The term "bullet hell" refers to a sub-genre of shooters whose main gameplay focus is dodging seemingly endless waves of colored bullets. In these games the player controls a small ship or character which flies around the environment, shooting at waves of enemies until eventually reaching a stage boss. A true bullet hell shooter tests the player's skill in being able to recognize patterns in the stream of bullets and then navigate through the barrage. Bosses will often use complex bullet patterns that restrict the player to very tight safe zones that require maximum precision and focus to survive. It's not uncommon that a Bullet Hell will use bright colors and distracting visual elements in an attempt to break the player's concentration.
Shooters have been popular in arcades and on home game consoles since the 1980s. In recent years, the developers Treasure and Cave have continued to specialize in shooters that cater to the hardcore fans of the genre. Some notable examples are Treasure's Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga, and Bangai O Spirits, and Cave's DoDonPachi Daioujou. NEC's TurboGrafix family of game consoles played host to numerous vertical shooters, such as the Star Soldier series. Part of their popularity stemmed from shooting game tournaments. These gaming tournaments helped contribute to the celebrity of Takahashi Meijin; called "16 Shot" for his ability to press a button 16 times per second, he has been a long-standing game culture icon in Japan and the US.
Alternative names for this sub-genre include: "Manic Shooters", "Maniac Shooters", and the original Japanese "Danmaku" (弾幕 lit. "Bullet Curtain" or "Barrage").