So you’re struggling in Returnal and dying over and over again has you frustrated? Well, the secret may lie with what guns you’re picking up. Because as much as you may think that level 12 Pistol is undoubtedly better than your level 1 Carbine, it’s not.
Each gun is ranked for you below from worst to best and some tips for using each weapon. I didn’t include the Atropian Blade, but it’s well worth mentioning that melee in Act 1 is very good and often better than shooting the smaller enemies.
[Note: I have some things still not unlocked in my game, so if I’m yet to unlock a gun, I’ll be shocked, but that’s why it’s missing from the list.]
Modified Sidearm SD-M8
You will always start the game with Selene’s Sidearm, and you’ll always look forward to trading it in for something better. I’m sure someone will beat the entire game with nothing but the Sidearm for style points, but this will not get you far for most players. Its clip size is small, the damage is average, and although you can get some decent secondary fire rolls like Homing Missles, the gun isn’t worth keeping for that alone.
Best to use: until you find another gun. Although this Sidearm would do you better against some boss fights like World 3 than a Shotgun will because of the distance you’re shooting.
This gun is slow-firing but does well at crowd control, especially with small mob enemies in the game’s first World. The sustained damage it deals as acid drops around enemies is excellent in smaller rooms where you can keep the enemies back and taking damage from afar.
Best to use: World 1 is the only time I’ll accept a Rotgland Lobber. It’ll do better than the pistol.
I’ve only seen the Coilspine spawn in Act 2, and amongst those last three World’s in the game, it’s defiantly a weapon I’m only interested in for World 4. It has widespread projectiles that make it quite suitable for World 4 and its closer quarters layout. However, you must be good at your reloads to use this weapon, so there is a skill level needed.
Best to use: World 4, or if you manage to get it to spawn in Act 1, it’d be great for World 1/2 as well.
This is the only weapon in the game that doesn’t need to reload, and that’s because it fires arrow-like projectiles, four at a time. Think of Yondu from the Guardians of the Galaxy. The gun does a decent amount of damage but is terrible at long-range as you have to wait for the arrows to return to you before you can fire again; this is an even longer time if you don’t hit your enemy. In small rooms where you can rapid-fire the weapon as the arrows return to you quickly, it’s not bad, but there’s rarely a time I’d rather this over any other weapon in the game. Well, except the pistol.
Best to use: World 1 I’ve had fun with the Dreadbound, and even in the second half of World 2, it did a good job. I wouldn’t want to bring it with me to World 3 or use it in Act 2.
This is as close to a standard assault rifle as you’ll find in Returnal. Its damage is good at the start of the game, and there’s a decent selection of both traits and secondary fires that’ll help you out plenty. Its per-bullet damage gets less effective as the game continues, but the perk ‘Rising Pitch’ can help you out with that as it increases your fire speed the longer you hold the trigger down.
Best to use: Act 1 the Carbine is relatively solid, but its DPS isn’t high enough for Act 2 without all the right perks.
At first, the Electropylon Driver may seem like a useless weapon, but that just because you need a little more practice. It’s by far the most defensive based weapon in the game, and if that’s how you like to play, say hello to the Driver. The gun shoots out pylons that connect and form an electric trap for enemies. The pylons also do decent damage if you shoot them straight into an enemies face. But if you want to make the best use of this weapon, lay out some traps and kite enemies around the room into an electric death.
Best to use: if it suits your playstyle.
The Spirmaw Blaster is the weapon of choice for the beginning of Act 1. If you can enter that first room and pick this up, that’s the best-case scenario. All of the small, easy to dodge enemies in World 1 will die in one or two shots of this in close quarters. It does become a sub-average weapon pretty quickly once you reach World 2, but there’s no better choice for that early game.
Best to use: World 1 straight out the door, smash enemies right up in their faces.
I have a great love/hate relationship with the Hollowseeker. It carried me through World 3 the first time, but it’s also cost me my life too many times at the hands of mini-bosses thanks to its low DPS. This gun has the largest clip size in the game, and while that’s great in the early stages, it has little power, making it terrible in Act 2 and against any hard-hitting bosses. However, you can find some great traits for this gun that will make it insane. ‘Retarget’ auto-aims you projectiles, while ‘Portal Beam’ will spawn a turret as you fire that does some insanely high amounts of damage. Of course, you need to unlock all of these by using the gun in its lower-powered forms, but it’s worth the effort.
Best to use: Act 1, the Hollowseeker is a fine gun most of the time, but with the right traits, it can be a beast through the majority of the game.
This is a rocket launcher that deals tons of damage that only gets better with each trait you can unlock for it, including fast firing, home-seeking missiles, and some of the best alt-fires in the game. Early game, I’d ignore this most of the time and the following gun on the list, but in Act 2, it’s all I want to see.
Best to use: It’s a must-have for Act 2, especially Worlds 5/6.
Slightly better than the Launcher with more substantial damage output and better traits, the Pyroshell Caster fits the same boat as the Launcher — it does tons of damage. And this is important because you’ll simply be fighting more mini-bosses in the final Worlds than before and need the DPS.
Best to use: basically anytime you see one, although I can skip low-level versions without perks for other weapons at the start of the game.
I hope this guide was helpful to you, and if it was, please let me know in the comments and share this on social media.