Sunset Riders

SNES Classic/Side Scrolling Run N Gun

I have very fond memories of playing this title as a kid, but lately, after acquiring a SNES classic, I've realized that fond childhood memories don't really mean all that much. Some of the games of yesteryear that I thought were amazing as a young boy, sadly, do not hold up whatsoever these days. Maybe I'm spoiled by today's technology or perhaps the blame can be laid on the rose-tinted classes of youth and nostalgia; either way, some of these games just sucks. I am pleased to say that Sunset Riders is absolutely not one of them.  

The plot, like so many games from back in the day, is sparse. You are one of four bounty hunters: Steve, Billy, Bob or Cormano, and you are out to kill outlaws and stack cash. You begin each level by viewing a wanted poster displaying the face of the villain you'll be hunting down and the bounty on his head. Then, you murder like 1,000 henchmen, get to the boss and kill him. That's about it.

Sunset Riders can be played with up to two players (four on the arcade) and you really only have two options, weapons wise; pistols or shotguns. The differences in the characters are simply cosmetic, but with that said, I've always favored Cormano for my shotgunner (over Bob) and Steve as my pistoleer (over Billy). The gameplay is simple enough; you walk from left to right, making your way through the level. You can aim and fire in eight directions, jump and there's a slide you can use to evade bullets. You can also hit up and jump (or down and jump) to reach balconies or other high up areas, giving the levels some needed depth.

The gunplay is pretty slick, and holds up very well, with the shotguns operating by firing a tight spread, while the pistols shoot in lines. Once you pick up a silver badge (by killing sack-holding bandits, entering a saloon or finding sacks on the ground) you acquire another shotgun or pistol for dual fire action and once you pick up a gold badge in the aforementioned manner, you can hold the fire button down for dual rapid fire. Even rocking these enhancements, the game is far from easy.

Horseback levels mix up the action from the standard walking left to right angle, by making you ride horses left to right. Here, you'll gun down men in covered wagons, jump over logs, fight locomotives full of henchmen and so on. It's a small thing, but it really does effectively mix up the gameplay and the levels are rather tough, as you lose your slide ability and the horses are slower to jump and more cumbersome to steer.

The levels themselves are classic wild west stuff, and completely fit the game. There are trains, cattle stampedes, whore houses, taverns, saloons and more, in addition to beloved western tropes, like Indian fights, masked bandits, kerchiefed criminals running around throwing sticks of dynamite and gunslingers with ten gallon hats tossing oil filled lanterns into piles of hay to start blazing infernos. There are even bonus rounds where you're in a glorified shooting gallery, where you aim a cursor at enemies that pop up all over the screen and you shoot them for points.  

Speaking of points, you compete with your partner to stack gold and at the end of every boss fight, the game calculates who did the most damage and rewards them with points/cash, but it doesn't matter in any appreciable way. Basically, you get to tell your partner he sucks, and goad him into "helping out every once in a while" before the next boss fight. Despite not having an impact on the game, it's still fun and enjoyable to see who did how much damage to a boss, even if it makes you take more risks while fighting the boss character so you can claim top dog status. 

After you defeat four bosses, the endgame begins, which is chasing down Sir Richard Rose, who, of course, is guarded by his four henchmen, each with their own level. The henchmen (and some enemies) here tend to have some 90's style casual racism attached to them, like the Indians (I mean Native Americans) wearing only breeches, holding blades in their teeth, with a feather sticking out of their bandannas. There's nothing too egregious, except maybe for Chief Scalpem, who you actually decide not to execute after his sister begs you not to finish him off, as he was being forced into evil by the main (white) boss, a total rich boy dandy who you will love filling full of bullets.

The graphics are great and still look good, especially with today's throwback love of pixelated graphics. Everything pops with color, and looks as good as it can. The sound is top notch too, with memorable music, and pretty hilarious boss lines, like "bury me with my money" and "me in heap big trouble".  

Thanks to Rayden for the video, check out his channel here


Sunset Riders was a fantastic game then, and it remains solid now. For a back and forth shooter, you can put this right up there with Contra and other fantastic SNES titles in the genre. The western theme, likable characters (good and bad), great graphics, couch co-op and stellar gunplay make this a title you should prioritize.

Your comment has been saved!!!
The Captcha element applies the Captcha validation, which uses reCaptcha's anti-bot service to reduce spam submissions.