NES Zapper

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A gray (top) and an orange NES Zapper (bottom)
A gray (top) and an orange NES Zapper (bottom)
A gray (top) and an orange NES Zapper (bottom)

The NES Zapper, known in Japan as the Beam Gun, is a light gun accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System that is used for certain games, notably Duck Hunt, Wild Gunman, and Hogan's Alley. It was first released in 1985. The NES Zapper has a trigger button, which is used to shoot at moving objects on screen, and its light sensor can detect any hits on-screen. The NES Zapper resembles a science fiction-like ray gun unlike the Famicom's Beam Gun, which resembles a revolver. Initial NES Zapper releases have a color scheme matching that of the Nintendo Entertainment System's. In 1989, the orange variation was released and led to the discontinuation of the original gray model.

When the player pulls the NES Zapper's trigger, the entire screen turns black for one frame. On the next frame, all valid targets are drawn 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.

The NES Zapper can only be used on CRT displays, so it is incompatible with LCDs, plasma displays or other flat panel displays due to display lag. Unlike earlier light guns, the darkness/brightness sequence of the NES Zapper prevents players from gaining perfect hit scores by pointing it at a nearby light source, such as a light bulb.

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Wii also each have their own light gun accessory, the Super Scope and Wii Zapper respectively. 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 the Wii Zapper can be used instead.


The Beam Gun for the Famicom

The Beam Gun was designed by Gunpei Yokoi and Satoru Okada, and was made to resemble a revolver-style handgun. It was first released on February 18, 1994 for the game, Wild Gunman.

In North America, the peripheral was redesigned from the ground up by Nintendo of America's head designer Lance Barr (who believed that it could resemble a ray gun) and rebranded as the NES Zapper.[citation needed] It was included in the Nintendo Entertainment System Action Set, a launch bundle released in October 1985 that contained the Nintendo Entertainment System, the NES Zapper, and a Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt cartridge.

In 1988, the Federal Toy Gun Law was signed into United States law, requiring that toy guns be visually distinct from real guns. This resulted in subsequent NES Zappers being released as orange.[1]

Compatible games[edit]



There are two accessories specifically for the NES Zapper:

Appearances in media[edit]


In Captain N: The Game Master, Kevin Keene uses an orange NES Zapper as a weapon throughout his adventures in Videoland. The gun fires laser blasts which destroy enemies. Kevin's NES Zapper also has a freeze-ray option which fires off Tetris-shaped blocks of ice that encircle and trap foes inside a cube of ice.

Video games[edit]

The NES Zapper is used in Duck Hunt's moveset in Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, although since the character wielding the light gun is never seen in-game, its only real appearance is in the character reveal trailer for Duck Hunt in Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U.

Splatoon and 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. The N-ZAP '83 uses the red and gold colors of a Famicom controller, but is not designed after Japan's Beam Gun.

In Terraria, the Gray Zapinator and the Orange Zapinator weapons reference the gray and orange NES Zappers respectively.


  1. ^ "Shootings Lead Chain to Ban Toy Guns". New York Times ( Published October 15, 1994.

External links[edit]