Laser guns have been an integral part of fiction since H. G. Wells’ tripods fired death rays at humans in The War of the Worlds. Since then they’ve been ingrained in pop culture, capturing our imaginations in science fiction, fantasy, and–eventually–reality. Gaming, too, has had its fair share of laser guns, with some of the first Atari games including some form of beam weapon, most likely because lasers looked better than bullets when all you could display were straight lines.
And ever since, most futuristic shooters have included some kind of laser, be it a traditional blaster or a plasma weapon (which shoots superheated lasers, before you push up your glasses and get all science teacher on us). Problem is, the concept of a basic, standard-issue laser is so cool, most game makers don’t bother to go further than a Stormtrooper’s blaster. Developers often use them to fill a void in their balance curve, adding a weapon that doesn’t need to reload, and fires quick, low-damage shots. Some games go beyond that, creating truly unique, imaginative laser guns that deserve–nay–demand our attention.
7. Laser Gun (Another World)
At a glance, Another World’s laser gun is as basic a laser gun as was ever created. It’s a small, black weapon that can fire beams of light at enemies. Yippee! If it hits them they die. Neato! But beneath its unassuming appearance lies a weapon that’s far more than meets the eye. No, it doesn’t transform into a robot–it’s not that much more than meets the eye.
Besides being able to turn enemies into piles of ash, it can also be charged up to create a more powerful shot. This empowered beam can break through walls and force fields, opening up paths that otherwise would have been blocked. More important, though, is the ability to create a force field of your own by using its secondary function. Another World’s Laser Gun is as much a defensive item as it is an offensive weapon, making it one of the most useful guns in all of gaming–especially when you need to do more than just pew pew.
6. Laser Trident (Mega Man)
Let’s seriously think about this one. Lasers, typically, come in one form: a straight line. The girth might change depending on the size of the weapon, but typically the actual beam itself remains just that–a beam. It doesn’t make sense for lasers to be anything else, because they shoot light (or laser-charged beams of plasma, but we’ll get to that later), and that’s what light does. And yet, despite that, Mega Man 9 includes a laser that takes the shape of a trident because… why the hell not?
After defeating Splash Woman, Mega Man gains access to the Laser Trident. Besides having the added awesomeness of changing the Blue Bomber’s outfit to that of classic box art Mega Man (insert rockin’ guitar solo), it also serves as what might be the least sensible laser gun of all time. Shooting three lasers in a line isn’t enough, apparently; you need to connect them to make a trident just for a visual flare. It makes no sense, but we’ll be damned if we don’t absolutely love it.
5. Spartan Laser (Halo 3)
The Halo series is chock-full of lasers; most of which are scattered around blood-covered corpses of Covenant soldiers–the goofy aliens love their laser guns, plasma rifles, and energy swords. We assume the best restaurants on Covenentia (we know that’s not the name of their planet) serve aged lasers instead of steak. Despite this, the game’s best laser gun is actually a human-made device: the M6 Grindell/Galilean Nonlinear Rifle–or, as it’s commonly referred to as, the Spartan Laser. For when you absolutely, positively want to kill everything in that direction.
Whereas most of the lasers in games are made for taking out one enemy, the Spartan Laser is designed to destroy many. One blast can tear apart a Warthog, devouring everyone inside in a crimson wave of light, but it doesn’t even stop there. It continues, hitting (and killing) every enemy it goes through, leaving a trail of dead bodies and destroyed vehicles. It has a long charge, so it’s not like you can just go around blasting left and right with the thing, but it’s a small price to pay for one of the most devastating hand-held lasers the human race has ever created.
4. Collector Particle Beam (Mass Effect)
Regardless of power, most laser guns work the same way: you aim the gun, you pull the trigger, the gun shoots a laser, something dies, and you repeat that process until you’re the only one left. The Collector Particle Beam doesn’t have time for that. Instead, it’s essentially fully automatic, meaning if you hold down the trigger, it continues to fire a steady beam of radiation into the enemy, tearing apart their DNA and replacing it with a sweet, quick death. It’s like a flashlight, except instead of lighting up a room it murders stuff.
The Particle Beam is massively powerful, supposedly requiring more energy to shoot than most other laser weapons in the Mass Effect universe combined. It’s also a great example of using an enemy weapon against them. The Collectors are an evil, cruel race of aliens, so the ability to steal their most powerful gun and use it to wipe them out is a slice of irony that does not go unappreciated.
3. Iron Man's Proton Cannon (Marvel vs. Capcom 3)
Iron Man is a giant gun. When Tony Stark straps on the gold and red armor he’s exercising his Second Amendment rights, except he’s not bearing arms–he’s become of them. And yet, even though his super suit has dozens of laser guns on it, from the ones built into his hands to the one that shoots from his chest, he still has one bigger. One… way bigger.
In Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Iron Man’s super move is the Proton Cannon. When he activates it, he pulls out a gun that’s literally as big as he is, shooting a laser that’s the size of a man at an enemy. It’s so big that we decided to push away our bias towards non-gaming characters for a gaming list–like, seriously, how could we ignore something that awesome? It’s a laser gun shooting a laser gun!
2. Type-7 Particle Weapon (F.E.A.R.)
There are a lot of powerful laser guns on this list. Some shoot a beam so strong it can strike down a foe in one hit, while others can destroy vehicles or even buildings with a concentrated burst of energy. No others do what F.E.A.R.’s Type-7 Particle Weapon does. You get the gun late in the game, and for good reason: Nothing else can compare to its power. Once you go Type-7 Particle Weapon, you can’t… go back. We thought there’d be a better joke there.
Pull the trigger and a beam fires out, striking down most enemies. Boom. Dead. Call his wife, tell her the news, offer your condolences, let her cry on your shoulder, bed her. But there won’t be an open casket funeral–the Type-7 doesn’t stop at ending the enemy’s life. It also dissolves their armor, their clothes, their skin, their muscles, their fat, their hair, and their organs. All that’s left is a skeleton, which comically flops out of a mist of blood. We’re sorry for your loss. Here’s some bones.
1. Plasma Beam (Red Faction: Armageddon)
Red Faction: Guerilla introduced gamers to a new level of destructible environments well beyond “cover will break if people shoot at it a lot because then you need to change cover and we can put that on the back of the box.” Buildings would crumble realistically when bashed with a sledgehammer or assaulted with rockets, which, you know, was fantastic. But for as awesome as it was, no weapon in that game could compare to the sequel’s Plasma Beam, which makes up for Red Faction: Armageddon’s mediocrity by being the best laser gun in all of gaming.
The Plasma Beam is basically an eraser. Anything it hits goes away–wiped entirely from the world. This, mixed with Red Faction’s aforementioned focus on destruction, makes the beam an unstoppable force of destructive beauty, capable of absolutely demolishing anything in the game with only a few swipes. And though the gun itself looks sort of boring and has an incredibly bland name, you unlock a better version upon completing the game: Mr. Toots, a unicorn that farts rainbows (that happen to be Plasma Beam shots).
Mr. Toots says hello
What’s that? You want to see what a unicorn shooting lasers out of its butt looks like? There it it, right up there. Happy now? What? You also want to argue about whether or not a plasma gun is a laser gun? We don’t have time for that science. Just argue that in the comments below, or talk about what ludicrous lasers you wish made the cut.
And if you’re looking for more, check out what the XCOM shooter looks like and our pick for shooter of the year 2012.
What? Is reading too hard? Good news! We’ve turned this week’s Top 7 into a video as a pilot for a new series–check it out, below.