Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Ikaruga Game Poster Image
Challenging top-down aerial shooter rewards perseverance.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Play is focused on fast action but also rewards tenacity and perseverance. Encourages patience, practice, and strategy. A two-player mode promotes cooperation and teamwork.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters hardly have any presence, but it's made clear that the player's heroic pilot is attempting to defeat an invading tyrant.  

Ease of Play

Three difficulty levels determine enemies' fierceness, but all are extremely challenging. There's also an extra-hard mode that limits players' ammunition.


Players blast ships and robots with lasers, viewing the action from a top-down perspective. Defeated enemies disappear in fiery explosions.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ikaruga is a downloadable top-down aerial shooter for the Nintendo Switch. Players control an advanced warplane that takes on wave after wave of enemy ships. Defeated enemies explode in flashes of fire and disappear. Play is squarely focused on fast, spectacular action, leaving little room for story or character development. But the game's exceptional difficulty encourages practice and more often than not rewards players who demonstrate tenacity and perseverance. Less patient players are likely to experience plenty of frustration. A cooperative mode for two players promotes teamwork and group strategizing. Under the CCPA law you have the right to protect your personal information. Make a Do Not Sell request to Ikaruga.

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What's it about?

IKARUGA on Nintendo Switch is largely the same as it has been on other platforms over the last couple of decades. Players take control of an advanced warplane called the Ikaruga to confront swarms of invading ships and robots. The Ikaruga has the power to switch energy polarities, meaning it can absorb and/or shoot dark or light energy, but not both at the same time. This forces players to dynamically switch between polarities (sometimes multiple times in the space of only a second or two) based on changing circumstances in order to attack and defend more effectively. This play mechanic is important throughout the game, factoring heavily in both standard enemy waves and epic boss battles. The Switch version of the game supports cooperative play in any location using the left and right Joy-Cons as discrete controls. It also introduces a vertical play mode that lets players prop the console on its end and experience the action as it was originally designed for arcade monitors.

Is it any good?

If you can't play this classic shooter on an old arcade machine, this portable edition is definitely the way to go. With Ikaruga on Switch supporting co-op play anywhere you happen to be and offering a vertical play mode for the most efficient use of screen real estate, players get to experience the game just as its developers originally intended. And it looks and feels terrific, thanks to a rock-steady frame rate, spectacular and sometimes dizzying graphics that have never looked better, and satisfyingly responsive controls. Add in a few little extras for hardcore fans -- including unlockable galleries, achievements, and the ability to save and replay your best performances -- and you have something close to the definitive console version of this classic shoot-'em-up.

That is, of course, assuming you have plenty of patience and the ability to endure truckloads of punishment. Even with a trio of difficulty levels and the ability to start new games in later chapters once they've been unlocked, Ikaruga remains a deeply difficult experience that demands endless practice so that players can react to changing patterns of multicolored incoming fire. It requires strategy, twitchy responses, and even some puzzle-solving skills. It might have helped if the developers included an even easier difficulty level designed to introduce new players a little more slowly to the game's demanding mechanics. But, that aside, there's little about the Switch edition of Ikaruga not to recommend, especially for existing fans and players looking for a serious, skill-based gaming challenge.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impact of violence in media. Did you think about the motivations for the conflict in Ikaruga -- or which side might be in the right?

  • Ikaruga demands proven skill honed by hours of practice: Do you find this sort of game more satisfying or more frustrating? Why do you think these kinds of games have particular appeal to some players?

  • Ikaruga focuses on fast reflexes and dodging lots of incoming attacks. How does that kind of gaming's appeal compare to that of slower, more realistic games on consoles? 

  • How can you apply the teamwork and group strategy skills used in Ikaruga in real life? Do these skills work for other games?

Game details

  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch
  • Price: $14.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: Sega of America
  • Release date: May 29, 2018
  • Genre: Arcade
  • ESRB rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence
  • Last updated: September 3, 2020

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action

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