When people ask me 'Hey what's your favorite kind of retro game?' and when I say 'Cute 'em ups!' they have no ideas what I'm talking about sometimes. So I figure I'll talk about them. A Cute 'em up is basically just any Scrolling Shoot'em Up (Shump, etc.) that also has a cute or 'adorable' aesthetic. Examples of these games are Fantasy Zone, Magical Chase, Harmful Park and Keio Flying Squadron or the Twin Bee series. My favorite is the Fantasy Zone series and the Twin Bee series. If you have a favorite, why not comment below and let me know what it is?
What hooked me on the Fantasy Zone series was mainly it's catchy music, and cartoony style. Like when the main character gets down on the ground, the ship will grow wings and start running. It's kind of silly! I also liked the idea of destroying floating 'bases' on a playfield that wrapped around before destroying the last one and summoning the boss of the stage! Twin Bee has a similar aesthetic though in a more standard scrolling shooter formula when I want things more 'standard shooter' like Gradius or R-type. I also have a fondness for Magical Chase, but I've only played it on Emulators... it's rare as all get out. It's also more like a standard shooter with two star sprite 'options' you can aim separately.
I suggest you check some out, if you're looking for something different than the usual 'space' shooter for sure!