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Duck Hunt was first developed in conjunction with the Laser Clay Shooting System. This system was a light gun simulation made by Nintendo. The game itself was created by Nintendo Research and Development Team 1 in 1973, a time before Nintendo had branched into game development. The game was directed by Takehiro Izushi and produced by Gunpei Yokoi. The same team were responsible for the creation and development of the light gun used by the game. The game OST was composed by Koji Kondo and Hirokazu Tanaka, both of whom are credited in many Nintendo Game OSTs of that era. After that, its next release was as one of a two game package with the original Super Mario Bros for the NES in 1980. Given the fact that it was made with the intention of being more of a tech demo shipped with the NES much like Wii Sports is for the Wii, it was hardly seen as a game and was rarely reviewed at that time. Duck Hunt has since been placed in multiple cartridge combinations, including a special bundle which gave you a 3 in one game cartridge with Duck Hunt, Super Mario Bros and World Class Track Meet.


The gameplay of Duck Hunt focuses on the use of the Nintendo Zapper Lightgun that shipped with the game. There are three game modes: 1/2 ducks or "clay-pigeon shooting". In the duck modes, the player must repeatedly shoot down one or two ducks before a certain time limit expires, and with a limited supply of ammunition. In the clay-pigeon mode, the ducks are replaced by (you guessed it) clay-pigeons, smaller sprites that are harder to hit, and here the difficulty ramps up much more quickly.

The lightgun is essentially a light sensor in a barrel. and when the player presses the trigger, the game screen turns black for a short time, except for a small white square around the target(s). This rather simplistic approach made it easy for more inventive players to create ways to cheat the system. For example, by simply pointing the gun at a lamp, the game always registers hits. Also, by putting a magnifying lens in front of the barrel, you can transform the zapper into a "light-shotgun", meaning that the light sensor now sees a larger part of the screen, which lessens the need for correct aiming.

When in one of the "duck-modes", a dog appears on the screen every round to pick up the ducks you shot, or to laugh at you if you failed to bring down any duck. Though it's not possible to shoot the dog in the NES version of the game, players were able to in Vs. Duck Hunt, the arcade version.

Duck Hunt’s characters have since made appearances in other games. The dog can be seen in Barker Bill’s Trick Shooting, and in Super Smash Brothers Brawl a trophy can be unlocked which has the ducks from the Duck Hunt displayed on it.

Technical Details About the Lightgun

When there is more than one duck on the screen, instead of showing a black screen with a white spot, the game will show the light gun a black screen and then a plain white screen.

Say we have a screen with only four pixels, with pixel A on the top right hand corner, B top left hand corner, C in the bottom left hand corner, and D in the bottom right hand corner. The screen is entirely black and needs to display a white screen. The four pixels will become white in the following order A, B, C, and then D.

Arms of the trade.

Now let's say that this would take four milliseconds of time (in reality it happens so fast that you won't even notice it).

  • millisecond 0: all black
  • millisecond 1: A white BCD black
  • millisecond 2: AB white CD black
  • millisecond 3: ABC white D black
  • millisecond 4: ABCD white

Let's imagine that there is a duck at pixel B and that you are aiming correctly. You press the trigger, the screen turns black and then the screen starts to become white. After two milliseconds pixel B will become white and the light gun will send a positive signal to the NES. The NES knows that the duck was at pixel B and that after you pulled the trigger it took two milliseconds before the signal came from the light gun. By doing some calculations, the game can show the duck being gunned down. Using this technique Duck Hunt was able to put more than one duck on screen at a time.

Some may have tried to play Duck Hunt on a flat screen and found out that it did not work. This is because lightguns work based on the mechanics of a cathode ray tube (CRT) television. Whenever a CRT shows a new frame the new pixels will appear one-for-one from left-to-right and up-to-down on the screen. Different latency in later model high definition (HD) displays accounts for the problems with lightgun functionality on these devices.