NES Zapper

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NES Zapper in original gray, released in 1985

The NES Zapper, also known as the Video Shooting Series light gun (光線銃シリーズガン, Kōsen jū shirīzugan) in Japan,[1] is an electronic light gun accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the Japanese Famicom. It was released in Japan for the Famicom on February 18, 1984 (1984-02-18), and launched alongside the NES in North America in October 1985.[2][3]

The Zapper is used on compatible NES games, such as Duck Hunt, Wild Gunman, and Hogan's Alley. Its internal optical sensor allows the player to point at a television set and "shoot" at in-game targets such as ducks, clay pigeons, cowboys, and criminals. Some games also used the Zapper on the title screen to select a mode and start the game.[4]


The Famicom light gun was designed by Gunpei Yokoi and Satoru Okada of Nintendo R&D1.[citation needed] The gun's design is based on a revolver.[5]

In North America, it was redesigned from the ground up by Nintendo of America's head designer Lance Barr (who believed that it could resemble a ray gun).[citation needed]

The Famicom light gun connects to the Famicom's expansion port via cable. The NES Zapper connects to one of the NES's controller ports via cable. Due to these controllers using ports that the other system lacks, light guns made for one system are not compatible with the other system.[6]


The re-released NES Zapper in orange, introduced in 1989

The Famicom light gun was released in Japan for the Famicom on February 18, 1984 (1984-02-18), made for the game Wild Gunman.[2] It was based on the light gun toy used in Nintendo Beam Gun toy line, which itself was based on the Colt Single Action Army revolver. Despite its origin, the Famicom light gun is a double-action revolver—it has a moving hammer, which is automatically fired when the trigger is pulled without needing to cock the hammer, although it is still possible to cock hammer regardless. It could be purchased separately, or bundled with the game Wild Gunman and a holster.[6]

In North America, the peripheral was redesigned and rebranded as the NES Zapper. It was included in the Nintendo Deluxe Set, a launch bundle released in October 1985[2][3] that contained the NES console, the NES Zapper, Robotic Operating Buddy, two controllers and two games—Duck Hunt and Gyromite. The Zapper was also available for purchase separately.[citation needed]

The North American version of the NES Zapper resembled a futuristic science fiction ray gun with a color scheme matching the NES, rather than a revolver like the Famicom version. The design originally released in North America had a dark gray barrel and grip. In 1988, the Federal Toy Gun Law was signed into United States law, requiring that toy guns be visually distinct from real guns in a variety of ways, including color.[7][8][9] The next year, the orange NES Zapper was released.[10]

Accessories and third-party counterparts[edit]

The Deluxe Sighting Scope on an orange NES Zapper

In 1988, the Video Shooter was released in the United States by Placo Toys. The Video Shooter is a wireless light gun controller for the NES. The infrared receiver is a rigid panel plugged directly into the controller port of the NES; it was designed with the intention that the NES would be placed on top of the television in order to detect the Video Shooter. Multiple Video Shooters can be used with a single receiver. When the gun is fired, a red light on the back of the gun is illuminated to indicate that a shot has been fired. The gun has a clear plastic sight on top of the gun to assist in aiming shots.[6][11]

In late 1988, the Video Blaster was released in North America by Camerica. The Video Blaster has the same shape as the Famicom light gun, but different colors and is compatible with the NES controller port rather than the Famicom extension port. The Famicom light gun included weights to make it heavier, which this controller lacks; however, because the two controllers use the same mould, the Famicom light gun's weights can be transplanted to the Video Blaster to give it the same feel. The tip of the Video Blaster's barrel is painted orange, but this coloration is much less prominent than other light guns released in the United States after the passage of the Federal Toy Gun Law.[6]

On February 20, 1989, Bandai released the Hyper Shot in Japan.[6] The Hyper Shot is a large two-handed light gun shaped like a Submachine gun. In addition to functioning as a light gun, the controller has equivalents to most of the Famicom controller's buttons; it has B, Start and Select buttons, as well as a stick to input directions, but no A button. The controller was bundled with Space Shadow. When used with Space Shadow, the Hyper Shot can output game audio from its built-in speaker and use haptic feedback to simulate the recoil of firing a gun; while the Hyper Shot can be used as a controller and light gun for any game, Space Shadow is the only game to support the speaker and haptic feedback.[12][13] Space Shadow requires the Hyper Shot and cannot be played with other light guns, as the game expects button input to come from the Famicom expansion port (which only the Hyper Shot can provide).[6]

In North America, Bondwell released the Deluxe Sighting Scope, an accessory for the NES Zapper, under the brand name QuickShot.[14] The scope is a sight that snaps onto the top of the NES Zapper.[15]

In 1989, Nexoft released The Dominator ProBeam in the United States, a wireless version of the NES Zapper. Unlike other third-party light gun products, the ProBeam is officially licensed by Nintendo, bearing the Nintendo Seal of Quality. The ProBeam uses the same infrared NES receiver as Nexoft's The Dominator MasterControl, a wireless controller including a joystick. The receiver connects to the NES via a cable connected to the controller port; the instructions recommend placing the NES and receiver on top of the television. The ProBeam is bright orange and has a built-in scope with crosshairs. It is heavier than the NES Zapper, but has a grip under the barrel to allow it to be wielded using two hands.[6][16][17]

The LaserScope

In 1990, Konami released the LaserScope, a headset accessory for use with the NES Zapper, in the United States and Japan.[18] It is voice-activated, firing a shot whenever the wearer says "fire", although some reviewers criticized its ability to do so.[19][20] The headset also includes stereo headphones for use with the NES[21] and an eyepiece with a crosshair that sits in front of the wearer's right eye.[22] It was designed for the game Laser Invasion, but works with any game compatible with the NES Zapper.[20][23] In the United States, Laser Invasion came with a coupon for a $5 discount for the LaserScope.[18]

Technical details[edit]

When the trigger on the Zapper is pressed, the game causes the entire screen to become black for one frame. Then, on the next frame, all valid targets that are on screen are drawn all white as the rest of the screen remains black. The Zapper detects this change in light level and determines if any of the targets are in its hit zone. If a target is hit, the game determines which one was hit based on the time of the flash, as each target flashes for one video frame, one after another.[24][25][26] After all target areas have been illuminated, the game returns to drawing graphics as usual. The whole process is almost imperceptible to the human eye, although one can notice a slight "flashing" of the image but this was easily misconstrued as a simulated muzzle flash.

This darkness/brightness sequence prevents the possible issue caused by pointing the Zapper right next to or into a light bulb.[26][27][28] Older light guns did not use this method, making it possible to cheat and get a perfect hit score in a way not possible using the NES Zapper.

The NES Zapper can only be used on CRT displays; it will not work on LCDs, plasma displays or other flat panel displays due to display lag.


Games compatible with the NES Zapper:




In the 1989 animated series Captain N: The Game Master, the main character Kevin "Captain N" Keene uses the reissued orange NES Zapper as a weapon during his time in Videoland.[49] The gun fires laser blasts which are used to destroy the enemies he encounters. It also had a freeze-ray option which fires off Tetris-shaped blocks of ice[50] that encircle and trap foes inside a cube of ice.

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo's successor to the NES, also received a light gun peripheral, the Super Scope.

The Wii, a Nintendo system released decades later, received the Wii Zapper peripheral. The Wii Zapper is a plastic casing for a Wii Remote with a Nunchuk that allowed players to hold the controller like a gun. The accessory was not technically or visually similar to a NES Zapper, but did facilitate point-and-shoot gameplay. The Wii U Virtual Console releases of Duck Hunt, Wild Gunman, Hogan's Alley, and The Adventures of Bayou Billy use the Wii Remote's pointer in place of the NES Zapper; although it is possible to use the Wii Zapper with them, it is not required.[51][52]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Video Shooting Series Light Gun". Famicom World. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  2. ^ a b c DeMaria, Rusel; Wilson, John (2003), High Score! The Illustrated History of Electronic Games (2 ed.), McGraw-Hill Professional, p. 379, ISBN 978-0-07-223172-4
  3. ^ a b Burnham, Van (2001), Supercade: A Visual History of the Videogame Age, 1971–1984, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, p. 375, ISBN 0-262-52420-1
  4. ^ NES Zapper Instruction Manual, Nintendo, 1985, US-2, Point the Zapper away from the screen and shoot. The arrow will move from one game to another. When the arrow points to the game you want, shoot directly at the screen. The game will start.
  5. ^ "Video Shooting Series Light Gun". Famicom World. And before the NES Zapper light gun, Nintendo released its first official video game light gun called the Video Shooting Series light gun, fashioned like an old West revolver.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Gaming Historian (11 December 2021). "The Ultimate Guide to NES Light Guns". YouTube. Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  7. ^ Bishop, Katherine (16 October 1988). "IDEAS & TRENDS; Legislators Find Even Fake Guns Difficult to Control". The New York Times. p. 7. Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  8. ^ Strom, Stephanie (15 October 1994). "Shootings Lead Chain to Ban Toy Guns". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  9. ^ 15 U.S.C. § 5001
  10. ^ NES Zapper Manual 1989 (PDF). Redmond, WA: Nintendo of America Inc. 1989. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  11. ^ Great Hierophant (6 October 2015). "Nerdly Pleasures: NES Satellite : Pinnacle of Early Wireless Controller Solutions". Nerdly Pleasures. BlogSpot. Retrieved 23 January 2022.
  12. ^ McFerran, Damien (16 March 2016). "Meet The Famicom Machine Gun Peripheral That Never Made It Out Of Japan". Nintendo Life. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  13. ^ Game Dave (15 March 2016). "The Nintendo Machine Gun (Hyper Shot) - FamiCorner Ep 10". YouTube. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  14. ^ "Deluxe Sighting Scope box". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  15. ^ Link (17 October 2007). "Nintendo NES Quickshot Sighting Scope". GameSniped. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  16. ^ "NEXOFT The Dominator ProBeam Universal Wireless Infrared Video System for NES insert". Wordpress. 9 September 2013. Archived from the original on 8 March 2021.
  17. ^ "Zapper Guide Part 1". The Warp Zone. Angelfire. Retrieved 23 January 2022.
  18. ^ a b Link (7 August 2009). "NES Nintendo Konami Laserscope Headset". GameSniped. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  19. ^ "Laserscope". NES Player. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  20. ^ a b Ewalt, David M. (29 May 2012). "The Konami LaserScope". Forbes. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  21. ^ Popular Science. Bonnier Corporation. 1991. p. 10. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  22. ^ -RoG-. "The Konami LaserScope!". I-Mockery. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  23. ^ "Blizzard of improved products unveiled at electronics show". Observer-Reporter. AP. 2 June 1990. Retrieved 15 November 2014. Susan Bach, marketing coordinator for Konami Inc., demonstrates the Laser Scope voice command headset, a hands-free unit for use with all Nintendo zapper games.
  24. ^ Adams, Cecil (11 May 2001). "In Nintendo's "Duck Hunt," how does the TV know when you've hit a duck?". The Straight Dope.
  25. ^ "How does the light gun for a video game work?". HowStuffWorks. 1 April 2000.
  26. ^ a b US 4813682, Okada, Satoru, "Video target control and sensing circuit for photosensitive gun", issued 21 March 1989 
  27. ^ ClanOfTheGrayWolf (4 September 2011). "The Way Games Work - NES Zapper". YouTube. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  28. ^ Jono1874 (26 October 2011). "NES Zapper Strobe Light Trick". YouTube. Archived from the original on 21 June 2014. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  29. ^ Smith, A. (2 August 2012). "The Adventures of Bayou Billy - NintendoComplete Reviews and Media". Nintendo Complete. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  30. ^ Irwin, Jon (17 July 2017). "A Bloodless War: 10 Non-Violent Shooters". Paste. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  31. ^ Martin, Garrett (24 August 2015). "Ranking Every NES Zapper Game". Paste. Retrieved 19 February 2019. At certain points you have the option of using the Zapper or a controller, but most of the game is played without the gun.
  32. ^ Duck Hunt Instruction Booklet (PDF). Nintendo. 1985. p. 2. Retrieved 19 February 2019. This game requires the Zapper™, Light Gun Attachment.
  33. ^ Freedom Force Instruction Manual (PDF). Sunsoft. p. 2. Retrieved 19 February 2019. This game requires the use of the Nintendo Light Gun Zapper®.
  34. ^ The J Man (21 January 2008). "Gotcha: The Sport". Just Games Retro. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  35. ^ Gumshoe Instruction Booklet (PDF). Nintendo. 1986. p. 2. This game requires the Zapper™, Light Gun Attachment.
  36. ^ Hogan's Alley Instruction Booklet (PDF). Nintendo. 1985. p. 2. This game requires the Zapper™, Light Gun Attachment.
  37. ^ "#75 – Laser Invasion". Take on the NES Library. 14 May 2018. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  38. ^ Kalata, Kurt (27 September 2017). "Lone Ranger, The". Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  39. ^ Mechanized Attack Instruction Manual (PDF). SNK. 1990. p. 3. Retrieved 19 February 2019. The game may be played using either the NES Zapper or Controller.
  40. ^ McFerran, Damien (5 February 2008). "Review: Operation Wolf (Virtual Console / NES)". Nintendo Life. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  41. ^ Shooting Range Instruction Booklet (PDF). Bandai. Retrieved 19 February 2019. This game requires the Zapper™ Light Gun Attachment.
  42. ^ Rodriguez, Roberto (27 January 2016). "To the Earth (NES review)". Retro Game Reviews. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  43. ^ Seppatoni (24 October 2018). "Treffpunkt der NES-Fans seit 2001". NES CENTER (in German). Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  44. ^ Wild Gunman Instruction Booklet (PDF). Nintendo. 1985. p. 2. This game requires the Zapper™, Light Gun Attachment.
  45. ^ "The NES Zapper - How it Works, What it Works With and What is Worth Playing". Nerdly Pleasures. 16 September 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  46. ^ "Baby Boomer (NES)". Retro Game Guide. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  47. ^ Armageddon, Andy (31 October 2014). "A Crude and Rude Unlicensed Zap Gun Abomination for the NES: CHILLER". Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  48. ^ Vito, Mike (8 July 2017). "Super Russian Roulette Review". Hey Poor Player. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  49. ^ Buchner, Chris (4 February 2017). "CAPTAIN N: THE GAME MASTER". Saturday Mornings Forever. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  50. ^ "Captain N: Game Master Costume". Costume Playbook. 14 October 2013. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  51. ^ Olney, Alex (25 December 2014). "Review: Duck Hunt (Wii U eShop / NES)". Nintendo Life. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  52. ^ Brown, Tom (6 January 2016). "Three more NES Zapper games heading to the North American Wii U eShop". Nintendo Wire. Retrieved 8 February 2019.

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