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The Solution? The Spread Shot!
The spread shot can come in three different flavours:
Initial Burst: The attack is fired out in a spread of bullets forward, usually in a uniform spread. This makes it easier to hit enemies spread out too far. Furthermore, these attacks can usually be shotgunned into a larger Mook, possibly causing more than three times the damage. If you are doing this with a bow, you are doing a Multishot.
Spray Burst: Only one bullet is fired out at a time, but in rapid succession. Unlike an ordinary machine gun, the shots are spread out a lot more.
Exploding Shot: The player fires out an initial shot. When it hits an enemy or a wall (or given enough time), a burst of shots come out and the initial projectile disappears. Recursive Ammo can be this.
Usually, this sort of attack can lead to a Game Breaker weapon, especially in games where most of the mooks die in one hit, such as the Spread shot in the original Contra. In other cases, getting point-blank to the enemy and firing will result in very fast kills (though this is usually suicidal for the inexperienced). The problem arises in games where each individual shot is weak, and therefore, a point-blank shot may actually be the best option.
Examples of the Initial Burst:
- The famous Game Breaker spread shot in the original Contra mowed down enemies effortlessly.
- The flash game Super Mario Bros Crossover includes Bill from Contra as a playable character. Fire Flowers give him the spreader, which is, if anything, even more of a game breaker in what is supposed to be a Mario game.
- Shoot Em Ups are rife with these, for both the player and the enemies.
- Recca has the 'V' weapon and the 'F' weapon. When fully powered up, 'V' fires 5 shots in a forward spread while 'F' fires a 3-way forward and a 2-way backwards.
- The red weapon in the Raiden series.
- The blue weapon in Fire Shark, which looked and acted very similarly to the red weapon in Raiden.
- BIOMETAL has one, which was actually surprisingly effective against many of the weaker Mooks (given that Spread Shots usually tend to be weak).
- Steel Saviour had one of these as your secondary weapons.
- Einhander has the spreader gun.
- Tyrian has countless- the Multi-cannon, the protron, the fireball, the sonic impulse, etc.
- Traditionally the second (blue) ship in the Do Don Pachi games has this as its rapid-fire weapon.
- In any given Touhou Shoot'Em Up , approximately 33% of the player-character weapons will usually be some variant on this.
- Bubble Tanks has 3-way spreads, 5-way spreads, and Sticky Bursts which shoot a circle of shots that immobilze enemies.
- The red ship in Mars Matrix has this for its main weapon.
- And sometimes, the enemies use this waaaay too much.
- The Mega Man series had quite a few of these:
- Mega Man 2 had the Air Shooter, which travelled upwards in a spread.
- Magma Bazooka from 9 combined this with Charged Attack. A point-blank charged shot was one of the most painful things for MiniBosses and the most painful thing against Hornet Man.
- 10 had the Triple Blade. It sliced through regular Mooks like butter (especially when shotgunned), and it felled Strike Man easily. 
- The Thunder Beam from the first game is not a Spread Shot, as the side projectiles do not move in a forward direction compared to the main projectile.
- Rock Man 4 Minus Infinity had Pharaoh Shotgun, a version of Pharaoh Shot which spreads in five different directions, but can't be aimed. It also has Drill Torpedo, which fires one drill ahead, one on the ceiling, and one on the floor.
- Mega Man X and company get a few of these too, like the Twin Slasher, Drift Diamond, and X's charged shot with the Hermes Armor in X8. Even Zero gets in on the action in X6; If you use the Overdrive Limit Part (which temporarily lets X spam fully-charged shots), Zero's Z-Buster shoots a five-way spread until it wears off.
- The buster upgrade from X3 allows the player to charge up both arms and fire the shots so that they overlap and make a spread shot with the right timing.
- Mega Man Zero 3 had the EX Skills V-Shot, which split your normal shots into two, and Blizzard Arrow, which generated three ice needles from a charged shot.
- Mega Man ZX Advent has Buckfire's flaming arrows, and Hedgeshock's sparks from her Charged Attack.
- Alien Soldier had the Hunter Force. Unfortunately, it had a slow rate of fire, and it became pretty useless near the middle of the game where it started bouncing off everything. The Lancer, Sword, Flame and Homing Forces pretty much outclassed it.
- In addition to loads and loads of shotguns, Borderlands has the Double Anarchy. It's a sub-machine gun that sprays 4 bullets with each shot, while retaining the SMG's best-in-the-game rate of fire. The result is devastating in close quarters.
- Fallout 3 combines this with No Kill Like Overkill with the Experimental MIRV. It fires eight miniature nuclear warheads with each shot. The ammunition's so rare that actually firing it goes way into Awesome but Impractical territory, especially since pretty much all enemies can be taken out with one or two mini-nukes from the weapon's single-shot cousin.
- The Wide Beam in some of the Metroid games. It launches a projectile above and below the one fired (each one retains the same upgrades that Samus has already collected), which has the useful side effect of allowing you to shoot along a platform while you hang from its edge.
- Descent features this with the aptly-named Spreadfire Cannon. In Descent 2, there's an even more powerful version known as the Helix Cannon. Unfortunately, it eats through your energy reserves like popcorn.
- Plants vs. Zombies has Threepeaters. Like their name suggests, they fire out 3 shots to cover 3 rows. Starfruit also count in a way as they fire forward double diagonal stars (besides the one behind and two vertical).
- Being modeled after Plants vs. Zombies, Mini Robot Wars has the D.Shotgunner, an Expy of the Threepeater. The only difference is that its shots spread out diagonally, instead of attacking three individual rows. Upgrading the D.Shotgunner allows it to fire out five shots at one go.
- Any given shotgun in a First-Person Shooter is likely to follow this trope, even though real shotguns generally have a much narrower spread. However, the rocket launcher in the original Unreal Tournament deserves special mention for its ability to fire a spread of six rockets, each of which is as powerful as a single rocket from any other shooter (albeit slightly slower).
- Spread Frisbee in Purple throws a normal frisbee along with four fake ones flying alongside.
- The Amazon in Diablo II has Multishot, which fires a spread of arrows. The Demon Hunter in III will have something similar.
- Artillery in Empire: Total War and Napoleon: Total War can either fire their standard shots or a spread of musket balls similar to a buckshot at a considerably shorter range which devastate infantry or cavalry that are closing in. In Napoleon, the Barrage ability allows cannons to temporarily increase their rate of fire, making this even more effective. This does not work with mortars, though.
- The "Multiple" weapon in the Turrican series fires a Contra-style flared spread shot. In Super Turrican (and fan game Hurrican), the "Laser" weapon is a parallel spread shot.
- The original Bionic Commando had two weapons that fired three shots at once, one at 45-degree angles, the other at right angles.
- Ludwig adds a 4-way spread of fireballs to his repertoire when you re-fight him in his castle in New Super Mario Bros Wii.
- The Spread Pulse gun in Expendable, though only after it is upgraded.
- The TheBattleOfAces mid-air Fighting Game has Hayate's Balmung and Material-D's Doombringer moves, which launches energy blades in a 5-way spread.
- Some of the allies' attacks in Magic Sword, especially the Ninja.
- In Pocky & Rocky, blue orbs give you two, then three angled streams of projectiles.
- In Pocky & Rocky With Becky, this is Miki/Becky's unique ability.
- Your regular shot in Heavy Weapon turns into one of these when you get Spread Shot powerups. More powerups = more bullets per spread.
- In Star Soldier, enough powerups will eventually allow the player to fire in five directions at once (three forward and two backward). The music changes when this happens.
- In Chelsea and the 7 Devils, Chelsea starts out shooting a single bullet, but her attack gains more bullets in different arrangements (some parallel, some flared) as she defeats Devils.
- In Tempo, the title character can increase the number of shots he fires at once by collecting special gloves. Unlike most Initial Bursts, he fires one shot backwards -- in fact, the backwards shot is the first to be added.
- In Bubble Symphony, you can charge up the bubble shot to shoot three bubbles at once. Each character shoots them in a different arrangement.
- In Twin Cobra, the blue weapon gives a 3-way forward spread, which can be upgraded to a 5-way spread. The Blue Smasher in Twin Cobra II is similar; it can fire missiles in a 7-way spread.
- Player 1's Thunder Claw in II is a variant of this- at maximum power, it shoots six small missiles to the sides and one large one forward. If the large missile makes contact with an enemy, it becomes a "lock-on", and the six smaller missiles will converge into that enemy.
- The Ratchet and Clank series has various shotguns, but the Magma Combuster from Ratchet and Clank Future Tools of Destruction is a more classic example, firing three shots at different angles with each pull of the trigger.
- In Animal Crossing: Wild World, unlike its predecessor, in order to get flying presents, get something from Gulliver, or talk to Pete, you have to shoot the intended target with a slingshot. If you shot down enough presents, the next one you shot down would be a golden slingshot, which shoots three shots in a spread, making it more likely that you'll hit your target.
- Dynamite Headdy has the Lotsa Heads power-up, which lets you shoot three heads at once, as well as the Air Head during the Unexpected Shmup Level.
- One of the two regular weapons you could obtain in Out Zone.
Examples of the Spray Burst
- Mega Man X 3 had Neon Tiger's Ray Splasher.
- X also got two more weapons like this- Grizzly Slash's Cresent Shot in X5, and his normal shots with the Shadow Armor in X6.
- Mega Man ZX Advent has Rospark's thorns (usable only while on poles) and Model P's shurikens.
- Contra: Hard Corps had Fang's rapid-fire shot, which had quite a bit of spread.
- Rambo would fire his machine gun in a spreading pattern if he stood still and fired in Rambo III for the Genesis.
- Diablo II's Amazon also has the Strafe skill, which fires a rapid stream of arrows.
- The double Force shot in Gunstar Heroes
- Warning Forever has your character's only weapon, which fires rapid bullets randomly (but restricted to an angle). The angle of fire can be widened/narrowed by moving.
- The plasma, fusion, and anti-matter projectors in Sword of the Stars fire a large burst of energy blasts in a cone pattern. Most effective on ships up-close. There is also a rapid-firing version of the standard mass driver that fires in bursts, as well as a similar version for dumbfire missiles.
- Sayo/Pocky's first power orb in Pocky & Rocky 2 gives her magic cards this effect.
- The Battle Rifle in Halo 2. Double kills in any gametype with teams and no shields were relatively common.
- Dynamite Headdy also has the Bird Head during the Unexpected Shmup Level.
Examples of the Exploding Shot:
- Super C for the NES had the flame weapon, greatly improved over the original game's. It shot a large fireball that exploded into 4 (or 8, if you charged it up) smaller fireballs on contact with the ground or an enemy.
- The BFG from Doom worked in a slightly different variant- it fired traces from the player's location in a 90-degree arc after the main projectile hit.
- Mega Man 7 had the Freeze Cracker.
- Mega Man & Bass had the Spread Drill.
- Mega Man 8 had the VERY broken Arrow Shot.
- Mega Man X had the Shotgun Ice which exploded on contact, and the Chameleon Sting which started off as one projectile but split into three after half a second.
- Mega Man Zero 2 had the Triple Shot and Spark Shot EX Skills, both of which split your charged shots into multiple shots upon hitting an enemy.
- The Spreader family of chips in the Mega Man Battle Network series work like this, though the direction of the spread varies by chip.
- In the Hunt had the green power-up, which allowed your submarine to fire out a torpedo that exploded into a spread of shrapnel. Similar to Contra, it was a Game Breaker as it killed many enemies quickly.
- Borderlands had the Orion sniper rifle. Shots that hit surfaces instead of enemies would split into 3 or 4 shots.
- Area 88 includes the Bullpup, which does an initial and exploding spread. Each shot fires a bunch of missiles in a spread, then the missiles split into more shots so it covers an even wider range.
- Space Megaforce (aka Super Aleste) has the Scatter Shot, which fires large shells that explode into small shot bursts upon contact with an enemy or structure.
- Gunstar Heroes has the Force + Fire combo. The fireballs explode when it hits something solid or in mid-air when you stop holding the fire button.
- Sword of the Stars has the Burst Shot, which fires a large round that explodes near the target into a hail of small rounds. Useful against tightly-grouped destroyers. Also, if one happens to hit the hull, this can be a One-Hit Kill, as all small rounds are somehow directed at the same ship. Likely a bug.
- The Descent series loves this, with the classic Smart Missile in the first game (which was retained for the next 3), the Earthshaker Missile and the Smart Mine in the second game, and the Napalm Rocket and Cyclone Missile in the third game.
- Metroid Fusion has the Diffusion Missiles, which do this when charged. Other M had a Diffusion Beam which worked much the same way.
- Cluster Frisbee in Purple cracks into 16 smaller shots if thrown at a large distance.
- Bubble Tanks has the Starburst Cannon, which explodes into a circle of shots if the initial bullet travels a distance without hitting anything.
- The "Bounce" weapon in the Turrican series splits into two shots that bounce back upon hitting a wall.
- The boss Thugly from Donkey Kong Country Returns had a move where it spat out a fireball which exploded into three, then one of those three exploded into another three, and finally one of those would split into three yet again.
- Angry Birds has the blue bird, which splits into three when the screen is tapped.
- Bug!! had the Abominable Snowbug boss, who threw a huge snowball that split into five when it hit the floor.
- Heavy Weapon has two instances. The green jets drop cluster bombs that explode into a burst of four shots, while Kommie Kong/Gorillazilla has "Bursting Rockets" that explode into six.