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Bullet Hell

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"The person who had done this might as well try to dodge water particles while taking a shower or radioactive particles during a nuclear fallout."
YouTube commenter on Touhou Project Ultra mode.

Bullet Hell (called danmaku, meaning "barrage", in Japanese, literally "bullet curtain" when translated to English) shooters are a subgenre of Shoot Em Ups that test both your dodging skills and your resistance to seizures. To put it simply, they're (usually vertically-scrolling) shooters where all the enemies have lotsa dakka. They often feature extremely elaborate and beautiful patterns of bullet flows, especially for bosses, with hundreds and sometimes thousands of bullets on the screen at once, requiring constant weaving and pattern memorization in order to get the elusive S++ ranks. Not so painfully slow when they cover the screen, eh, tough guy? These games also tend to have True Final Bosses.

However, the genre is not always as Nintendo Hard as it seems. The player's hitbox is often very small, sometimes only one pixel. In addition, the majority of enemy bullets are sprayed wildly and are not actually aimed at the player. Finally, the player is almost always given some variant of the Smart Bomb, which will remove bullets from the screen. Most modern bullet hell games give the player another way to avoid being killed, such as hypers in DoDonPachi, Touhou Project's deathbombs, or Giga Wing's Attack Reflector. Though by no means easy, a bullet hell game can be cleared without memorizing patterns or continuing. In fact, Bullet Hell games tend to be just as surmountable as older, less bullet-intensive games. It should be noted that if you do happen to come across an actual arcade Bullet Hell game, you will know that bullet-intensive areas tend to make the bullets slower. This is because the hardware used to create the bullets is slowing down, and can't process them all at the same time, and modern ones used to create even recent games like the DonPachi series have hardware comparable to that of home consoles. Again, that's a lot of dakka.

In addition, the bullet patterns are not the only elaborate things in these games. The scoring systems often require as much dedication to master as the bullet patterns. Some common elements including "grazing" (where a bullet passes through your character sprite but not your vital hitbox), collecting items dropped by enemies, and not dying. Like the bullet patterns, the scoring systems have become more complex as time went on, going from a very simple Combos based scoring system in DonPachi to systems that take multiple pages just to describe the most basic elements like Hellsinker. The scores attained have also been subject to inflation.

The types of projectiles fired by enemies and bosses will almost always be colourful Energy Balls to make it easier to tell them from the background, and so you can distinguish them from your own bullets.

Can (and often does) overlap with Cute 'em Up. Usually unrelated to Platform Hell - most of these games are consistent about following their own rules and don't depend on cruel surprises.

Please note that this trope is for games where there are a remarkably high number of bullets on the screen. It is not a catch-all term for the shoot-em-up genre, although most Bullet Hells are super-classed as shoot-em-ups, and just because a shmup is Nintendo Hard does NOT mean it is a Bullet Hell game. A rule of thumb is: if you can count exactly how many bullets there are from just a quick glance of the screen, it most likely isn't one. By the same token, a Bullet Hell game doesn't have to be Nintendo Hard, though most of them are.

Tropes commonly featuring in the genre include:

  • All There in the Manual: You will often need it to understand the scoring system, and to find any information about the plot, such as it is.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • Some games implement deliberate slowdown when the number of bullets on screen reaches a high enough count. This is to allow players to more easily analyze and evade more complex bullet patterns. Sometimes, however, the hardware really can't handle all the bullets and will not only slow down, but cause bullets to flicker due to sprite limits.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: This distinguishes different types of energy shots from each other and from the player's.
  • Continuing is Painful: A single death will generally severely damage your score (often breaking any combo you have built up), and using a continue will generally reset it to zero.
  • Energy Ball: Most enemy shots take this form.
  • Hitbox Dissonance:
    • Your hitbox is typically a tiny box on the much-larger ship or character. Though sprite designs sometimes imply its location, later games clearly show where your hitbox is. Even still, the hitbox display is bigger than what it truly is.
    • Bullets themselves have this at times, having one a tad smaller or larger than the actual bullet.
  • Macross Missile Massacre
  • Marathon Boss
  • Mook Maker: May have the usual type, or more commonly bullets that fire smaller bullets.
  • More Dakka: The most common form of attack, trying to see if players can dodge a swarm of bullets rather than just a single one. It has the best chance of working if the bullets are tightly packed and/or fast.
  • Nintendo Hard: The whole genre looks difficult due to the sheer bullet count, and many games in the genre are, but not every single such game is. It should be noted that bullet patterns tend to be fairly slow and are easier to "sight read", compared to the fast and aimed bullets of more "classical" shooters that tend to invoke Trial-and-Error Gameplay, though some bullet hell games, particular ones from long-running series, combine these two for torrential bullet shower with limited sight-read times for players.
  • Pinball Scoring: Up the backside. This is especially prevalent in games that allow you to cancel bullets (without using a Smart Bomb), as canceling bullets gives you some form of points (combo increase in DoDonPachi DaiFukkatsu Black Label, bullets turning into gems in Mushihime Sama Futari).
  • Puzzle Boss: Part of the appeal of the genre is not only how intricate the patterns are, but figuring out the weak spots in patterns and how to exploit them.
  • Recursive Ammo: One of the many sources of additional bullets and changes of attack direction.
  • Robo Teching: Don't count on bullets continuing to move in the direction they are fired. Some types will home in, others will change or even reverse the way they're moving just to screw with you and give something else to worry about.
  • Scenery Porn: The curtains of coloured bullets raining down can be beautiful and hypnotic, shame they are trying to kill you.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Such as not using bombs or continues.
  • Smart Bomb: Just like in traditional shmups. As they're designed to be life-saving devices, they tend to carry hefty scoring penalties for using them, so minimizing bomb usage becomes crucial. Exceptions to the "don't use bombs unless you're going to die" rule:
    • Many games developed by Shinobu Yagawa, who seems to be fond of scoring systems involving bombing enemies for massive amounts of points.
    • In some Touhou Project games, bombing is necessary for an optimal scoring run, particularly in Mountain of Faith and Double Dealing Character.
    • In DoDonPachi DaiFukkatsu's "Version 1.51" arrange mode, bombing lasers will provide a huge jump to the player's score, and unlike in other games in the series, won't kill your combo. This turns Hibachi into a matter of bombing its radial laser attack for as many as 300 billion points each.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Somewhat averted. Many games in the genre tend to de-emphasize pretty explosions in favor of bullet counts.
  • Suicide Mission: Taken to the literal extreme as a gameplay focus. You're supposed to dodge bullets by going into them, diminishing your chances to endure the onslaught. It makes more sense if you watch pro videos. And you're supposed to do this extremely often on harder bosses.
  • Superboss
  • True Final Boss
  • Video-Game Lives

Examples of this genre include:

Examples of Bullet Hell in Video Games

  • Most of the bosses in I Wanna Kill the Kamilia do this by default, but the many Vocaloid segments take it up a notch.
  • Recca, the Ur-Example. On NES. It goes even more hellish in the Zanki Attack mode, where enemies explode into four or so suicide bullets when destroyed, especially when they come in waves of ten to twenty. The main difference between Recca and most of the examples in this page, is that the bullets fill the screen AND they are absurdly fast, that even today very few games would compete for such torrential velocity.
  • Batsugun, one of Toaplan's last games before they closed in 1994, is the Trope Maker. In fact, several members of Toaplan formed these companies after their closure: Cave (formed from the Batsugun team), 8ing/Raizing, Takumi, and Gazelle.
  • Almost anything ever produced by Cave, including DonPachi, DoDonPachi (the Trope Codifier) and especially later sequels, culminating in DoDonPachi Saidaioujou. Cave shooters typically have two loops. The first loop will look feasibly beatable. To get to the second, you usually have to not die and not use more than a couple of bombs (or some variation on that). The second loop will be No One Could Survive That!. At the end or after the end of the second loop (depending on the game), you finally go up against the True Final Boss who makes the entire rest of the game look like a cakewalk. And naturally, in most of these games, you have to beat the true boss to even see the "good" ending.
  • Ketsui, and its DS Boss Rush port, Ketsui Death Label have bullets that will curve, multiply, pause, and perform all sorts of other behavior, as if they're organic bullets. Death Label is perhaps notable for being one of the first danmaku games to grace a portable system, something that one YouTube user describes as "bullet hell in your pocket."
  • The Touhou Project games are perhaps the best known example of Bullet Hell these days. The above picture is a screenshot from the battle with Yukari Yakumo, the second Optional Boss of Perfect Cherry Blossom, who is unleashing her infamous "Boundary of Life and Death" spell card attack (which is an upgraded version of the final attack belonging to the normal Optional Boss, Ran Yakumo), in which she fires nigh every kind of bullet in the game. Just when you think that card's the end of it, there's still one more to live through.
    • Even worse in that Yukari is generally considered one of the easier bonus bosses, especially compared to the likes of Koishi.
    • Inverted with Rika/Evil Eye Sigma, who is generally considered one of the hardest bonus bosses; She uses the least amount of bullets for her attacks, but fires them in such a fashion that they are remarkably difficult to dodge.
    • There's also Touhou Danmakufu which allows you to create your own Touhou-style danmaku games, including bosses with custom-made spellcards.
    • What happens when you take a Touhou game, take away the extra lives, disable bombs and continues, and add in several infuriating design choices inspired by Kaizo Mario World? You get Touhou - Unreasonable Mechanism, a fan game that shows just how evil the genre can get.
  • All of 8ing/Raizing's games before they moved to fighting games.
    • Battle Garegga, where the realistic bullets blend with the background, making the game seem harder than it really is.
    • Armed Police Batrider, which already starts hard from the first stage.
    • Battle Bakraid, which is the spritual sucessor to Garegga.
    • Their entry on Capcom's 1942 series, 1944: The Loop Master.
    • Dimahoo, the final entry of the Mahou Daisakusen series.
  • Cho Ren Sha68k has danmaku elements.
  • Blast Works, which includes a bullet pattern editor in case the game is too easy for you.
    • Blast Works is the Adaptation Distillation of Tumiki Fighters, a previous shmup by Kenta Cho, who worked on other freeware Bullet Hell games such as Noiz2sa, rRootage, Parsec47, and Torus Trooper. In fact, he developed an XML-based markup language called BulletML, an open-source markup language that lets you develop your own Bullet Hell patterns.
  • No More Heroes: During a dream sequence before the fight with Harvey, you play a top-down, vertical-scrolling space shooter of the mech Glastonbury based on the Bizarre Jelly franchise, called Pure White Giant Glastonbury, with very simple graphics. Also an example of Game Within a Game. Afterwards, you can play it some more at Travis' apartment.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: Bizarre Jelly 5. Notable for its special difficulty, unlocked after clearing hard without losing a life. Reaching the end of this mode results in an Optional Boss fight against the Glastonbury. While tough on its own, it unleashes Bullet Hell upon reaching its last breath. And you can't continue in this mode after losing your three lives.
  • No More Heroes III: Unlike the previous numbered games, this one invokes the trope in Travis' actual world instead of a dream or a video game of his. The three Mini-Boss monsters fought in outer space are capable of shooting staggering amounts and patterns of projectiles onto the main character's mecha, forcing him to dash sideways to steer away from them.
  • In Ikaruga:
    • You can (and usually have to) absorb some bullets (due to the polarity system). The clouds of bullets that get shot your way often have no spaces between them whatsoever. One would think being able to flip your shield and plow through it would make the game easier and for the first level or two, it does. Then you realize that the next logical step is to shoot obscene clouds of both kinds of bullets at you at the same time. Commence cognitive overload.
    • "I've heard the Ikaruga can squeeze between bricks in a wall without touching them". This is vital to do on at least one level for the Dot Eater rank. On the second stage, there will be blocks of various colours forced together. Managing to squeeze your way between them lets you progress without firing once. Other stages have something similar.
    • Ikaruga also allows you to play through the entire game without firing a single shot (thanks to bosses being timed.) Doing so in any stage gives you the rank of Dot Eater.
  • Radiant Silvergun, while not as bullet-happy as future offerings does have its fair share of danmaku, especially from certain bosses.
  • Defenders Of Ekron
  • Dragalia Lost has this in their April Fool's Day event, "Notte's Slumber Shot", where the mascot of the game has an All Just a Dream shooter level with rising difficulties that are unlocked by getting the top scores in each one: Sweet, Sassy and Molassy. The last one is the real bullet hell!
  • Dragon Blaze 2000 from Psikyo. Enemies can spam streams and streams of bullets on you and each and every boss, including the first, have a single attack that covers more than half the screen in projectiles!
  • Mars Matrix
  • Giga Wing is an unusual case in that it doesn't reach truly bullet hell-level until the last stage (and the TRUE last stage, of course); in fact, the first three stages look like an ordinary Capcom shooter. You also have a continually-recharging reflect barrier which not only saves your life but is key to racking up huge scores (in fact, the latter is what you're supposed to use it for). If there were such a thing as "proto-danmaku", this would be it. It does have a brutal requirement for getting the good endings, though.
  • Castle of Shikigami and its two sequels.
  • Gradius, on its higher difficulties. The difficulty of dodging is enhanced at some times by the fact that there doesn't necessarily have to be a pattern.
    • To demonstrate it at its zenith, just watch this video of Gradius V on Loop 256.
    • If you think that's bad, try these boss exhibitions.
    • Gradius spinoff Otomedius Gorgeous, for the Xbox 360, has so many bullets and enemies on screen in higher loops that it causes the X-Box 360 to lag (or it could be that the game has "Slow Mode" set by default, which slows the game's speed when the bullet count reaches a certain level).
    • The fire stage in Gradius III AC, where the already plentiful large fireballs split into indestructible shrapnel when shot. Also set in Planet Heck.
  • The Raiden series somewhat deviate from this by focusing on fast aimed shots as opposed to more denser bullet patterns, although later games would play this trope straight.
  • Go Beryllium! found here, is a game based off the world of the very very small. Watch the video, then look closely above it for the download link.
  • The Psyvariar series is an interesting variation in that the player is invincible for a few seconds during a "level up", but is forced to "graze" bullet streams in order to get any substantial score.
  • Triggerheart Exelica, which has its own gimmick in the anchor shot, which allows you to grab one of the enemy ships and spin them 'round and 'round, obliterating anything that gets in your way.
  • G.REV's Senko no Ronde series is a mix of Bullet Hell Shoot 'em Up meets Fighting game.
  • Warning Forever starts off simple, and then gets crazy. On the higher levels, bosses don't even need projectiles to kill you. They just need to inch slightly to the side.
  • Big Bang Mini:
    • Paris. You have the sheep that launch 8 homing missiles at once, the birds and owls that throw very fast feathers directly downwards, and the paper planes that launch very fast aimed attacks.
    • The Paris boss's final stage. You have to avoid 2 sets of radial attacks.
    • The Abyss boss's second, third and final stages. The second you have to avoid richocheting missiles and fast and sudden aimed shots, the third you have to avoid very fast radial attacks, and the final you have 2 sets of very dense, very big radial attacks to avoid. Harsh stuff.
  • Most well made Fraxy bosses. Eboshidori in particular is awesome with these.
  • The bosses of The Red Star all fit into this category, despite the fact that the game is a side-scrolling Beat'em Up.
  • Some of the more insane levels of the Gummi Ship sections in Kingdom Hearts II get like this; for example, this one, especially when the boss comes in. Hunter-X manages to lag the game with the sheer number of shots it fires during most of its attacks. And when its HP gets low, it launches everything it has at random.
  • Frantic 2 is basically a flash version of Touhou. With bonus multipliers for grazing bullets.
  • If you play your cards right in Upgrade Complete, you can inflict this on the opponent. Sweet, sweet, revenge.
  • Upgrade Complete 2's way of upgrading the ship makes it very easy to achieve all three kinds of projectile hell.
  • StarCannon, an online game on FunOrb, easily qualifies for this trope, with generous quantities of lasers of all shapes and sizes from all bosses and most harder enemies. Just dodging the enemies themselves as they swarm onto the screen is a challenge in the later levels. A True Final Boss awaits those who complete the game on Hard.
  • Zanac could be considered an early example. If you fire too much, the adaptive AI will send everything and the kitchen sink after you, filling the screen with enemies, bullets, and missiles (every one with its own firing pattern). Also, the boss fights can get very hectic bullet-wise.
  • Vasara and its prequel Vasara 2 have a sci-fi take on jidaigeki. One interesting feature is that running into most things doesn't do Collision Damage, but you will definitely collide, which can work for you (obstruct a fleeing enemy's path and kill more in one stroke for extra points) or against you (when accidental, it usually knocks you right into a bullet you just dodged).
  • The BIT.TRIP series of Wiiware "rhythm" games, though each game has a separate mechanic, and they're as much about hitting the bullets as dodging them. The first has you reflecting the bullets with what is basically a pong paddle, the second had you shooting the bullets from a point in the center, and the third had you collecting all the black bullets and avoiding the white ones.
    • The fifth one in the series flat-out admits that it is, in fact, a bullet hell shooter, right down to the glowing hitbox in the center of your character.
  • Knights in the Nightmare is nominally a strategy RPG, but the enemies fire streams of bullets at your cursor to try and force you to end your turn early. It makes commanding your troops problematic, to say the least. Boss fights have very elaborate bullet sequences, sometimes on par with other Bullet Hell games. For example, one boss creates a swirling emblem that subsequently shatters into a rain of fragments that are nigh-impossible to avoid.
  • You Will Die is an indie game shooter for the Xbox 360 that consists of nothing but killing a boss over and over until you die. Every time you kill it, it adds more parts and weapons onto itself and becomes stronger. The game starts out fairly tame, but quickly reaches bullet hell levels of difficulty if you can survive long enough.
  • In Boss Rush, you are the main cause of this.
  • Beat Hazard mixes Bullet Hell with levels generated procedurally from the music that plays in the background, much like Audiosurf.
  • In the Hunt is normally a shooter that doesn't give the player too many bullets on screen, and most of which can be destroyed. That is until you see the Final Boss's "Indestructible Red Mines Attack" (starts at 1:11 here). Coupled with the fact that your hitbox is kind of large, and you'll see why it's Nintendo Hard.
  • Prismatic Solid will literally bombard the player with ridiculous storms of bullets that really only be defended by using the Attack Drone to shield your ship from enemy fire.
  • A few of the bosses in G.Darius have attacks like this, notably the Embryon and Great Thing.
  • Söldner-X tends to reserve its Bullet Hell moments for boss battles. The sequel, Söldner-X 2, increases the tempo and makes the whole game like this, with Dynamic Difficulty thrown in for good measure.
  • A lot of games from cactus display characteristics of the genre; the straightest examples are perhaps Protoganda: Strings and its sequel. Clean Asia has gameplay pretty squarely in the genre, but is a bit of a subversion in that the enemies aren't much harder then your standard vertical-scroller bosses. Similarly with Burn The Trash and Ad Nauseam 2. Minubeat subverts this by allowing you to destroy all enemy projectiles at will.
  • Platine Dispotif's Gundemonium Series. Somewhat unusually for the genre, the main-series games are side-scrolling. Only spinoff Hitogata Happa is vertically-scrolling.
  • Sin and Punishment is a game along the lines of Space Harrier or Wild Guns, but it will occasionally throw absurd amounts of fire your way, especially on the higher difficulties. Its sequel, Sin and Punishment: Star Successor, runs with it, and there are very few bosses that don't fire huge amounts of bullets your way for at least one of their attack phases. Both games have hitboxes too large (roughly the size of your rather sizable character model) to put true Danmaku levels of bullets on-screen at a time, but they can sometimes present a remarkable simulation.
  • Super Action Adventure is a series of sideways shooters with a barrage of enemies constantly firing bullets at you. There are plenty of times where there will be a tight squeeze. Be thankful that your bullets are on autofire.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising's flying segments often feature dozens of projectiles flying at you, not unlike Sin & Punishment. The Final Boss, in particular, puts the Hell in "Bullet Hell".
  • Fat Cat isn't nearly as hard as some of these examples, but it takes the cake in that many of the later bullet patterns really aren't possible to dodge. You control two characters, one small, fast, and Immune to Bullets and one large, slow, and decidedly not, and in order to keep the latter alive through the endgame, you need to rapidly circle the former around it and scrub the bullets before they hit it.
  • eXceed is a doujin series that is heavily influenced by the above games.
  • Nanotek Warrior, a PlayStation game, may qualify. While the perspective is different (the player ship is running down a cylindrical tube, which you can rotate over completely) and there are fewer bullets, enemies ''cover'' the entire tube/level and you'll need some impressive reaction times to dodge everything. One ad campaign for the game even stressed that having eyelids was a liability.
  • Sentimental Shooting features the typical bullet-hell gameplay, with one notable exception: The background is a picture of a girl, and her clothes are destroyable by your (apparently tiny) ship's guns. The real objective is not just to survive and destroy the boss, but to shoot all her clothes so you can proceed to the second stage, where the girl's underwear is destroyable. A more original way to turn a bullet hell game into a Hentai game than by just showing some h-scenes in the cutscenes, you have to give the devs that much.
  • Cyvern: The Dragon Weapons is another rather obscure one. Which features cyborg dragons that shoot missiles, drop bombs, and have one heck of a Breath Weapon.
  • Hellsinker is a very strange doujin game with plenty of unusual gimmicks and perhaps one of the most complex scoring systems to ever grace the genre.
  • The Tale of ALLTYNEX series deviates somewhat from the others in that the ships there are much tougher and have bigger hitboxes than all the other ones on this list, though the series does have the courtesy of providing some degree of protection for them.
  • An Epic Battle Fantasy spinoff: Bullet Heaven. Kinda similar to Touhou Project, but with RPG Elements. Some of the bosses actually rip off spellcards almost directly! (The second Optional Boss rips off a few of Flandre's. The third has 2 phases of Utsuho's Mega Flare minus the shrinking bullets (the second phase coming from below, which in turn resembles a couple of SA's bonus boss's spellcards (in the fact that the second is the first one in reverse). And a sequel has since been released.
  • Space Arcade starts out easy, but gets very bullet-hellish in its later levels.
  • Stella Vanity. Even in the current trial, Easy is comparable to Touhou's medium, Hard is comparable to Touhou's lunatic, Nightmare is comparable to DDP Daifukkatsu's Ura loop, and Pandemonium has you looking at something like this for 70% of the stage.
    • Prelude to the Destined Calamity (aka the "OLD" version, released at C81) manages to have mooks that trip the software slowdown by themselves on Easy. Not Elite Mooks, your usual cannon fodder mook. Suffice it to say, you better learn how to cancel enemy bullets fast.
  • Blue Wish Resurrection
  • Stages 4 and 5 from Genetos dive into danmaku territory.
  • Blastral is an easier danmaku game, recommended for those wanting to get their feet wet.
  • Dream Trigger 3D, a launch title for the Nintendo 3DS. Not only is it Bullet Hell, it also has INSANE mechanics.
  • Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony, one of the few non-Japanese examples of the genre.
  • Magical Cannon Wars
  • Trouble Witches is a bullet hell series with emphasis on the Magic Barrier system and utilizing Magic Cards to gain Star Coins and earn points.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has quite a few games of this type:
  • Realm of the Mad God is one of these made into an MMORPG. While the health system and larger hitboxes mean that there will be a lot less bullets on the screen than most other examples, but swarms of enemies (and in extreme cases, single high-level bosses) will be able to flood the screen with bullets easily.
  • Judgement Silversword for the WonderSwan Color, one of the first bullet hell games on a handheld platform. It would later get a Spiritual Successor in the form of Eschatos, which would in turn get another successor in Ginga Force. And that one would get a spin-off too.
  • Gatling Gears has many sections where Mooks and bosses fire dense bullet patterns on you if not destroyed in time.
  • Avencast ramps into this territory for the last couple boss fights.
  • Chimera Beast has an instance of this. In the final level, you'll face lots of rockets that fire out 8-way spreads very often. Since your hitbox is very large, you need to destroy them ASAP or use your "eat" move to cancel the shots coming from the front, or else you will get hit.
  • In Midnight Resistance enemies do this most of the time. As a player, however, you can purchase weapons firing multidirectional bullet showers and homing missiles.
  • Parasite Strike is pretty light on the bullets, but the Final Boss and Superboss both have a move that produces a pink fire cloud that sprays bullets everywhere. Especially the latter, who can fire multiple in succession.
  • The Wiiviewer comments about this in the Night Strike mini-game from Furu Furu Park for the Nintendo Wii.
  • Inheritage Boundary Of Existence is another rare non-Japanese example... But really looks like Japanese product thanks to the art style. The fact that it's also a Visual Novel just adds to the confusion that it's really NOT made in Japan.
  • In Devil May Cry, the first phase of the fight against Mundus in Mission 22 is a fast-paced rail shooter where Dante flies toward Mundus while evading a lot of projectiles being thrown at him.
  • Even Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time gets in on this. Specifically, the minigame of the world exclusive to the Chinese version. It doesn't help that your hitbox is extremely large too.
  • Jigoku Kisetsukan: Sense of the Seasons is a very blatantly Touhou-inspired one available for free on itch and Steam. Curiously enough, despite the Japanese name the developer is actually Italian.
  • Starward Rogue includes bullet hell patterns in a twin stick shooter.
  • Blue Revolver involves the usual bullet hell shenanigans. Additionally, there are options to change the bullet colors to more high-contrast colors and to dim the screen backgrounds if the bullets are too difficult to see.
  • Rival Megagun combines this trope with competitive one-on-one multiplayer (think of Twinkle Star Sprites and you might get the idea), complete with players taking on boss forms to rain down bullet hell on their opponents.
  • The Void Rains Upon Her Heart is a bullet hell shoot'em up where you play as one of several alien girls who's fighting monsters with the power of love in a series of boss battles and has roguelite elements.
  • Graze Counter has all your typical Bullet Hell shenanigans as well as its own gimmick in the form of grazing near bullets, enemies and lasers to rack up points and deal out powerful counterattacks to them.
  • The Danmaku Unlimited trilogy is notable in that the games are in fact not Japanese-made (the developer, Doragon Entertainment, is Canadian) and were made not just as a tribute to most of the examples on this pagenote , but to also introduce novice players into the genre. It also includes a good amount of Gratuitous Japanese.
  • Orange_Juice have made plenty of this genre. In fact, the only ones they've made that don't count as bullet hell are QP Kiss (a boys love Dating Sim made for April Fools' Day), 100% Orange Juice! (a card/board game) and 200% Mixed Juice! (a Retraux JRPG). To wit:
    • QP Shooting and its Mission-Pack Sequel, Xmas Shooting, both involve using a set of animal Attack Drones to form formations to defeat enemies as well as a Super Mode to increase points and defend you from damage. Their sequels Dangerous! and Scramble! expand upon them.
    • Flying Red Barrel, which is like the above except set during the Golden Age of Aviation. And with dumping bombs on enemies for maximum points replacing the animal drones.
    • SUGURI and its prequel, sora. Unlike the above games, both play on a horizontal axis. They have a dash mechanic that allows you to fly right through energy-based projectiles (but not physical ones) and charge a Limit Break, but also fills the "Heat gauge", which causes you to take more damage if you do get hit.
    • There's also the Acceleration of SUGURI games, Fighting Game spin-offs to the above, which combine this trope with one-on-one competitive fighting.
  • Steredenn: old school style shoot em up game.
  • Monolith, mostly in stages 5 and 6 and the bosses.
  • Princess Remedy In a World of Hurt and Princess Remedy In A Heap Of Trouble become this very quickly on the harder difficulty settings.
  • Just Shapes & Beats may not let you shoot at anything until at the end of the story mode, but the pink hazards homing at you is evident for you to dodge at all times unless the blue colors are by your side.
  • Maiden & Spell is this trope given the competitive one-on-one treatment, just like Senko no Ronde and Acceleration of Suguri above.
  • Returnal puts bullet hell gameplay in a third person shooter environment. Enemies in the starting areas fire around a dozen projectiles per volley, the area's boss launches a hundred bullets or so per attack, and it only goes up from there.
  • XOP is a freeware Western example. The sequel XOP Black is an even better example, featuring denser bullet curtains and secret bosses, on the basis it wasn't intended for commercial release so the creators could be as brutal as they liked.
  • NOISZ has you fighting bosses and their bullet hell patterns by tapping the fire or shield buttons in time to the beat of the music. The mobile spinoff NOISZ STARLIVHT puts more emphasis on the Rhythm Game elements, but still features the bullet-dodging aspect. Sometimes you have to navigate bullet patterns while hitting notes.

Non-shooter examples of Bullet Hell-style projectiles:

  • In Azure Striker Gunvolt Series, there are two bosses whose Limit Break unleashes a barrage of projectiles; Viper and Hail. The former does this via his "Refulgence"note  where he scatters fireballs around the screen while he is coated in flames, and will later move from side to side with fireballs firing at the player's position. And the latter through her "Frigid Stasis"note  where she rains down hails of ice projectiles and releases drones that will shoot fast firing ice bullets that have to be dodged.
  • Mushroom Kingdom Fusion gets in on the action (start at 2:30).
  • Mega Man:
    • One attack during the final boss fight of Mega Man X8 simulates the "dodging" part of bullet hell pretty well.
    • Mothraya in Rom Hack Rockman 4 Minus Infinity. As it takes damage, its patterns increase in difficulty. Also, the Wily Capsule attacks like this as well.
    • Wily Stage 2 in Rockman 7 EP because it's based on the Gradius series, a staple shout-out in Puresabe hacks. Mega Man can use the King's Slash to shield against the onslaught of bullets.
  • The Delicious Fruit room in I Wanna Be The Fangame. "The only cherry in this game" my ass. And you've got to surf on a slowly sinking "Psyche!" sign.
  • One of the bosses in The World Ends with You, Megumi Kitaniji (first fight; partnered with a brainwashed Shiki Misaki), has a Bullet Hell attack.
    • His One-Winged Angel form fires so many fireballs at once, it actually lags the DS.
  • A few bosses from An Untitled Story. Plus rooms with endless waves of falling purple globs, or ghosts.
  • Outland is what would happen if Super Metroid and Ikaruga got together and had a kid.
  • Bunny Must Die's bullet density in bosses is very high, especially the final boss. Unsurprising, considering it's made by the same people who made the Gundemonium Series.
  • Engage to Jabberwock is a hybrid of Zelda-style dungeon exploration and bullet-hell projectile fights.
  • The fight with Tor in Iji. He has multiple attacks that aren't too hard to dodge on their own, but at his hardest he uses several of them at once or in sequence, making full health and armour upgrades a must unless you're well-versed in this genre, or if your name is Daniel Remar.
  • While fighting Dracula in I Wanna Be the Guy, he occasionally fires a spiraling pattern of fireballs apples delicious fruit. The fight against Mother Brain can get very hectic (and frustrating) as well. There is also an Unexpected Shmup Level near the end of the game, and considering what kind of game this is, it's not hard to tell how that turns out either.
    • Actually, to those who play shmups often, the Unexpected Shmup Level was one of the easiest rooms in the game.
  • While primarily an Action-RPG, NieR often has bosses that fill up the whole screen with danmaku. When mooks later on get the same ability along with one of your companions, some fights look akin to a particularly flamboyant fireworks display. The DLC makes all the "bullets" look like No.7's head, which might either be horrific or just creepily amusing.
    • NieR: Automata continues this tradition by not only having enemies that can create huge hard to dodge patterns of bullets, but also the game's method of hacking, primarily used by 9S but also used in other sections of the game, where to successfully hack you have to beat a little shoot-em-up minigame that can become very hectic at points. Taken even further during Ending E, where the credits become a bullet hell game that you have to beat in order to achieve the happiest ending of the game.
  • Taking after Ys in this regard, the MMORPG Tree of Savior has a few boss battles that involve projectile storms a la Bullet Hell shooters. They start off simple, but you progress through the main storyline, the bullet patterns get more complex and harder to dodge.
  • Touhou Project has a few fighting game spinoffs, with quite a few characters fighting with danmaku as they normally would.
    • This causes many problems when they are ported to M.U.G.E.N, as the vast majority of 'proper' Fighting Game characters just aren't equipped to deal with such projectile-heavy gameplay.
    • Mega Mari. Howevever, there's something worse than this.
  • RosenkreuzStilette. If you can beat this game, you can beat Mega Mari blindfolded!
  • The boss battles in Crescent Pale Mist.
  • The Ninja miniboss of Area 3 in Contra ReBirth has as one of its attacks a Bullet Hell pattern of laser shuriken.
  • Mario Party 9: In Billistics, players are placed atop a tower high above the clouds, and must run around to avoid Bullet Bills that fly at them from all directions. Getting hit by any of them will send them flying off the tower, and more Bullet Bills attack at once the longer the mini-game goes on. After enough time has passed, some Bullet Bills will start homing in on the players.
  • Mischief Makers: The first and second battles with Lunar (the wolf with the machine-gun). The first battle is in a snowfield, where he fights you by shooting his weapon of choice and launching bombs, too; the second battle has Lunar on his motorcycle, launching missiles, shooting fire blasts, and also firing a giant laser whenever he gets the chance.
  • This Puella Magi Madoka Magica doujin game is about maneuvering Sayaka's Soul Gem away from the rain of tears. It starts out fine, but after a while, there'll be so much of it that the difficulty hits this trope.
  • Supermario War: there is a fanmade level like this.
  • Several bosses in World of Warcraft have had mechanics like this, including the Voice of the Empress in the Heart of Fear, Hyrja in the Halls of Valor, and the Maiden of Vigilance in the Tomb of Sargeras.
  • Senko no Ronde and its sequel have this for the boss fights. Also, the normal characters can power up into B.O.S.S. mode and perform this sort of attack while powered up.
  • Distorted Travesty and it's sequel mixes this with Nintendo Hard with bosses throwing huge waves of bullets around. In fact the two short flying levels that more closely resemble traditional Bullet Hell are relatively easy, seeing as the rest of the game doesn't give you the luxury of bombs.
  • Some bosses and enemies in Odin Sphere just love to clog the screen with projectiles, sometimes until the game suffers a severe amount of lag. Cornelius' fight with Belial probably takes the cake for this. Fortunately, the game seems to be able to keep up in the remake, with little to no lag.
  • The fight with Xemnas in Kingdom Hearts II may count. Near the end, Sora and Riku are surrounded by umpteen of those shots he fires, and you have to button mash triangle and square to avoid damage, where the two do insane maneuvers to dodge.
  • Every other boss battle in Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure involved Kaos alternating between him attacking with spells that are basically full blown bullet hell patterns based around Water, Life, Undead, and Fire and spawning dark clones of three of the Skylanders of each of those elements, with the final phase of the fight having him do both at the same time.
    • It shows up in the sequel too, though not as often.
  • A rare example where the player is given this ability: Warriors Orochi 2 adds newcomer Himiko, a shamanistic goddess. Her floating clay dogu can send out several dozen bullets in various flashy patterns, in addition to lasers. Her R1 special doubles the bullet count for a period of time.
    • Actually, Himiko isn't the first to rain down hell. Three Samurai Warriors characters have the ability to cause a Bullet Hell with their Musou Attacks. Masamune Date sprays bullets in wave patern covering the half circle in front of him, Magoichi causes several bursts to explode in a fixated distance in front of him and Ieyasu Tokugawa fires volleys of seeking explosive cannonballs. These all last for as long as you hold Musou and for as long as you have Musou left, plus you can TURN AROUND while spamming bullets everywhere.
    Masamune Date: You never had a chance!
  • Spiral Knights when Gun Puppies show up.
    • If you're doing it wrong, Roarmulus Twins boss fight can play out like this.
  • Saint Seiya: Sanctuary Battle has the boss fight with Virgo Shaka. To say it's pure Hell is an understatement - Shaka's projectile spam is ridiculous, and chances are you will die many, many times there. Cancer Deathmask can be very annoying too with his floating skull summons, but at least Deathmask's attacks don't paralyze you and expose you to further attacks by him. Shaka's do.
  • Hazelnut Hex takes this to the extreme where the game will often clog the screen with several hundred projectiles, especially in later stages. Luckily, you have a power-up that cancels all onscreen bullets and converts them to points, at the cost of draining your mana (as such needs to be used sparingly).
  • Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 has a DLC character by the name of Cave. Yes, that Cave. True to the company she represents, she has an attack called Black Label, in which she unleashes bullet hell on the enemy.
  • Shinywuffles, naturally. This shows you all you need to know. Worse, this is only level two of thirty-six.
  • Super Robot Wars occasionally has attacks that resemble this, such as scattering beam cannons; however, the best example is the attack some battle stations have, which involves barraging the enemy with its own weapons while summoning a horde of Mooks to do likewise. Super Robot Wars Z2: Saisei-hen has two big examples of this, Libra and Damocles.
  • Magaki, the final boss of The King of Fighters XI is the fighting game personification of Bullet Hell, as he spams projectiles from all directions (including from your behind) all at the same time.
  • Independent twin stick shooter Voxatron has the bullet hell elephant, for use in user made levels.
  • Ashley's boss game in WarioWare Touched! is this. It's also That One Boss.
  • Castlevania: Harmony of Despair: Death spams scythes, Beelzebub spams flies, Dracula spams lasers, Astarte spams hearts, R. The Count spams fireballs …
  • In Eryi's Action, you fight the final battle this way on Ex Mode. Not only do you have Farta to deal with again, but should you beat her, you have to fight a UFO that's even worse, complete with a homage to Hibachi's "washing machine" pattern at the end.
  • Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has a rare playable example. Morrigan can cancel her Soul Fist attack into another one by quickly going in or out of flight mode, combine this with her Astral Vision hyper and she can fill the screen with walls of projectiles. Players will often combine this with Dr. Doom's Hidden Missiles assist to keep opponents from super jumping out of the trap.
  • Drunken Robot Pornography pretty much markets itself as "3D Bullet Hell + Jetpacks + Giant Robots"
  • Doom:
    • Any game in the series can become this if you meet too many enemies at once, in particular on Nightmare! difficulty, which speeds up enemy projectiles and causes enemies to respawn on death. Even outside of Nightmare! difficuly, there are enemies that are happy to shoot you on sight, including homing missiles courtesy of the Revenants, and hitscan enemies whose attacks you can't even dodge.
    • Final Doom: The Plutonia Experiment on Nightmare. There's a very good reason why it took 19 years to complete a single-segment run of it on Nightmare! difficulty. To get the full experience, try playing some slaughter maps, like Sunder, Hell Revealed, Sunlust, and Okuplok, that often send out hundreds of monsters at a time, and whose monster counts can often total in the thousands. See this TAS run of Okuplok for a brutal example of figurative and literal bullet hell.
    • Heretic, a game built on the Doom engine, can also become this as well. It's more pronounced in Heretic because not only are there more monsters on average compared to Doom, but there are no monsters that use hitscan attacks, and the highest skill level, Black Plague, makes monsters and their projectiles move and attack 3x as fast.
    • Zandronum, a multiplayer sourceport for Doom, becomes this in certain modes and mods. Have you ever dodged a giant Cyberdemon spamming rockets in a 3-way spread toward you while having only enough hitpoint to survive only a normal level imp's clawing?
    • Mega Man 8-Bit Deathmatch is a great example, specially in maps where you can easily be in everyone's sight. Add the fact that pretty much every weapon is a projectile.
    • Someone made a Contra and a Super C mod for this game. There will be a race for the Spread Gun.
  • The final boss of Avencast: Rise of the Mage uses this strategy, complicated by the fact that spells in the game are directed by character movement.
  • Audiosphere mode in Audiosurf 2 has you dodging huge arcs of projectiles by rotating a little arrow around a sphere in the center of the screen.
  • The Sentinel and the Xedur Hul Variant in Axiom Verge unleash tons of projectiles. For the former, the level of bullet-hell is so high there is no strategy for it other than "shoot it until it dies before you die".
  • The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth:
    • Mom's Heart fires off projectiles in patterns inspired by such. Given Isaac's relatively large hitbox, they're not quite to the same quantity as a true Bullet Hell, but the inspiration is clearly there. Later bosses in both versions reach greater levels of bullet spam, with the True Final Boss of Rebirth Mega Satan finally achieving true danmaku.
    • In the Binding of Isaac Afterbirth Expansion pack, it introduces a boss called Hush which like Mega Satan is another Bullet Hell fight taken to the next level. A mix of teleporting bullet patterns, spawning rather powerful enemies and a shit ton of health. Even with game breaking combos, this fight will take a long while.
    • The second DLC, Afterbirth+ adds a new final boss named Delirium, whose attacks consist of rapidly teleporting around the room, firing off rings of Ipecac and Strange Attractor shots, and transforming into other bosses previously encountered in the current run. The patterns aren't as complicated as Hush's, but they're far more hectic.
    • Minor mentions go to 'The Stain' which mimics the bullet pattern of Mom's Heart to a smaller degree. This boss can be found as early on as the Caves, the third and fourth floors of a run.
    • The Repentance DLC brings several new candidates:
      • Mothernote  has returned from Antibirth as the Final Boss of her respective route. Her attacks remain the same as before, but her arena is now a 2x2 room, and she now has boss armor, so it is significantly harder to avoid her attacks.
      • Famine doesn't have a lot of gimmicks compared to his fellow Harbingers, so his Ultra counterpart resorts to what he knows best: Danmaku. While he can summon flies to help him, Ultra Famine prefers to spam bursts of bloody tears at Isaac, especially during his second phase. It's all he can do help the other Harbingers and The Beast.
  • The final boss of TowerFall: Dark World uses bullet hell patterns during its final phase
  • The indie RPG Undertale uses brief bullet hell sequences for all enemy attacks. Random enemies have rather light patterns, but the bosses are definitely this trope. Omega Flowey, the final boss of the regular game, especially pulls it off, and Asriel Dreemurr, the True Final Boss, is no slouch himself.
  • Deltarune also has bullet hell sequences for enemy attacks, with minor enemies attacks being weaker that stronger enemies or bosses. Each chapter's Optional Boss, Jevil and Spamton NEO, respectively, takes this to insane levels. What's more, this trope also appears outside of combat at several points during the game (represented by the screen darkening and Kris' SOUL becoming visible), resulting in Kris having to dodge attacks by moving around the environment.
  • You can craft your own Bullet Hell shooter in LittleBigPlanet thanks to Level Editor.
  • Enter the Gungeon blends this tropes with dungeon crawling roguelike elements.
  • Monolith does the same, although with more of a focus on the bullet hell than the dungeon crawling.
  • Rabi-Ribi is a Bullet Hell Platform Game.
  • Furi: Not every boss takes this to heart but it's very common for them to. The Strap, The Line, The Song, and The Star especially.
  • Diablo III: Reaper of Souls's Final Boss Malthael has several attacks that send out projectiles in dense patterns. Since there's no Mercy Invincibility, these attacks will shear through your health in mere fractions of a second, possibly even instantly on higher Torment levels, if you don't quickly move out of the way.
  • Several of the bosses in Cuphead will throw massive amounts of projectiles at you, especially the aerial battles like Wally Warbles and Dr. Kahl's Robot. A patch released for the game now lightens the load in the latter stage, in which Dr. Kahl shoots out some parryable pink projectiles among the death-inducing ones, which is a bit of a relief, though you still have to get past the closing electric walls.
  • Just Shapes & Beats is a variant where all bullet patterns are determined by the beat of chiptune songs.
  • La-Mulana 2 has one that screws with the expectations of players that played the original: Echidna, who is a Tiamat-type, starts with similar attack patterns to her predecessor, but periodically from her metal frame emerges a hundred guns and sprays bullets all over the playfield. They hurt bad, but fortunately there are gaps in the spray and getting incidentally hit by a laser causes the player to take less damage than a bullet impact and also a brief moment of Mercy Invincibility to scramble to a safer spot.
  • Parodied in this The Hard Times article, in which an Air Force General gets the idea of a new air defense system consisting of "just a fuckton of bullets," explicitly citing various bullet hell games as the inspiration for the concept.
  • Uncyclopedia has an article about the concept. At first it starts normally, but then the page starts getting filled up with bullets...
  • The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia combines Bullet Hell with a typing game, and places you in the shoes of an exorcist priest who must battle the forces of darkness.
  • Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King: Some of the bosses’ projectile patterns are about as close to those of a bullet-hell shooter as you can get in a Zelda-style game while still remaining somewhat playable.
  • O.N.G.E.K.I. can be best described as Bullet Hell meets Rhythm Game. In addition to hitting notes on the field, you also have to use the joystick to avoid pink bullets on the screen; getting hit by them lowers your score and decreases your team HP. Run out of HP and the song is cut short in failure.
  • The genre is referenced in One Step From Eden with Gunner's secondary loadout, aptly named "Bullethell", down to having a three-way spread shot as his primary attack, having only 400 max HP and having just one spell in his deck (which just so happens to be a bomb that he can toss out to blow up later).
  • Terraria:
    • The Empress of Light Optional Boss fires several elaborate patterns of screen-filling bullets. At night, they're in all colors of the spectrum; in the day, they're all orange and kill the player instantly. One of the developers described her as a "beautiful Bullet Hell" in the days leading up to the update that added her.
    • The Destroyer was designed with the intent that the player must carefully manage the Probes released upon damaging it, or else they will fill the screen with lasers in addition to the ones fired out by the main boss itself. All three of the "Mechanical Bosses" are fond of firing lasers, but the Destroyer is the only one that reaches Bullet Hell-levels of it if left unchecked. Unlike the Empress of Light, defeating the Destroyer is mandatory to complete the game.
  • In Starbound, the fifth boss, Big Ape, has an attack that consist of firing bullets at the player in certain patterns not unlike what you'd see in a bullet hell game. This one can get quite hectic, requiring either the use of a shield or fancy footwork to brave the onslaught.
    • Another boss, the Shockhopper Mk.I, also has an attack that consists of firing projectiles in a set pattern.
  • Aliens Go Home Run! combines this trope with Breakout.
  • Combat in The Last Federation is a turn-based bullet hell. You set a new course and select a new target for your weapons every few seconds of in-game time, and then your ship carries out the order, while your enemies fill the screen with brightly-colored firepower. Your flagship is far more bulky and slow-turning than the archetypal turn-on-a-dime fighter of the genre, but it can endure a few stray rounds, and the fact that the game is turn-based means you can, once you know the patterns, weave your imposing flagship around enough of the oncoming fire. There's even a smart bomb mechanic: activating your flagship's special abilities clears nearby bullets away in addition to the main effect.
  • Many of the bosses in the Ys remakes on Nightmare difficulty. Especially Dark Fact. On a slightly lesser scale, Darm in most version of Ys II attacks with a constant rain of fireballs, combined with Teleport Spam making him even harder to hit without getting hit yourself.
  • Vampire Survivors is a game which proudly advertises itself as letting you be the Bullet Hell. You are surrounded by hordes of enemies, and the only way to fend them off is to bombard the screen with increasingly intensifying and dense projectiles, overwhelming everything on the screen with sheer number of bullets and raw power.
  • Sonic Frontiers has a Hacking Minigame that falls under this genre, complete with alternating dark shots and light shots a la Ikaruga. The True Final Boss plays out the same way, with Hard difficulty especially bombarding the player with hundreds of bullets and lasers.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Danmaku


Ikaruga (Stone-Like)

After beating the final boss of Ikaruga, Shinra has to survive a 60 second onslaught of absolute bullet hell without firing, before he can release the last attack and destroy it for good.

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Example of:

Main / HoldTheLine

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