a one-hit kill weapon at point-blank, and trying to run-and-gun with any shotgun in the series generally results in little more than tickling your enemies with lead pellets. However, with the exception of Global Offensive's "Sawed-Off", most shotguns are effective at a similar range to pistols (i.e. mid-range by the game's standards) if used while stationary and crouching, and the spread is no worse than the SMGs in the game.
While Garry's Mod's SPAS-12 from Half-Life 2 fits the trope, Spy's Customizable Weaponry averts it completely, you can hit surprisingly far with a shotgun and this is with the normal ammo and they can effectively act as a marksmen weapon if you attach a dot sight and load slugs or frag ammo. Revolvers loaded with birdshot ammo also count.
Red Faction has a shotgun that can fire one single shell in automatic mode with a lot of spread, or two shells in a more concentrated shot. The 'aiming' mode available to all weapons basically works by reducing the weapon's spread to 0, meaning all shots land exactly where the reticle is pointed. This also applies to the pellet spread of the shotgun, making an aimed double-barrelled blast the single most devastating attack in the game, at any range.
Played straight in Tabula Rasa where shotguns didn't follow the normal weapon rules; instead of locking onto a target and hitting that target directly, they fired out a cone-shaped which hit every target in front of you. Unlike pistols, rifles and machine guns which slowly lost accuracy when you used them at targets beyond their optimal range, the shotgun's blast vanished exactly 20m from the end of the barrel.
Averted in Max Payne 3, all shotguns other than the sawed-offnote Even the sawed-off can be pretty accurate if you get the golden version, which trades buckshot for solid slugs. can perform respectably at range, especially if you aim for the head. The two previous installments play the trope straight.
Metal Slug's Shotgun barely fires four feet in front of your character, but can often kill a tank in one shot. It's really a shotgun only in name, as it shoots directed explosions instead of pellets.
The Fallout series has an assortment of automatic Shotguns, which are devastating at point-blank range but much less effective at longer ranges, making them ideal for close-quarters combat.
There is also a Sawn-off shotgun with an even shorter range, making it a half-step above a melee weapon.
The special variant, called The Kneecapper, is more or less a perfect example of this trope. The Kneecaper is more accurate and stronger than the standard sawed-off but less accurate than combat shotguns. Both sawed-off guns are still terrible in this game due to most enemies being out of melee range and those that are can take more damage than the sawed-off can deal, especially the ones found in the Broken Steel DLC.
The Double-barreled Shotgun in Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel is incredibly devastating at point-blank range early on. With a little luck, giving someone both barrels can result in an instant kill.
The Point Lookout DLC Double Barrel Shotgun is also obscenely powerful and a VATS attack with it in at full repair is very likely to kill most enemies, except those added by Broken Steel and a couple of others. It's still useless at more than three meters, though.
The Terrible Shotgun has the second highest damage of all Small Guns, but only if all pellets hit the target, and it has a spread on par with the Sawed-off Shotgun.
In Fallout: New Vegas, the sawed-off shotgun has extremely high spread, making it nigh-useless at a distance but capable of significant damage at close range. On the other end of the scale are the single shotgun and hunting shotgun, which have the tightest spread of all shotguns (the hunting shotgun can be modded with a choke to further reduce spread), making them effective at medium distance. The lever-action shotgun, caravan shotgun, and riot shotgun have a moderate amount of spread. All of them are about three times as accurate if you use slugs.
Command & Conquer: Renegade also has a shotgun, but it's notably absent from the singleplayer, only available to one of the most basic characters and the trope is in full effect, making it pretty much worthless. It's a decent base weapon against vehicles but considering most vehicles will just run you over when you try to get close enough, you'd be better off just trying to drop your charge of Timed C4 on it.
Even then it falls short to the GDI Grenadier (another basic character) in almost every way except for being less likely to hurt the shooter due to splash damage.
In Gears of War, shotguns are useless at more than 5-10 meters but completely destroy when closer. If you are caught in close range combat with your machine gun, the only reliable way to kill them is to get a chainsaw kill. Since the cover and movement system makes closing in very easy, it doesn't need to effective from any further.
Gears of War 2 reformed the Gnasher shotgun to being a semi-decent mid-range weapon, the low rate of fire won't inflict as much damage as a regular assault rifle but you can physically see the enemy flinching from your hits. As a result they also toned down the Ludicrous Gibs range so that you have to be much closer to make the One-Hit Kill.
Gears of War 3 decided to play both sides of the coin, introducing the Sawed-Off Shotgun next to the series staple Gnasher Shotgun. The Gnasher is just as balanced as the previous game, but the sawed off is absolutely ridiculous in close range. If you aren't within 6 feet it won't do much damage, but there have been reports of double or triple kills from one shot if you get lucky (and due to a glitch, one individual got five kills when everyone respawned in an extremely tight space). It is balanced out by having only one shot to use before a long reload time. According to the artbook, both it and the Retro Lancer were intended to balance the Gnasher.
Strange example: the Stasis Weapon in Star TrekVoyager:Elite Force has a shotgun-style fire mode that sprays energy beams in a horizontal arc-at close range, an enemy will be hit by every beam before they diverge, but in a pinch, the gun can be used at extremely long range, as every individual beam is pinpoint accurate, and one of the beams always goes straight forward from the gun, in addition to the others firing at increasingly wide angles.
Elite Force II features the Federation Assault Rifle with shotgun like properties, the Secondary Fire is a condensed burst but it fires out as a projectile instead of hitscan.
Star Trek Online features "pulsewave assault" weapons for your captain and bridge officers while on an away mission. Given that it's an MMO, the shot will always hit the target but the damage decreases the further you are away.
Played horribly straight in Call of Duty. All shotguns in the franchise share an effective range of about seven paces. Regular walking paces, not the big leaping ones. Inside this range (which is also within the enemy's Instant Death Radius on higher difficulties and in multiplayer), almost guaranteed one-hit kill. Outside, the pellets disappear, causing not even slight damage. In Modern Warfare particularly shotguns are almost useless for this reason, most firefights happening inside a range where a real-life shotgun would be frighteningly lethal but the in-game versions are literally harmless. There is something indescribably appalling about being shot from the other side of a small room with the game's weakest pistol, when all you can do is fire off shell after shell in a futile gesture of defiance, willing your pellets to stop invisibly dissipating for no reason. What makes this worse is that the developers seem to actively ignore actual bugs so they can focus on pushing out patches that reduce the shotguns' ranges even further.
It gets worse in World at War, as most maps are much larger with farther ranges than that of Modern Warfare. Both games allow you to carry two primary weapons (non-pistol guns) with the Overkill perk, meaning you could use a assault or sniper rifle with that shotgun - however, both games require you take time to receive that by the RPG Elements (even more so in World at War), and even with it, it doesn't become any less hindering to run around holding a shotgun out at all time as opposed to another gun. Unless you like camping, which will frequently make you very hindering to your team in many objective-based game modes.
In Modern Warfare 2, the Shotgun's usefulness is improved by making it a secondary weapon - almost giving you the Overkill perk for free. In addition, with the Model 1887 shotgun, this trope was averted to great effect; though they eventually had their range severely cut down. The infuriating thing was while the 1887 had realistic range, every other shotgun played this trope straight, even the modern M1014 (which also had a drastically reduced magazine for game balance purposes).
The shotguns in Modern Warfare 2 all had slightly different (but still infuriatingly short) maximum ranges:
The Ranger (or, even more pitifully, two Rangers) has such a wide spread that it stops being effective before the bullets disintegrate. This is "balanced" by giving it the single highest damage-per-shot (assuming all pellets hit) of any weapon in the game. And you get two of them (or, if you only have one, you have two barrels anyways).
The below-mentioned AA-12.
The Striker, a semiautomatic, drum-fed weapon with the shortest range of all "viable" shotguns.
The aforementioned M1014, which actually has a decent range and fires quickly enough to offset pellet spread simply by shooting more little balls of metal at the target.
The Spas-12, the first shotgun unlocked in the game, is a pump-action with long enough range to deal with the majority of maps. Note that dealing with it and dominating it are very different things.
The glorious Model 1887. Before the nerf, people ran about wielding akimbo lever-action shotguns with incredible range (and yes, the animations for cocking the lever and reloading are from exactly what you think they are). Now they run about wielding a single lever-action shotgun with incredible range, or akimbo lever-action shotguns with not-so-incredible range.
Modern Warfare 2 also brings us the AA-12 fully-automatic shotgun, which should be the most incredibly awesome weapon in the game but is instead literally useless outside knife range–indeed, you may fire off an entire magazine at an enemy, only for him to Commando-lunge at you from outside your shotgun's maximum range and knife you. Firing it essentially creates a cone of instant death 3 feet wide at its widest and 7 feet long spread out in front of you until your ammo runs out, which can be very useful for room-clearing and snap-firing but is completely pointless if employed any other way. It also has 8-shell box magazines, which are far too small for effective sustained fire (the only tactic that's even remotely useful with a range that poor) instead of the 20- or 32-round drum mags it could have. To add insult to injury, the pellets are somehow tracers, so you can literally see the buckshot erupting viciously from your gun's muzzle only to inexplicably disappear into thin air 6 to 10 feet away.
Modern Warfare 3 fixes this somewhat with its new Weapon Proficiencies - the "Range" proficiency, for shotguns and submachine guns, increases the range you can still deal maximum damage with a weapon, and in the case of shotguns increases the maximum range their pellets actually go as well. Unfortunately, like the above Overkill perk, you can't use it until you level up the shotgun you want to use it with to level 23 - by that point you'll be good enough with the damn thing you don't need increased range. Unless you like the AA-12, which returned to this game (with terrible range only very slightly improved). Which is good, because the AA-12 is the shotgun enthusiast's answer to akimbo FMGs.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 fixes this better with the Long Barrel attachment, which has the same effects as the above "Range" proficiency but is the second attachment unlocked for shotguns - not that it really helps with lag compensation preventing your shots from even counting in the first place, though.
There's also an attempted aversion with the KSG in BOII. When it first appeared in Modern Warfare 3, it wasn't popular due to it's low damage capacity and very slow pump action. Black Ops II speeds up the pump and makes it fire slugs. Handy, except for one single thing: the slug still vanishes after a few metres, so no long range use, even with the long barrel attachment. And since it only fires the one slug, there goes any real short range capability as well. In MW3, it was only good at close range; in BO2, it's not good at any range, especially against the fast-firing, high-capacity SMGs that dominate the small maps.
Same for the Medal of Honor series, where the shotgun can't hit the side of a barn at more than 6 or so meters.
Not so with the Trench Gun from either 2 or 3. That thing was amazing.
The Grand Theft Auto series zig-zags this trope, having shotguns that may or may not have a wide spread, though there is a particularly odd case in Grand Theft Auto III. In that game, shotguns are loaded with buckshot and do the whole short-range-low-damage-when-far-away thing... on human targets. Against cars, they hit like explosive slugs no matter how far away they're shot from, and can wreck a vehicle in a handful of shots, especially in the hands of the enemy. Hope you found all of the packages in Portland before pissing off the Mafia.
The budget game Land Of The Dead Road To Fiddlers Green strictly enforced the "close range only" rule by having shotgun pellets disappear once they've cleared about ten feet from the muzzle; anything outside that range won't be hit at all.
Played straight in Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy, the shotgun is extremely powerful at close range, but practically worthless beyond that. It is crippled by it's inaccuracy and low ammo capacity.
Unreal's shotgun equivalent, the Flak Cannon, fires a spray of glowing shrapnel that spreads pretty fast. Taking the whole shell at close range is usually a one shot kill, but it's not much use at longer range. Thank goodness for the grenade launcher Secondary Fire.
In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and its multiplayer component Metal Gear Online, both the standard pump-shotgun and semi-automatic Saiga 12 play this trope straight, doing very little damage beyond close range. Bizarrely, despite this, you can stick a red-dot or a 4X ACOG on the pump-shotgun, but the buckshot's effective range makes them completely unnecessary. You can load slugs, though, so one of these sights could conceivably turn the shotgun into a poor man's sniper rifle, but the way weapons are handled in-game (switch between them on the fly in single-player, buy a different one next round in multiplayer) makes this pointless, since it's easier to just take a real sniper rifle.
Hilariously, the shortened Masterkey shotgun attachment for assault rifles has an instant death 15-20m range while the other shotguns only have 10-15m.
It gets worse. The shotguns in the online portion are physically incapable of getting a one shot kill without slugs. Even a point blank shot will only take half health.
Army Men: Sarge's Heroes has this bad, but in an unusual way. The shot pattern doesn't spread at all on its own - you can literally see all the pellets the shotgun fires stay in perfect formation upon leaving the gun (the projectile being a flying sprite). The problem is weapon sway, which makes every gun except the sniper rifle inaccurate past about 50 meters. The shotgun has horrible sway in comparison to every other gun.
Borderlands also features an utterly ridiculous example in the form of Sledge's Shotgun. It's an over-under that fires two rounds sequentially, has a range of literally four or five feet and has a spread only about twenty degrees shy of being able to shoot sideways. Anything in the shot cone vanishes. Not to mention that it's one of the only three guns in the game that can (and will always) have 0.00 accuracy. The other two are The Chopper and The Boomstick, which are both shotguns of a sort-except the chopper shoots 18 machinegun rounds per second, and the Boomstick imitates a shotgun effect with rockets.
That being said, shotguns can be extremely deadly at range depending on their parts; some shotguns have a very tight spread or fire in a pattern that ignores the accuracy stat — or both. These can easily be used to snipe very distant targets, especially if they have a scope.
In the sequel, Sledge's Shotgun returns, although with a bit of a stat rearrangement (it tends to have accuracy in the neighborhood of 30 instead of 0). Another unique shotgun is Captain Blade's Orphan Maker, which usually spawns with a decent accuracy stat — however, because it only fires between two and four pellets per shot, it can be hard to hit anything that isn't right in your face. Some of the other unique shotguns, like the Octo (pellets converge at various points as they fly), the Flakker (designed specifically to combat aerial enemies), and the Striker (just really accurate, has a critical hit damage bonus) subvert this.
And if we really want to destroy this trope the DLC adds a shotgun that shoots swords... that explode... into more swords... which also explode. Good range on that gun.
In general, Hyperion-brand shotguns zigzag this trope. While they're no more accurate than normal shotguns for the first two or so bursts, once the stabilizers present in most Hyperion weapons kick in, the shotguns provide a nice tight cone of fire that's as accurate at long range as most other weapons, if not moreso (with the exception of scoped Sniper Rifles) for as long as the shooter doesn't need to stop firing. They're quite a lifesaver during Fight For Your Life mode thanks to the reliable long-range burst damage, and are arguably among the most accurate weapons in the game while downed due to the inability to scope.
It's worth noting that, in both games, the individual pellets do not have a fixed limit as to how far they can go or even do less damage from farther away. Because of this, even the lower accuracy shotguns can be used from quite a distance against larger targets like Loaders or Bullymongs.
In the Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying games (Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Deathwatch and Black Crusade), shotguns tend to have maximum ranges of around 100 m. They also only get their signature 'scatter' attack bonus (which grants extra auto-hit attacks on your target when you roll a good attack roll) when fired point-blank range (3m or less).
To say nothing of the tabletop wargame itself, where shotguns have the same range as most pistols (half the range of a lasgun or bolter).
Except for the Redeemer, the shotgun of Uriah Jacobus, one special character for the Sisters of Battle. The Redeemer has the same profile as a stormbolter, except with better armor penetration, which gives it the standard range for non-sniper personal weapon, and an insanely powerful damage for a shotgun.
In the Rainbow Six games, shotguns are quite deadly. But so is every other weapon, and if it is a pump action shotgun, the first shot must kill, because you WILL be dead before you can fire again if your target survives. In the Vegas games, this made the weapon bad to have outside of extremely cramped and cover-heavy areas, since it doesn't always kill your target in one shot, but dangerous for the computer to have, since it can kill YOU in one shot even on low difficulty.
The player also has no option for non-buckshot rounds in Vegas, meaning sticking anything other than maybe the red dot or laser on it is entirely pointless. Raven Shield at least lets you use slugs to actually make use of the 4x scope, but for the slow rate of fire and reloading you'd be better off packing an assault rifle.
The original game actually went for realism. The shotgun still isn't as accurate at long range as an assault rifle or a silenced MP5, but it's quite an effective medium-range weapon. According to the developer, later games went to this trope on basis of The Coconut Effect: to wit, FPS players expect this trope.
Duke Nukem 3D inverts this. The shotgun, despite having a fast reload, is kind of shitty at close range, due to most enemies(especially the Protector Drones), being Made of Iron, making long range combat highly desirable. While it does somewhat less damage per shot at long range, like all the bullet-firing guns it will still automatically hit.
Played straight in the remake of Bionic Commando. If you're too far away you won't hit anything at all. An upgrade increases the distance slightly.
In Jagged Alliance 2, all shotguns have an effective range of about as much as a pistol, meaning they are quite inaccurate in anything except very short range encounters. Couple this with the facts that they have bad penetration (and enemies start wearing armor relatively early), and that the original developers decided that shotguns are categorically half as accurate at any range as any other weapon. "Duckbill" attachments were given to increase usefulness, as they send the pellets in a horizontal line rather than a circle, somewhat increasing usefulness, but not by much.
The 1.13 patch changed shotguns a little: The spread-patterns project removed the inherent inaccuracy, and added all sorts of useful patterns for the pellets (through use of chokes). The HAM suppression feature further increased the usefulness of shotguns, as they can now scare the crap out of an enemy combatant if the pellets fly close enough to the target. Effective range, however, is still quite low, and it is unlikely to kill anyone unless all pellets hit an unarmored target. When loaded with buckshot or flechettes they also have a much-improved chance of hitting a vital area and inflicting stat penalties.
1.13 also offers lockbuster ammo for shotguns, making them useful for breaching doors.
And even in the base game, if you do hit with a shotgun, its fairly likely that the target will either be out of breath or close enough to it so that they can't move their next turn.
As most shot types are 00 Buck, their penetration is comparable to a burst of 9mm pistol fire. This counter-intuitively helps the shotgun come back into its own later in the game against heavily armored mooks, who can resist single assault rifle rounds but can easily be stunned/exhausted by multiple, non-penetrating shotgun blasts. This keeps their valuable gear from being damaged and gives certain mercs a chance to earn their pay.
In 1943: the Battle of Midway, the Shotgun barely goes half the screen, but has a wide spread and eats enemy shots. Of course, that's less of a break from reality than the fact that said shotgun is mounted on a P-38 Lightning.
In the first Project: IGI, the Spas-12 turns the player into a 10 meter circle zone of instant death. The firing and reloading times are also fast enough to make it feel semi-automatic. Then there's the Jackhammer which makes it a 30 meter zone of full-auto pellet death. These weapons do have some effect outside their ranges, but a particularly nasty cough is worse than the shotgun damage. Considering that the game levels are usually huge open world bases its usefulness is only for the indoor gunfights, the overpowered instant-kill-to-the-toe sniper rifle takes care of everything else.
Doom The Roguelike has 3 different kinds of shotguns. The standard shotgun is mediocre but usable at the edges of your vision, the combat shotgun is actually pretty decent at long distance and because it always hits you can even use it to kill people just outside your visual range, and the double shotgun has ridiculously wide spread and can't even hit everything you can see.
The Shotgun and Vindicator in Alien Swarm use this trope. At close range, they do insane damage. Anything farther than mid range and the shots will either do minimal damage or just not hit the target at all.
Cosmic Break oddly enough averts this even with the ridiculous spread, with the effective range of shotguns and blasters (energy shotguns) being substantially farther than machine guns yet somewhat below accelguns and rifles.
The shotguns in Star Wars Battlefront are much shorter-ranged than most weapons, but not cripplingly so; on enclosed maps (Tantive IV, Death Star, Coruscant, the like) they are at least as good as the assault rifle.
Played terrifyingly straight in Custom Robo, where the Shotgun Gun Part deals fantastic damage, is near impossible to dodge, and near-guarantees the Overload of your target, but the shot instantly dissipates at a range of about two times the width of your Robo. Generally only useful for those models that can get in and out of range quickly.
In Haloid, the shotgun is a melee weapon; Most of the victims were practically touching it before getting Blown Across the Room by the blast.
In Ratchet & Clank: Deadlocked, the basic shotgun sprays hundreds of tiny, white-hot rounds, but they disappear after a certain distance. Indeed, one viable multiplayer strategy is to use the Charge Boots to swiftly close the distance between you and an enemy, and then nail them point blank, usually for a KO. When the shotgun upgrades to v10 it transforms into the Vulcan Fury that has quite an impressive range AND homing capabilities.
A Crack in Time lets you go from this trope (double barrel) to rather realistic spread (choke barrel) with the Constucto Shotgun.
The Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors version is played straight in Civil War Generals 2. Cavalry units can be equipped with shotguns, and while they can hit targets at 100 meters (normal attacks), they're the weakest shoulder arms in the game at that range. They are the most lethal weapons for charges (5 meters or so).
Played straight in Far Cry: Instincts. Only worth mentioning because it doesn't show up until you gain your upgraded melee attack, a One-Hit Kill with decent range and speed, rendering the shotgun totally useless.
The shotgun in Oregon Trail II has such short range that it's practically useless even for small-game hunting.
In Alan Wake, this is actually a good thing, as you can take out multiple enemies with one blast if you're far enough away.
Played with in Alpha Protocol. With a low-grade shotgun and no skill in shotguns, they're next to useless except at short range. However, amp up your shotgun skills, buy a high-grade shotgun, and equip it with mods to reduce scatter, and the shotgun becomes a medium-range murder machine that can easily blow enemies off their feet and blast through their armor. Even enemies all the way across the room will get knocked off their feet from a well-placed shotgun blast.
Microvolts shotguns are most effective when you're so close up that you could just as easily use your melee weapon. "Most effective" meaning "instant kill" — as long as you're accurate, at least, because all available shotguns have a pretty nasty spread.
Most of Mass Effect 2's shotguns had painfully short damage/range attenuation, and very wide shot cones; the absolute worst being the Claymore, which was almost completely useless outside melee range (which is invaluable for a Vanguard, but problematic for everyone else). The only one any real range was the DLC-only Geth Plasma Shotgun.
This was thankfully fixed in Mass Effect 3. While most of the returning shotguns from Mass Effect 2 are just as useless, several new shotguns are viable at medium range. To even further enhance their range power, a "Smart Choke" mod can be installed to further tighten the shot spread. There's even a couple of shotguns that fire slug rounds. One of these, the N7 Crusader, is actually the most accurate weapon in the entire game.
There are, however, two new shotguns that play this trope completely straight: the Reegar Carbine and the N7 Piranha. The Reegar shoots a spray of electricity, rather than normal projectiles and has less range than the flamethrowers used by some enemies, but will absolutely shred anything that isn't armored within range. The N7 Piranha has such a large spread that the crosshair almost covers the entire screen, but it's the most powerful shotgun in the game at point blank.
Averted in Blood: the sawed-off, despite its nature, has a surprisingly tight spread when firing single shots. Secondary fire and the version of the gun in the sequel plays it more straight, but the shotgun's still a bit more accurate than average.
As in the aforementioned example of Duke Nukem 3D, this is at least partially because the Build engine has a limited autoaim feature for everything and effectively negates the vertical part of the spread.
In the Tribes series, shotguns are very ineffective when the range of the target is anything more distant than point-black. This is especially problematic in a game where you're skiing across the terrain at over 100 km/h so it's doubtful you ever get that close to a target.
Averted in The Godfather, the shotgun packs a powerful punch regardless of range. This is a good thing, as the game's relatively realistic way of handling firearm damage makes engaging enemies at close range a bad idea.
The first version of the shotgun from Ace Of Spades suffered from this quite badly, but the player base took issue with this and lobbied for a patch... at which point the developer overcompensated to the point where the thing became a total Game Breaker that could One-Hit Kill at ranges comparable to the semi-automatic rifle.
Played straight in League of Legends. Graves, the Outlaw, uses a double-barrel shotgun that has four modes of shooting - normal auto-attacks are single-barrel shots that hit one person, and the range is a bit lower than other ranged characters (except maybe Vayne and Twitch, who both use crossbows). His Q ability fires in a cone 3 bullets (remind you - it only has 2 barrels), the more bullets hit, the more damage it deals - at release you could one-hit people the second you hit level 2, if they came into melee with little to no armor (it was later reduced from 50% bonus damage per bullet to 30%, which makes point-blank not-so-overpowered). The farther the target is, the lesser the chance of hitting with more than one bullet. The range is, however, shorter than his normal auto-attack by few units and anything immediately outside of the cone takes no damage.
The game-centric webcomic Nerf NOW!! discusses the trope in one of its comics, and provides the image at the top.
While EVE Online doesn't have shotguns per se, the Gallente Blaster turrets are treated like shotguns. Their damage potential, out of all Turret weapons, is in theory monstrous, but their range/falloff makes them flatly unusable if your ship isn't literally point-blank with the enemy.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 both plays this straight and averts it. When using buckshot rounds, they have terrible range, as per this trope, but equip them with slug ammunition? You can score a one hit kill from one side of the map to the other. Granted, this does take exceptional skill and/or luck (or Magnum ammo), but it is possible.
Battlefield 3 mostly averts this. While you won't be able to snipe someone from the other side of the map like in Bad Company 2, shotguns do respectable damage even at mid range, especially if you equip flechette rounds, or slugs. Though this is offset by most shotguns either having an awfully slow firing rate, or pitiful sized magazines, though the extended mags unlock can avert the latter issue.
The key word being "Mostly." If you can compensate for the bullet drop, the Remington 870 with a sniper scope and slugs is extremely deadly at extremely long range - a literal sniper shotgun. While it plays this trope when loaded with buckshot, when loaded with slugs it ties with some of the better sniper rifles as one of the most accurate weapons in the game.
Planetside 1 averts this and plays it straight in the same weapon. The New Conglomerate anti-personnel MAX and BFR have a shotgun with three fire modes changed by adjusting the choke. The first is useless at any distance past melee but has wide spread useful for clearing rooms, the second is decent enough for indoor use, and the third is as narrow as a real shotgun, and quite the surprise for enemy troops expecting this trope. The infantry shotguns follow the trope straight.
Justified in the sequel. Shotguns mutilate infantry at close range and can finish off low-hp enemies as far as 50 meters away, but they have trouble tearing through regenerating shields at this distance.
In addition most shotguns in Planetside 2 can be loaded with slugs to allow them to fulfill a medium-long range niche. The weapons of the Vanu faction however possess a) No bullet drop and b) superior, often perfect accuracy. Thus averting this trope so hard that a scope-equipped slug firing Vanu shotgun becomes a sniper rifle with perfect accuracy and no range limits in a game where battles can and are fought over distances of half a kilometre.
Torchlight II's "shotgonnes" fire a relatively short cone of damage. Stranger still, the shotgonnes have longer ranges than cannons, which trade range for a larger Splash Damage.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown has shotguns as an option for the Assault class. They do more damage than assault rifles and have a higher critical chance, but accuracy drops very sharply past a few meters. A loading screen tip basically advises that using a pistol will be more accurate than the shotgun at a lot of ranges for your shotgunner(s) if need be. There are upgraded phlebotinum versions that use the same range mechanics, and another that fires slugs instead and is much more accurate at range.
The STALKER series has a variety of shotguns, but in all three games there is a sawed-off shotgun that plays the trope straight. The second two games, however, include a hunting shotgun that is closer to realistic. Using slugs and some weapon modifications, however, the hunting shotgun becomes a poor man's sniper rifle.
On the other hand it may not even be an issue, because one of the best uses for any of the shotguns is dealing with the many, many types of mutated wildlife that will attempt to turn your intestines into a tennis racket. With very few exceptions they will attempt to do this at point-blank range, making the shotgun's inaccuracy over distance irrelevant. The sawed-off also weighs less than any other shotgun (obviously), which lets it remain useful well into the game if you prefer to use a different gun as your primary weapon.
Mechanically, it's less a matter of the shotguns themselves (all but the sawed-off shotgun have similar accuracy to assault rifles) then the the ammo: while all the other ammo types in the games don't affect spread, buckshot takes the weapon's spread and multiplies it by a factor of fifteen. Even the most accurate one (the hunting shotgun) will have its pellets spread out about a foot for about every 10 feet traveled; not as extreme as some examples on this page, but still several times wider than what's typically used in real life.
Fallen Earth averts this handily, as even the most basic shotgun's effective range goes out to 30 meters - right in the middle of the range mentioned above - and lacks the ridiculous spread common to video game shotguns. They do respectable amounts of damage, but fire and reload slowly enough that if you're expecting to fight at those ranges too often, you'd do better with dual pistols or an assault rifle instead.
Averted in F.E.A.R. The shotgun, very realistically, remains a murder machine at medium range, and only loses effectiveness from above 40 meters, though not because of the spread, but due to damage falloff - again, something quite realistic, as a shotgun's pellets don't resist drag as well as actual bullets.
Averted in Far Cry 2, surprisingly. While guns in that game deal far less damage than they do in real life (with a three-round burst from a 7.62x51mm battle rifle not even having a good chance of making a kill), the shotguns can still deal relatively decent damage up to 30 or 40 meters. It's perfectly viable while driving a boat under a bridge checkpoint to shoot up at the bridge with a shotgun and potentially make a kill.
Averted in Killing Floor. The double barrel may spread like crazy at long range, but individual pellets are still capable of taking off specimen heads and killing them. The other shotguns all keep a fairly tight pattern. While better at close range, they're still halfway decent at reasonably long ranges. In an inversion, the AA-12 is actually better at mid- to long-range than close up, since its fast rate of fire is balanced by firing fewer pellets per shell than the others.
Shotguns in Alien Shooter tend to follow the trope; if you're firing at a single target, and said target is a way away, you'll be missing more than hitting. The situation is ameliorated by the fact that you're never firing at a single target, the game being the sort that'll throw dozens and dozens at enemies at you at the same time; as a result, blindly firing a shotgun at the approaching crowd is a good technique to decrease the swarm's health as a whole.
Deus Ex both plays the trope straight, averts it, and even inverts it. When you begin and your stats are essentially zero, equipping a shotgun will require you to close to almost-melee range in order for its immense spread to ensure a sizable impact. This is often suicidal, because by the time you get close your enemy will have shot most of your gluteus maximus off with some other gun that doesn't behave like it doesn't even have a barrel. However, as you improve your stats the spread lowers, making the shotguns more and more like real ones. And then it screws everything up again when you improve the stat fully, which negates the spread entirely - all the pellets hit precisely where you're aiming, making shotguns improbable murderizing machines at all ranges and causing the autoshotgun to essentially transform into an automatic sniper rifle of doom.
Crysis both plays the trope straight and averts it, thanks to a setting that allows the shotgun to change the choke as needed. It's notable for being one of the few games that'll allow you to mount a scope on your shotgun - and for good reason too, as in tight-spread mode it's a perfectly viable medium-range gun.
MechWarrior Living Legends plays it straight with the enormous BattleMech-mounted LBX/20 autocannon, which has a stated maximum range of 350 meters - one of the shortest of all weapons - but its effective range is 150 meters or less. Averted by the lower caliber shotguns - the LBX/10, /5, and /2, fire less pellets with a narrower choke, which results in less damage but a higher effective range; A LBX/2 has an effective range of over a kilometer (more than almost every other non-artillery weapon), courtesy of the very narrow choke. Because of their spread and their damage multiplier against lightly armored targets (Aerospace fighters and battlearmor), the LBX autocannon series are the premiere anti-air weapon for mechs and some tanks.
Zig-zagged in Just Cause 2. The Sawn Off Shotgun has a wide spread, but the two-handed military shotgun has spread tight enough to hit targets 30-40 metres away from you.
Also zig-zagged in Cortex Command - again, depending on the model of a shotgun. Imperatus' "Mauler" and the Blunderbuss, for example, are short-range, but shotguns belonging to the Coalition and the Ronin have more realistic range.
Averted in 7.62 High Caliber thanks to the efforts at realism. Shotguns have a decent chance of making a hit at medium or even long range with buckshot and flechettes (even if the game is telling you that your merc has a "minimal" or "remote" chance of hitting), with the main problem being that if only a few pellets hit, you'll just lightly wound and stun the target. It's also fully possible to load a shotgun with slugs and attach a scope, allowing for your sniper to make long-range shots that most guns that early in the game can't hit.
Averted in Red Dead Redemption for a few reasons: not only is the shotgun range relatively realistic (if the spread being somewhat randomly placed at longer range, as if the shooter isn't even aiming where the crosshairs are), the "headshots always kill" rule is in full effect, and even a graze by the spread can instantly kill the victim if it hits them in the noggin. Even if it only causes a light wound, Euphoria means that they'll usually stumble and give you time for a followup shot or a chance to move to a better position.
Viciously averted in PAYDAY 2 - it's entirely possible to get clean headshots from across the street. And the Mosconi 12G double-barreled shotgun can blast an enemy across the room from the other side of that room. Until after a patch reduced shotguns' ranges, at least.
Played straight in Malifaux, where where shotguns have even less range than pistols, and in fact less than the charge range of most models.
Star Wars: The Old Republic does this strangely. Scoundrels are the only player character class that can use scatterguns as their secondary weapon. It is used by certain abilities, and can shoot from 10 meters away at most, where it deals minimal damage and cripples the target's legs, and is generally used at 4 meters, the same range melee weapons are used in. On the other hand, Kaliyo and NPC enemies can shoot their scatterguns from up to 30 meters away, which doesn't sound like much until one realizes that sniper rifles have a maximum range of 35 meters.
Played straight in Project Reality. The shotgun has a realistic spread for buckshot. Buckshot also works as a breacher round for doors and beanbag rounds for capturing insurgents. Some maps have slug rounds available as well for longer range combat. They are offset by the fact that most combat occurs past the 100m range.