Bet you didn’t see this one coming. I couldn’t find too many sources talking about Stinger the same way one would talk about Gradius or Metroid. That didn’t stop me from voting this game essential and here’s why: Stinger is an incredibly tight experience more than 30 years later. Like any NES game it could use some quality of life improvements, but it’s a complete package from the day it was shipped. The amount of style and variation in this game is simply unprecedented from third party developers at this point on the NES.
Stinger mixes horizontal and vertical SHMUPs into seperate levels without changing the core gameplay loop. Some might like the horizontal better than the vertical, but it’s incredible that neither was sacrificed to make the other more proficient. SHMUP’s are always about shooting down every last target and upgrading your ship to be a killing machine. Stinger accomplishes both tasks. The enemies in Stinger are so crazy and unique that I can’t really imagine fighting a tire, television or watermelon the same way again. That Stinger doesn’t just have all enemies behave the same way ad nauseum only adds to the praise. There are no unfair/rage inducing enemies (or bosses for that matter) in Stinger so shooting down enemies remains fun and creative. Power ups are also plentiful and offer everything from extra bullets, directions, ships, and different ammunition. Obtaining power ups is completely decided by the player and requires multitasking for maximum reward. It’s the risk-reward required to obtain these power ups that keeps the game interesting. How far will you push your luck to get those sweet extras?
Am I making a good point or just coming off incredibly bias? The choice is yours, but there’s clearly something here that other SHMUP’s (not Gradius) just are not doing. Other games on the NES are not offering this much variety to make their gameplay compelling enough. What was innovative back then is now the first tool in any game makers toolkit. The games that survive time are the ones that require no caveats or additions. Vanilla version Stinger feels as good in present day as it did in 1987.