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 and Wild Gunman. 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]

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 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. It closely resembled a realistic revolver-style handgun.[2]

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.[5][6] The next year, the orange NES Zapper was released.[7]

Accessories and third-party counterparts[edit]

The Deluxe Sighting Scope on an orange NES Zapper

In Japan, Bandai released the Hyper Shot, a large light gun shaped like a machine 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; while the Hyper Shot can be used as a controller and light gun for any game, Space Shadow was the only game to support some of the Hyper Shot's exclusive features. In Space Shadow only, the Hyper Shot can output game audio from its built-in speaker and uses haptic feedback to simulate the recoil of firing a gun.[8][9]

In North America, Bondwell released the Deluxe Sighting Scope, an accessory for the NES Zapper, under the brand name QuickShot.[10] The scope is a sight that snaps onto the top of the NES Zapper.[11]

In 1990, Konami released the LaserScope, a headset accessory for use with the NES Zapper, in the United States and Japan.[12] It is voice-activated, firing a shot whenever the wearer says "fire", although some reviewers criticized its ability to do so.[13][14] The headset also includes stereo headphones for use with the NES.[15] The headset also includes an eyepiece with a crosshair that sits in front of the wearer's right eye.[16] It was designed for the game Laser Invasion, but works with any game compatible with the NES Zapper.[14][17] In the United States, Laser Invasion came with a coupon for a $5 discount for the LaserScope.[12]

Nexoft released The Dominator ProBeam, a wireless version of the NES Zapper. It has a built-in scope with crosshairs and uses infrared to communicate with the NES.[18] It is heavier than the NES Zapper.[19]

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 duration of the flash, as each target flashes for a different duration.[20][21][22] 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.

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. This darkness/brightness sequence prevents the possible issue caused by pointing the Zapper right next to or into a light bulb.[22][23][24] 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.


Games compatible with the NES Zapper:




In the 1989 Haim Saban and Andy Heyward 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.[45] 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[46] 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.[47][48]

The Wii U game Splatoon and its Nintendo Switch sequel Splatoon 2 both include several N-ZAP weapons, which are heavily based on the NES Zapper's design. Two variants of the weapon, the N-ZAP '85 and N-ZAP '89, use the gray and orange colors of the NES Zapper respectively;[49][50][51][52] the N-ZAP '83, which uses the red and gold from the original Famicom controller (not the Japanese NES Zapper design), appears in Splatoon[53] and Splatoon 2[54] as well.

The 2D Sandbox game, Terraria, references both the original and the re-released version of the Zapper in the form of weapons as the Gray Zapinator and the Orange Zapinator.[citation needed]

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. ^ Strom, Stephanie (15 October 1994). "Shootings Lead Chain to Ban Toy Guns". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  6. ^ 15 U.S.C. § 5001
  7. ^ NES Zapper Manual 1989 (PDF). Redmond, WA: Nintendo of America Inc. 1989. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  8. ^ McFerran, Damien (16 March 2016). "Meet The Famicom Machine Gun Peripheral That Never Made It Out Of Japan". Nintendo Life. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  9. ^ Game Dave (15 March 2016). "The Nintendo Machine Gun (Hyper Shot) - FamiCorner Ep 10 | Game Dave". YouTube. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  10. ^ "Deluxe Sighting Scope box". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  11. ^ Link (17 October 2007). "Nintendo NES Quickshot Sighting Scope". GameSniped. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  12. ^ a b Link (7 August 2009). "NES Nintendo Konami Laserscope Headset". GameSniped. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  13. ^ "Laserscope". NES Player. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  14. ^ a b Ewalt, David M. (29 May 2012). "The Konami LaserScope". Forbes. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  15. ^ Popular Science. Bonnier Corporation. 1991. p. 10. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  16. ^ -RoG-. "The Konami LaserScope!". I-Mockery. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  17. ^ "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.
  18. ^ NEXOFT The Dominator flyer
  19. ^ "Zapper Guide Part 1". The Warp Zone. Angelfire. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  20. ^ Adams, Cecil (11 May 2001). "In Nintendo's "Duck Hunt," how does the TV know when you've hit a duck?". The Straight Dope.
  21. ^ "How does the light gun for a video game work?". HowStuffWorks. 1 April 2000.
  22. ^ a b US 4813682, Okada, Satoru, "Video target control and sensing circuit for photosensitive gun", issued 21 March 1989 
  23. ^ ClanOfTheGrayWolf (4 September 2011). "The Way Games Work - NES Zapper". YouTube. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  24. ^ Jono1874 (26 October 2011). "NES Zapper Strobe Light Trick". YouTube. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  25. ^ Smith, A. (2 August 2012). "The Adventures of Bayou Billy - NintendoComplete Reviews and Media". Nintendo Complete. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  26. ^ Irwin, Jon (17 July 2017). "A Bloodless War: 10 Non-Violent Shooters". Paste. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ Duck Hunt Instruction Booklet (PDF). Nintendo. 1985. p. 2. Retrieved 19 February 2019. This game requires the Zapper™, Light Gun Attachment.
  29. ^ Freedom Force Instruction Manual (PDF). Sunsoft. p. 2. Retrieved 19 February 2019. This game requires the use of the Nintendo Light Gun Zapper®.
  30. ^ The J Man (21 January 2008). "Gotcha: The Sport". Just Games Retro. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  31. ^ Gumshoe Instruction Booklet (PDF). Nintendo. 1986. p. 2. This game requires the Zapper™, Light Gun Attachment.
  32. ^ Hogan's Alley Instruction Booklet (PDF). Nintendo. 1985. p. 2. This game requires the Zapper™, Light Gun Attachment.
  33. ^ "#75 – Laser Invasion". Take on the NES Library. 14 May 2018. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  34. ^ Kalata, Kurt (27 September 2017). "Lone Ranger, The". Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ McFerran, Damien (5 February 2008). "Review: Operation Wolf (Virtual Console / NES)". Nintendo Life. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  37. ^ Shooting Range Instruction Booklet (PDF). Bandai. Retrieved 19 February 2019. This game requires the Zapper™ Light Gun Attachment.
  38. ^ Rodriguez, Roberto (27 January 2016). "To the Earth (NES review)". Retro Game Reviews. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  39. ^ Seppatoni (24 October 2018). "Treffpunkt der NES-Fans seit 2001". NES CENTER (in German). Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  40. ^ Wild Gunman Instruction Booklet (PDF). Nintendo. 1985. p. 2. This game requires the Zapper™, Light Gun Attachment.
  41. ^ "The NES Zapper - How it Works, What it Works With and What is Worth Playing". Nerdly Pleasures. 16 September 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  42. ^ "Baby Boomer (NES)". Retro Game Guide. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  43. ^ Armageddon, Andy (31 October 2014). "A Crude and Rude Unlicensed Zap Gun Abomination for the NES: CHILLER". Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  44. ^ Vito, Mike (8 July 2017). "Super Russian Roulette Review". Hey Poor Player. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  45. ^ Buchner, Chris (4 February 2017). "CAPTAIN N: THE GAME MASTER". Saturday Mornings Forever. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  46. ^ "Captain N: Game Master Costume". Costume Playbook. 14 October 2013. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  47. ^ Olney, Alex (25 December 2014). "Review: Duck Hunt (Wii U eShop / NES)". Nintendo Life. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  48. ^ Brown, Tom (6 January 2016). "Three more NES Zapper games heading to the North American Wii U eShop". Nintendo Wire. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  49. ^ Webster, Andrew (1 June 2015). "Nintendo turned the NES Zapper into a paintball gun for Splatoon". The Verge. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  50. ^ DePapier (18 July 2015). "New weapons Octobrush and N-ZAP '89 now available in Splatoon". NintendObserver. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  51. ^ Iggy (8 December 2017). "N-ZAP 85 Arrives In Splatoon 2 Tomorrow". NintendoSoup. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  52. ^ Moyse, Chris (8 December 2017). "N-Zap 89 pulls its clunky trigger in Splatoon 2 tonight". destructoid. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  53. ^ Tapp, Jaxson (2 June 2016). "Famicom style N-Zap coming to Splatoon". Nintendo Wire. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  54. ^ Sheehan, Gavin (28 January 2019). "Splatoon 2 Will Be Getting Classic Weapons Added Again". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved 8 February 2019.

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