Top 10 Western-themed retro video games featuring cowboys


Arcade-style gallery shooter Wild Guns Reloaded will be releasing on Nintendo Switch on 17 April 2018. The game is a remake of the SNES classic which is one of the finest Western-themed games ever made. Over the years the Wild West has been largely overlooked as a theme for video games and the few games there are tend to be shoot-em-ups and light gun games. Despite this there are some wonderful arcade-style games which should not be ignored. These are my top 10 western-themed retro video games featuring cowboys.

10. Mad Dog McCree



Image source: YouTube

Gamers of a certain age will know all about Mad Dog McCree. The game was all the rage back in the early 1990s and was one of the first live-action laserdisc games. At the time I was blown away with the idea that you could shoot real people on screen – it was like being in a Hollywood movie. The game used a light gun to target the bad guys on screen and the aim was to shoot them before they get you. Looking back the game hasn’t aged well but in its day this was cutting edge stuff! I was shocked to see this game actually re-released on the Wii and 3DS and I hope it one day makes it to the Nintendo Switch as I’d love to revisit it for a blast of nostalgia.

9. Wild Gunman

(Arcade, NES)


Image source: nintendo

Wild Gunman was created as an arcade game in 1974 by Gunpei Yokoi (creator of Game & Watch) and amazingly featured in the 80s movie Back to the Future Part II. The game was a NES launch title in 1985 and used the classic NES Zapper gun. It’s a very simple game which tests your reflexes as you duel with other cowboys – the quickest to draw and shoot accurately wins. This game makes the list because it is an iconic game, which represents the essential cowboy skill of being able to quick-draw a pistol (and it features in a classic movie). Sadly the game is unplayable without a light gun and this type of game has faded in popularity due to the fact that the guns don’t work on modern TVs. Thanks to the magic of the Wii remote it was possible to play this classic on the Wii U virtual console so fingers crossed the game will be made available on Nintendo Switch.

8. Tin Star



Image source: hardcoregaming101

Tin Star is a game made for the SNES to take advantage of the Super Scope light gun but players could also use the SNES mouse or the standard gamepad. The game was developed by a British company, Software Creations, and makes the list because it takes an interesting approach to the Wild West theme with charming cartoony robot characters. The colours and graphics are delightful. Each level in the game is a different ‘day’ in the Wild West and involves a combination of training (high score shooting gallery), action (take on bad guys in different scenes such as a train robbery), boss showdown and bonus screens. Sadly the game has never been released on Wii or Wii U virtual consoles so is only available to play on SNES or emulators. The game is surprisingly playable with just a standard gamepad and I’d love to see it released on Nintendo Switch, using the Joy-Con’s pointer function as a gun.

7. Iron Horse

(Arcade, C64)


Image source: The 80s database

Iron Horse was first released in arcades in 1986 by Konami. It’s a bit of a clone of their hit game Green Beret (Rush’n Attack) using similar game mechanics but with a wild west theme. This game has classic old school run and gun action, set on a train as you try to prevent a robbery. At the time the game was ported to the C64 but it has been overshadowed by Green Beret which became far more popular on home computers and consoles. Iron Horse is a decent game which is challenging to play and it’s definitely worth a look if you enjoy a bit of Green Beret.

6. Bank Panic

(Arcade, Master System, C64)


Image source: arcade-museum

Bank Panic is a classic Sega arcade game released in 1984. As with Wild Gunman, it’s a fairly simple ‘pistol duel’ game but it doesn’t use a light gun. The game is set in a bank and there are twelve rotating doors which open to reveal different characters such as bank customers who have come to deposit money, little boy wearing lots of hats which can be shot for a bonus and bank robbers. You have three buttons corresponding to each door and pressing one of them will shoot the person in the doorway. The joystick is used to decide which doors to open. The challenge of the game is to react quickly by shooting the bank robber whilst allowing the paying customers to deposit their cash. This is a lovely game with simple classic gameplay that never grows old. The game was ported by Sega to the Master System and there were clones produced on other systems under the name of West Bank.

5. Gun.Smoke

(Arcade, NES)


Image source: hardcoregaming101

Gun.Smoke is a vertically scrolling shoot-em-up from Capcom. The arcade version has quite a complicated control scheme – the screen keeps scrolling and your character keeps moving forwards – in this way it plays a bit like 1942. You have 3 buttons which shoot in different directions (forwards, left and right) but press two buttons together to shoot at different angles. The game originally released in arcades in 1985 but was ported to the NES and a variety of home computers such as the ZX Spectrum. The NES game was updated to include more varied levels and a less frustrating control scheme – as a result, it’s one of those rare cases where the home console version is actually considered to be better than the arcade counterpart. Capcom went on to develop a similar style of game called Commando and that was such a huge hit in arcades and home consoles that Gun.Smoke was largely forgotten. It remains as one of the few Western-themed games to use a top-down shooter approach and it’s a fine game that will appeal to fans of vertical arcade shoot-em-ups. It would be great to see the original arcade game released on Nintendo Switch as it would perfectly suit the console’s TATE mode.

4. Blood Bros.



Image source: arcade-museum

Blood Bros is a shooting-gallery-style game by TAD Corporation which hit arcades in 1990. TAD Corporation is an interesting company in that it only released a handful of arcade games in the late 1980s / early 90s before going out of business. One of those games was an arcade classic called Cabal, and Blood Bros. is its sequel. Whilst both have similar gameplay mechanics, Cabal has a modern military theme. The designers obviously chose to mix things up a bit with Blood Bros’ Wild West theme and in doing so they created another shoot-em-up classic. In this game you can play with a cowboy and a Native American and as you run and leap from left to right taking out the bad guys with guns and dynamite. The background scenery is surprisingly destructible and there are some hilarious in-game moments. It’s a very playable arcade game and a lovely example of the shooting-gallery genre of games which includes classics such as Cabal, NAM-1975 and Wild Guns. It’s such a pity that this type of game went out of fashion because they’re a real blast.

3. Wild West C.O.W. Boys of Moo Mesa


Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa (ver UAB)-2

Image source:

Wild West C.O.W. Boys of Moo Mesa was an animated TV series from the early 90s. For some reason, Konami thought it would make a great run-and-gun game, and not content with creating one fabulous Western-themed shooter (see below), they went and created another classic game in this genre! Thank goodness they did because C.O.W Boys of Moo Mesa is a fantastic game, which has excellent colourful graphics and smooth solid gameplay. In many ways it is similar to Sunset Riders but stands out because of its crazy characters. The gameplay in each level is varied and there are some tough end of level bosses to defeat. The C.O.W. Boys of Moo Mesa TV series has faded into obscurity but this game lives on as one of THE classic Western-themed video games.

2. Wild Guns



Image source: hardcoregaming101

Wild Guns is a western-themed Cabal-style gallery shoot-em-up with an interesting steampunk twist published for the Super Nintendo in 1994 by Natsume. Playing as Annie or Clint you take on an army of cowboys and mech robots, running an jumping left to right, dodging bullets and blasting bad guys. The background scenery is destructible and by destroying certain items it’s possible to unlock a range of weaponry and score bonuses. The game is a blast to play with a friend in 2-player mode. As well as the standard mode for up to 2 players, there’s also a vs. mode where you can compete to get the highest score in a shooting gallery. This is a relatively short arcade-style game but it’s an absolute beauty and it’s aged very well indeed. The graphics are fantastic, the characters are well designed and there are some lovely little details in the game eg in the saloon level you can shoot up the neon ‘welcome’ sign above the bar. This is one of my favourite SNES games and it’s so polished that it’s hard to believe it isn’t an original arcade game. This is a Western-themed cult classic and it’s great that new generations of gamers can experience its charms on modern consoles with Wild Guns Reloaded.

1. Sunset Riders

(Arcade, SNES, Mega Drive)


Image source: hardcoregaming101

Released in arcades by Konami in 1991, Sunset Riders is a side-scrolling run-and-gun game for up to four colourful cowboy bounty-hunters. Each level sees you take on a variety of bad guys as you jump up and down from balconies to avoid attacks and hunt down the most wanted criminals in the Wild West. There’s a lot of variety in gameplay due to mini-games and shooting-gallery bosses. The characters handle beautifully and it never gets frustrating. It’s hard to believe the game is over 25 years old – it just feels so fresh and is as fun to play now as it was back when it first came out. The horse riding sections are great and you can even play as a pink cowboy! Konami ported the game to home consoles and the SNES version is best, being closest in design to the arcade version. Sunset Riders is not just the best Western-themed arcade game ever made: it also happens to be one of the finest arcade games ever made. It’s such a pity that Konami ignores its back catalogue of arcade classics because this game is an absolute classic that deserves to be enjoyed by future generations of gamers.

I hope you agree that these are some fine western-themed retro games. If you think I’ve missed a great game please let me know in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “Top 10 Western-themed retro video games featuring cowboys

    1. Yes fair comment – on reflection you are right. I have to be honest I’ve never been a fan of rpg games and have always preferred action / arcade style games. I feel like I’ve never got the time to get into them – one day I will give them a go – I quite fancy playing Uncharted Waters. I also have to confess to never owning an original PS1 – I was always a Nintendo fanboy (N64) and my first PlayStation was a PS3.

      Liked by 1 person

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