First person shooters are a staple in the gaming community, but which ones hold their weight as the years go on?
No matter which genre of video games is your favorite, chances are you’ve played at least one shooter before. First person shooter games (FPS) have been around for decades and continue to captivate audiences with their high demand for skill, amazing storylines, and the chance to blow something’s head off.
There have been hundreds of amazing titles over the years, but which deserve the title of the best first-person shooter? What makes these titles so iconic, and is there one all-time winner? To answer these questions and compile a “best of” list, it’s important to understand what constitutes an FPS title.
Defining the Shooter
There are multiple variants and subgenres of shooter games, each defined by different mechanics and features. This list focuses strictly on FPS titles. Here are the qualifications to be a first-person shooter.
- The game must be three-dimensional
- It features first-person view only
- The player can roam the map freely
- No light guns are used (NES Zapper, Sega, Light Phaser, Atari Inc XG-1, Arcades)
- The character holds a gun. Sorry, no combat flight simulators
It wouldn’t be right to start this list off without mentioning the game that started it all. While DOOM is considered the grandfather of FPS titles, Wolfenstein 3D was actually the first in this subgenre.
Released in 1992, its fast-paced action and Nazi slaying violence paved the way for everything gamers love about a good shooter title today. Rapid fire, endless swarms of bad guys, and a final confrontation with Hitler himself (complete with robot suit and four chain guns) all made this title a smash hit.
Built on the concept for Castle Wolfenstein, this game reimagined the 2-D world into a 3-D masterpiece, adding more gore and gunfire than ever thought possible for the time. It wouldn’t be the only game id Software developed in the 90’s, but it stands as the original FPS title.
id Software created DOOM one year after Wolfenstein 3D, and this title still stands as one of the most iconic shooters of all time. Today’s gamers might be more familiar with the 2016 reboot of the series, but any lover of classic titles knows that DOOM can’t be beaten.
Upon its release and amazing success, developers from other companies began coding first-person shooters like mad. Everyone wanted to make something as captivating, violent, and horrifying as id Software’s creation. Hundreds of titles were made, but nothing came close to the following this game had for years to come.
It might be the endless and ever more dangerous hordes of space demons, it could be the unique maps and key systems, but chances are it’s the concept of one man taking on all of Hell that has made DOOM stand the test of time.
Moving further into the future, Goldeneye 007 became the first major FPS success on a console system. With a solid storyline, endless hours of multiplayer madness, and the joy of playing as the world’s coolest secret agent, it’s easy to see why this title continues to receive praise even today.
While the main game was thrilling, the multiplayer aspect was certainly a large part of the game’s success. Friends could get together and play as top characters in the franchise ranging from Xenia Onatopp to Oddjob, racking up their kill count and fighting for the Golden Gun.
If you’ve never played this title, find an online N64 emulator and prepare yourself for countless hours of fun.
Duke Nukem 3D
While Nintendo fans were playing secret agent, PC gamers were taking on one of the most macho personas to ever hit the video game scene with Duke Nukem 3D. This game continued the increasing popularity of FPS titles with controversy and amazing mechanics for the time.
Gamers play as Duke Nukem, and over-the-top Hollywood action hero-style macho man who single-handedly saves the Earth from an alien invasion. The environments are interactive, gameplay is smooth, and the level designs are top-notch for 1996. Add that to risqué humor and pop-culture satire, and you have one of the best shooters in history.
Newer gamers might be familiar with the Wii title, but that game does no justice to the original masterpiece that is Perfect Dark. Released in 1997 for the N64 by the same team responsible for Goldeneye 007, this game incorporated everything a gamer could want in a shooter.
Some levels require stealth and precision, while others are a mad dash to avoid bazooka fire while nailing aliens with a laser chain gun. The graphics pushed the N64 to its limits, while the gameplay was as smooth as it was inventive. The FarSight sniper, for instance, was an alien weapon that could shoot through walls.
The story is filled with corruption and plot twists, not to mention brimming with epic missions like breaking into Area 51 or saving the president aboard Air Force One. The ability to create parameters for multiplayer maps and special challenges that pushed player’s skills to the limit also added to the hours of fun gamers could have playing this title.
id Software developed another top shooter in 1996, this time available for console and PC gamers alike. Quake featured nightmarish scenes in cutting-edge 3-D (for the 90’s) and a host of demonic enemies that were enough to strike fear into any gamer’s heart.
While it didn’t live up to the success of DOOM, Quake quickly became an enormous hit with FPS fans. Devilish levels, smooth gameplay, and a score by Nine Inch Nails all added to the rapid-fire insanity of this game.
Halo: Combat Evolved
One year after the turn of the century, Bungie and Microsoft Game Studios launched the Xbox console with Halo as its flagship title. While future titles in the series perfected the game’s mechanics and graphics, there’s no denying that the original Halo was one of the top-selling shooters of all time.
The storyline was incredible, missions were challenging, and who didn’t freak out the first time they encountered The Flood. With ingenious AI and tons of co-op fun, this game deserves a spot on the list.
Heading deeper into the 2000’s, Half-Life 2 by Valve is still one of the best first-person shooters on PC (or console, if you owned a copy). Winner of 39 Game of the Year awards as well as a few Game of the Decade spots, it’s hard to argue that gamers love this title.
Set in an alien-controlled future, this shooter featured heavy puzzle elements and raw action. If you’ve played the title, then you certainly know how fun the Gravity Gun is or that satisfying feeling of lobbing off headcrab zombie heads with circular saw blades.
The game also pushed the boundary for graphics at the time, mostly in the lighting and shading department. The superb audio and AI elements also helped to make this game stand out.
First Encounter Assault Recon, or F.E.A.R., hit the scene in October of 2005. That’s a fitting date for this titles release, because it is easily on of the most horrifying games ever created. From random jump scares to rooms filled with blood and gore, the game gives an amazing sense of, well, fear!
A prominent feature in this title was “reflex time”, which slowed down gameplay while allowing the player to still aim and fire at a normal speed. Basically, your character had superhuman reflexes. Don’t think for a second that this ability made the game any easier, though.
All of the terrifying gameplay aside, F.E.A.R. also had an exciting online multiplayer mode. Once your skills were honed by the main story, you could put them to the test against players from around the world.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
CoD games have been around since 2003 back when Activision first developed the game based on real-life WWII battles. Since then, dozens of developers have worked together to keep the adrenaline rush of actual battlefield combat available to gamers everywhere.
When Modern Warfare 2 came along in 2009, it created a new standard for CoD games altogether. Decorated with a host of 5/5 and 10/10 star reviews, this game gave players a real feeling of what today’s waring countries are like with a compelling story that built off the previous title’s plot.
Stunning graphics, intense audio, and danger around every corner made Modern Warfare 2 a thrill ride of gunfire, but it was the multiplayer capabilities that boosted its popularity. CoD games are still considered the best online first-person shooters around, with tournaments springing up where veteran gamers can show off their skills.
While some remain larger fans of the Black Ops Series, Modern Warfare 2 was undeniably the cash cow of the series and a hit success with fans. It wasn’t easy to pick a Call of Duty title, but this one fits the bill quite nicely.
For the Love of FP Shooters
FPS titles have shaped the gaming industry by continually pushing technological advancements forward for a better hellfire experience. From the classic days of slaying Nazis and space demons to modern shooters that give us chillingly futuristic worlds and a taste of real-life combat, these games have been an integral part of many gamer’s lives.