A sub-genre of Shoot 'em Up games, which replaces the spaceships, Starfish Aliens, robots and lasers with kittens, fairies, squirrels, candies, and all things Lighter and Softer. The stark space setting becomes Wackyland, and Moe Anthropomorphism abounds.
But the gameplay is otherwise intact, including the Nintendo Hard difficulty. Yes, despite the cutesy facade, these games are still very difficult, and need a lot of skill to beat (especially when they overlap with Bullet Hell). If you think otherwise, be prepared for a good smack in the face with Surprise Difficulty.
Sometimes these games have stories, and others just have an Excuse Plot, just like any other game.
Also, as with many Widget Series, this isn't considered that odd in Japan, since cute is seen more as an artistic style, rather than being considered strictly for young children. That means these games are rarely Guilty Pleasures. In fact, these games have found a solid niche among gamers.
Compare Mascot Racer.
- Air Zonk
- Akkanvader (better known as Space Invaders '95: Attack of the Lunar Loonies!)
- Bullet Heaven (an Epic Battle Fantasy Gaiden Game).
- Cosmo Gang: The Video is an interesting example, in that it's a comical version of Galaga, but the characters and bonus stages are based on the "Cosmo Gang" redemption arcade machine.
- Death Smiles downplays this, as the series has some cute elements, but also comprises of scary-looking enemies based on dark fantasy horror fictions and a genuinely evil Big Bad, as well as an otherwise serious plot.
- The Cotton series
- Fantasy Zone
- Game Tengoku by Jaleco qualifies as this, along with being a both of Crisis Crossover (between Jaleco's old arcade games) and Affectionate Parody of the arcade gaming history and tropes around it.
- Flying Hamster
- Gundemonium Series
- Gun Nac
- Harmful Park
- Heavenly Guardian
- Keio Flying Squadron
- Kiki Kai Kai (AKA Pocky & Rocky)
- King And Balloon
- L Dis
- Magical Chase
- The latest versions of Minesweeper have an option to uncover the map without stepping on any flowers rather than mines. This mode is the default on versions of Windows distributed in many countries where someone finding a live mine is a frequent (and usually tragic) occurrence.
- Mr Heli is a borderline example: the backgrounds aren't all that bright and cheerful, though the character design is definitely on the cartoonish side.
- Mystic Riders
- Otomedius, Konami's combination of their own series, Parodius and Gradius. Silliness + Plot + Boobs - Drugs. RECYCLED IN THE WORLD OF ACTION GIRLS!
- The "Pure White Lover Bizarre Jelly" mini-game in No More Heroes was a regular shoot-em-up. In No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, it is now a Cute 'em Up.
- QP Shooting and its Mission-Pack Sequel, X-Mas Shooting.
- Rabio Lepus and Rabio Lepus Special
- Rabi-Ribi blends it with the Metroidvania genre.
- Space Bomber
- Spark & Sparkle
- Star Parodier, a cute'em up entry in Hudson's otherwise serious Star Soldier series.
- Strato Patrol EOS, a minigame featured in Kirby Mass Attack.
- Touhou Project mixes this with Bullet Hell. The plots are also more intensive than typically expected for this genre. Because of this, and the sheer amount of Memetic Mutation, Touhou gets a lot of fans that aren't all that interested in the Bullet Hell aspect.
- Trouble Witches
- The Twinbee series, especially from Detana! Twinbee afterwards.
- Twinkle Star Sprites
- Twinkle Tale
- Xiao Monv Magic Girl is a Mega Drive game which breathes this trope.