Tired of getting destroyed in fighting games?  Want to be able to get a headshot whenever you please, instead of when you get lucky?  Wishing you could beat Contra without the Konami code?  Here are five games you should play to help improve your reaction time and overall control.


1.   Ikaruga

While not the king of bullet hell shooters (Mushihime-Sama holds that title), Ikaruga is still an amazing piece of work.  The “chain” system and the changing color mechanic are perfect for practicing your skills, and the busy screen loaded with enemies will test your ability to make decisions quickly.  Playing Ikaruga will help you to recognize patterns faster, teach you to watch more than one part of the screen at the same time, and quickly determine the best route you should take for survival.  Ikaruga also assists in training you to stay calm, even in the face of certain annihilation.  You cannot possibly hope to succeed if you can’t remain calm.


2. Ninja Gaiden Black

Playing through Ninja Gaiden Black will assist you in decreasing your reaction times, but more specifically it will make you an absolute beast with fighting games.  Button mashing will get you nowhere here; your only hope for survival is to learn the combos and be able to determine at any point which combo out of the dozens available is the best one for the situation.  Also, blocking is essential for success in NGB…playing through it, especially on the harder difficulty levels, will train you to watch enemy animations and recognize when to block.  Granted, the timing in every game is different, but if you master combat in Ninja Gaiden Black, you will become a better gamer overall.  In some situations, the change in your reaction times can even translate into real-world advantages!


3. ‘Splosion Man

‘Splosion Man starts out easy enough; however the later stages get extremely difficult. You will encounter seemingly impossible jumps, and will need to master the ability to control a falling character in mid-air.  Requiring pinpoint accurate platforming, ‘Splosion Man will enable you to judge jumps and distances better, as well as reacting quickly to changing environments.  Although minimal, ‘Splosion Man will also help you with puzzle games, since traversing through the environment isn’t as simple as just “going to the right”.  This title requires patience, yet quick thinking and momentum. Slowing down can spell certain doom in many stages.


4. Counter Strike Source

Even though it has aged a bit, Counter Strike Source is the ULTIMATE game to train first person shooter abilities. Long regarded as the true benchmark of a gamer’s skill, CS: Source provides you with moving targets who are generally better shots than you are.  The only way to get better is to play people better than you, and no where is this more prevalent than on a CS: Source server.  Counter Strike teaches you to quickly memorize your surroundings, spot good vantage points, and to aim very quickly.  You might want to try to find noob servers if you are just starting out…the 1337 folks that play CS are a bit insane.


5. Almost any NES game

Old videogames were brutal and unapologetic.  Just about any NES game is going to require good reflexes, and they are a great place to start for your training.  Specifically, games like Castlevania, Mario Bros, California Games, and Track & Field will teach you good buttonology.  Also, since the NES only has four buttons (A, B, Select, Start) plus the D-Pad, it will be much easier to concentrate on your timing and reaction speed rather than having to get used to a complicated control scheme.