Everyone likes a challenge, right? It’s the cornerstone of video gaming or gaming in general and gives us things to strive for. Several different gaming genres catered to specific challenges that gamers wanted to test their skills at. Want to see how well you can memorize things? Try Mortal Kombat or Killer Instinct for their ability to throw insane combo strings at you. Want to test your mettle and see how much of a brave person you are? Go ahead and play Silent Hill 2 or the more recent Slender to see how much you are, in fact, a little girl.

Want to be barraged by near-endless curtains of projectile death in order to see how well your dodging skills are and your resistance to collapsing into twitching messes? Bullet Hell games are right up your alley!

A sub-genre of the classic shoot’em-up games, Bullet Hell gaming is exactly what it sounds like – you doing nothing but maneuvering into endless waves of bullet-like projectiles with a emphasis on precise movements in order to survive. The sub-genre itself isn’t as recent as some people might think, but it’s only gotten more insane with time. Here’s a list of top Bullet Hell games that leave people with twitchy fingers and darting eyeballs for day afterwards, and be sure to let us know what yours are if any were missed!

5.) Gradius V
While not traditionally a Bullet Hell game in most senses, many of the later levels and loops of games in the Gradius series as a whole qualify as “Manic Shooter” style and the 5th game is probably the worst culprit. (although Gradius III AC has a few as well) Unforgiving and relentless towards the final levels (and even some of the earlier ones, depending on who you ask), Gradius V not only has regular play to worry about, but some brave souls even go after the game’s Boss Rush mode.

Oh, and by the way, there isn’t necessarily a pattern in the shots fired at you. Good luck with that.

4.) Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved
Originally a minigame within Project Gotham Racing 2, Geometry Wars got the upgrade to full “Retro Evolved” for the Xbox Live Arcade and quickly became one of the most downloaded games on the XBLA market. Why? Because people are absolutely off their nut and love to dry their eyeballs out staring at a screen making sure their little ship-shape doesn’t get blown up by the barrage of bright bullets and colorful enemies. Thankfully, you have bombs. Bombs go boom and destroy everything on the screen, which puts the strategy twist on the need to conserve them for the tightest of spots. You also get weapons changes as you rack up the points, which also plays into strategic observation.

Geometry Wars puts a spin on being in an controlled space with free-movement, able to dodge and weave with the control stick whilst firing, as opposed to being a side-scroller or vertical-scrolling like other bullet hell games. So now you have the pleasure of your eyes darting all over the entire screen rather than worrying about what’s in front of you.

3.) DoDonPachi
DonPachi was one of the first true manic-shooters created and brought to Japan by developer(s) Cave for the arcades. However, it paled compared to its sequel, DoDonPachi. As a squadron fighter holding off an alien invasion (because that’s what them crazy aliens do), and is able to choose between three types of crafts to combat in, each with their own types of weaponry. Collectable items and power-up modes are also available, and believe me, you’ll need them. The first level doesn’t give you very long before you’re thrusted into full-scale projectile mega-assault. And it only gets better from there.

DoDonPachi received several sequels including DoDonPachi II and DoDonPachi Daifukkatsu, which just served to increase the insanity game by game. Mobile versions of the game were created as well, but why anyone would subject themselves to squinting at a smaller screen when laser-death is being rained down upon them is beyond this gamer.

Also, beware of bees.

2.) Touhou Project/eXceed
Touhou Project may be the more popular of the cute-girl bullet hell scenarios, but since I have more experience with the equally girl-powered laser-death-fest that is the eXceed series, I’m going to put them both in this space due to similarities.

Touhou is actually a fan-made doujin game series headed by the one-man crew of Team Shanghai Alice and is probably the most well-known of the bullet hell genre series. It probably helps that it got into the Guinness Book of World Records for “Most Prolific Fan-Made Shooter Series”. Started on the Japanese PC-98 and eventually continued for Windows PC’s, Touhou became renowned for its insane difficulty, adorable cast of bishōjo characters and enormous library of game

The eXceed games were created by Tennen-Sozai and followed closely in Touhou’s footsteps in the same style of brightly-colored missle-death, with the more popular games being eXceed 2nd-VAMPIRE and eXceed 3rd-JADE PENETRATE, both getting upgrades and English localization on Windows. (and awesome soundtracks too)

Both the Touhou series and eXceed series define the bullet hell genre of shooting and take it to the extreme in the most badass-adorable, seizure-inducing ways possible.

1.) Ikaruga
The spiritual sequel to the earlier title from publisher Treasure called Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga remains one of the most iconic of the manic-shooter games in existence due to the sheer levels of insanity thrown at you. The unique things about Ikaruga was it’s polarity system, in which the player could switch between white and black polarities that had to be used strategically in order to dodge enemy fire AND effectively attack the opponent. Therefore, not only was precise dodging needed in order to survive, but also a hair-trigger in order to switch polarities in a split-second or be wiped off the screen.

Originally an arcade release in Japan, Ikaruga eventually saw releases on the Dreamcast, Gamecube, and in 2008 for the Xbox Live Arcade, and was featured as the final challenge for the Omegathon at PAX East 2011. It also ranks amongst the top tier for most difficult game and best shooter, proving that most gamers are truly masochists.