25 of the Greatest Weapons in Video Games

25 of the Greatest Weapons in Video Games

At their core, video games are defined by what they allow the player to do. And, to actually “do” things in a game, most titles provide players with any number of tools. For almost as long as video games have existed, these tools most commonly end up being weapons of one variety or another. Accordingly, some of the most iconic recurring weapons throughout the medium’s most popular franchises have taken on a life of their own. Much like how players can see a picture of Master Chief or Mario and immediately know who they are, it’s just as easy to pick the Lancer rifle from Gears of War or Cloud’s Buster Sword out of a lineup. The greatest weapons in video games are just as iconic and recognizable as the characters that wield them.

Video game weapons are more than just functional, though. These iconic pieces of fictional (and occasionally very real) weaponry are almost always a great display of developers’ creativity. While some games strive for realism in their arsenals, others embrace their fictional worlds and throw all semblance of physics and logic out the window to provide players with something both over-the-top and incredibly fun to use. The weapons on this list cover the spectrum between these two extremes, showcasing that both fantastic and plausible armaments more than earn their place in the gaming zeitgeist.

25. Lancer Rifle

Gears of War 3 weapon model

©Gears of War 3 weapon model – Original

First Appearance: Gears of War (Xbox 360, 2006)

The Gears of War franchise’s signature weapon is a perfect encapsulation of what the franchise is all about. Gears features a thought-provoking narrative full of cautionary messaging about resource scarcity and dealing with loss, but the franchise is also just as much about popping in and out of cover to wreak havoc across raging battlefields. The Lancer Rifle isn’t just Gears‘ greatest weapon, it’s one of the greatest weapons in shooter history. Part assault rifle and part chainsaw, the Lancer is just as effective at close range with an empty clip as it is when using it to shoot from behind cover. Few weapons on this list occupy both the ranged and melee categories of weapon types, and Gears‘ “chainsaw rifle” is as unique as it is fun to use.

24. Infinite Rocket Launcher

Resident Evil 4 gameplay

©Resident Evil 4 gameplay screenshot – Original

First Appearance: Resident Evil (PS1, 1996)

When it comes to weapons, Resident Evil games like to give players plenty of options. One of the games where this is most apparent is in Resident Evil 4, where Leon eventually has an entire arsenal of deadly weaponry at his disposal that he can customize and upgrade to make it even more effective. After beating Resident Evil 4 once, though, players get access to the legendary Infinite Rocket Launcher. Standard Rocket Launchers are available to purchase from the mysterious Merchants throughout Resident Evil 4, but their power is balanced out by them being single-use items. Not so with the Infinite Rocket Launcher. This game-breaking weapon makes even a Professional mode playthrough a walk in the park thanks to a never-ending stream of explosive ordinance.

23. Wave Beam

Metroid Prime gameplay

©Metroid Prime gameplay screenshot – Original

First Appearance: Metroid (NES, 1987)

Similar to Mega Man, Samus has a built-in arm cannon that is iconic in and of itself. However, most of the upgrades that players acquire for it fall into some predictable categories. There’s the Charge Beam for more powerful shots, a Long Beam extending its range, and the classic Ice Beam that the galactic bounty hunter can use to freeze enemies and turn them into makeshift platforms. The Wave Beam breaks this trend of predictability by turning Samus’ arm cannon into a weapon whose shots pass through walls and enemies alike, eliminating any potential haven for on-screen threats. With the Wave Beam in her arsenal, Samus gains a powerful and transformative weapon, and it’s a wonder that more games don’t include weapons capable of shooting through walls.

22. Energy Sword

Halo gameplay

©Halo gameplay screenshot – Original

First Appearance: Halo 2 (Xbox, 2004)

Ironically, one of the most iconic weapons in the Halo series is a piece of tech belonging to the antagonistic Covenant. The Energy Sword is both an excellent melee weapon for Master Chief to use and one that wise players know to steer clear of, with the blade more than capable of succinctly wiping out the player in either single or multiplayer. After spending most of the original Halo: Combat Evolved running from Arbiters wielding the Energy Sword, Halo 2 famously flips the script and allows players to turn the tables back on the brutes with a taste of their own medicine. Halo‘s arsenal has never been the same since, and it’s all the better for it.

21. Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device

Portal render

©Portal weapon model – Original

First Appearance: Portal (PC, 2007)

While not a “weapon” in the traditional sense, the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (or simply, “Portal Gun”) is perhaps the most powerful tool in all of gaming considering it can tear holes through space and time. The titular device from both Portal and Portal 2 is a dimension-distorting, reality-bending piece of tech that just so happens to reveal new and ingenious applications for its use the more you play through both of those incredible games. It’s a tantalizing prospect to imagine how the device could be used in a more traditional first-person experience in combat scenarios rather than in a puzzle game. That said, it deserves a place on this list for being the only item players need to make their way through two of the best puzzle platformers of all time.

20. Moonlight Greatsword

Dark Souls gameplay

©Dark Souls gameplay screenshot – Original

First Appearance: King’s Field (PS1, 1994)

FromSoftware really likes the Moonlight Greatsword. After making its debut appearance in the legendary King’s Field, the Moonlight Greatsword continues to show up in some fashion in every subsequent FromSoftware title. Both Demon’s Souls and the Dark Souls trilogy feature iterations of the legendary blade, as do Bloodborne, Elden Ring, and it even makes a surprise cameo in Sekiro. Traditionally, the Moonlight Greatsword is one of the best weapons in the Greatsword category, especially when wielding it with two hands. The weapon’s signature move is a massive blast/shockwave that gets sent out after initiating a heavy attack to deal massive damage. Accordingly, every FromSoftware game makes simply finding the weapon a memorable challenge all on its own.

19. Super Shotgun

Doom II weapon model

©Doom II weapon model – Original

First Appearance: Doom II (PC, 1994)

Shotguns and first-person shooters go together like peanut butter and jelly, to the point where not featuring a shotgun in a shooter’s arsenal feels like something is missing. Ultimately, the inextricable nature of first-person shooters and shotguns originates with Doom. The first Doom‘s shotgun is a great weapon in its own right, but the sequel’s Super Shotgun is hands-down the best video game shotgun to ever exist. From the moment the Doomguy picks up the Super Shotgun in Doom II, it becomes painfully obvious that no other common weapon can ever hope to compare to the powerful boomstick. With its satisfying ability to one-shot most enemies and plenty of ammo readily available, the Super Shotgun might even be the best weapon in any first-person shooter, period.

18. Hidden Blade

Assassin's Creed II key art

©Assassin’s Creed II key art – Original

First Appearance: Assassin’s Creed (Xbox 360/PS3, 2007)

Ah yes, the Hidden Blade. The League of Assassins’ signature weapon ends up being just as iconic as the Assassin’s Creed games themselves thanks to its ingenious implementation as an “instant-kill” stealth weapon. Stealth games tend to favor avoiding conflict, too, which is what makes Assassin’s Creed‘s original gameplay style so rewarding. As one of the titular assassins, players must use subterfuge and their parkour abilities to strike from the shadows when their targets least expect it. The Hidden Blade is the perfect tool for this strategy, allowing the player to quickly eliminate targets and then vanish in one fell swoop. The modern Assassin’s Creed games feature a wide variety of powerful weapons for the player to use and upgrade, but none of them are quite as satisfying to use as the Hidden Blade.

17. Colt Python

Resident Evil - CODE: Veronica weapon model

©Resident Evil – CODE: Veronica weapon model – Original

First Appearance: Resident Evil (PS1, 1996)

Truthfully, any number of weapons from the original Resident Evil could end up on this list. However, the one weapon that truly turns the tables in the game that coins the term “survival-horror” is the ultra-powerful Colt Python magnum. Players spend most of Resident Evil constantly scrounging for ammo and needing to prioritize fighting or fleeing, which makes getting the Colt Python in the game’s final act all the more worth celebrating. Although ammo for this beast of a handgun is fairly scarce, its ability to eliminate most enemy types in a single shot more than makes up for it. And, when using this powerful firearm on the standard rank-and-file zombies, expect their heads to “pop” like piñatas full of gory confetti.

16. Spread Shot

Contra: Evolution gameplay

©Contra: Evolution gameplay screenshot – Original

First Appearance: Contra (Arcade, 1987)

There are two things that every Contra player knows when booting up the NES version of Konami’s arcade classic. First, make sure to input the famous “Konami Code” to get those extra lives. Second, find the Spread Shot as quickly as possible and hold on to it for dear life. The standard rifle Bill and Lance begin Contra with is capable of getting the job done, but the weapon drops that routinely fly in from off-screen and hold significant upgrades that can easily cut through the game’s endless waves of enemies. None of them are as powerful (or as broken) as the Spread Shot, which hits targets with four shots at once at close range and eliminates whole screens of weaker enemies at longer ranges.

15. Wabbajack

Skyrim gameplay

©Skyrim gameplay screenshot – Original

First Appearance: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Xbox 360/PS3/PC, 2011)

The Elder Scrolls series is host to a wide variety of iconic weapons, but not one of them is as notorious as the Wabbajack. Not only does the Wabbajack have its own incredible quest line to follow before receiving the staff as a reward (a gift from the Daedric Prince of Madness himself, no less), but its utility in the game perfectly matches its origins as the instrument of a true trickster. See, the Wabbajack can either be incredibly useful or outright useless depending on the luck of the draw. Since the staff casts one magic spell at random, this can be just as much a blessing as a curse, and it occasionally results in some meme-worthy Skyrim hilarity. One moment the Wabbajack might eliminate several enemies at once with a terrifying lightning storm, while in another it might just as well be a paperweight.

14. Blue Shell

Mario Kart 8 gameplay

©Mario Kart 8 gameplay screenshot – Original

First Appearance: Mario Kart 64 (N64, 1997)

While you might think that being in first place makes you safe in Mario Kart, you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. As it turns out, first-place players are the only racers on the track vulnerable to the game’s most powerful weapon, the Blue Shell. This shell is like the homing Red Shell on steroids, avoiding all other racers on the track to seek out the winning driver and completely disrupt their chances at victory. Even though the game skews the likelihood of getting a Blue Shell toward the racers in last place (making it less likely to level the playing field for those in second or third place), few sounds can make a Mario Kart player’s heart sink like the telltale flutter of the Blue Shell heading their way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

13. Plasma Cutter

Dead Space remake gameplay

©Dead Space gameplay screenshot – Original

First Appearance: Dead Space (Xbox 360/PS3/PC, 2008)

Last year’s excellent Dead Space remake succeeds by not fixing what isn’t broken from the original, including leaving Isaac Clarke’s signature weapon well enough alone. The Plasma Cutter is both precise and powerful, and using the game’s limited Power Nodes to upgrade it helps alleviate some of the game’s tension due to ammo scarcity. In a game like Dead Space, where severing enemy limbs is more important than landing headshots, the Plasma Cutter’s vertical and horizontal firing modes make it the most effective and versatile weapon in the game. That it’s the starting “pistol” archetype for one of the best survival horror titles of all time makes it even better. Sometimes, all it takes is the right tool for the right job.

12. Keyblade

Kingdom Hearts gameplay

©Kingdom Hearts gameplay screenshot – Original

First Appearance: Kingdom Hearts (PS2, 2002)

Square Enix has a penchant for crafting some truly nonsensical weapon designs (Gunblade, anyone?), but the Keyblade takes the cake. That said, the Keyblade is now an instantly recognizable piece of video game iconography and an important part of the Kingdom Hearts series lore. Across all games in the franchise, there are more than 130 different Keyblades, each belonging to one of the various Disney or Square Enix-themed worlds that Sora and his allies get to visit to stop the Heartless. Ultimately, though, it’s Sora and King Mickey’s signature, Excalibur-like Keyblades that are now some of the most iconic RPG weapons of all time.

11. Leviathan Axe

God of War Ragnarok gameplay

©God of War Ragnarok gameplay screenshot – Original

First Appearance: God of War (PS4, 2018)

Despite the God of War reboot featuring the same Kratos we all know and love (or fear), there’s a lot that’s new about the character’s latest adventures. New setting, new gods, new mythology, and of course, new weapons. The Leviathan Axe sits alongside the Blades of Chaos as a distinctly different alternative to Kratos’ signature weaponry, to the point where unlocking them both only serves to further raise the skill ceiling for efficient use of each in every combat encounter. Arguably what makes the Leviathan Axe so great is its recall ability, allowing Kratos to throw the axe in a devastating arc to then call it right back and destroy enemies at close range.

10. Soul Edge

SoulCalibur III gameplay

©SoulCalibur III gameplay screenshot – Original

First Appearance: Soul Edge (Arcade, 1995)

The SoulCalibur series still stands as one of Namco’s greatest contributions to the fighting game genre, and the entire franchise hinges on the titular weapon: the Soul Edge. This legendary blade is usually in the hands of the powerful Nightmare, though the series does present any number of outcomes where each of the combatants obtains the Soul Edge and becomes corrupted by its evil influence. Despite its limited use in-game, the lore behind the Soul Edge and its importance to the SoulCalibur series as a whole make it one of the most iconic weapons in gaming and an instantly recognizable aspect of the franchise.

9. Golden Gun

GoldenEye 007 gameplay

©GoldenEye 007 gameplay screenshot – Original

First Appearance: GoldenEye 007 (N64, 1997)

Sometimes, an iconic gaming weapon doesn’t even need to be good for it to obtain legendary status. Such is the case with the Golden Gun from GoldenEye 007, which appears in the game as an Easter Egg harkening back to the weapon’s appearance in the classic Bond film Goldfinger. The Golden Gun’s signature ability is firing one fatal shot in multiplayer, but its slow handling and long reload make it more of a liability than anything. Ironically, the gold PP7 from GoldenEye 007 far outshines (pun intended) the famous Golden Gun, but its importance to the James Bond franchise and place as a secret weapon would still make it a desirable item to find in the game’s legendary multiplayer mode.

8. BFG 9000

Doom weapon model

©Doom Eternal weapon model – Original

First Appearance: Doom (PC, 1993)

There are those gaming weapons that are so iconic that they transcend their source material to become pop culture touchstones on their own. Such is the case with Doom‘s BFG 9000, with even non-gamers knowing full well what the “BFG” in the weapon’s title stands for. The weapon’s appearances across almost every game in the Doom franchise only serve to cement its legendary status, with its most recent appearance in Doom Eternal giving it the most over-the-top redesign and in-game use. The Doom games like to throw seemingly impossible odds at the player, and in those moments, the BFG 9000 is the Doomguy’s only fighting chance against the hordes of Hell.

7. Gravity Gun

Half-Life 2 Gravity Gun

©Half-Life 2 gameplay screenshot

First Appearance: Half-Life 2 (PC, 2004)

Before players got to experience the Portal Gun for the first time, Valve would take the idea for a test with Half-Life 2‘s legendary Gravity Gun. By the time Gordon acquires the Gravity Gun, he’s already been through the wringer trying to repel the alien occupation of Earth. It initially doesn’t seem like it’s all that special until it receives a late-game tweak from Alyx. The Gravity Gun’s transformation from its initial “orange” model to the new and improved “blue” version is one of the greatest moments in one of the best FPS games of all time, transforming the device into a weapon of mass destruction flinging Combine soldiers to their unfortunate deaths as if Gordon were simply swatting bothersome flies.

6. Blades of Chaos

God of War gameplay

©God of War character render – Original

First Appearance: God of War (PS2, 2005)

While some (present company included) may feel that the Leviathan Axe is a better and more useful weapon, there’s no denying the fact that the Blades of Chaos are synonymous with God of War. Only one weapon appears in every single game in the God of War series (across both the Greek and Norse mythology sagas), and that would be Kratos’ cursed blades he’s doomed to carry as a reminder of his crimes against his family. The Blades of Chaos are brilliant as far as character action weapons go thanks to how they combine the range and motion of a whip with the skill set and speed of daggers, resulting in a video game weapon that’s as satisfying to use as it is deadly.

5. Vampire Killer

Castlevania artwork

©Castlevania key art – Original

First Appearance: Castlevania (NES, 1986)

Speaking of whips, Castlevania‘s Vampire Killer is perhaps the most iconic whip this side of Indiana Jones. The family heirloom of the Belmont clan, the Vampire Killer is a whip with the unique ability to kill vampires, making it (and, by proxy, the Belmonts) the only thing that can prevent Dracula’s reign of darkness over Middle Ages Europe. The weapon takes on various forms throughout the series, but it’s the original Castlevania‘s hide and chain whip variants that are most likely to stick out in players’ memory. Ultimately, the Vampire Killer is the perfect weapon for the slower pace and heavy movement of the original Castlevania games, creating a safe range for the player to take out enemies without needing to be agile.

4. Mega Buster

Mega Man artwork

©Mega Man concept artwork – Original

First Appearance: Mega Man (NES, 1987)

Mega Man’s iconic arm cannon, the Mega Buster, isn’t just one weapon. It’s hundreds of weapons. In its standard form, the Mega Buster can fire single shots or a three-round burst, and later games would introduce the ability to charge it up to unleash one super shot. However, the Mega Buster’s defining characteristic is its ability to absorb and then use the abilities of the Robot Masters that Mega Man defeats, turning each entry in the Mega Man series into a carefully crafted puzzle. It’s not enough just to beat each stage in a Mega Man game, players need to decipher which weapons a Robot Master might be weak too based on their name and then plan accordingly. In terms of both its utility and versatility, video game weapons don’t really get much better than the Mega Buster.

3. Buster Sword

Final Fantasy VII Remake gameplay

©Final Fantasy VII Remake gameplay screenshot – Original

First Appearance: Final Fantasy VII (PS1, 1997)

The Final Fantasy series has several recurring weapons across each entry that are iconic and memorable in their own right (Excalibur, Masamune, Ultima Weapon, etc.), but none of them are as instantly recognizable and as central to their respective game’s iconography as Final Fantasy VII‘s Buster Sword. Originally the weapon of SOLDIER First Class Zack Fair, Cloud Strife takes up the mantle of the massive blade when he assumes Zack’s identity and past as a way to protect his fragile psyche. This massive sword is arguably one of the most impractical armaments to ever appear in an RPG, but that in no way diminishes its intangible “cool” factor. Truthfully, the Buster Sword is just as important to the imagery of Final Fantasy VII as any of its characters, and its place on the game’s cover immortalizes it as a symbol of the first 3D Final Fantasy.

2. M6D Pistol

Halo: Combat Evolved gameplay

©Halo gameplay screenshot – Original

First Appearance: Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox, 2001)

Not only is the M6D Magnum Pistol one of the most powerful guns in the game (to the point where every subsequent Halo significantly nerfed it), it’s Master Chief’s first line of defense against the Covenant as they board the Pillar of Autumn. In both single-player and multiplayer, the M6D Pistol is practically unbeatable. At close range, the weapon’s firepower provides a satisfying “punch” that can stop enemies dead in their tracks. And, at long ranges, the M6D is deadly accurate, capable of landing headshots at almost impossible ranges in the hands of skilled players. Master Chief’s ability to use any weapon skillfully means players are always picking up new guns in Halo, but hanging onto that starter pistol is a smart move.

1. The Master Sword

A Link to the Past artwork

©Zelda concept art – Original

First Appearance: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, 1992)

Since its introduction in the third game in the series, the Master Sword continues to serve as the connective tissue binding every game in The Legend of Zelda franchise. For a video game weapon to earn “iconic” status, it needs to stick out as a defining part of the title (or titles) it features in, and the Master Sword is hugely important to the Zelda series from both a gameplay and narrative perspective. This ancient blade of righteousness is the original armament given to the hero who would protect the goddess Hylia from the Demon King Demise, waiting in every age of the kingdom of Hyrule for the chosen hero worthy of wielding it. Across all its appearances, the Master Sword retains the same basic abilities and design, making it the one unbroken constant across the continuously changing Hyrule and the various reincarnations of Link, Zelda, and Ganon.

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