After recently reviewing Evolings, I came up with a theory: perhaps I didn’t dislike roguelites after all. I had previously thought that the genre wasn’t for me after disliking fan favourites such as The Binding of Isaac, Dead Cells, and Enter the Gungeon; however, there are actually a ton more than I actually do like. It made me think that perhaps I just like the more unusual genres, than the typical platformer / twin-stick shooters that we usually get.

Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate has only solidified that feeling, as it quickly became one of my favourite games on the Switch.

Taking control of the malevolent Black King, who recently lost almost all of his subjects after they defected to the White side, you grab your shotgun and head onto the battlefield in order to reclaim your lost throne. It’s a silly plot, but also compelling one too as the story is well told throughout the occasional cutscene and it really sets the scene for the whole ludicrous scenario. Heck, there’s even a hidden side plot with a true ending should you fulfil the appropriate criteria. It strikes the fine balance of telling enough plot to keep you invested, whilst not worrying about narrative progression after failure.


Despite appearing to be like traditional chess on the surface, the game only really takes certain elements of the game into consideration and doesn’t necessitate any kind of deep understanding of the ruleset. The board starts out with a limited number of opposing white pieces, and each of them move and attack exactly as you would expect from a chess game: Pawns move forward one space at a time and attack diagonally; Knights move in their iconic L shape; and the dreaded Queen can basically do pretty much whatever the hell they want.

What really sets the game apart from normal chess is how your side works. Whilst the Whites have a team at their disposal, you only have your King; he can only move a single space in any direction, but he has his trusty shotgun to attack. The default gun has two shells, requiring a reload from the remaining stock in order to fire again. Moving around the board will allow you to regenerate more shells, but given that shot strength increases as you get closer, you’ll probably want to move around a lot anyway.

To add some extra tactical strategy, your King is also able to absorb the soul of a destroyed piece allowing him to move differently for a single turn. Given that this slot fills up rather easily, it’s worth trying to obtain a useful soul that will help you get out of a tricky situation. Whilst it’s only main pieces that can have their souls stolen, it is possible to utilise the Pawns too (should you get the appropriate card buff) in order to deal extra damage.

Speaking of those upgradeable cards, they’re the main way that the game varies up each playthrough. After every round, you’ll be given a choice between two sets of cards. Each set contains a buff that will greatly enhance your King, but will also grant a buff to the enemy team too – which can give them extra pieces, health, or even a heir to the thrown that needs to be taken out too. The risk/reward system is fantastic, and really makes you weigh up the pros and cons of each set of cards before making your final choice. Thankfully the buffs to your side are far both useful and wildly varied too: from sub weapons to special abilities, they can really change up the way that you play and help mix things up to such an extent that you rarely get tired of playing.


For a roguelite, Shotgun King isn’t quite as punishing as you may expect. Whilst it may take a few runs to get your first win, the game does a great job at ensuring that it feels fair all the way through. You’re never left to wonder what a piece or card is able to do, and the variable number of shields will warn you if you’re moving to a place where the enemy can take you out. Whilst there’s some degree of RNG, especially with the card selection, I never felt like failure was out of my control.

After clearing the game, you’ll then be able to access the next level of difficulty that enhances the enemy team ever so slightly. The next stage up may only add a couple of extra Pawns, but by the time you’ve cleared it fifteen times you’ll be taking on a pretty tricky challenge. It’s a great system that’s gradual enough to feel achievable, whilst also getting you ready for the brutal challenge that lies at the end. Or, if you fancy something a little different, you can try your luck at the Endless or Chase modes, which challenge you to last out as long as you can; or maybe even try and grab one of the game’s many achievements. There may not be anything hugely different here, but there’s still plenty of bang for your buck from a game that is likely to sap hours away from your life.

Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate is one of those games that sets out to do something and pulls it off with perfection. Sure, there’s no real fancy modes nor are there any ways to change up the aesthetic, but it doesn’t really need to either. This is chess, but with a shotgun. How could you ever say no to that?