Which Video Game Introduced Dual Wielding?

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Shared August 31, 2013

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Using two guns at once is impractical, unrealistic, and generally a liability - and yet we see pistols akimbo in many action-oriented games.

So how did such a reckless regard for accuracy originate? What was the first video game that introduced two-pistol gun-play? And how on earth do you reload when both your hands are full?

Carrying multiple weapons was once an issue of practicality - with early flintlock pistols taking quite some time to reload, pirates such as Blackbeard would not be seen with a brace of fewer than 6 such sidearms ready-to-fire.

By the time of the Old West, revolvers were the norm: and some cowboys will have carried more than one, for those situations where a single six-shooter simply won't do.

Such backup weapons were used singly to avert a lengthy reload, however - firing a weapon from each hand with wild abandon probably reserved for desperados with nothing to lose.

The blame for Dual Wield's popularity today lies squarely at the feet of cinema: with the popularity of Westerns aligned with the rise of the Action film in the 1970s, it was only a matter of time.

Action films are not noted for their subtlety, and firepower was one trait not often spared.

Dirty Harry's .44 Magnum was described as 'the most powerful handgun in the world' - and so what better way to up the ante than to double down on a second pistol.

In the 1969 film, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid each employ a pair of Colt Single-Action Army revolvers in a daring shootout while fleeing from the Bolivian police.

Another more prominent use of dual wielding in a Western film is 'The Outlaw Josey Wales', from 1976.

Featuring Clint Eastwood as the titular character, a wanted man driven by vengeance and a need for firepower that only pistols akimbo might provide.

The 1970s also marks the earliest days of electronic entertainment: the popularity of Pong from 1972 spurred development of the arcade game industry, some of which offered crude digital representations of popular culture at the time.

Video games with a Western flavour were inevitable: 'Gun Fight' in 1975 was the first - a simple shooting game, with players one and two facing off in a six-shooter duel.

One of the earliest depictions of dual wielded pistols in a video game is in an arcade title from 1979 called 'Sheriff', an early Nintendo game published by Exidy.

Clearly taking clues from the Western movies of its era - this multi-directional shooter featured bandits clearly seen swinging two pistols.

It was none other than Shigeru Miyamoto that was responsible for Sheriff's artwork - so the mind behind Mario and Zelda might also be behind the very first video game to feature dual-wielded pistols.

The Western's popularity saw decline by the end of the 70s, with Star Wars in 1977 prompting a shift towards space shooters, like the phenomenally popular Space Invaders in 1978.

There remained a few Western-influenced games, however - and titles such as Gun.Smoke on the NES applied a familiar frontier theme to the well-rehearsed scrolling shooter genre.

One suitably-named swan song of the Western's spike in popularity was the four-player run and gun action of Sunset Riders, in 1991.

With some parallels to the 1985 film Silverado, one of the characters on offer makes use of two revolvers simultaneously.

This is perhaps to position the character as a 'Billy the Kid' derivative: rash and impetuous through youth, but otherwise boasting legendary gun skill.

The neon-tinged 80s saw the displacement of Westerns in favour of the blockbuster action film - and one man had influence outweighing any other: John Woo.

His brand of high-octane gunfight was fuelled by acrobatic display, bottomless magazines - and flagrant use of guns akimbo.

'A Better Tomorrow' in 1985 was the first outing of dual pistols in a John Woo film, but it certainly wasn't the last.

'Hard Boiled' in 1992 was his breakthrough hit in the West - marking Woo's transition to Hollywood, and proving particularly influential in other media.

Chow Yun-fat features as Inspector Tequila Yuen, an undercover cop who's not afraid to get his hands dirty - an anti-hero with a total disregard for authority.

It was around this time that the foundations of the first person shooter genre were laid - iD's Wolfenstein 3D was released the same year.

With Doom's release in 1993, the now-familiar format of gun-focussed gameplay with a first-person view had taken hold - and with the influence of cinema, it wouldn't be long before we would see a game featuring Woo-esque gun-play.

Typical - you wait ages for a first person shooter featuring dual wielding, and then two come along at once.

Bungie's Marathon and Apogee's Rise of the Triad were both released on the 21st of December, 1994.