For many, the first person shooter is the go to genre when it comes to games we play and there are quite a few of them to pick from. If you are like me, the sheer amount of choice these days can be a bit staggering so I decided to put together a bit of a list of some of the best FPS games you could be playing today.
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So, for this list, the ‘best’ means that it is an FPS that could be played and enjoyed now without any caveats or special circumstances. While Duke Nukem 3D might have been hot stuff back in the day, it is hard to wholeheartedly recommend it today. The list is also geared towards games that are the best at being a first person shooter, so while Fallout 4 might be a great game, it is very lackluster as an FPS and therefore not on this list. So here are the best FPS games you could and should be playing right now.
1. Half-Life 2
Back in 2007, Half-Life 2 was heralded as one of the best games ever made and time has largely proven this assessment right since there hasn’t really been another game that has successfully repeated the formula. Gordon Freeman’s journey through the alien controlled City 17 is a thrillride full of physics-puzzles, interesting weapons and relatively smart AI.
For me, there are two things that I remember standing out at the time. first it was the quiet moments– much like its predecessor, Half-Life 2 lets you properly explore a space and its environments while idle dialogue tell the story rather than exposition and cutscenes. The second thing is the way physics were used in combat. The gravity gun becomes an invaluable partner as you set your sights on taking down those alien bastards a notch or two.
2. DOOM 2016
Taking a classic game and bringing it into the modern day successfully is no small task. Lean too heavy on nostalgia and you alienate new players, but disregard the series’ legacy and there is little point in it being part of the series. DOOM 2016 is one of those rare instances where the pudding is baked just right.
It successfully takes the fast-paced and mobile combat that was so fun in the old DOOM games and updates them for a new generation. You have to move constantly and always look to where you want to position yourself next, all the while keeping track of and firing upon the enemies around you. It all leads to a beautiful and bloody combat ballet that is just pure joy to play. Id Software also shows a rare amount of restraint with the story, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and actually manages to create interest in just who the hell this ‘Doomslayer’ guy you are playing as is. The only blemish on its devil worshiping package is the multiplayer, which was nothing but lackluster and unnecessary.
3. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
The game that started it all; the modern multiplayer progression that is. Before Modern Warfare, multiplayer games were all about becoming number one in any given battle. Modern Warfare ushered in a new era with levels and unlockable weapons and perks for your soldier in multiplayer. Sure, other games had dabbled before, Battlefield 2 had a few unlockable weapons but Modern Warfare changed the whole multiplayer landscape overnight and it is very hard to see it ever going back to the way it was before.
The single-player campaign was also somewhat unique at the time in that the developers felt very little qualms about killing off the protagonists. The shockwaves of a certain bomb going of is something the series is still, to a varied degree of success, trying to chase. The gameplay of Modern Warfare holds up and will offer you many hours of fast paced and hectic gunplay. There is also a pretty well done, if somewhat overpriced, HD remaster available if you feel the textures have not aged well enough.
4. Unreal Tournament 2004
For me, Unreal Tournament 2004 marked the end of the arena shooter. I was in high school and still going to the odd LAN party to play, among other games, UT2k4. It was a great update to the old Unreal Tournament game and came right at the cusp of Epic Games becoming more of a engine focused studio rather than one that only made games.
The best thing about the UT games compared to its competitor, Quake, is the sheer amount of stuff you can do. Out of the box, the game has a ton of game modes and weapons to play with. From simple Deathmatch to large vehicular battles, Unreal Tournament 2004 has something for everyone. Since the Unreal Engine was becoming popular, it was pretty easy to rip assets from other games and create your own maps or weapons relatively easy. Today, it might be a bit tricky to find fully populated servers but they are still out there and are still a lot of fun to play on. Very little beats firing a Flak Cannon into someone’s face.
5. Quake III Arena/ Quake Live
If Unreal Tournament 2004 marked the sunset of the arena shooter, Quake 3 was its zenith. Being a little less flexible and while having fewer ‘good’ guns (the Rocket Launcher and the Railgun are basically the only two) might make it slightly less fun, there is a purity and a purpose to the way Quake is built that still carries a lot of weight even today.
It is a game that is all about the running and the gunning. The moment you stand still you are basically dead meat. Today, the version to get would be Quake live on Steam and it is still fairly populated with players.
When the first rumours started coming out about Bioshock, it was sold as a spiritual successor to System Shock 2 and as such it is maybe halfway there. Bioshock strips away some of the more cumbersome RPG mechanics of the predecessor and focuses more on the gunplay, which makes for a much faster paced and adrenaline pumping action game.
You play as a shipwrecked survivor who enters the libertarian utopia Rapture, an underwater city build by a certain Andrew Ryan. Like with most human-made utopias, it does not play out particularly well and you are met with crazy gene-junkies and terrifying armoured guardians called Big Daddies. It is an interesting game to go back to and one of those rare occasions when a FPS can offer something of an interesting story. Now would you kindly go and play this game?
7. Borderlands 2
Diablo meets Doom in this exceptional loot driven RPG/shooter. Borderlands 2 improves on almost all aspects from the previous game, better guns, more guns, better areas, more areas, better enemies, more enemies — you get the gist.
You play as one of 4 characters who will roam around the wasteland looking for old alien tech and something about getting revenge on some space asshole. Frankly, the story and the humour is perhaps where the game stumbles compared to its predecessor but it matters so little in these games anyways and you can simply tune out the rather poor dialogue and let the guns do the talking. Grab a friend and start blasting those raiders away. It has a gun that shoots guns, what more do you want?
8. Wolfenstein: The New Order
While Id and Doom 2016 brought the old game’s playstyle kicking and screaming into the 21st century Swedish studio Machine Games opt to go a different route with their take on an old franchise. Made by a lot of the members that worked on Chronicles of Riddick, it is easy to see the lineage when playing the new Wolfenstein games. The emphasis is on the story and the character the story. It is also one of those games were the player character actually takes physical space in the game world as you notice when walking around. B.J and Riddick before him move around the environment in a way that feels physical and not the floating disembodied camera you are in say, Half-Life 2.
In the end though, it is the story these games tell that is the real draw and the way the FPS levels reflect the alternative history in which the story is set. While the second game has a better plot and more iconic moments, the FPS gameplay is quite a lot better in the first one, which is why it is on this list instead of New Colossus.
9. Battlefield 1
Any list of FPS games worth its salt needs to have at least one Battlefield game on it and while I argued whether include this game or Bad Company 2, the newer game ultimately won out. Battlefield 1 is simply so expansive and full of new game modes that it weighs up for the few shortcomings it has.
When an engagement in Battlefield 1 is going at full speed, there is little else that can keep up and compete with the beautiful carnage and chaos that is created. Burning zeppelins fall from the sky while a guy in knight armour walk out on the battlefield to gun down some lance wielding cavalry and in a corner, some biplanes play chicken with the armoured tractors they called tanks back then. It’s all crazy fun and presented in a beautiful and stylish way. The voiceovers and the War Stories also provide some serviceable historical background to the shenanigans you will get yourself into.
10. Portal 2
If you want to let your machine guns and rocket launchers rest for a bit in favour of exercising your brain, then Portal 2 is an excellent choice. Run through a series of trials while one of the only video game stories that made me genuinely laugh plays out.
Gameplay wise it is pretty straightforward, create portals in clever ways to traverse increasingly harder levels that your host has prepared for you. What made Portal 2 so great compared to the first one is that is expands on the concept brilliantly. You leave the main test facility and get to see what other crazy things that Abstergo has done over the many years of its existence.
Portal 2 is an excellent example of when vision, mechanics, design and gameplay come together in a beautiful way and I am frankly looking forward to a potential Portal 3 from Valve more than a Half-Life 3 at this point.
11. Left 4 Dead 2
Zombies, zombies are everywhere and it is up to you and 3 of your friends to make it out alive. Left 4 Dead 2 is simply a great game, if you have 3 friends to play it with that is. If not, it is not nearly as fun, as the AI buddies aren’t competent enough to keep you alive.
It also furthered a trend of environmental storytelling. The main story in Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 aren’t really anything to be bothered with, but there are a ton of smaller, more personal stories that play out through the levels through scrawled notes and idle dialogue. Chicago Ted will always be in our hearts.
The only thing that feels dated today is the lack of any sort of progression. There are no new weapons, skills or abilities to work towards and that might feel a bit lackluster in this day and age. That said, the gameplay is still fun and the AI controlled director still manages to keep things fresh for many rounds.
Despite its age, No One Lives Forever still holds up pretty well to this day. It sports a cartoonish take on 60s spy movies and offers a great deal of variety in weapons as well as level design. You will use everything from dum dum bullets to rocket launches disguised as briefcases as you try to foil the plans of H.A.R.M. across the world. While at the time the humor was lauded and praised I do not know how well it holds up now. I still enjoy that part for the nostalgia but the great gameplay can stand on its own any day of the week.
There are many moments that are burned into my memory but the the space station level is a wonder to play. Especially if you have watched the bond movie Moonraker. In classic Monolith style, it is level design and writing that makes this game hold up and be relevant. It is really a shame that it is not available on any modern platforms and tracking down a PC copy can be a real hassle.
13. Metro 2033
Based on the bleak book series with the same name, Metro 2033 is an equally bleak game about life after the world has ended. The few humans that survived huddle together in underground subway stations and fear to go out because of radiation and vicious mutated wildlife.
It is the dark, down to earth and depressing Russian version of the more happy-go-lucky and Americana infused apocalypse we get in Fallout these days. As an FPS, it plays pretty well, although differently than many others. All the weapons of Metro 2033 are old and rusted and don’t aim or fire very well. Some have even been modified to fire bolts and screws instead of bullets. That said, I love me a game where a pistol or revolver is just as deadly as an assault rifle.
14. S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat
More Eastern European depression is served up in the third game in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R series. It plays very similarly to the Metro games but now you actually have an open world to walk around in, like in Fallout 4.
You play as one of the titular stalkers, people who are sent into the zone to collect supernatural artifacts for the highest bidder. It is a world which is just as depressing as the one in the Metro games and the monsters and bullets bite just as hard. Almost everything in this game is out to kill you. Animals, looters, the government, other stalkers and the very land itself. If you are not careful, you might stumble into a gravity anomaly and be instantly crushed to death no matter how much money or how good gear you have.
But if you have ever wanted to drink irradiated vodka next to a dumpster fire in the acid rain while someone plays Russian lullabies on a guitar, S.T.A.L.K.E.R has your back.
F.E.A.R.is an excellent hybrid of horror and fast paced Hong Kong action. Monolith build upon the great AI routines and level design they made for No One Lives Forever, put it through a Japanese horror machine and the magic that comes out at the other end has not been re-created since, even in the sequels.
You battle your way through offices and warehouses as you take on an elite regiment of genetically enhanced soldiers and some mechs. Visually, I think the game still holds up with its stark lighting and sharp shadows, but it is the fast-paced gameplay that is the real stand out here.
The hook of the game is that you can slow down time while fighting some of the hardest enemies in any FPS I have played. This combined with unique and interesting weapons makes for a real blast. I love you stake gun, you pin enemies to walls so beautifully.
16. Far Cry 4
For those who prefer their open world shooters to come without the Russian angst and nuclear waste, we have the Far Cry series. For me, the pinnacle is still 4 since I felt Ubisoft handled the story in 5 too poorly and the guns just weren’t that fun to use.
Far Cry 4 has a great open world and has a lot of different things you can do with animals and vehicles alike. Setting lose a tiger in an outpost as you stalk around murdering people with a bow and arrow is great fun. In Far Cry 4, they also let you replay those outposts which are arguably the greatest feature in these games.
Bringing people in for some co-op is also great fun as you can pilot helicopters and rain death down upon your enemies together. You play as the son of a dead resistance leader who comes back home and is soon thrust right into a bloody civil war to overthrow the creepy dictator Pagan Min. While the story is no masterpiece here either, it is at least interesting and not a watered-down version of what they actually wanted to say, like it seems to be in 5.
17. Devil Daggers
The only game that is as much into the devil as 90s gaming was is probably Devil Daggers. It is deceptively simple: kill the enemies that spawn and survive for as long as possible. No additional weapons, no upgrades. It is just your own skill and your mystic dagger gun that counts.
You are spawned onto a platform that is surrounded by darkness and pretty soon things start to emerge from the inky blackness. The things that emerge are something from H.R Giger and Lovecraft’s most terrifying nightmares. While it is a fast-paced run and gun and bunny hopping game, Devil Daggers uses its limited graphics, dark visuals and excellent sound design to create a truly creepy atmosphere.
Granted, it is a game that is limited in scope, with only one mode and one ridiculously hard level, but in terms of gameplay Devil Daggers is up there among the truly great shooters. The best thing is that it’s dirt cheap, so even if you are not a fan of the Quake 1 aesthetics the game is going for, it is still worth checking out.
18. Dishonored 2
I debated for some time whether to include Dishonored 2 on this list or not since it is so much about stealth and knifing people in the back instead of shooting them. But then I remembered that that is how I play it and not how you have to play the game.
Dishonored 2 has a pretty cool melee and ranged combat system that is loads of fun to play around with. Use magical powers to jump above an enemy and then come down on him with your sword. Or why not slow down time, walk up to a guard and fire off your flintlock in his ear at point blank. There are just so many options in how you can play this game that you are bound to find something that you like.
Like Bioshock though, it is the story and the world that is the main draw, so if you are just here for some mindless killing then Dishonored 2 might not be the right game for you. Otherwise you will be taken to a beautifully realized alternative world inspired by the British empire around the end of the 19th century.
19. ARMA 3
Without a doubt, ARMA 3 is the most realistic game on this list. The ARMA games plays a little bit as if you would simulate a soldier the same way you do a car or a warplane. There are several degrees and ways to prone or crouch and you can move your head independently of your gun. You die and get injured very easily and moreover, it also simulates everything from cars to big jet planes.
The single player story is, in all honesty, not that great but can give you a decent number of hours’ worth of fun. Now the best way to enjoy this game is through community made scenarios and Steam Workshop mods. And there are quite a few of them. It can also be a surprisingly fun game to play in multiplayer if you have the patience for it and have likeminded friends.
I still load this game up whenever I get a new graphics card to create my own scenario. Putting two opposing forces on opposite ends of a valley and just seeing the carnage that happens as they engage each other remains great fun. Since it is a game that truly deals with scale, it will make your hardware sweat a bit when things are really popping off.
It is also ARMA that is the basis for many of the survival games and battle royale games we see today. PUBG owes a lot of its gun handling to this game, for instance.
20. Warhammer: Vermintide 2
Murdering hordes of rats has never been more fun! A great follow up to the first game, Fatshark has improved almost every aspect of the game. Better loot and better enemy types as well as a greatly improved graphics engine makes this game a blast to play with friends.
Basically, it plays like a Left 4 Dead but with all kinds of monsters and spells and blunderbusses instead of zombies and shotguns. Since Vermintide revolves greatly around the collection of loot and new gear, it keeps the game and the runs fun to play for a very long time. Vermintide 2 is so much improved that it makes the first one feel more like an open beta that went on for a couple of years. Different weapons do different types of damage and some things that are great at penetrating heavy armor are not so good to have around in other situations.
The inclusion of the chaos forces as well as a slew of new bosses and big encounter enemies gives Vermintide 2 some much needed variety compared to the first one. Taking down a Chaos Spawn with 3 friends is loads of fun.
The progression system is also overhauled, and you now gain perk points as you level up and get to specialize in different classes as you get stronger. Aside from making the progression more fun, it also mitigates some of the problems the first one had with each character more or less being limited to one role.
21. Killing Floor 2
If killing zombies and enemies in very gruesome ways is your forte, then Killing Floor 2 is definitely worth your time. Take the hordes of enemies you see in Left 4 Dead and enclose them in a smaller map, add 5 friends, lots of classes and weapons, sprinkle some slow motion mechanics on top and you have a hell of a game.
As mentioned above you don’t progress through a level like in Vermintide 2 — this is pure arena combat with waves of enemies spawning and a vicious boss to best at the end. As you play, you gain ‘dosh’, which is used to purchase weapons and armor for the next wave of enemies. At the end of a match you get some xp and level up your class to gain additional perks and benefits for playing with a set of weapons.
The slow motion that kicks in once in a while really serves to highlight not only the gruesome enemies you face but also what relentless and devastating damage you inflict upon them with your flamethrower, machine guns and crossbows.
The only step down from the previous game is that is very difficult to make a dedicated server if you want to play privately with your friends instead of having random people come in and be disappointed in your performance.
22. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
If you haven’t heard of PUBG by now I don’t know who you are. But just in case, 100 internet assholes (yes, try leaving voice chat on in the plane) drop onto and island and then go about murdering each other until there is only one left to eat a prize chicken.
Despite its high tension and the pressure you are under for the duration of the match, there is something highly relaxing in playing PUBG. There is a purity to the gameplay when everyone has the same random chance of getting good weapons or getting the drop on an enemy.
Interestingly, the concept is flexible enough that the gameplay shifts severely depending on if you are playing with friends or alone. Alone, PUBG is almost a horror game where the smallest sound and mistake can set you up for disaster. In a group of friends, it is a high tension tactical squad shooter. Not since Rainbow Six 3 have I spent so much time calling out directions using the watch or compass to my mates.
The only blemish is its ridiculous use of microtransactions. It’s here that the Korean ownership shines through as these kinds of gacha boxes and use of paid for keys are still quite common in their free to play games. PUBG is not free so having to pay for keys to open loot boxes is just ridiculous.
23. Rising Storm
Both this and Red Orchestra fall into that strange limbo of multiplayer games that exist between the ultra-realism of ARMA and the more run and gun gameplay in Call of Duty.
The biggest thing in Rising Storm, aside from its emphasis on realistic gunplay, is the asymmetrical balance between the factions. After years of playing the mirror image armies in Battlefield, the asymmetry of the Japanese and American forces in Rising Storm feels as fresh as the first day of spring. The Americans usually have firepower on their side, especially on submachine gun and semi-auto rifles while the Japanese have something called a banzai charge that can seriously disorient the enemy and turn the tide of a match if used properly.
The learning curve is a bit steep, but it feels very rewarding once you get there, besides I think PUBG has introduced a lot of players to a more realistic way of handling guns in video games. One can only hope that it might reinvigorate the community of these games a little since most of the players there today read like old grandpas endlessly arguing over the fire rate of the Thompson machine gun versus the BAR rifle. For now, like most multiplayer games, turning off the in-game chat is a good way to get rid of most of that.