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Lieutenant Hopkins says any time you reach for the shotguns, you're either gonna end up dead or wearing a citation.
Ralph Dunn, LA Noire

In First Person Shooters, no matter how many super-powerful weapons the player has at their disposal, they will always tend to use their shotgun.

There are several different reasons for this, though not all of them are always the case:

  • The shotgun is Boring but Practical -- it kills enemies quickly without the hassle of avoiding splash damage from rockets or other weapons.
  • Everything better is Too Awesome to Use -- shotgun ammo is nigh ubiquitous since it's usually one of the first weapons found in the game, and everything afterwards tends to be reserved for bosses. Furthermore, unlike automatic weapons, ammo lasts a lot longer in a gunfight, so burning through your entire supply happens a lot less often.
  • The shotgun is just plain better than everything else -- at close range, it can indeed be the best weapon in the game, and in games without Bottomless Magazines it tends to have a decent magazine size as well.

However, perhaps the simplest explanation of this trope is that shotguns are just Badass, especially when shortened.

Your Mileage May Vary though....maybe you prefer Revolvers Are Just Better or Katanas Are Just Better? Or perhaps you would rather try a heavy machine gun?

Examples of Shotguns Are Just Better include:
  • The New Conglomerate in PlanetSide takes this approach to everything. Triple barreled shotgun! Arm mounted shotguns! Humongous Mecha shotguns! Shotgun pistol!
  • Marathon's insane short-barreled, double-barreled, dual-wieldable shotguns are more accurate than the player's assault rifle, and do almost as much damage as the anti-material missile launcher.
  • Borderlands merges this interestingly with the Revolvers Are Just Better trope with the Masher pistols (they shoot shotgun shells!), some of the most dangerous revolvers in the game.
  • Doom
    • The first game has a simple shotgun as the second weapon you'll get. It does a good amount of damage, especially a short range, and the ammo is extremely plentiful, making it perhaps the most frequently used weapon in the game.
    • DOOM 2 adds the super shotgun, which does nearly triple damage for the cost of two shells per shot. It's easily the most used weapon in the game, with plentiful ammunition and huge damage at point-blank. Discounting the BFG, it's only rivaled for single-shot damage by the Rocket Launcher, which is not useful at close range.
    • DOOM 3 spoils the fun by nerfing the hell out of its shotgun, giving it an extremely wide spread over an unrealistically short distance, meaning it's effective at point-blank range and nigh useless at any other distance. However, because most engagements in the third game are at very close range, it still gets a lot of use.
  • All of the Quake games. The first two have both shotgun and super shotgun like Doom (the first game even has the regular shotgun as your starting weapon). The double-barreled version is actually quite powerful, although only at close ranges.
  • The SPAS-12 in the Half-Life series counts. Its power is overall on par with the .357 Magnum, but with much more plentiful ammunition the shotgun will see more use throughout the game. Even the automatic weapons in the series struggle to keep up, due to mediocre accuracy of the SMGs and the scarcity of assault rifle ammo. In Half-Life 2 it starts to get edged out by the Gravity Gun, a curious combination of Emergency Weapon and BFG, but unlike the Gravity Gun it isn't dependent on whatever barrels and crates are strewn around the battlefield. Finally, it has a Secondary Fire where it shoots two shells at once (even though the SPAS-12 only has 1 barrel.).
  • The MA90 shotgun from the first game of the Halo saga is highly infamous among fans for being freakishly overpowered: it could hold up to 72 pellets and had a scary (and yet rather realistic when compared to other games) medium range accuracy. It could even be used to successfully take on light ground vehicles.
  • In Painkiller, the shotgun is one of, if not the, go-to weapons throughout the game along with the Painkiller melee weapon. With reasonable spread, good fire rate, good damage, plentiful ammo, and a Secondary Fire that freezes enemies in place (after which a single pellet will shatter them), it's no wonder why the shotgun is Daniel's favorite weapon during the cutscenes.
  • Team Fortress 2 zig-zags it, with the shotgun being a secondary weapon for the Pyro, Soldier and Heavy. It has good range with reasonable spread, but only decent damage and sharp damage falloff, and is best used in conjunction with your primary weapon. The Engineer uses it as his primary weapon, where it is best used to support his Sentry Gun turret. Then the trope turns right around with the Scout's primary weapons, the Scatter Gun, the Force-a-Nature, and the Soda Popper, which are all exceptionally powerful (at point blank, at least[1]).
    • Though many a player has fallen to a sentryless Engineer's shotgun, mistaking him for an easy target. Likewise, they're not out of the woods yet if a soldier vented all his rockets at them and didn't quite finish the job.
    • With the release of the Engineer update, the Engineer has acquired the Frontier Justice, a high-tech shotgun that holds "Revenge Crits": when his sentry gun is destroyed, the Engineer gains a number of guaranteed critical hits equal to double his sentry's kill count. With 18 damage per crit pellet, the FJ can deal 180 per shot, assuming all pellets hit. Even scarier, crits have no damage falloff due to distance, meaning the shot pattern is the only factor for damage dealt. The three shell magazine makes it less than useful without them however, so it only qualifies for this trope because of its extremely high guaranteed burst damage (exceeded only by various kinds of headshots).
    • More recently, the Engineer received the widowmaker from the Manno-Technology update, a shotgun that uses metal instead of shotgun shells and regenerates a portion of the damage you do as metal.
    • And like the Half-Life 2 example above, it's easy to mod the shotguns so that they can either shoot specific patterns, or shoot a virtual wall of pellets that lags the server with every shot.
  • In the Darkest of Days weapons trailer, while the others talk about the weapons and where it's from (with funny footnotes), what do they say about the shotgun? "It's a Shotgun!"
  • Gears of War has a shotgun that some have likened to Halo's pistol, so naturally it falls victim to this trope.
  • The shotguns in Left 4 Dead are generally the most powerful weapons in the game (although the Uzi gets slightly more use than the first-tier shotgun), with the best zombie-clearing and Tank-killing capabilities in the game; this is balanced by their small magazine and slow reload. Unlike many other games, the shotguns here works up to medium range. The second game includes the SPAS-12, called Combat Shotgun which has a tighter spread and more accuracy, but fewer pellets. It's deadly anywhere up to medium range.
    • One feature worth noting is that if you're not careful with your reloading on shotguns (ie you fully empty the magazine) you have to cycle the action, resulting in a (marginally) longer reload time.
      • One of the appeals of the shotgun was that, while it had a overall longer reload time, individual shell reloads were much faster than any other reload. In addition, you could interrupt the reload at any moment to fend off enemies, something other weapons cannot do. Those who were skilled with the Auto Shotgun could overcome all of it's drawbacks (save one) and become a one-man zombie killing apocalypse.
    • The Auto Shotgun in the first game was so effective in almost any situation that almost everyone would grab the Auto Shotgun as soon as it became available. Its power and quick firing rate, along with 128 shells of reserve ammo, was appealing to most players. Valve nerfed the tier one and tier two shotguns by reducing their ammo capacity (56 rounds for their one shotguns and 90 for tier two), in addition to giving The Tank appreciable buckshot resistance. With these factors and reduced ammo piles in the maps, players are forced to switch to a new gun when low on ammo.
  • Since all guns in Final Fantasy XII pierce armor (in damage calculations, they bypass the damage [minus] armor level completely, even at long-range) and since a few of the guns are actually shotguns, well...
  • The shotgun is one of the Resident Evil series' iconic weapons, in fact, as the ammo is generally prevalent, and they're good for either knocking down hordes of zombies, or the larger beasts that come for you. In most of the games, there comes a point after which the shotgun becomes your primary weapon.
    • In Resident Evil 1, the turn-over point was about a third of the way through the game, if you were lucky. Pistol ammo was sparse, and zombies took in the upwards of seven shots to put down. Contrast with the shotgun, which could down up to a pack of five zombies with two to three shells.
    • In Resident Evil 2, the turn-over point was about halfway through Leon's scenario. The pistol was a little more powerful now, and ammo was almost disgustingly common due to the game taking place in an urban area[2]. The shotgun was just as powerful as the one in the first game, and could be upgraded to be even stronger to boot.
    • In Resident Evil 3 Nemesis, the turn-over point was practically the instant you first found a shotgun due to the game's use of gunpowder mixing and the reloading tool. If you didn't pay attention to the mixing manual the game gives you at the start, however, the turn-over point is about the same as Resident Evil 2.
    • In Resident Evil 4, you find a standard pump-action shotgun, which you can upgrade its fire power, reload speed, and capacity. Later on, you can purchase the Riot gun, a slightly more powerful shotgun with higher capacity, and then the Striker, which uses a drum round and when fully upgraded can hold up to 100 shells.
    • The Hydra in Resident Evil 5 deserves special mention as a sawed off, three-barreled shotgun that you hold in one hand.
  • In close-range combat in The Conduit, the shotgun is either a one-hit kill or part of a two-hit combo (shotgun + melee).
  • In GURPS shotguns have a lot of ammunition choices making them a viable, but not quite ideal, for pretty much any job. Shot-shells make them the most accurate close range weapon while, AP slugs can go through through armored walls, explosive shells can put a grenade through a window, they can even take tiny anti-tank rounds.
  • In Fallout 3, a world with energy weapons, Dakkatastic machine guns, personal rocket launchers, etc., the Combat Shotgun will quickly dispose of any enemy at short range, even heavily armored troops or big bad beasties like Deathclaws.
    • Due to the critical damage calculation, shotgun-type weapons are very much this trope. With stealth attack and a unique shotgun, one can kill the non-respawning boss-type Super Mutant Behemoth with a Sneak Attack Critical hit to the head in one shot. Granted, it's hard to pull off, but very much possible.
      • This is likely a bug; basically, when a pellet in the shot scores a critical hit, it applies the full crit damage value of the weapon, instead of dividing it by the number of pellets. So essentially, when you get a sneak attack crit, you are getting crit bonus multiplied by how many pellets hit.
    • And let's not get to the fact that aside from shotguns, you can also have laser shotguns, laser shot pistols, and spreading .44 Magnums. Much asskicking will ensue.
    • A similar thing happens in the first two games as well. Shotgun shells are readily available and the Combat Shotgun (or maybe the Pancor Jackhammer) remains a very viable alternative in the endgame.
    • This is also because Fallout 3 scaled the health and damage resistance of enemies to your level. Fallout: New Vegas avoids this by 1) removing the scaling and making levels actually mean something and 2) making semi-auto shotguns really, really rare.
      • And in New Vegas though since there are large variety of shotguns, and making them behave rather realistically (rather than the Short-Range Shotgun they usually are). With proper perks and crafted ammo, the humble Hunting Shotgun easily drop human enemies in 1-2 shots at medium range and with slug shells lets you down deathclaws. For the Riot Shotgun, it is very rare and expensive because it is nearly a gamebreaker (think of the Fallout 3 Combat Shotgun, with vastly superior range, more damage, and shoots almost as fast as you can click).
      • The Lever-Action Shotgun of New Vegas is lever-action, meaning it is affected by the damage-boosting Cowboy perk as well as all shotgun perks, making Cowboy a very popular perk to take just for this weapon alone.
  • Borderlands has shotguns that can hold 12+ shells at once and tend to be pretty powerful. Especially when said shotgun shoots rockets. Or has an accuracy and crit boost specifically designed to avert the short range part.
    • Whilst most Borderlands shotguns are short range shotguns, with a little (read; lots) luck it's possible to get a hyper-accurate shotgun that is actually worth using at anything beyond knife fight range. Unfortunately in many cases these shotguns may not be better than other weapons - that dubious honor goes to the king of bullet hoses; the submachine gun.
  • Totally averted in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which takes Short-Range Shotgun to its logical limits.
    • Also somewhat played straight as the AA-12, being the only AUTOMATIC shotgun in the whole game, is practically guaranteed to render everything within its effective (read: pitiful) range dead.
    • Played straight in MW 2, albeit due to a bug: The Ranger (a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun) could be dual-wielded and with certain perks firing both of them at the same time killed nearly everyone on your screen.
    • The Model 1887 in MW 2 was infamous for being a huge Game Breaker when used with Akimbo, due to the fact that it had the longest range of all shotguns. Later patches nerfed it.
  • Double Subverted in The Godfather: The Game. At first, the shotgun, while powerful and averting Short-Range Shotgun, has an awful ammo count of 2 per magazine and 12 in reserve and does not reload or fire fast. This makes the Magnum, with its comparable power but superior ammo load of 6-36 and speed, preferable. The same goes at the second level, where the shotgun has 2-24 compared to 6-60 of the Magnum. At the third level, though, the shotgun's ammo load rises drastically to 10-100, compared to the Magnum's 8-80, as well as gaining a considerable fire-rate boost. Furthermore, the level three shotgun has an automatic action, compared to the semi-automatic level three Magnum. As a result, the shotgun does become Better after all.
  • Perfect Dark had a shotgun, but it had a few built-in flaws: One, the gun isn't actually significantly more powerful than the other weapons that can be obtained in the three levels in which it is present; Two, it takes Short-Range Shotgun to a new extreme (you have to essentially run right into the face of enemies to kill them); And three, the reload time is atrocious, and that is exacerbated if you use its secondary mode, which causes the gun to fire twice. It can be deadly in multiplayer, but otherwise it's not very useful.
  • In STALKER the shotgun is the second weapon the player gets. It is quite useful against anything that doesn't shoot back (that is, a major part of the enemies) because of its good damage, and useful against armed enemies when the fight is in close quarters (that also happens a lot). And there is no shortage of ammo, since the shotgun is ammo-efficient. The shotgun gets a lot of use due to the game's Inventory Management Puzzle not allowing the player to carry a gun for every occasion, and shotgun being useful in most of them.
    • That's not the full story though. The starting shotgun (and the hunting "rifle", which is basically a long-barrel shotgun), can be very useful in the early game. One of the best weapons in the starting areas of Clear Sky expansion is a hunting rifle converted to using dart slugs, and has been accuracy modded. It's basically a cheap sniper rifle that can take down the unarmored bandits in one headshot from long range. However, once you move into the middle areas of the game, armored enemies make all but the better automatic shotguns useless, and even those generally take a backseat to the various assault rifles.
  • The Men in Black game lets you start off with any of the shiny, cool weapons from the film, but the shotgun that you can find and use (only) in the first mission is, hands down, the best weapon in the game.
  • Killing Floor. While there are plenty of other good weapons, shotgun can kill several Specimens with one shot due to high damage per pellet, freakishly exacerbated by Support Specialists, whose buckshot can go straight through several targets. Then there's the double-barreled Hunting Shotgun that inexplicably shoots out more pellets if the player fires both barrels at once (the reload time was murder, though), again with increased damage and overpenetration in the hands of Support, largely considered to be the first Game Breaker before a patch enabled enemies to attack on the run. And lastly, there's the 20-round drum-magazine-fed AA-12. On the whole, a good day for shotgun fans.
  • Alien Trilogy: The Shotgun quickly becomes the player's best friend early game, being much better than the starting handgun, and while it's severely outclassed late game by the Pulse Rifle and the Smart Gun, ammo for it is much more common than for the other two weapons, making the Shotgun a reasonable weapon to use in casual moments, in order to conserve ammo of your better weapons for tight situations.
  • Sunset Riders : two of the four playable bounty hunters, Cormano and Bob, use shotguns. Since all normal enemies are One Hit Point Wonders, the wide shots they do make those characters significantly more useful than the sixgun-toting Billy and Steve (until boss encounters, where their individual bullets do more damage).
  • In Bioshock, the shotgun has special ammunition that allows the player to shoot sprays of bullets that either explode after hitting their target, or electrifies them, stunning them and making them easy targets for emptying the entire magazine into them. It does wonders to finish of the mini bosses, the Big Daddies.
  • In Mass Effect 1, every character can use shotguns, although only Ashley, Wrex, and Tali have training in them (the others miss at point-blank range). In Mass Effect 2, however, only Tali, Jacob, Jack, and Grunt can use shotguns at all. In both games, the Soldier and Vanguard classes are the only ones with built-in shotgun training, although both games allow you to choose shotgun training as a bonus skill (through an achievement in the first game and part of the plot in the second).
    • Special mention must be made of the M-300 Claymore, one of the Infinity Plus One Guns that Soldier or Vanguard Shepard can pick up halfway through the second game (and that Grunt can use with an upgrade). It's an insanely high-powered shotgun designed for use by Krogan, and it's by far the best short-range weapon in the game.
    • And the Geth Plasma Shotgun, part of the Firepower Pack DLC, which has a longer range than the other shotguns and whose shots can be charged up For Massive Damage.
    • With the Smart Choke upgrade in Mass Effect 3, every shotgun becomes a solid mid-ranged weapon.
      • 3 also adds, among others, the Graal Spike Thrower (a Krogan weapon designed to kill Thresher Maws) and the Disciple (an extremely pretty Asari shotgun designed for longer-ranged engagements than normal shotguns).
    • The N7 Crusader (present in the Deluxe version of the game or multiplayer Commendation Packs) is different from every other shotgun in that it fires a single slug with perfect accuracy, making it tantamount to a powerful, semi-auto sniper rifle. It may lack a zoom and be pretty heavy but can be used at any range, and its perfect accuracy frees up a mod slot for extra punch.
  • Deus Ex has two versions, the sawn-off and Assault Shotgun. Both can fire either standard buckshot, which rains hell on organic targets, and sabot rounds, which are armour-piercing. The former is slightly more powerful, but extremely slow and has little ammo. The latter trades a small amount of power for being essentially a buckshot machine gun, being heavily based on the game's assault rifle (they have the same 2x2 allocation in the inventory screen, and a generally similar look and feel). Both are worth having, though the latter more-so by the end of the game.
    • Deus Ex Human Revolution has two shotguns: a regular one and a double-barrel one exclusive to the DLC. Neither is very good later in the game however, as they're not very good against armored opponents, which is most of what you face later on.
  • In Rainbow Six Vegas 2, where they made a "shotgun firing buckshot, for example, ha[ve] significantly more penetration in RSV 2 than it should", because "[p]eople associate shotguns with powerful, close-range weapons".
  • Non-game example: Two-Face, in the 1980s Batman comics, often carried a double-barreled shotgun as his weapon of choice. These days, he's more likely to favor twin Colt 45s.
  • In F.E.A.R., the shotgun is one of the most potent weapons in the game, capable of downing nearly any enemy in one shot at close range and doing good damage against mechanical/heavy armor enemies at short-to medium range as well. In addition, its range is fairly long and it is highly accurate (two or three shots should drop nearly any enemy at medium range), ammo is very plentiful, and for added bonus, the shotgun will typically decapitate, bisect, or simply blow opponents into a cloud of bloody vapor. This makes it one of the mainstay weapons in the game.
  • These show up so often in horror films its a running gag for Phelous to use a clip from Resident Evil declaring "I got a shotgun!". In the Linkara's Previously On segment for Secret Defenders 10 he turns around holding one dramatically and from what I could tell about to say it. He is interupted by Linkara, who says he can't go through with the sequence due to this episode being too important due to the integration of Gunslinger Theme. Also that Phelous was the only one he could afford.
  • The Shotgun in Will Rock: First serious weapon to be found, excellent range, good damage and many shots. With some good luck, you could complete the game using nothing but the Shotgun and, sometimes, the explosive weaponry. Also, it's one of the few weapons that works underwater.
  • Non-game example: Hale Caesar's fully automatic, drum fed AA-12 shotgun in The Expendables. At one point, it gets loaded with FRAG-12 explosive rounds, introducing all sorts of proverbial shit to the fan.
  • The underslung shotgun attachment in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is a one-hit-kill up to a decentish range. However, more to the point in a Stealth Based Game, it made a noise like a tactical nuke going off.
  • In Duke Nukem Forever, the shotgun is basically the most useful weapon in the game.
  • Unreal 2: Has a heavy shotgun with incendiary fire, good for giant spiders.
  • In the Bionic Commando reboot from 2009, the Hiker shotgun is one of the first special weapons available, an anti-armor shotgun that ends up being predominantly used on squishy human opponents. The range is fairly decent and given the fact that it fires eight armor-penetrating slugs followed by a high explosive round in each shell, it's quite effective on human enemies. It does have the usual Short-Range Shotgun problems, but this is due to its wide spread, which is actually helpful. Swinging at high speed makes it a bit tough to aim accurately at times, but the Hiker simplifies matters somewhat. It's also highly popular in the (short lived) multiplayer for the same reasons noted above.
  • There are two different shotguns in Alan Wake, a double-barreled one and a pump-action one. Both are better than Alan's handgun, a revolver, but not quite as good as the hunting rifle. Interestingly, they both have their strengths and weaknesses: the double-barreled shotgun can only hold two rounds but can fire them off in quicker succession and reload faster than the pump-action, while the pump-action has a longer time period in between each shot but holds eight shells.
  • In The Breach, the Spread upgrade turns your machine gun into a fully automatic shotgun. Completely averts the short-range part, it fires three machine gun rounds in a 90 degree angle (one down the middle, one up, one down), which continue until they hit a wall, the edge of the screen, or a monster. Due to the RPG Elements, it gets more damage and more ROF with each level up.
  • The shotgun in Worms has two shots where almost every other weapon has just one. This means you can shoot, move, and shoot again. It deals 25 damage per shot, which means two hits can deal as much as a bazooka hit. Additionally, Short-Range Shotgun is utterly averted; you can snipe someone from across the map with one. Add the fact that in the standard settings you have an infinite number of uses and you get one of the cornerstones of the Worms arsenal.
  • In third edition Shadowrun shotguns have high power and are exceeded in base damage only by assault cannons and the best sniper rifles. A burst from an automatic shotgun is one of the few attacks that can kill with even a minimal hit.
  • In d20Modern (a modern day setting RPG using Dungeons And Dragon's d20 ruleset) the shotgun is one of the kings of the core rulebook weapon list. The main appeal isn't just the firepower but also the fact that, as a hunting weapon, shotguns only require a common civilian (+1) license to obtain and ammo can be obtained at sporting good stores rather than having to find a dedicated gun shop. Depending on what splatbooks are at hand a shotgun can also blast off doors with heavy slug rounds or even fire a single-shot flamethrower cartridge.
    • Many players feel the shotgun forms a third of the 'sacred spread' a trio of weapons considered the ideal Crazy Prepared kit for going into a gunfight. The shotgun forms the close range, the Baretta is the backup, and the hunting rifle with a scope attached is a street-legal poor-man's sniper rife.
  • Red Dead Redemption offers 4 shotguns for the gun-toting cowboys. The Double-barrel and sawed-off shotguns are nearly identical, trading range for power, and are great for a quick double burst of buckshot. The pump-action shotgun holds 6 rounds and has the best range of the 4, as well as great power. The semi-auto shotgun holds 1 less shell, but is semi-automatic, allowing you to throw a rapid 5-shot burst of pellets at anything coming your way. From cowboys to grizzly bears, anything coming at you will be stopped once you empty a semi-auto shotgun towards it.
    • The zombie-themed expansion of the game zig-zags this trope. While buckshot is preferred at close to medium range for popping the heads of the undead, an odd auto-targeting mechanism will sometimes shaft you. When manually aiming from afar, with the dot-crosshair aimed at a zed's head, sometimes a shot will center all pellets into its chest for no explicable reason, perhaps, at best, only knocking it over, but otherwise keeping it alive.

Notes

  1. The only difference between the Scattergun and standard Shotgun is that ramp-up can give the Scattergun up to 175% base damage instead of the Shotgun's 150%, as well as different reload times.
  2. If you search everything, you can have over 100 pistol rounds stocked up before you even get to the police station
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