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Returnal Weapons | What are the best weapons for your run?

When every mistake has the potential to send you back to square one, having the right gear in your arsenal is vital.

So while all of Returnal’s weapons have their merits, it pays to know which are the most powerful before you even pick them up.

To help you make the tough choices when it comes to the best weapons in Returnal, we’ve created a running list of every gun, weapon trait, and alt fire we’ve seen - along with some meta commentary on how each item performs.

While they might soon be patched, a few of the weapons you can find in Returnal feel significantly more powerful than the others - especially when it comes to dealing with the game’s huge boss fights.

Here’s what we thought, and for more Returnal tips check out our full page here.

Returnal Weapons - What are the best weapons for your run?

There are a few things to consider outside of raw power when it comes to choosing the best gun for you in Returnal.

First up is the tiny bar in the bottom left of the screen. This is the Weapon Proficiency meter.

As you defeat enemies this bar will fill up, and when it ticks over, will raise to a new level.

When you find a weapon in Returnal, it will have a number on the right: it’s Weapon Proficiency level. This roughly maps to the power of the weapon in relation to the enemies you’re coming up against, so you always want to be wielding a gun that at least matches or exceeds your Proficiency level.

Second is the traits the weapon has. These are the list of powers underneath the main picture of the weapon when you find it.

You can have up to 4 traits on a weapon and they aren’t reset when you die. Using a weapon to defeat enemies raises the progress towards acquiring a trait, so the more you use a weapon, the more powerful it gets whenever you find it again.

If you find yourself liking lots of different weapons, consider swapping often to raise and unlock new traits across a wide variety of ordnance.

Third is the alt fire, which is the word immediately underneath the picture of the weapon when you find it.

This is the special attack that fires when you fully hold down the left trigger before you shoot. It looks like any alt fire can appear on any weapon, so don’t feel like you have to fish for a particular gun to get the one you like.

Alt fire attacks can be extremely powerful, and hit multiple enemies across a wide range.

Returnal Weapon List

Modified Sidearm SD-M8

The Modified Sidearm is a decent weapon that shouldn’t be discounted just because it’s your starting pistol.

As you start to unlock traits for it, the homing missiles and other extra projectiles are very useful and it deals good damage with a good rate of fire.

It’s also very satisfying to Overcharge with the active reload system.

Returnal Modified Sidearm SD-M8 Traits
Homing Missile
Snubnose barrel
Charging Shot
Hit Reload
Serrated Projectiles

Tachyomatic Carbine

The Tachyomatic Carbine is another decent, basic weapon, but one that can seem a little weak without the right traits due to its sometimes low-feeling damage.

Later on, Leech Rounds are very strong, but earlier in the game look out for Rising Pitch that massively buffs the Carbine’s rate of fire.

Returnal Tachyomatic Carbine Traits
Armor Piercing
Rising Pitch
Critical Hit
High Calibre
Payload Rounds
Leech Rounds

Spitmaw Blaster

As you’d expect from a shotgun, the Spitmaw Blaster is very powerful at short range, but is surprisingly good at any distance too.

With the Spitmaw’s up-close potential being so high however, this means it’s really good for grinding out Obolites to use at shops for health upgrades, since you’re going to be closer to enemies when you squish them and therefore more likely to hoover up the money.

Returnal Spitmaw Blaster Traits
Narrow Maw
Rapid Spitter
Explosive Spit
Wide Maw
Critical Stagger
Acid Clouds
Slug Shot


The Hollowseeker has a sky-high rate-of-fire, but such miniscule damage that without decent traits it can get you killed very quickly, or at least waste your Astronaut Figurine.

This means while it’s good at mowing down and defeating small mobs, it struggles to make a dent in tougher mini-bosses because maintaining a consistent line of fire will probably just lead to you taking damage.

Returnal Hollowseeker Traits
Phasing Rounds
Serrated Projectiles

Thermogenic Launcher

Where other weapons are found wanting in the damage department, the Thermogenic Launcher is a powerhouse, capable of dealing with big and small mobs at any distance.

It’s easily one of my favourite active weapons in the game, and the apparent splash damage of the rockets make it more forgiving than most of the other items on the roster.

Heartily recommended.

Returnal Thermogenic Launcher Traits
Critical Rockets
Enlarged Chamber
Replicating Hits
Mega Rocket
Easy to use
Full auto
Obolite Magnet
Tail Fire
Thermite Rockets

Electropylon Driver

At first, the Electropylon Driver is tough to get the hang of.

To deal damage, you need to link up multiple pylons to shoot out red beams which latch onto enemies, draining their health over time.

It’s a different and more defensive playstyle to most of the other weapons, but I genuinely think it’s the strongest of the bunch - especially in boss fights - since you can remove yourself from harm while the pylons do the work for you.

Try latching multiple pylons to walls or the floor next to clusters of enemies and watch the world burn.

Returnal Electropylon Driver Traits
Pylon Web
Streamlined Chamber
Blade Harmoniser
Protective Pylons
Silphium Extractor
Enlarged Chamber
Blade Pulse


The crossbow-style Dreadbound is an interesting one, where its projectiles deal damage as you fire them, but also as they retract back in towards you.

I feel like it has potential, but is so slow that by the time it starts appearing you’re just going to get killed trying to grind up its traits.

Returnal Dreadbound Traits
Fourth Shard
Obolite Magnet
Expanding Shards

Pyroshell Caster

Similar to the Thermogenic Launcher, but seemingly extremely rare (I literally only saw it once during my time with the game).

Explosives are very strong, so you can posit that this weapon is too.

Returnal Pyroshell Caster Traits
Secondary Explosion

Coilspine Shredder

Another late-appearing weapon, but a good one, the Coilspine Shredder is slow to fire, but makes up for it with wide-reaching damage.

If you’re on top of your Overcharge active reloading, then this is a good pick.

Returnal Coilspine Shredder Traits
Shattering Discs
Enlarged Chamber

Returnal Alt Fire List:

Returnal Alt Fires:
Blast Shell
Tendril Pod
Horizontal Barrage
Vertical Barrage

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