If you can’t make a good shotgun, then you might as well not bother developing a first-person shooter. This classic weapon is usually acquired relatively early in a game and is often the first significant upgrade from your starting weapon. As such, it’s always a pleasure to encounter it, as it usually represents a leap in player power.
Practically every gamer will know that a shotgun is for close-quarters combat. A point-blank blast into an enemy should blow them apart with a satisfying kaboom, though its long-range applications are generally limited. But utility isn’t everything; a video game shotgun must look the part, sound like a stick of dynamite has gone off in your hand, and deliver a solid chunk of damage. I’ve wielded hundreds of them in various titles over the years. Here are the five best.
5. Doomstick, Killing Floor 2
2016’s Killing Floor 2 contains plentiful shotguns and endless waves of squishy biological monsters to blast apart. Though the AA-12 and Hunting Shotgun deserve honorable nods, they pale in comparison to the mighty Doomstick. The gun’s motto is, “When having twice the fun is not enough…let’s make it four!” and lives up to that by delivering a quad-barrelled nightmare. The thing is so powerful you can even use it to rocket jump and the alt-fire that releases all four barrels at once sounds like God slamming his bedroom door.
Fans praise the Doomstick for its “astronomical” levels of damage to the point where there have been calls to nerf it even though Killing Floor 2 is a player vs. enemies title. It’s also somewhat unique in that it’s valid as a long-range weapon, too, able to stumble enemies from a surprising distance with minimal accuracy required. But then, if you put “doom” in the name of your shotgun, it better be good…
4. Striker, Resident Evil 4
Almost every Resident Evil game sees the player character gradually grow more and more deadly. You begin with a pistol that may as well cough bullets at enemies, before progressing to beefier B.O.W. destroying heavy weaponry. Even so, it’s always a relief when you first get your hands on a shotgun. The first shotgun you’ll find in Resident Evil 4 isn’t great, being substantially overshadowed by the Riot Gun you’ll get soon after. But both those are eclipsed by the almighty Striker.
This drum-barrelled shotgun is a beast of a weapon in its base form, but really comes into its own when fully upgraded. At max level, you can cram an insane 100 shells into it before having to reload. As a side note, I recently played through Resident Evil 4 in VR, where wielding the Striker made me feel like John Wick. Those Ganados didn’t stand a chance.
3. VK-12 Combat Shotgun, F.E.A.R.
2005’s F.E.A.R. is half terrifying psychological horror and half running around in slow motion destroying special-ops soldiers. Within that the VK-12 stands out as an incredible weapon that’s rarely been topped in games. Not only does it emit a subwoofer rumbling ka-thunk, but the effect it has on your hapless foes needs to be seen to be believed. If they’re lucky there will simply be a cloud of pink mist where they once stood, but far more likely is that they’ll ragdoll backwards like they’ve been yanked offstage in an old-timey music hall (an effect 10 times cooler if you’re in slow motion).
Sure, the VK-12 has little regard for the laws of physics, and yes, the mid-2000s ragdoll physics are now more amusing than realistic, but when the end result is this much fun, you’d be a sucker to complain.
2. Schockhammer X, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
When it comes to turning Nazis into a fine paste, accept no substitutes. MachineGames’ new take on classic FPS Wolfenstein stands out for its surprisingly deep storytelling and well-thought-out alternate history where Germany won World War II. As such, this tech was developed by the Nazis and is an appropriately brutal piece of weapon engineering. The Schockhammer has three rotating barrels, a large clip size, and a scary rate of fire. With upgrades, it can fire all barrels at once or modify ammunition to ricochet off of walls.
Enemy heavy soldiers wielding them are a threat, though it’s safe to say the tables turn when B.J. Blazkowicz gets his hands on not one, but two Schockhammers. Yup, you can dual-wield this insane weapon, turning you into basically an industrial Nazi shredding machine. It’s hard not to cackle with delight.
1. Super Shotgun, DOOM Eternal
“There is only one dominant life form in this universe and it carries a steel-barreled sword of vengeance.”
Let’s face it, DOOM’s various shotguns could arguably have occupied all five places on this list, but DOOM Eternal’s Super Shotgun is the Doom Slayer’s signature weapon and is almost inarguably the greatest ever video game shotgun. Before collecting it, you’ll hear whispers about how hell’s hordes have come to actively fear this specific weapon, and when you finally get your hands on it, it’s easy to see why. In a game full of sci-fi weaponry, the Super Shotgun is brutally straightforward steel and wood: designed to inflict as much damage on demons as possible.
Your basic fodder dies in a single blast, though even the colossal Barons of Hell flinch at its sheer power. Best of all, DOOM Eternal adds a “meat hook” grappling function, letting you fire a spike into an enemy and fly right at them, putting you in the best position to deliver the Doom Slayer’s specific brand of blood-soaked justice (a later upgrade also causes this move to set them on fire, which even for me might be touching on overkill).
The Super Shotgun may not just be the best shotgun in gaming history, it’s a contender for the best weapon in any video game.
So there you have it. There are many other contenders to the crown (Unreal Tournament‘s Flak Cannon, Bulletstorm‘s Boneduster, and Halo‘s M90 CAWS), but for me, these are the best five in the history of the medium.