Boot Hill

Midway get straight to the point in the Wild West with a grim message for all wannabe Cowboys.

Boot Hill as it's meant to be played.
Source // Tony Waldron / International Arcade Museum

When doing diligent research for a list of must-play videogames, remember to amend your Wikipedia search for Boot Hill with '(video game)', unless you want to come face to face with the harsh reality of the Wild West.

In the movies it's glamourous. Heroic men save the town from all manner of threats, usually in a gentlemanly duel in the center of town, in front of cowering locals and against all the odds. Sometimes it's a gritty gunfight between two groups instead, exchanging casualties and kills as the dust whips up around them, the sun scorches down from above, and innocent bystanders scatter in every direction.

Boot Hill does none of that, and that's why you ought to play it.

Fun Times

Two men, six shots, no reloading and one hit kills. And bouncing bullets. Hit or miss whether you like those. Boot Hill is simple and straight to the point. Kill or be killed. But choose your actions wisely, or you'll be wandering around the battlefield with no ammo and no cover.

As a two player game, it's all about second guessing your opponent. Do you move like a bat out of hell, firing a few shots from the off in the hopes of catching your foe unaware, or do you try to tease them out of cover, into just the right spot to get a good look at the pointy end of your shot?


Sounds great, right? Not when you don't have an arcade cabinet next to you. When emulating Boot Hill, you don't get to see the hand painted backdrop that the cabinets have, instead seeing only the game itself which was projected onto that surface. If you like your graphics as simple and retro as they come...

I will never be ready
It's just not the same, is it?

The arcade controls involved one joystick to move, another to aim and shoot. In today's games that would be a doddle on an Xbox controller, but recreating Boot Hill on a keyboard? Nah. It's not the same, nor will it ever be.

Sure, you could get some idea of what's going on, and you could have fun with outwitting your opponents, but you'd not see the whole picture.

Fond Memories

That's because Boot Hill shows you how harsh the Wild West was - one wrong move and you're dead and buried under some rubble on Boot Hill, painted right there at the top of the background.

No messing around, no second chances, you're done. Think about that.

Think about it, and ignore the fact that you immediately start the next round as the clock continues counting and the score still matters.

Final Word

A simple little game with an important message - that nobody really pays attention to - Boot Hill stands out. Not as a game that anybody can list off the top of their heads, but once you point out its features and style, an 'ahh yeah' tends to follow.

"Boot Hill? With the background thing? Ah yeah, with the tombstones, yeah, yeah. Never really knew what the title was about though..."

Pfft. Get educated, amiright?

Fun Facts

Boot Hill is the sequel to Gun Fight, which is cited as the first video game to portray human on human combat.

Boot Hill, developed by Midway, first released in 1977.
Version played: Arcade, 1977, via emulation.