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.
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.
Here are the best FPS games you could and should be playing right now.
The Best First-Person Shooters
1. Half-Life 2
Developer: Valve Publisher: Valve
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
Developer: id Software Publisher: Bethesda
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
Developer: Infinity Ward Publisher: Activision
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
Developer: Epic Games Publisher: Epic Games
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
Developer: id Software Publisher: Activision
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.
Developer: 2K Boston Publisher: 2K Games
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
Developer: Gearbox Software Publisher: 2K Games
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
Developer: MachineGames Publisher: Bethesda
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
Developer: DICE Publisher: EA
Any list of first-person shooter 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.